VIDEO: Sex in Emily Gould’s “And the Heart Says Whatever”

Earlier this summer, I’d been perusing my local bookstore for good summer reads when I spotted a title that had a red flower on it and the word “heart” in the title. This combination, as long as it is in an adult section and does not picture a half naked Fabio-ish man holding a woman longingly in his arms, is like a magnet for me. I thumbed through it a little, carried it around for a while with my other finds, but ultimately put it back. Then a week or two later, someone I follow on Twitter said she’d just read the very same book (And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould) and loved it. Who says Twitter isn’t an influencer? I don’t even know who this person is and yet, the next time I was at the store, it was among my new finds.

It was also the first book from the next pile that I sat down to read – and quickly realized I would like enough to want to savor. And so began my week or two of reading it, piece by piece, and finding some very good examples of a woman writing about sex. Having enrolled in more than my fair share of high school and college writing workshops, and having tried to write sex in a similar kind of pseudo-fictional way described in the book, tiptoeing around the truth, I can appreciate more realistic, less shock value sex writing. Sometimes accounts of sex are, indeed, shocking – more so because of readers’ and authors’ experiences don’t always match – but, in this book, I found no real shock value but several accounts of sex that were as “this is what I did” as descriptions of eating lunch or reading a book. For me, Ms. Gould’s way of writing about sex as a normal part of life is much appreciated, particularly given various accounts that many girls often grow up without useful models of talking about their own sexual desire or agency (see the very good book Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk About Sexuality by Dr. Deborah Tolman for more on this topic).

In any case, I very much liked this book for reasons of language (some phrases are strung together achingly well), self-awareness, the depictions of sex and for other reasons I can’t explain but that I know are true when I’m laying on a sofa, reading a book, and conscious of my enjoyment of it. Check out my above video review-ish thing about And the Heart Says Whatever (above) and then get your own copy of this lovely, highly recommended book (you’ll read it all too quickly).

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at