Here’s one last as/is reposted book review that I wrote for Epinions in July 2004. This one is of Men in Love, a book about men’s sexual fantasies.
This review is of a book that contains frank, sexual content. If that is a turn off for you, you may want to skip reading this review.
I first picked up Nancy Friday’s book Men in Love (1980) about fourteen years ago, just after I read her breakthrough book about women’s sexual fantasies My Secret Garden and its sequel, Forbidden Flowers. At the time, I was a freshman in college and very interested in sex, although I wasn’t partaking of any at the time. Nancy Friday’s books about women’s sexual fantasies were eyeopeners for me, but Men in Love: Men’s Sexual Fantasies: The Triumph of Love Over Rage was particularly enlightening– or at least it was at the time. Remember, back in 1990, we didn’t have the internet so readily at our disposal!
In Men in Love: Men’s Sexual Fantasies: The Triumph of Love Over Rage, I got to find out what turns men on in their own words. I should mention that I once had a pocket paperback version of this book, but somehow it disappeared. I ended up replacing it with a nicer version of the paperback- one that was published in 1998 with bigger print for my aging eyes.
The first sentence of Chapter One reads “This is a book about men who love women.” (1). Reading through some of these sexual fantasies may not leave the average woman with the belief that all of the men who contributed their fantasies to this book “love women”. In fact, when I read one of the fantasies aloud to a friend of mine, she said “My God! That man is a misogynist! Look at how much hatred of women that fantasy reveals!” I will agree with her that some of the fantasies included in Men in Love are violent, disgusting, and even disturbing. However, it’s important to remember when reading this book is that these are fantasies and as such, they don’t generally have any basis in reality. As Friday writes,
“a fantasy is a map of desire, mastery, escape, and obscuration; the navigational path we invent to steer ourselves between the reefs and shoals of anxiety, guilt, and inhibition. It is a work of consciousness, but in reaction to unconscious pressures” (1).
And yes, some of the fantasies are pretty bizarre, but again, fantasies don’t have to be garden variety or “normal”. I daresay that if Friday had included a bunch of “normal” fantasies about missionary position sex, her book would not have sold very well at all. People don’t want to read about run of the mill stuff– they are attracted to the weird. Friday further writes,
“While the sexual fantasies of many men were a pleasure and easily available to my emotions right from the start, others disgusted and frightened me. Many seemed outpourings from macho braggarts out to shock or trap me in filth. I was like the Victorian husband who encourages his wife to tell all. When she does, he leaves her.” (3).
Nancy Friday enlisted the aid of Dr. Robert Robertiello, a psychoanalyst, in reading the sexual fantasies. Robertiello apparently helped Friday interpret the entries, lent his professional opinions, and challenged her to question his own opinions. She also consulted Dr. Leah Schaefer and Dr. Sirgay Sanger, two other psychoanalysts. There’s no doubt in my mind that their help was invaluable in this endeavor. There are fantasies about every imaginable thing. However, Friday reports that bar none, the most popular theme was that of a “weak” woman being intimidated and forced by a man into doing something naughty and delicious, being raped repeatedly, but then losing her guilt and taking pleasure in the acts that had once seemed so forbidden to her (6). Interestingly enough, Friday reports that “rape” was also the most popular theme among women, although she hastens to add “I’ve yet to meet a woman who wouldn’t run a mile from a real rapist” (6). She adds that men’s fantasies about women truly being overpowered are actually not so common. More often, if one reads carefully, he or she will find that the woman offered consent at some point.
Anyway, I’m sure at least some of you who are reading this review are interested in the fantasies– as in, what’s included in this book. Men in Love consists of twenty-two chapters on different themes, the vast majority of which contain fantasies. Topics included in this book vary from relatively tame– ie; masturbation and virgins to slightly wilder– ie; oral sex, anal sex, homosexuals, bisexuals, semen, and sharing and living out fantasies, to wilder still– ie; fetishism, women with women, groups, straight men, gay fantasies, women making men have sex, voyeurs and exhibitionists, sharing the woman with another man, to pretty far out and raunchy– ie; water sports, animals, transvestites, breast and vagina envy, and the ever popular sadomasochism.
Friday identifies each of the owners of the fantasies with a first name and then the fantasy is written out in first person voice, so that it’s if the man himself is telling the story of what makes him hot. In each fantasy, the subject includes information about his educational and religious background as well as a few other personal details. Friday has included fantasies from men of all walks of life, including men in prison and very professional men. The personal details are helpful in allowing the reader to determine from where the fantasies originate in the subject’s psyche. In each chapter and generally between some of the fantasies, Friday offers her own psychoanalysis and comments about the fantasy and what it means. Some of what she writes is interesting, although her comments are generally not terribly in-depth, and I give Friday credit for writing well and providing a fairly intelligent analysis of her subject matter. But of course, her commentary is really secondary to what’s fascinating about this book.
I have to be honest here; it seems that Friday almost had these men write her book for her. She’s in somewhat of a secondary role, because I suspect that most people who read this book aren’t so concerned with what Friday has to say– they’re interested in what turns these men on and, more than likely, what turns them on is also titillating to the readers. Friday’s comments, then, might be considered filler by some people. It wouldn’t surprise me if some readers of this book have a favorite section that they re-visit over and over again because they too are excited by the subject matter, and the other sections, after a first reading, go neglected because they aren’t as personally thrilling.
To some people, this book will be no more than whacking material. To others, it will be a valuable psychology textbook that provides fascinating insight into the act of sex. Those of you who are turned off by frank, graphically detailed sexual content, foul language (including nasty euphemisms for male and female genitalia), and content about sexual situations that are frankly, quite unorthodox, should probably steer clear of Men in Love. Those of you who can handle the explicit content and language and are genuinely interested in the subject matter will probably really enjoy this book and may learn something as well.
I think that ultimately, women can learn a lot from this book about members of the opposite gender… and men can learn that they’re not necessarily freaks for having sexual fantasies. Men in Love is a generous accounting of men’s sexual fantasies. I appreciate the fact that Friday has covered a broad range of topics and she has included so many fantasies by so many different types of men. Personally, I’ve found this book to be fascinating reading, especially now that I’m more mature and can look beyond the obvious titillation factor. But again, this book is not for the easily offended or the squeamish. Some of the fantasies are literally filthy and may disgust even the most hardened reader. And no, there are no pictures included in this book. Everything is left up to your imagination. This may be a good or bad feature of this book, depending on your viewpoint.
I almost forgot to add… Nancy Friday invites men and women to contribute to her research. She also welcomes comments about her books. An address and link to her website are included in the back of this book, along with a guarantee of anonymity. (Edited to add: Nancy Friday died in November 2017, so this part is probably no longer true.)
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