Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Review: My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday

“My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies” by Nancy Friday was first published in 1973. Now 41 years old, it is a classic in sexuality literature and still tumbles into the hands of curious women who want to know if their sexual fantasies are really that strange.

I initially picked this up to better understand female sexual fantasies and use the information to improve my erotica writing. But in all honesty, this book didn’t help much with that. These fantasies do not reveal any quick formulas or shed light on plot devices to entice. These are raw fantasies, completely individual to each woman, and they cannot be replicated. But in the collected voices we can shed light on some of the universal necessities, motivations, and legitimacy of female fantasies.

Some things that stayed with me after reading:

1. I was surprised to read how many women had extramarital sex or multiple partners, and that their husbands/partners knew and encouraged these relationships. I thought maybe there would be one or two of the hundreds of women in the book that were in an open relationship, but I was pleasantly surprised to read quite a few. Just as some women may think they are alone in having their fantasies, I have at times felt alone in the fact that an open relationship has been a positive influence on my marriage. So it was refreshing to read of these women’s experiences.

2. Conversely, I was struck by how many women confessed they would never tell their husbands/partners that they fantasize for fear of hurting the men in their lives. I can’t say I was surprised. And while some of the women were able to talk openly about their fantasies with their spouses, I was still sad to read instances when this was not the case.

3. While I didn’t relate to most of the fantasies personally, I understood where they were coming from. Some people may criticize and say the fantasies are exaggerated or not typical, but I don’t believe that. There were only a couple that I thought might have been contrived, but after reading the book I do believe the fantasies in the book are real to the women expressing them.

4. The amount of guilt, shame, and sadness surrounding some of the fantasies.

5. The amount of joy, triumph, and contentment surrounding some of the fantasies.

6. One very striking entry written by a widower who embraced his late wife’s fantasies.

Several sections are interspersed with the author’s evaluation of some of the implications of the fantasies and builds on some psychological concepts. I believe this holds the book together without being overbearing or making too many assumptions about the fantasizer.

There are literally hundreds of fantasies, so this book might be best to be broken up rather than read all in one sitting. The book is over 400 pages long, and thus I took a break from time to time reading it so I wouldn’t just skim over the next fantasy, and the next. Because they are all truly unique.

Overall I think this is an important contribution to how we relate to and understand human sexuality, in an intriguing blend of psychology, sociology, and erotica.

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