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Introduction: Yes, You Are Normal
The True Story of Sex
The Organization of This Book
A Couple of Caveats
If You Feel Broken, or Know Someone Who Does
part 1 the (not-so-basic) basics
1. Anatomy: No Two Alike
The Clit, the Whole Clit, and Nothing but the Clit
Meet Your Clitoris
Lips, Both Great and Small
A Word on Words
The Sticky Bits
Why It Matters
Change How You See
A Better Metaphor
, Not What It
2. The Dual Control Model: Your Sexual Personality
Turn On the Ons, Turn Off the Offs
What “Medium” Means
Different for Girls . . . but Not Necessarily
What Turns You On?
All the Same Parts, Organized in Different Ways
Can You Change Your SIS or SES?
3. Context: And the “One Ring” (to Rule Them All) in Your Emotional Brain
Sensation in Context
Sex, Rats, and Rock ’n’ Roll
Your Emotional One Ring
You Can’t Make Them
“Is Something Wrong with Me?” (Answer: Nope)
part 2 sex in context
4. Emotional Context: Sex in a Monkey Brain
The Stress Response Cycle: Fight, Flight, and Freeze
Stress and Sex
Broken Stress Response Cycles
Complete the Cycle!
When Sex Becomes the Lion
Sex and the Survivor
Origin of Love
The Science of Falling in Love
Attachment and Sex: The Dark Side
Attachment and Sex: Sex That Advances the Plot
Managing Attachment: Your Feels as a Sleepy Hedgehog
Survival of the Social
The Water of Life
5. Cultural Context: A Sex-Positive Life in a Sex-Negative World
You Are Beautiful
Criticizing Yourself = Stress = Reduced Sexual Pleasure
Health at Every Size
When Somebody “Yucks” Your “Yum”
Maximizing Yum . . . with Science! Part 1: Self-Compassion
Maximizing Yum . . . with Science! Part 2: Cognitive Dissonance
Maximizing Yum . . . with Science! Part 3: Media Nutrition
You Do You
part 3 sex in action
6. Arousal: Lubrication Is Not Causation
Measuring and Defining Nonconcordance
All the Same Parts, Organized in Different Ways: “This Is a Restaurant”
Nonconcordance in Other Emotions
Lubrication Error #1: Genital Response = “Turned On”
Lubrication Error #2: Genital Response Is
Lubrication Error #3: Nonconcordance Is a Problem
Medicating Away the Brakes
“Honey . . . I’m Nonconcordant!”
7. Desire: Actually, It’s Not a Drive
Desire = Arousal in Context
Not a Drive. For Real.
Why It Matters That It’s Not a Drive
“But Emily, Sometimes It
Like a Drive!”
Impatient Little Monitors
Good News! It’s Probably Not Your Hormones
More Good News! It’s Not Monogamy, Either
“Isn’t It Just Culture?”
It Might Be the Chasing Dynamic
Maximizing Desire . . . with Science! Part 1: Arousing the One Ring
Maximizing Desire . . . with Science! Part 2: Turning Off the Offs
Maximizing Desire . . . with Science! Part 3: Desperate Measures
Sharing Your Garden
part 4 ecstasy for everybody
8. Orgasm: The Fantastic Bonus
Nonconcordance—Now with Orgasms!
No Two Alike
All the Same Parts . . .
Your Vagina’s Okay, Either Way
The Evolution of the Fantastic Bonus
Difficulty with Orgasm
Ecstatic Orgasm: You’re a Flock!
How Do You Medicate a Flock?
Flying Toward Ecstasy
9. Meta-Emotions: The Ultimate Sex-Positive Context
Can’t Get No . . .
The Map and the Terrain
Positive Meta-Emotions Step 1: Trust the Terrain
Positive Meta-Emotions Step 2: Let Go of the Map (the Hard Part)
How to Let Go: Nonjudging
Nonjudging = “Emotion Coaching”
Nonjudging: Tips for Beginners
“No Good Reason”
Healing Trauma with Nonjudging
When Partners Dismiss!
Influencing the Little Monitor Part 1: Changing Your Criterion Velocity
Influencing the Little Monitor Part 2: Changing the Kind of Effort
Influencing the Little Monitor Part 3: Changing the Goal
“To Feel Normal”
“This Is It”
Conclusion: You Are the Secret Ingredient
Why I Wrote This Book
Where to Look for More Answers
Appendix 1: Therapeutic Masturbation
Appendix 2: Extended Orgasm
About the Author
For my students
YES, YOU ARE NORMAL
To be a sex educator is to be asked questions. I’ve stood in college dining halls with a plate of food in my hands answering questions about orgasm. I’ve been stopped in hotel lobbies at professional conferences to answer questions about vibrators. I’ve sat on a park bench, checking social media on my phone, only to find questions from a stranger about her asymmetrical genitals. I’ve gotten emails from students, from friends, from their friends, from total strangers about sexual desire, sexual arousal, sexual pleasure, sexual pain, orgasm, fetishes, fantasies, bodily fluids, and more.
Questions like . . .
Once my partner initiates, I’m into it, but it seems like it never even occurs to me to be the one to start things. Why is that?
My boyfriend was like, “You’re not ready, you’re still dry.” But I was
ready. So why wasn’t I wet?
I saw this thing about women who can’t enjoy sex because they worry about their bodies the whole time. That’s me. How do I stop doing that?
I read something about women who stop wanting sex after a while in a relationship, even if they still love their partner. That’s me. How do I start wanting sex with my partner again?
I think maybe I peed when I had an orgasm . . . ?
I think maybe I’ve never had an orgasm . . . ?
Under all these questions, there’s really just one question:
Am I normal?
(The answer is nearly always: Yes.)
This book is a collection of answers. They’re answers that I’ve seen change women’s lives, answers informed by the most current science and by the personal stories of women whose growing understanding of sex has transformed their relationships with their own bodies. These women are my heroines, and I hope that by telling their stories, I’ll empower you to follow your own path, to reach for and achieve your own profound and unique sexual potential.
the true story of sex
After all the books that have been written about sex, all the blogs and TV shows and radio Q&As, how can it be that we all still have so many questions?
Well. The frustrating reality is we’ve been lied to—not deliberately, it’s no one’s fault, but still. We were told the wrong story.
For a long, long time in Western science and medicine, women’s sexuality was viewed as Men’s Sexuality Lite—basically the same but not quite as good.