Come Together by Emily Nagoski

Come Together Book Cover

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.



When Sexual Desire Changes – and What to do About It

make it so meme of captain picard for sexual desire

“I just don’t feel sexual desire anymore,” many senior women tell me. They miss the excitement, pleasure, and intimacy of sex, and they ask me how to fix this. Others have decided that they’re done with sex and wish their partners would stop pressuring them. Often the lovers and spouses are the ones who reach out to me: “My partner doesn’t desire sex with me anymore, and it’s killing me.”

Many seniors find that sex continues to be terrific, even better than ever, and finally we’re talking out loud about that. But those who avoid sex out of lack of desire usually think that’s just the way things are when we age — but that’s not true!

Spontaneous vs responsive desire

As we age and hormones recede, we may not feel that biological urge or drive for sex anymore. Our bodies and brain don’t automatically kick into gear, even with someone who would have inspired us to peel off our clothes a few decades ago. In fact, there’s nothing “automatic” about our sexual responses at all. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel desire. It means you don’t feel “spontaneous desire,” which is biologically driven, propelled by hormones.

As we age, spontaneous desire wanes, that’s normal. But that isn’t the only way to experience desire, and it doesn’t have to close down our sexual pleasure.

“Responsive desire” means that you feel desire in response to pleasure and arousal. In other words, instead of having sex because you feel desire in advance, you’re letting yourself relax and open to the pleasure and stimulation of physiological arousal. Then the desire will kick in.Come As You Are book cover

How do you know if this is relevant to you personally? Do you ever resist sex at first because you’re not particularly in the mood, but once you get started, your arousal grows and then you’re really into it? That’s responsive desire. That’s especially true if, at the end, you say, “Wow, that was good. Why don’t we do that more often?”

As Emily Nagoski, Ph. D, explains in Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life:

The standard narrative of sexual desire is that it just appears – you’re sitting at lunch or walking down the street, maybe you see a sexy person or think a sexy thought, and pow! You’re saying to yourself, “I would like some sex!” This is how it works for maybe 75 percent of men and 15 percent of women…That’s “spontaneous” desire.

But some people find that they begin to want sex only after sexy things are already happening. And they’re normal. They don’t have “low” desire, they don’t suffer from any ailment… Their bodies just need some more compelling reason than, “That’s an attractive person right there,” to want sex.

For more about women’s sexual desire and response, I heartily recommend Nagoski’s book. Read more about spontaneous vs. responsive desire.

How to talk with your partner

Lack of communication makes lack of desire far worse. The jilted partner thinks, “It’s me. My lover doesn’t desire me anymore.” The partner who’s been turned away over and over feels frustrated, alone, unloved, unwanted. They may decide that cheating, leaving, or becoming a monk are the only options. Soon it’s not just sex that feels mismatched — it’s the whole relationship.

Don’t let that happen. Talk to each other openly, lovingly, without blame. Listen to each other without interrupting. Ask for clarification. When you respond to the other, explain your feelings without arguing or coming across as defensive.

Read these sample scripts. Would one of them help get you started? If not, write your own.

• “I admit I’ve been resisting sex lately and I know this hurts you. I love you very much, and I’d like to explain what’s going on for me and hear how you feel.”

• “I’m having difficulty feeling sexual desire. It’s not you — it’s how my body is working these days. I’ve learned about something called ‘responsive desire’ that I’d like to tell you about. Then let’s try it.”

• “I’d like to try a no-goals cuddle time where we’re naked in bed, holding each other, with no assumption that it has to lead to sex. If it does, we’ll enjoy it. But if it doesn’t, we’ll still enjoy holding each other.”

If you can’t have this kind of conversation on your own successfully, please enlist the help of an age-positive, sex-positive couples’ counselor or a sex therapist. The future of your relationship may depend on it.

What to do instead of waiting to be in the mood

(excerpted from “Getting Your Mojo Back” in The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50:The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50
How to Maintain – or Regain – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life)

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to approach our sexuality in this new way: Relax, start getting physically aroused, emotional arousal will happen, and voila, we’ll be in the mood. So the key is to commit to regular sex, partnered or solo. How does this translate to real life?

Here are some tips:

• Schedule sex dates with your partner and/or with yourself.
• Create rituals with your partner that signal sex would be welcome.
• Allow plenty of time for warm up.
• Make sex a habit. The more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it.

Final word

“You may have just saved my marriage,” a woman told me after I explained responsive desire at a presentation. Incorporate this into your sex life — you may feel the same!




This article originally appeared as part of Lion’s Den Senior Sex Month, July 2022, at