book reviews, sex

Partial repost: A review of My Secret Garden, by Nancy Friday

Here’s a book I originally wrote for Epinions and later reposted on my original blog. I have to do some editing on this post, since it also included some time sensitive and now irrelevant information. Other than that, it’s “as/is”.

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday, written August 20, 2003

Nice girls think about sex too.

I remember the first time I read Nancy Friday’s 1973 book My Secret Garden. I was seventeen years old and a senior in high school, still quite virginal, and full of questions about sex. As the youngest daughter of two quite conservative (but tired) parents, I suppose I could have talked to one of my three sisters about sexuality. But they are a lot older than I am and none of them were living close by. Besides, it’s not the kind of topic that comes up easily, no matter how brazen and brash a person you might be.

How does one bring up sexual fantasies in a casual conversation anyway? It’s the type of thing one talks about at a slumber party or in a game of truth or dare, maybe. I wasn’t the kind of teenager who went to parties. So it was lucky that I happened upon My Secret Garden at Waldenbooks one day. Swallowing my embarrassment, I picked it up and took it to the counter, trying very hard not to look at the cashier as she rung up my purchase. Then I rushed out of the store and went home to read it. A few weeks later, I misplaced the book, but I was so engrossed by it, that I went out and bought another copy. I still own that copy and I’ve supplemented it with many of Friday’s other books. I’d have to say that of the five I’ve read, I enjoy this one and Men in Love, Friday’s book about men’s sexual fantasies the most.

The foreword is written by someone who calls herself “J”, who is the author of Sensuous Woman (whatever that is). The style is of her prose is matter-of-fact, complete with the “F-word”, as she describes how sexually liberated women feel about the act of having sex in the 70s and their reaction to Friday’s book about women’s sexual fantasies. She writes:

I suspect that women generally will be fascinated by the revelations in this book, but not surprised. Nor will these readers have trouble in acknowledging that they too fantasize. Those women, however, who consider sexual intercourse unpleasant and/or unsatisfying will be revolted by the explicit and enthusiastically carnal sexual daydreams of the women in this book and will reject and deny their own fantasies both to the world and to themselves. And how will the male react? The first man I gave My Secret Garden to was so turned on by the book that he went on a lovemaking marathon. (xiii).

In my experience “J” was right. I was fascinated by this book, but I wasn’t surprised by what I read. However, I found Friday’s 1981 book Men in Love, which contains men’s sexual fantasies, a huge turn on. I suppose we humans all like to know what makes the opposite gender tick sexually. Reading My Secret Garden was kind of like attending a big confessional full of horny women where everyone shared their deepest fantasies of what fanned their flames.

Friday’s writing style is like a documentary, but she only writes at the beginning of each chapter. The rest of the writing is done by the many, many women who sent her letters, detailing the gamut of their sexual fantasies. This book is divided into seven chapters. Within the seven chapters are subchapters that address certain themes.

The afterword is entitled “In Defense of Nancy Friday”, by Martin Shepard, M.D., Psychiatrist. Since this book obviously covers a controversial subject that is disturbing to some conservative people, not to mention sub-topics that will most definitely upset more liberal folks, Nancy Friday probably did need to be defended back in 1973. She might even need it now, thirty years later, for including a subchapter on young boys (even if it is just fantasy, including this section probably concerned a few people).

Even though some of the topics were not my cup of tea, I did find it interesting to read about what turns other women on just from a purely psychological standpoint, which is the way Friday endeavors to tackle the subject. I have to admit, though, that some of the reading was pretty entertaining and quite sexy. Besides, if people were really disgusted by this book, it wouldn’t still be around after thirty years.

If you compared this book to say, Kink: The Shocking Hidden Sex Lives of Americans, by Susan Crain Bakos, a ridiculous read if I ever met one, you’d immediately notice that My Secret Garden is a far superior book. You will also notice, however, that this book is quite dated. The slang used is 70s slang. If you’re in your 30s or 40s or older, you’ll recognize 70s pop cultural references sprinkled within the letters. Some might say that makes this book a classic, and some might say that makes this book dated.

Friday has come out with 1992’s Women on Top, another book about sexual fantasies and 1975’s Forbidden Flowers, her sequel to My Secret Garden to partially address the dated quality of her books. I don’t think either is as good as My Secret Garden. Read this book if you’re curious about what makes women tick and you have an open mind. If you’re easily offended, you might want to skip this book and keep wondering

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