book reviews, sex

Repost: A review of Forbidden Flowers, by Nancy Friday…

Here’s another reposted Epinions review. This one is of Forbidden Flowers, the sequel to My Secret Garden, by Nancy Friday. It appears as/is, and was originally written in May 2005.

The following review is likely to contain frank sexual content. If that sort of thing bothers you, please skip reading this review!

The year was 1973. I was a baby, having just been born in June of 1972. Author Nancy Friday was making waves with her best selling book, My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. All around the world, men and women alike were reading and identifying with the women who had bared their souls writing about their favorite sexual fantasies. All around the world, many of those same people were saying to themselves, “Thank God I’m not alone.” My Secret Garden related the sexual fantasies of dozens of women and included an array of erotic subjects, from what might be considered an everyday rape fantasy to more exotic fantasies involving incest, young boys, and animals… just to name a few. One might think that with subject matter so explicit during the dark ages before the Internet, a lot of potential readers might be blushing too much to consider buying the book, let alone reading it. But My Secret Garden was a huge success, so much so that in 1975, Nancy Friday came out with a sequel: Forbidden Flowers: More Women’s Sexual Fantasies.

My first contact with both My Secret Garden and Forbidden Flowers was when I was a 17 year old senior in high school. It was 1990 and at the time, I was just starting to awaken to sex and being a woman. I have to confess that I practically devoured My Secret Garden and I was left hungry for more tales of women’s sexual fantasies. I had already purchased My Secret Garden twice– I lost the first copy, no doubt making some other teenager’s day– and somehow summoned up the courage to buy it a second time. And of course, when I later saw Forbidden Flowers on the shelf, I felt compelled to buy it. So I brought the book up to the cashier, trying to act naturally. I paid for it without incident. And now, almost sixteen years later, I still own my original copy of that book. The pages are yellowed, the cover is missing, and Forbidden Flowers is still a very intriguing book. But I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed My Secret Garden.

Forbidden Flowers is divided into two parts. The first part, which comes after an introduction written by Nancy Friday herself, is entitled Where Do Sexual Fantasies Come From?. The second part is entitled The Uses of Sexual Fantasy. Both parts are followed by several chapters with somewhat vague subjects. Friday includes the first names of each fantasy writer’s name. Nancy Friday introduces each chapter before she presents the fantasies, writing in a candid, matter-of-fact style. She succinctly explains her point of view, liberally citing studies done by well-known psychiatrists and psychologists.

Personally, I found Nancy Friday’s analysis quite perceptive; thirty years ago, I’m sure that to some people Friday’s thoughts might have even seemed revolutionary… or just merely repugnant. Consider this. On page 15, Friday briefly writes of a study done by Dr. Arnold Gesell, who was observing infant behavior. As paraphrased fron the book, Dr. Gesell placed a naked fifty-six week old boy in front of a mirror and found that the boy was excited by the sight of his own body. Dr. Gesell took a photograph of the naked boy, whose penis was erect. Friday concludes that since this little boy, who was barely a year old, could have an erotic experience, it’s only natural that little girls, who are supposedly more precocious than little boys are, can also have sexual experiences. Friday writes,

And yet the idead is still unacceptable to most people. Childhood is pictured as a time of ribbons, fairy tales, and lemonade. Adults notoriously forget that they were once children too; they close off their minds to early sexual memories– those embarrassing or shameful events connected perhaps with anxieties about masturbation. I am not suggesting that the sugar and spice of little girls’ childhoods are only a false facade. That aspect is real. But so is our sexuality (15-16).

I think Friday is right about adults being uncomfortable with the prospect that children might think about sex. After all, our society loathes the idea that a child’s innocence might be warped by a subject that as supposed to be as “adult” as sex is. Just reading that passage led me to think about the ugliness of pedophilia, even though what Friday wrote had nothing to do with child sexual abuse and everything to do with how natural the acts of sex and masturbation are– or should be, anyway. Plain and simple, the message that I got from Nancy Friday is that thinking about sex is healthy and natural, even for kids. But I still couldn’t help but be somewhat uncomfortable reading that passage.

Friday further explains that after she wrote My Secret Garden, she received over 2000 letters from other women who had sent her their sexual fantasies. She explains that the women who had written to her came from all walks of life– there were letters from educated and less educated women. As a result of reading the letters, Friday was left with the impression that sexual fantasies usually come from childhood memories.

Part One includes four chapters of fantasies written by women whose stories related specifically to their childhoods. The fantasies are presented simply with the original authors’ name and they are written in their original authors’ voices, complete with “colorful” language. I will offer a warning to those who have delicate sensibilities that the fantasies appear to have been included unedited for anything beyond punctuation and grammar. Most of the fantasies are quite explicit and provocative.

In My Secret Garden, Nancy Friday grouped the fantasies by subject matter, which made it easier for readers to skip sections that they might find objectionable. For example, if a reader didn’t want to read about women who had fantasized about having sex with virgins the person could easily skip that section because Friday had clearly marked it. Friday did not group the fantasies the same way in Forbidden Flowers, so it might be harder for readers to pick and choose what they read in her book.

When I was 17, I was more interested in reading the sexual fantasies. Now that I’m almost twice that age, I find Friday’s analysis more interesting than the fantasies. Friday seems genuinely interested in presenting an intellectual commentary on why women have certain fantasies. I suspect that some folks who read Forbidden Flowers will be reading it just for sake of titillation. For those readers who want to dig deeper, I would urge that they read Nancy Friday’s sections and consider what she has to say. Even if they don’t agree with the author’s point of view, the ideas that Friday presents are certainly food for thought.

Forbidden Flowers is definitely not a book that will appeal to everyone. I think that those who are interested in psychology, particularly if they are interested in pop psychology will enjoy Forbidden Flowers. Of course, I believe that this book will also appeal to many men… especially those who want to understand women better. Women who need reassurance that having sexual fantasies are normal may be comforted by Forbidden Flowers. I would not recommend this book if the subject of sex is an uncomfortable one for you. Also, understand that some of the subject matter within this book is not about your garden variety sex. Friday presents sexual fantasies of every flavor, no matter how distasteful they might be to the average reader. Read at your own risk!

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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