Come Together by Emily Nagoski

Emily Nagoski at Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

Come Together: The Science (and Art) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections

by Emily Nagoski, PhD

Reviewed by Mac Marshall


What is the key to passionate sex over the long term? Frequency? Orgasms? Novelty? Monogamy? Being a “skilled” lover?

Wrong, says Emily Nagoski, PhD in her new book, Come Together: The Science (and Art) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections. Her goal is to give us the key to long-term satisfying sex. She writes,

Great sex in a long-term relationship is not about how much you desire sex or how often you have to do it. It’s not about what you do, in which position, with whom or where or in what clothes, even how many orgasms you have. It’s whether or not you like the sex you are having.


Pleasure Is the Measure” is a major theme of Come Together.  Pleasure is all about “how much you like the sex you’re having.” Most of the book teaches how to create access to pleasure with a long-term partner. Mutual admiration and trust are essential to this creative process.

Most of us seek both connection and pleasure in sexual relationships. But the excitement we feel when a relationship begins often fades as time goes by. Partners in committed relationships such as marriage frequently drift apart sexually. Typically, this is due to work pressures, the demands of family, and our physical changes as we age. Nagoski gives us helpful guidelines to revive and maintain connection and pleasure for the long haul.

Two chapters focus on what she calls “your emotional floorplan.” She bases this on the dual control model that she introduced in her best-known book, Come As You Are: turn-ons—the accelerator—and turn-offs—the brakes. The floorplan consists of seven emotional spaces that affect your sexuality: lust, care, play, rage, panic+grief, fear and seeking. She offers advice on how to navigate these emotional states as we construct a safe space with our partner for mutual sexual pleasure.

When people “come together” in partnerships Nagoski finds they seek:

  • connection,
  • shared pleasure,
  • being wanted by another,
  • freedom to feel full immersion in an erotic moment.

These are especially pertinent for relationships between seniors. Aging usually changes our needs for erotic connection. It is potentially empowering. For example, Nagoski observes:

[Aging provides] a context that encourages you to explore. Try new things. Shed all the preconceived ideas about how sex “should” work and experiment with all the ways it can and does work for you and your partners, in the bodies you have right now.


 Come Together centers on persons of any gender in long-term relationships. She shows us ways to create partnerships that sustain a strong sexual connection. The partnership characteristics she focuses on are:

  • they are friends
  • they prioritize sex
  • they pursue what’s genuinely true for them—what works in their unique relationship—rather than accepting other people’s opinions about how they’re supposed to do sex.

These characteristics flourish by avoiding “the desire imperative” and “the sex imperatives”:

  • “The desire imperative” is the notion that we should feel a “spark” of spontaneous craving for sexual intimacy when a relationship begins. And if we don’t continue to feel that sparky desire, we’ve failed. The desire imperative pooh-poohs planning or preparing for sex, and if we and our partner don’t just spontaneously want each other effortlessly, we must not want each other enough. Against this “mess of wrongheadedness,” Nagoski centers pleasure as the alternative measure of sexual well-being.
  • “The sex imperatives” that endanger lasting sexual connections are many, including these:
    • the coital imperative (penis-in-vagina sex)
    • the variety imperative (manual, oral, and anal play as well as PIV)
    • the performance imperative (enhancing your sexual skill set)
    • the monogamy imperative (you should only have one sexual relationship at a time)

Fixation on any or all of these can thwart success in building lasting sexual connections.


Change is an unavoidable given in life and relationships. Among the changes most of us encounter are illness, pain, and aging. Nagoski writes,

 The key to sustaining a strong sexual connection over the long term is to adapt—with confidence, joy, and calm, warm curiosity—to the changes brought by each season of our lives.

To join together in a successful sexually rewarding long-term partnership, Nagoski champions trust, admiration, confidence and joy. She gives these tips for achieving mutual lasting pleasure and connection:

  • Seek authenticity.
  • Plan for and embrace the changes that will always occur.
  • Find adaptations and adjustments that work for your unique situation.

Just as Nagoski’s Come as You Are is a ground-breaking book for women understanding their sexuality and achieving sexual pleasure, Come Together is the book you need to enrich the sexual joy in a long-term relationship. Read it — your sexual relationship will thank you!



Purchase Come Together at your local independent bookstore or order from or Amazon.



Mac Marshall, PhD is a retired anthropology professor, researcher, and author who is delighted to explore sexuality studies at this time of his life.



Wild Monogamy: interview with Mali Apple

Joe Heart, author of Wild Monogamy, in a happy embrace surrounded by leaves.


One of the challenges in a longtime monogamous relationship is creating newness and surprises. Another is continuing to deepen intimacy, communication, and empathy. Reading Wild Monogamy: Cultivating Erotic Intimacy to Keep Passion and Desire Alive by Mali Apple and Joe Dunn is like having Mali and Joe personally coach you through these issues and more. If you and your partner have hit a roadblock, or if you need information and a boost to take your relationship to the next level, this book is your valued guide.

In Wild Monogamy, Mali and Joe share stories that illustrate how partners can support one another in overcoming insecurities, inhibitions, shame, and self-consciousness that often accompany aging. I invited Mali to share some of her own aging issues and how the two of them cope.


Interview with Mali Apple,

co-author of Wild Monogamy:

Cultivating Erotic Intimacy to Keep Passion and Desire Alive


What’s one arena in which you help each other heal limiting ideas about yourselves?

I turned 60 this year. I have to admit that at times I feel a sense of shame about being an aging woman. I guess I drank the cultural Kool-Aid about older women not being attractive, desirable, or even worthy of pleasure!

These societal beliefs can be deeply ingrained. They might only emerge when we’re confronted with signs of our own ticking clock. The ever-more-unachievable images we’re bombarded with daily magnify our discomfort.

Since ageism in our culture disproportionately affects women, I have a tougher time than Joe when it comes to accepting my own aging face. When I can’t see beyond the newest spot or wrinkle, he’s right there beside me. His words and actions guide me toward accepting —even appreciating! — the woman looking back in the mirror.


What does Joe say to help you let go of your insecurities?

From Joe’s perspective at 65, age isn’t important. “When I look at you,” he’ll tell me, “I don’t see an aging woman, I see an amazing woman!” He insists that it’s the whole me that makes me beautiful to him. This includes my heart, my spirit, my energy, my ideas, and my enthusiasm for life.

Or he’ll say,

  • “These lines on your face are a celebration of your life.”
  • “Your body has brought me more pleasure over the years than I can possibly even remember.”
  • “The beauty that radiates from within you is timeless.”
  • “There’s no one else I’d rather get old with.”

When he catches me fixating on my age spots and wrinkles, he encourages me to speak to myself more kindly. “You have to put your wrinkles into perspective,” he’ll point out. “They’re such a tiny part of who you are!”

You might try affirmations like these with someone you love. When it’s coming from a person you trust, you can consciously choose to accept their perspective as truth. Joe gives me these reminders anytime I need them. This is a beautiful gift for partners to offer each other!


Do you have rituals or activities that help you embrace the changes that come with time?

Here is one ritual that helps us. We intentionally see each other as continually evolving works of art. Together we reflect on the truth that all our life experiences — the everyday ones, the challenging ones, and the extraordinary ones — have contributed to this masterpiece before us.

We also practice seeing each other as spiritual beings in human form moving through the natural stages of aging. This has been the genesis of more than a few heart-opening conversations!

During our sexy time, Joe will often encourage me to shift my focus from how I look to how I feel. For example, he’ll ask me to put all my attention on the sensations created by the silky scarf he’s trailing across my skin. When we clo

se our eyes and touch or kiss, he’ll point out that nothing tells us our age is a problem.

Joe and I also actively look for role models our age or older who are filled with vitality. Sometimes we’ll sit in a public place and observe the older people around us. We make a point to find something beautiful in every one of them.

Here’s one more sweet activity we enjoy together. We choose a few photos from when we were younger and immerse ourselves in them. We talk about where each was taken and how we felt about ourselves at the time. We get a sense of who we were during those moments. As we kiss and make love, we become the people in those images, connecting with who we were back then. Sharing our past selves in this way creates a uniquely healing and intimate experience in the present.


What is a key truth you’ve come to about aging?

The older we get, every moment we have together deepens and becomes more precious. We feel honored to be with each other on this journey. We’re excited to be a witness to the shifts, insights, and personal transformations to come. And we’re confident that plenty of sexy adventures await us!



Learn more about Mali Apple and Joe Dunn at, and watch their many TikTok videos at Purchase Wild Monogamy at your local independent bookstore or order from Amazon.



Tips to Increase Sexual Pleasure, Solo or Partnered – from The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50

Ultimate Guide to Sex 50 book cover: tips on how to increase sexual pleasure

The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50 “My body feels like an alien being,” you tell me. “I want my old self back!” We spent decades figuring out who we were sexually, what turned us on, what touch or rhythm brought us to orgasm, and how to please a partner. Now it feels like we have to learn this all over again.

Aging affects sex in a gazillion ways: physical comfort, emotional needs, body image, and what we need for sexual arousal and pleasure, to name a few. This is true whether we’re having sex with someone new, a reunited lover from our past, or a longtime partner. It’s not what we signed up for, but it’s what we get with aging.

We may need stronger or lighter stimulation now, a gentler or rougher touch, slower or faster rhythm, and lots more time. Sometimes we don’t even know what we need, and we mistakenly think that if sex as we knew it no longer works for us, we’re doomed to a sexless future. Not true! We just have to rediscover what turns us on now and makes our body respond. Think of it as a wonderful journey of discovery.

Instead of focusing on what doesn’t work, let’s focus on what does work to increase sexual pleasure, and make that special, such as:

  • Plan sex for the time of day when you are most energetic and in the mood for sex. Enjoy a morning or afternoon delight. If energy is a problem, try resting or napping first.
  • Have sex before a meal—not after one. When our diminished blood flow is working on digestion, there isn’t enough to arouse the genitals. You’ll have more energy and better arousal before eating.
  • If a medical condition is making sex problematic, plan your sex dates for the times that your medication is working best to ease the condition while leaving you lively. Ask your doctor about the timing of your medications—is there a way to modify the schedule for better sexual response and comfort?
  • Celebrate the deliciousness of long, slow arousal. Rather than wishing orgasm came faster, enjoy the slow-moving ride.
  • Try new positions if a position you used to love is no longer comfortable. If one position is the best way for you to reach orgasm but you can’t stay in it comfortably for a long enough time, try starting in another position and finishing with your favorite.
  • Whether you’re single or partnered, relish the capacity of your body to enjoy sensual pleasure and indulge yourself regularly on your own.


From Chapter 2,  The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life by Joan Price



The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life offers helpful information and practical tips for enhancing or reviving your sexual pleasure after 50, 60, 70, and beyond. Chapters cover these topics:

  1. Busting the Myths about Sex and Aging
  2. What’s Happening to My Body?
  3. Getting Your Mojo Back
  4. Sex with Yourself and Toys
  5. Sex with a Longtime Partner
  6. Stretching Boundaries
  7. When Intimacy Ends
  8. You and Your Doctor
  9. When Sex Is Painful
  10. Cancer, Cancer Treatment, and Sex
  11. Heart, Brain, Joints, and Sex
  12. Sex without Erections
  13. Single After All These Years
  14. The New Rules of Dating
  15. Sex with a New Partner
  16. Safer Sex: Always
  17. Sexy Aging Going Forward



Gray Love: Stories About Dating and New Relationships After 60

Gray Love:

Stories About Dating and New Relationships After 60

ed. Nan Bauer-Maglin and Daniel E. Hood

Reviewed by Mac Marshall

“We are stunned sometimes when we realize how old we are. Eighty-one and eighty-eight! How I wish we had decades left, but we’re both aware that one of us could drop like a leaf at any moment no matter how healthy we are right now. And we’re also aware that this relationship could not have worked if we were younger.” — Barbara Abercrombie in “Where Is This Going?”

In lively personal accounts, 45 contributors to Gray Love explore the ups and downs of their searches for new relationships late in life. These authors range in age from 59 to 94. Most have experienced divorce or widowhood. Their stories underscore our strong human longings for connection, sexual pleasure, and abatement of loneliness as we grow older. Gray Love offers both cautionary tales and reasons for hope.

Nan Bauer-Maglin

“Meeting someone informally through family, church, or neighborhood networks has been in decline since World War II,” editors Nan Bauer-Maglin and Daniel E. Hood note in their Introduction. Now, meeting new people online has displaced all other ways to locate potential dates.

The first half of Gray Love (“To Be or Not to Be in a Relationship”) focuses on a variety of seniors’ often disheartening experiences with online dating sites. And yet, in “You Say Potato,” Amy Rogers comments, “Without an ability to imagine some sort of future happiness, we’d have no reason to put ourselves through these hapless and sometimes heart-breaking endeavors.”

Daniel E. Hood

While they understand that this is the best current way to find dates and possible partners, 22 single seniors chronicle a litany of being frustrated, ignored or rejected online. Several have engaged in online dating for a decade or more. For example, Elizabeth Locke laments in “A (Mostly) Amusing Exercise in Futility”:

“Fifteen years of throwing money I can’t spare at websites whose only real purpose is to fill their coffers was frequently a waste of my time. But it wasn’t a total loss; I had some truly delightful evenings and way too many mediocre meals… I crossed paths with men I would not have otherwise met. I formed attachments that teetered on the edge of love, experienced at least one heartbreak, and made a few friends… I learned to cope with an almost unimaginable dose of rejection.”

Phyllis Carito

These seniors aren’t fully happy or at ease with the quasi-businesslike procedures of meeting people online. In“Discovery Through Online Dating Sites: A Woman’s Perspective,” Phyllis Carito writes, “The process can be daunting or fun; it can reveal the deep sadness of a widower or the hidden desires of a man that can be a surprise to him depending upon past experiences molded by a traditional marriage.”

Several contributors have gone in and out of online dating or tried several different sites. All had meetings with other seekers, most had some sexual encounters, some developed temporary relationships, but few found “the one” that many of them seek.

But some have done so! The second half of Gray Love (“The Complications and Pleasures of Elder Relationships”) delves into cases where widowed or divorced seniors did find a new life partner. Usually, this happened via the online dating sweepstakes. Most partners have chosen not to marry. Instead, they simply

Dustin Beall Smith

revel in the joys of a loving, caring, intimate relationship, whether cohabiting or not.

“That night, all night, we lay on my king-size loft bed, with its view of the river, our seventy-four-year-old bodies smoothed magically young again by the forgiving light of yet another full strawberry moon.” — Dustin Beall Smith, in “At Once”

Several couples have chosen to live apart together (LAT), an ever-more-popular arrangement among seniors that combines independence with committed togetherness. Writing in “Pleasures and Complications: Living Apart Together,” widowed, 80-year-old Susan Bickley met her 7-year-younger partner, Mike (also widowed) on Match, and they clicked. He had a big old house. She had a recently purchased condo and wasn’t keen to share it. Luckily, another condo in the same building became available. Mike bought it and sold his house. Now, in Susan’s words, “We are finding joy in small things… knowing that we are here for each other, even when we are apart—and down the hall.”

Gray Love chronicles a search for connections, sexual and otherwise, in life’s final chapters. Most contributors live in or near New York City and have backgrounds in education. These characteristics lend their tales a certain flavor. Most stories were written amidst the COVID pandemic, and the shadow of that still-with-us event hovers over their searches for dates and relationships. As a reader, you will learn much about the road ahead by engaging with these seniors as they share honestly some of their life experiences.

Order Gray Love from Rutgers University Press or Amazon.


Mac Marshall


Mac Marshall, PhD is a retired anthropology professor, researcher, and author who is delighted to explore sexuality studies at this time of his life.