When it first appeared, Nancy Friday’s taboo-shattering bestseller “My Secret Garden” created a mixed storm of outrage and exhilaration. Those women who feared their erotic fantasies called it pornographic. Those women who read it recognized in its pages the hidden content of their own sexuality. More outspoken and graphic than any book before its time, “My Secret Garden” quickly became a classic study of female sexuality. Today, more than one million women hail this astonishing study as a groundbreaking book — a liberating force adding a new dimension to their sexual fantasies and lives.
This book caused quite a ruckus when it was released 25 years ago because it directly quotes the sexual fantasies of dozens of women, ranging from the “very common” rape fantasy to lesbian affairs to unusually explicit scenarios that are unmentionable here. While author Nancy Friday maintains that My Secret Garden served to free millions of women from sexual oppression, there’s still a need today to get rid of the guilt that millions more still feel when it comes to fantasizing, having orgasms, and making one’s sexual wishes be known. “How could it be, you might ask,” she writes, “that women today, at the turn of the century, would still think they were the only Bad Girls with erotic thoughts? What kind of prison is this that that women impose on themselves?”
My Secret Garden has the prurient appeal that made it one of the most passed-around books in high school study halls (it boasts chapters titled “Insatiability” and “The Thrill of the Forbidden”), but its premise, underneath the tales of lusty longings, is a serious one. Friday, also author of My Mother, My Self and Women on Top, is appalled at how parents, especially mothers, instill in their children a deep fear of sexual pleasure, and she advises how to do away with this stultifying force. While Friday can get a little histrionic at times (“Women’s lust … could bring down not only individuals, but society itself”), that doesn’t make this book any less enthralling. –Erica Jorgensen