In today’s culture, the bonds of female friendship are taken as a given. Conventional wisdom tells us that women are more sociable, more empathetic, and more “friendly” than men. But only a few centuries ago, the idea of female friendship was completely unacknowledged, even pooh-poohed. Dating back to the Greeks and the Romans, women were long considered “weaker” than men and constitutionally unsuited for friendship at the highest level. Only men, the reasoning went, had the emotional and intellectual depth to develop and sustain these meaningful relationships.

Given this history, how were women able to co-opt the public face of friendship? In THE SOCIAL SEX: A History of Female Friendship (Harper Perennial; on-sale September 22, 2015) Marilyn Yalom and Theresa Donovan Brown survey history, literature, philosophy, religion, and pop culture in search of the answer. 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, Yalom and Brown reveal how the concept of female friendship has been inextricably linked to the larger social and cultural movements that have defined human history.

With Yalom and Brown as our guides, THE SOCIAL SEX: A History of Female Friendshipdelves 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: A History of Female Friendshipis a revelatory cultural history written in a voice that is at once entertaining and learned, authoritative and accessible.


Marilyn Yalom is a former professor of French and presently 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 author Irvin D. Yalom.

Theresa Donovan Brownis 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 inform her insights into the cultural history of friendship.