Saturday, February 21, 2015

My niece is gone... and a trilogy of book reviews about sexual fantasies...

And I kind of miss her already.  She's a lot of fun to talk to and an excellent house guest.  The dogs loved meeting her, too.

We took her to the train station this afternoon and then went to Ludwigsburg, where I proceeded to get very "hangry".  If you're the slightest bit interested in that story, you can read it here.  Suffice to say that irritability caused by hunger is a very real thing for me.  Fortunately, Mr. Bill can tell when I need food and doesn't fuck around too much.

I could probably find something to vent about, but I'm not really in the mood right now.  Instead, I think I'll repost a trilogy of reviews of books by Nancy Friday.  Everybody likes a good sex book review, right?  Well, here are three.  Happy reading.

Nice girls think about sex too.

 Aug 20, 2003 (Updated Aug 20, 2003)
Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books
Rated a Very Helpful Review

    Pros:This book introduced me to the art of sexual fantasy.


    Cons:It was published in the 70s, the year after I was born.


    The Bottom Line:Step into the garden and pluck a few fragrant blossoms.

    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 (see my review), a ridiculous read if I ever met one, you'd immediately notice that My Secret Gardenis 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. For her part, 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. 

    Come back to the garden

     May 26, 2005 (Updated May 26, 2005)
    Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books
    Rated a Very Helpful Review

      Pros:Friday offers interesting insights about women's sexual fantasies.


      Cons:Some of the material might be distasteful to certain readers.


      The Bottom Line:I'm glad I no longer come to the garden alone.

      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!

      Nancy Friday's website: http://www.nancyfriday.com


      Oh my.... (blush)

       Jul 23, 2004 (Updated May 26, 2005)
      Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books
      Rated a Very Helpful Review

        Pros:A fascinating and well written look at what turns men on.


        Cons:May be too frank and explicit for some readers.


        The Bottom Line:This book is not for delicate types... but if you can take the heat, Men in Love probably won't disappoint you.

        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.

        Nancy Friday's website: http://www.nancyfriday.com

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