Friedman graduated from Wesleyan University, and earned an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College in 2004. She lives in the Boston area.
Friedman is the founder and Executive Director of Women, Action and the Media (WAM!), a North American non-profit focusing on gender justice and media issues. WAM!’s accomplishments include the successful campaigns to pressure Facebook to enforce its terms of service against incitements to violence against women and to pressure Clear Channel to rescind its decision not to run advertisements for South Wind Women's Center, a women's health clinic in Wichita. WAM! also runs chapters in Boston, New York, Chicago, LA, DC, Ottawa and Vancouver.
Friedman regularly speaks at college campuses on the subjects of sexuality, sexualization, rape culture, and creating a healthy sexual culture around enthusiastic consent. She also hosts a weekly podcast "Fucking While Feminist." In 2010 Friedman was selected as a delegate on the Nobel Women’s Initiative's peace delegation to Israel and Palestine. A documentary, Partners for Peace, has been made about the delegation, and Friedman is featured in the film.
In 2012, Friedman came under fire for her piece, Unsolicited Advice For Blue Ivy Carter, which was heavily criticized by African-American women for alleged racist overtones. Friedman subsequently issued a public apology on her blog, and donated the fee she received for the piece to SisterSong, an activist group that primarily deals with women of color.
Yes Means Yes: Visions of Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, an anthology co-edited by Friedman and Jessica Valenti, was published in January 2009. It was selected as one of Publishers Weekly Best 100 Books of 2009, and is number 11 on Ms. magazine's list of Most Influential Feminist Books of All Time.
In 2011, inspired by the questions that young women asked her while she was on book tour for Yes Means Yes, Friedman's published her second book, What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety. What You Really Really Want was a finalist for Foreword's Book of the Year award in Women's Issues. Salon.com called it "a sex guide for today's girls," and said of Friedman that she “is the sex educator of many parents’ nightmares. She’s also just the teacher young women need.”
Friedman's writings have been published widely, including in The Guardian, The American Prospect, The Washington Post, The Nation and Salon.
Friedman has appeared as a guest on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show, as well as the BBC, Q with Jian Ghomeshi, CNN, Huffington Post Live, and Democracy Now.