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FIRST-PERSON: The destructive legacy of Helen Gurley Brown

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
DALLAS (BP) -- One popular magazine that sometimes makes it embarrassing to take your kids through a grocery line is Cosmopolitan.

The magazine has actually been around since 1886. It used to be a family publication. Then changed in 1965 when the faltering publication hired Helen Gurley Brown as its editor. At that time, television was becoming the recreation medium of choice and advertising dollars were increasingly flowing in that direction. Helen Gurley Brown transformed the magazine to target the single working woman. During her 40 years at its helm, Cosmopolitan's circulation hit more than 2.5 million.


Brown was first a secretary and then became an advertising copywriter and account executive. She gained Cosmopolitan's attention due to the success of her 1962 "advice" book, "Sex and the Single Girl" which was cutting edge, to put it mildly. The book has been said to have spawned the sexual revolution in that it bluntly proclaimed that sex ought to be part of the single girl's life. It sold millions of copies.

Brown asserted that women really should partake of sex without marriage and she advocated interoffice affairs as a way to get ahead professionally. Her philosophy was summed up by a quote displayed in her office: "Good Girls Go to Heaven -- Bad Girls Go Everywhere."

It's not that Ms. Brown frowned on marriage. She was 40 and married when she wrote the book. She stayed married to 20th Century Fox executive David Brown until his death in 2010. He urged her to write the book. Indeed, it also contained relationship tips out of her own long and faithful marriage, one being; "Always say yes to sex."

Later, the book was made into a movie. Natalie Wood played Helen Gurley Brown.

Brown brashly admitted, "I think marriage is insurance for the worst years of your life. During your best years, you don't need a husband. You do need a man of course every step of the way, and they are often cheaper emotionally and a lot more fun by the dozen."


She called herself a feminist, but her emphasis on pleasing men became anathema to the second-wave feminists' view of female empowerment, which became more like, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

Helen Gurley Brown died last month at age 90. In 1982 she told The New York Times, "My relevance is that I deal with reality." But it's a sad reality, one that included an explosion in abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases. Brown's reality also means that, now, 41 percent of children are born out of wedlock, while single motherhood is overwhelmingly synonymous with poverty. Who knew the Cosmo girl would spawn an exploding welfare state? Now, our government just assumes women will lead this sexually free lifestyle. Hence the mandate that employers provide insurance for free contraception, including the abortion-inducing kind, and sterilization.

National Review columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez calls this "the Cosmogenization of America." Helen Gurley Brown left a terrible legacy.

Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the "Point of View" syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody radio networks. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (


Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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