Sex and the Single Woman: 24 Writers Reimagine Helen Gurley Brown's Cult Classic (Paperback)
One of Bustle's Best Books of May
A feminist anthology inspired by legendary Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl, featuring twenty-four new essays on the triumphs and heartbreaks of modern singlehood from acclaimed and bestselling authors, including Kristen Arnett, Morgan Parker, Evette Dionne, and Melissa Febos.
Sixty years ago, Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl sent shockwaves through the United States, selling more than two million copies in three weeks. Helen’s message was radical for its time: marriage wasn’t essential for women to lead rich, fulfilling lives.
Now, in these critical, wry, and expansive essays, twenty-four writers reconsider Helen’s advice and how it applies to their own paths, fielding topics that she couldn’t—or wouldn’t—conceive of in 1962: contraception and abortion (an omission demanded by her publisher), queer and trans womanhood, polyamory, celibacy, interracial dating, bodies of all kinds, consent, sex work, IVF, and the pop culture that both saves and fails us.
Eliza Smith and Haley Swanson’s revisionist anthology honors Brown’s irreverent spirit while also validating our modern experiences of singlehood, encouraging us all to reclaim joy where it’s so often been denied.
"The pieces are testaments to the hard-won freedoms of the sexual revolution that Brown both stirred and stymied." — Megan Garber, The Atlantic
"I just loved reading through these essays." — Jasmine Guillory (on the Today Show)
“I practically inhaled this book in under 24 hours. . . . What I love most about this collection is simply the raw honesty in these essays. . . . Truthful, refreshing, and oftentimes deeply and hilariously relatable.” — Feminist Book Club
“Leaves Girl in the last century and starts an entirely new conversation. . . . What we have instead is a collection of essays from a new generation of single women. These 24 individuals are much different from the ‘girl’ Helen Gurley Brown was speaking to. These women are diverse in age, ethnicity, gender identity, and so much more.” — Divorcist.com
"A wide-ranging, life-affirming collection." — Booklist
“Smith and Swanson curate accounts of sexual experiences from a diverse group of women, all of whom seem willing to help change the system—or at least the way we talk and think about singledom. Each essay offers a unique perspective… themes of both friendship and trauma are threaded throughout the collection, which is mostly respectful to its source material but unafraid of calling out many of its outdated notions.” — Kirkus Reviews
"A refreshing and relevant update to a classic, featuring some of my favorite working writers today." — Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Middlesteins and I Came All This Way to Meet You
"Sex and the Single Woman is at once a tribute to the ground-breaking work of Helen Gurley Brown, and a corrective for her outdated perspectives. With a wonderful assortment of eye-opening, moving stories from a diverse group of writers, the book is a joy to get lost in. Truly a celebration of sexually liberated women—of all backgrounds, ages, and orientations." — Sari Botton, New York Times bestselling editor of Goodbye to All That and author of the memoir And You May Find Yourself...
“Sex and the Single Woman is essential reading for anyone who has experienced—or is currently experiencing—all the joys, pains, and complex beauty of their own singlehood era. Rather than painting one’s status as a single or childfree woman as something to be pitied or glossed over or devalued, this book takes singlehood seriously, and does not contain its exploration to one voice, but rather passes the mic around to paint a much more interesting picture."
— Emma Gray, Host of "Love To See It" and author of A Girl's Guide To Joining The Resistance