Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski

According to Nagoski, the female experience of orgasm as much more of a mystery than most women realize. From anatomy to arousal, she states that women (as well as their partners) need to relearn how to accommodate their bodies to recreate what sex and sexuality mean to them. One new way to explore sexual response is to see it in terms of two control mechanisms: the accelerator, or gas pedal, and the break.

“The accelerator responds to all the sexually relevant information in the environment — everything you see, hear, touch, smell, taste, or imagine that your brain codes as sexually relevant and it sends the ‘turn on’ signal. The brake, at the same time that that’s happening, is noticing all the very good reasons not to be turned on right now — everything…that’s a potential threat, and it sends a signal that says ‘turn off.’ So, arousal is not just the process of turning on the ons, it’s also turning off the offs.”

For everyone, women and men alike, what is normal for both sexual sensitivity and the sensitivity to threats can be very different on the bell curve. However, we can learn to be more in tune with what arouses us, while generating a safe environment in which to let go of the stressors and worries of daily life. For some women, a good place to start is getting out of one’s habitual environment and also taking the time to pay a visit to her lady parts. Many women lack experience with connecting to their clitoris and vulva as well as the entire masturbation experience. Nagoski urges us to get to know ourselves – then we can share what we’ve learned with our partners.

Check out this interview:

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

Perel shares her amazement about how much people are willing to experiment sexually while they are single or outside of their relationship parameters. She mocks the often puritanical nature of sex within the marriage bed, especially once the honeymoon has worn off or once the couple become parents. Years later, at their wit’s end, couples who seek counseling plead for some solution that will rejuvenate their lost connection. Though they seem committed to “making things work,” many find themselves stuck behind a veil of stress, anxiety, insecurity, work, and children, to name a few. At this stage, working on the relationship, or working on their sex life can feel like one more chore.

“In our erotic life, work does not work…trying is always trying too hard. We glorify efficiency and fail to recognize that the erotic space is a radiant interlude in which we luxuriate, indifferent to the demands of productivity; pleasure is the only goal.” Esther Perel

Great sex requires ingredients. Perel states you must have vulnerability, trust, creativity, and patience. Sometimes, distance and independence from your lover are needed before you can return to their embrace with excitement. For long-term relationships that have relegated sexuality to routine pattern or worse, to ambivalence, stronger measures may be needed. Perel recommends that couples reinstate a courtship. They can plan to meet each other at a bar or restaurant, pretending it is their first meeting. They might indulge in a weekend getaway and promise to leave all domestic conversations behind them. Another tactic is to find arousal in the shadows. They might seek to find their lost libido with someone new, through having an affair. They might agree to invite a third into their bedroom. They may elect to open the relationship altogether, seeking thirds or even fourths on their own or together. Dubbed, inviting the shadow, Perel challenges couples to find the spark they think they lost by looking in new and exciting places.

For additional notes:

The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin, Ph.D.

Morin talks about the goal of being a “self-actualizer.” This is a person who is comfortable with his or her self, is relatively free of the constriction of past conflicts, and who sees challenges as fostering growth with creative energy and fire. Self-actualizers have peak experiences more often than their counterparts, who may still have some self-trust and love to develop. By examining the sexual and emotional experiences and trends of your past, Morin shows how you can manipulate your “erotic equation,” the elements that tend to make you the most aroused, to seek out and execute more satisfying sexual encounters. For most, the basic equation looks like this: Attraction + Obstacles = Excitement. Which of the following Obstacles might have an extra zing for you? Longing or anticipation, violating prohibitions, searching for power, teasing, fantasy, exuberance, satisfaction, closeness, anxiety, guilt, or anger? Morin also suggests that you can use what you discover about old wounds and conflicts, to heal emotional blocks and heighten excitation. Once you discover your Core Erotic Theme, whether it is something you already celebrate or if it’s a trigger you consider “bizarre” or “perverted,” Morin urges readers to find safe and consensual outlets that fit your needs so you can normalize your sexual experience, if it has been a source of shame for you, and so you can ultimately maximize your fulfillment.

“To discover your erotic potential you must be free to choose what is right for you…The key is to remain conscious of your actions and their consequences without becoming self-conscious, a state antithetical to emotional and sexual well-being…The ability to accept responsibility while enjoying freedom is a hallmark of psychological maturity…Erotically healthy people establish safe parameters within which to let themselves go.”  Jack Morin