Impact

(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Sex and the Single Girl, an instant best-seller made into a hit film of the same name, encouraged single women to live the life of the Cosmo (Cosmopolitan magazine) girl, a type of young woman described in the January 29, 1996, issue of Time magazine as “sexually bold, if socially conventional.” The book encouraged single women to realize that, like men, they could engage in “recreational sex,” with both single and married partners. The success of the book and film launched Brown’s career. At age forty-three, she became editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, a position she held for thirty-one years, after which she became editor in chief of Cosmopolitan’s almost thirty international editions. Brown’s voice influenced the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s and, ultimately, influenced the voice of other women’s magazines such as Glamour, Allure, Mademoiselle, and American Woman. As a result of Sex and the Single Girl, Brown’s views permeated the values of single career women for the next three decades.

Related Work

(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Sex and the New Single Girl (1970), Brown’s second book, also a best-seller, updates Brown’s advice to single women.

Additional Information

(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

For Brown’s reflections on Sex and the Single Girl, see “Bad Girl,” an interview with Brown in Psychology Today, March/April, 1994. For an overview and analysis of Brown’s career, see “Was Helen Gurley Brown the Silliest Editor in America—or the Smartest?” in Playboy, March, 1997.