I was one of the last to get in on the sexual revolution, letting the other virgins sprint out of the starting gate ahead of me. Though sex wasn’t formally a competitive sport, in the sixties it could feel like a relay race with men and herpes being passed along by Team America. Cosmo girls were encouraged to be players—to experiment, seduce, and manipulate … in no particular order. For seventy-five cents, we got monthly tips on being alluring and adventurous. Our coach was Helen Gurley Brown.
In those early days of Cosmopolitan, we ripped into each new issue to find out “How You Can Become a More Likeable, Secure, and Less Jittery Person … and Change Your Life.” You might think that, having read that, you would never need another self-help article, but Helen Gurley Brown had endless ways of tapping into our self-doubts while simultaneously giving us license to lust. Virtue was no longer a virtue. The shame connected to sex that our mothers had tattooed on our DNA was suddenly spun on its head by a woman who never had a daughter. And maybe that’s why she made so free with recipes to heat up the bedroom, renovating what was done in bed the way Better Homes and Gardens had our bedrooms. We could now have orgasms along with mismatched bedside tables.
Even if we didn’t manage to snag one of the Bachelors of the Month, we might consider other options after reading, say, “The Undiscovered Joys of Having a Chinese Lover,” “Should You be Faithful to Somebody Else’s Husband,” “Buddy-Flirting—the Bold, New Way of Having Him Notice and Like You,” “Foot Fetishes: The Trade Secrets of the Sexiest Ladies in History,” and “When He Wants You to Make the Orgy.” Married women, often overlooked, could learn “How to Get Our Husbands to Love Us Like a Mistress.”