The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship (Paperback)
From historian and acclaimed feminist author of How the French Invented Love and A History of the Wife comes this rich, multifaceted history of the evolution of female friendship.
In today’s culture, the bonds of female friendship are taken as a given. But only a few centuries ago, the idea of female friendship was completely unacknowledged, even pooh-poohed. Only men, the reasoning went, had the emotional and intellectual depth to develop and sustain these meaningful relationships.
Surveying history, literature, philosophy, religion, and pop culture, acclaimed author and historian Marilyn Yalom and co-author Theresa Donovan Brown demonstrate how women were able to co-opt the public face of friendship throughout the years. Chronicling shifting attitudes toward friendship—both female and male—from the Bible and the Romans to the Enlightenment to the women’s rights movements of the ‘60s up to Sex and the City and Bridesmaids, they reveal how the concept of female friendship has been inextricably linked to the larger social and cultural movements that have defined human history.
Armed with Yalom and Brown as our guides, we delve into the fascinating historical episodes and trends that illuminate the story of friendship between women: the literary salon as the original book club, the emergence of female professions and the working girl, the phenomenon of gossip, the advent of women’s sports, and more.
Lively, informative, and richly detailed, The Social Sex is a revelatory cultural history.
About the Author
Marilyn Yalom is a former professor of French and a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She is the author of widely acclaimed books such as A History of the Breast, A History of the Wife, Birth of the Chess Queen, and, most recently, How the French Invented Love. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, psychiatrist and author Irvin D. Yalom.
Theresa Donovan Brown is an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction. She holds a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Her background writing policy-level speeches for global economic leaders, trading securities, and running a financial communications firm informs her insights into the cultural history of friendship.
“In the brisk yet comprehensive The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship (Harper Perennial), feminist historian Marilyn Yalom and writer Theresa Donovan Brown take a seriously playful approach to the evolution of women as social beings.”
“. . .astute, well-balanced, and fact-filled ode to the companionship of women. . . this detailed, entertaining book provides the backbone for such sturdy, enduring relationships.”
“This sweeping, lighthearted, highly readable survey hints that beyond proximity, shared interests, and ‘reciprocity,’ there is still some lovely mystery to what binds the ‘noncarnal union of similar souls.’”
— Publishers Weekly
“compelling. . . .clear-headed understanding and appreciation of the deep bonds that women form, without the temptation to judge or label them.”
— Los Angeles Times
“... an extremely long view on women’s unique approach to non-sexual bonding. . . .Yalom and Brown argue ,’friendships are flourishing as never before.’”
— New York Times
“Fascinating..for the minutiae it uncovers, the figures whose correspondence sparks biographical curiosity, and — not least — its insistence on the world-shifting power of female friendship, The Social Sex is a paean to companionship. Share it with a bosom friend.”