Helen Gurley Brown
15th OF August 2012
This week Helen Gurley Brown passed away at the age of 90. Never heard of her? You will now.
Helen Gurley Brown published one of the most influential books on intimacy ever written - Sex And The Single Girl - in 1962.
The book was all about women going for what they wanted: orgasms, power, money, partners - and its impact is still felt to this day. It caused a major furore at the time.
This was the beginnings of major-league feminism, and people accused Gurley Brown of being anti-feminist for her insistence that you could use your femininity to reach your goals.
Seducing married men, marrying the boss: she was branded as shameless.
However, she also was one of the first women to say, out loud, that women had the exact same rights to pleasure in the bedroom as men, and were allowed to pursue, to plot, and to take control of their destinies in bed.
She also made being single into a powerful position. Famously, she said husbands were only for security later in life, and that in her best, most independent years, a woman didn't need one - even for orgasms.
This was completely radical in a time where a woman was still supposed to stay chaste till marriage, and it changed the way single people talked about their lives.
Of course, Gurley Brown also said a lot of things which today's woman will think are ridiculous - but her ideas about owning property, needing your own career and not letting your partner take sole charge of your orgasms are all still true.
Why do you think Sex & The City wasn't called something like Carrie And Friends? The makers knew what Gurley Brown did for the single woman, and they made sure they paid homage to her.
So how has Gurley Brown affected you? If you've been single and hopped into bed with somebody before committing, if you have one-night stands and enjoyed them, if you like being sensual and feeling confident, if you've put off marriage because your career is important to you, Gurley Brown's made her impact known.
Of course, Gurley Brown was also a famous editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. After Sex & The Single Girl made it big, the editors brought her on board and she transformed it according to her own ideas about what women really cared about.
Cosmo can be the butt of many jokes - exactly how many bedroom tips can there be in the world, and why is it only ever about straight people? - but in its time it was ground-breaking stuff.
Talking basically and openly about how to please a partner, and yourself, in monthly subscriber magazines? The horror!
It also, hilariously, was the first magazine to do male nude centerfolds, mostly because Gurley Brown was friends with Hugh Hefner and thought it would be funny - but they were a huge hit.
Women weren't supposed to like looking at naked men - only men enjoyed nudity - but Gurley Brown turned that idea on its head. You can thank her for that, too.
This isn't a history lesson - it's a reminder that many things, including being able to talk frankly about the bedroom in this column, exist because of people who made them happen, and one of them was Helen Gurley Brown.
Get your hands on Sex & The Single Girl. Parts of it are dated and sexist now, and a lot of the seduction advice is hilarious, but the overall message of being in control of your own intimate life is still pretty powerful.
Image: Helen Gurley Brown.