Anna David devoted a year of her life to following the advice set down in a classic book from the 1960s, but Diane Shipley questions the self-empowerment message in a book bogged down with regressive ideas and strict gender-roles
Following a brief but intense flirtation with a married man, Anna David was looking for a self-help book that would explain her self-sabotaging tendencies. Instead, she came across a copy of Helen Gurley Brown’s 1962 treatise Sex and the Single Girl, which was a publishing sensation when it was released, selling two million copies in just three weeks.
Brown famously then went on to become the founding editor of American Cosmopolitan, where she spent 32 years as the prototypical ‘fun, fearless female’, writing about relationships in a way that was unusual for her generation. As David says: “She was one of the first women… to hammer home how important it was for us to work hard and provide for ourselves and she regularly insisted that sex wasn’t a sign you were slutty but an expression of natural, God-given desires.”