The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Book Review: Sex Tips for Girls by Cynthia Heimel

To preface my review I am going to give context to my going into reading this book. I was in the Gender and Sexuality Studies lounge, one of the first to arrive at a casual get-together with a professor. I felt a little awkward and before my chattiness set in I scoped out the bookshelf for something to do. 

Immediately the first book I spot is bright yellow with a fishnet stocking clad leg in red heels. A bold cover for a bold book. “Sex Tips for Girls” by Cynthia Heimel was nothing I expected it to be. The cover and title, combined with a publication date of 1983, set me up to expect inappropriate and outdated writing. 

But, something about the book intrigued me enough to start reading it, and then once I had started, I did not want to stop. The first night I had the book (well yes, I just had to borrow it) I stayed up past my bedtime. What occurred was the delightful phenomenon of reading a good book before bed and simply being incapable of tearing your eyes from it. Then boom! Suddenly, it is 3 am.

I say with complete honesty that I was laughing almost the whole time I read “Sex Tips for Girls.” Heimel is witty, hilarious, wise and effervescent. Her writing is still contemporary. You know the question you may have been asked during college applications: If you could invite any person to a tea party, who would you invite and why? My answer in this moment is author Cynthia Heimel. Yes, she is that funny. 

There are indeed actual sex tips included in the book, but the major essence of Heimel’s book is sex positivity: building a sense of self, and embracing life full force. Of course, “Sex Tips” includes several bits that have not aged gracefully. If you do read this book, beware of Chapter 12: Inner Dieting. But, for the overwhelming majority, I think the good of the book overwhelms the bad.

The entire time I was reading I was grabbing anyone around me to listen to quotes I was hysterical over. There are entirely too many to include in this article, so I will stick to listing the main 10 “tips” I am taking away from my reading experience:


#1: “Although there is not a thing wrong with knowing every sex trick ever perpetrated in the history of womanhood, there are, in fact, only two (2) essentials to being a terrific lover: (1) manners, and (2) enthusiasm.” 

I would be quite impressed, perhaps a tad concerned, if anyone our age knows every sex trick ever perpetrated in the history of womanhood. We are on the precipice of life! Not knowing what you are doing (in many regards, not just sexual) is not only normal but to be expected. Learning is one of the great joys of life and I think Heimel’s advice is marvelous. So what if you’re not great at sex? Or have no clue what you’re doing? Everyone appreciates being respected and loves being admired and desired. I doubt you can go wrong with that attitude. Perhaps even apply it to other things you are not well versed in. Not a good dancer? So what! I think it’s inspiring and invigorating to see someone dancing wholeheartedly and enthusiastically regardless of skill. Bad at calculus? Maybe you haven’t gone to class as much as you should. Do you know what can often make up for that? Being honest, polite and genuinely heartfelt with your professors. 

#2: “The first thing a successful flirt does is get it firmly fixed in her mind that she is God’s gift to men.”

Amen. Women are incredibly awesome. We all know confidence is attractive and if you’re not capable of it, faking it ‘til you make it work like a charm a surprising amount of the time. I know many of you are impressively capable of BS-ing your way through a class discussion when you have done approximately none of the readings. So, apply that to your engagement with your love life! (or sex life!) I still struggle with this but figure it is worth saying even for drilling into my own head’s sake, what is the harm in trying? Shooting your shot? Embarrassment is a mindset and temporary anyway. If you’re feeling self-conscious about going and flirting with someone, think about it this way, everyone likes to be liked. What an incredible feeling. Honestly at the very least going for it will make the other person feel good about themselves and then you can feel good about yourself for making someone else feel good. How about that? 

#3: “The cure for sexual guilt is simple: Get over it. You must just acknowledge deep in your heart of hearts that people are supposed to fuck. It is our main purpose in life, and all those other activities–playing the trumpet, vacuuming carpets, reading mystery novels, eating chocolate mousse–are just ways of passing the time until you can fuck again.” 

Reading this presented me with a different life perspective than one I have ever encountered before. But, yes, Ms. Heimel. Women’s sexualities are so complex. Sexuality in general is complex. One takeaway from this is that you deserve pleasure. You deserve to feel good. Another is that if you pare it down, life is pretty simple. Live! Eat, sleep, breathe, repeat. Oh yes, and have sex. Although I doubt any of us are thinking of it this way, procreating (sex’s “ultimate purpose”) is our JOB as humans. We are meant to have sex. And we are most simply meant to survive. So guess what? Maybe you don’t have an A in English class and your parents and breathing fire down your neck and you and having a meltdown but technically, you are still passing in life (and also your class). Because you are alive. That’s pretty cool of you.

#4: “Make sure you kiss someone before you go to bed with him. Pay careful attention. A man who can’t kiss can’t fuck. A proper kiss should be rife with sensitivity and playful in its sensuality. The tongue should be applied sparingly but with vigor. A bit of lower-lip nibbling is fine.” 

First off I would like to say that kissing is kind of weird. For something quite weird it can oddly sometimes feel like there is a lot of pressure on it. And tongue?? Does anyone know what exactly to do with their tongue when kissing? How much tongue is too much tongue? How much is too little? If you know, please share. Overall best to not overthink I think.

#5: “It is a tremendous act of faith for any girl to whip off her clothes and expose herself, naked and alone, in front of a new man. To take that transcendental leap of faith yet again. Makes you think you’ve lost your marbles even contemplating it. If you have even a soupcon of vulnerability left, you’re going to be deeply frightened the first time.” 

To be honest I do not have a lot of commentary on this one. Reading this bit made me feel less alone. Sex can be downright terrifying. But, vulnerability and the ability to keep putting yourself out there is fabulously admirable. We probably don’t do it enough in life, so preoccupied with what other people think of us (and how could we not be? We are of that age after all). So I admire and applaud all of you for being able to put yourself out there. Whether that be stripping all your clothes off in front of someone you are about to have sex with, raising your hand in class with a point you want to make but are nervous you won’t articulate well, to telling a friend when they have hurt your feelings, I’m proud of your courage.

#6: “Bed is one place where you’re allowed to be greedy. So I tell him not to stop or I’ll die. Stuff like that.” 

I am glad Heimel wrote about this in her book. I think especially as women or just non-men we are taught to put everyone’s needs above our own, even sometimes that we don’t get to have needs. So, it can be very hard to ask for things you want or accept things you want. As mentioned above, sex is a very vulnerable space to be in, which means asking for what you want and feeling pleasure, can be even more daunting than in “regular” aspects of life. Perhaps it is a great space to practice asking for and accepting what we want though, since sex is inherently an intimate exposed space where desire is kind of the whole point. 

#7: When giving head…

“You must show it who’s boss.”

“Practice by eating oysters.” 

By “it,” Heimel means a penis and what you would be practicing by eating oysters is swallowing. I thought this was funny. That’s all.

#8: “Deep throating does not exist. The only humans who can successfully perform deep-throating are bona fide card-carrying sword-swallowers. Since most of these guys are tattooed and sweaty, your average heterosexual male will pass up the treat.” 

You hear that, ladies? It’s a MYTH. So please, never feel bad for feeling incapable of a mythical thing. To those of you who can deepthroat a penis, massive kudos to you. Apparently, you are like a unicorn – mythical – which is pretty cool.

You hear that, guys? Go find a sword swallower if you are struggling to find a mythical woman/person. I suggest looking at a Renaissance Faire or Circus. 

#9: “Afternoon: Hordes of humans ignore the rampantly pleasurable experience of having sex in the afternoon. Let us think upon the afternoon for a moment: a most tedious time period, usually devoted to picking up the dry cleaning. Instead, why not fuck? It is extremely sluttish, wicked, and slothful to fuck in the afternoons, and therefore totally enjoyable.” 

Thank you, Ms. Heimel. Although perhaps do you not skip your 2:40s to fuck? Although that is definitely a tedious way to spend your afternoon. No offense to professors. 

#10: “If you want sex, you have to present yourself in a sexually appetizing manner. This does not mean dressing for men, it simply means dressing with your sexuality in mind.” 

I think this is a good note to end on and showcases the main theme of the book, sexual confidence. 

I hope you found some amusement in Cynthia Heimel’s words. I know I did. I am sure I sold you on this book, so if you want to borrow it, reach out and I would be happy to share it with you. 

And shhh don’t tell the GSS department I don’t plan on returning it…

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