Goodness, the ’60s are looking awfully alluring these days. The TV world has fallen hard for them, thanks to Mad Men: And while neither of that show’s biggest new imitators, Pan-Am and the now-cancelled Playboy Club, come close in quality drama, Pan-Am is still a technicolor world of fun and intrigue. Meanwhile, Anna David’s delightfully breezy new memoir, Falling for Me, chronicles her efforts to get out of the singleton doldrums by following the advice of the ’60s blockbuster advice book Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley Brown. David was so enamored of Gurley Brown’s throwback advice that she ignited a little blog controversy by positing that “women had it better in the ’60s” in on online post.
In Anna David’s new memoir, Falling for Me, the author sets out to find the empowering side of being single by following the advice set forth in Helen Gurley Brown’s groundbreaking 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl. So should we be living more like women in the ’60s? We talked to David (whose book launch we’re sponsoring in New York City Oct. 10) about that — and why it’s still so hard to be single.
You recently ignited a bit of a blogger controversy by asserting in a post that “women had it better in the ’60s.” Do you really think women had it better then, hands down? Or just in certain ways?
Definitely just in certain ways. Which is what I said in the piece! But I get that when people want to pick a fight with you — or are, say, angered simply by the title of your piece — they don’t see words that might minimize their vitriol. My point was that I wish women would stop making statements about things that don’t matter. I love Gloria Steinem and am incredibly grateful for all that she’s done, but for her to go around making a stink about the Playboy Club TV show when everyone knew the show was terrible and wasn’t going to make any kind of cultural impact seems silly. Instead, I’d rather she talk about things that do matter and we can change, like how judgmental and cruel women can be to one another simply because we always see each other as competition.
In a society where lawyers become lapdancers, escorts land record deals, and Internet sites provide 24/7 erotic access, it’s often difficult to draw the line between owning and losing control of your sexuality. “Party Girl” author Anna David became a de facto expert on transactional sex while researching an article about prostitution, and her new novel “Bought” draws on her experiences to tell the (fictional!) story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with a high-class escort. Sirens sat down with David to discuss prostitution: the definitions, motives – and even how it may be affecting your dating life.
How did your research for the Details article prompt you to write this book?
I had thought it was going to be a simple reported story, where I would just go and interview people and write up some anecdotes. I ended up spending six months infiltrating this world, and found out a lot about this madam and her girls. She had risen to become the new Heidi Fleiss, but everyone hated her. Normally you wouldn’t have great access in a story like this — why would anyone want to talk to a journalist about illicit activities? — but because there was so much resentment towards the madam, the floodgates opened. Women called me saying, “I heard you’re doing this story, and I need to talk to you.” The piece ended up being a silly article that didn’t really encapsulate any of what I learned, so I decided to fictionalize it and make it into a novel.
How did the process change your ideas about prostitution?
Initially, I probably had the same thoughts as most women who are reasonably liberal but still self-respecting — I judged it as sad. Once I started interviewing girls for the article, I felt more judgmental of the men who were paying for it than the women who were participating in it. Most of the girls that I interviewed seemed lost. They were porn stars and Penthouse pets and Playmates who had realized that through side work, as they called it, they could make this money. But they didn’t have a lot of other opportunities.