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I believed that I never fantasized.
on January 26, 2001
For years, I used erotica books as surrogate fantasy material, believing that I was incapable of fantasizing during sex, that I had no fantasies of my own and had to use other people's. Reading "My Secret Garden" changed my perception of myself drastically. Those horrid, disturbing thoughts that floated into my brain, that I would shove down quickly as "sick," were indeed fantasies. The brave women who contributed their fantasies and feelings showed me that even if what I was drawn to was "sick," it certainly wasn't uncommon.
I am especially grateful to the women who commented on making the decision to share, or not share, their fantasies with their lovers. This was crucial for me. At a time when my thoughts were to be confessed on demand, I deprived my lover by depriving myself: those weren't fantasies, they were just random weird thoughts that made me uncomfortable. However, after getting out of a bad relationship and realizing that my mind was my own toy, I found that I could explore those thoughts without fear of exposure to anyone but myself ... and thus without shame.
Once I allowed myself my own secret garden, I found that I could share with myself and my current lovers in a way that previous ones had tried to coerce out of me. Living well is indeed the best revenge, and I thank Nancy Friday for her subversive assistence.
There are sections and chapters. Here's a listing of the section headings:
Introduction: Twenty-Five Years in the Garden
1. "Tell Me What You Are Thinking About," He Said
2. "Why Fantasize When You Have Me?"
3. The House of Fantasy
4. "Where Did A Nice Girl Like You Get An Idea Like That?"
5. Guilt and Fantasy, Or, "Why The Fig Leaf?"
6. Fantasy Accepted
Afterword: "In Defense of Nancy Friday" by Martin Shepard, M.D., psychiatrist
Along with fantasies submitted via taped interview and by mail, Friday includes her own analysis of the history of women's erotic nature, of the era at the time of initial publication and of the fantasies themselves. There's no bibliography and no footnotes; she mostly refers to any sources in the text itself. She's a good writer, whether or not I agree with her from chapter to chapter.
Written letters are kept in the style in which they were sent. Some of the women are amazingly articulate. Some of the letters are a painful read from a literary standpoint. But I think this enforces the idea that all of the submissions are genuine.
People who are interested in this book simply as another erotica compilation may well be disappointed. This is an academic study of women's fantasies, and not a "best of" compilation. If anything, it's a compilation of what Friday observed to be most representative of her times. And a quarter of a century after its initial publication, it changed my life.