Book Review: My Secret Garden

Image description: The book sits on an open laptop. A few red rose petals from the laptop’s screensaver can be seen at the top. The book cover is golden-hued  with wide font and a blooming lily.

“My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies” by Nancy Friday was first published in 1973. Now 46 years old, it is a classic in sexuality literature and still tumbles into the hands of the curious, who want to see where in the pages of this book their own sexual fantasies might fall.


I first read this book in 2014. I was curious about sexual fantasies. Sexual fantasy had always been an important part of my life but at that time I had just started writing romantic erotica. I wanted to explore storytelling and how our fantasies play out on the backs of our eyelids in the private theatres of our minds.


The fantasies presented in this do not reveal any quick formulas or shed light on plot devices to entice. These are raw fantasies, completely individual to each woman, and they cannot be replicated. But in the collected voices we can illuminate some of the universal necessities, motivations, and legitimacies of sexual fantasies.


The book presents the fantasies one after another, with a fabricated name heading each. The fantasies range in length from a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Some are a couple pages long. The chapters separate the fantasies loosely by theme. Several of the sections are interspersed with the author’s evaluation of some of the implications of the fantasies and builds on some psychological concepts. I believe this holds the book together without being overbearing or making too many assumptions about the fantasizers.


There are literally hundreds of fantasies, so this book might be best to be broken up rather than read all in one sitting. The book is over 400 pages long, and I took a break from time to time reading the book so I wouldn’t just skim over the next fantasy, and the next. Because I thought they were all truly unique and deserving of my attention.
Many aspects of the book stayed with me after reading.


I was surprised that many fantasies included extramarital sex or multiple partners. I was even more surprised to read that some of the women reported their partners knew of these fantasies and were encouraging of them. At the time I read the book, I felt alone in the fact that blurring the lines of monogamy had been a positive influence on my marriage. So it was refreshing to read of these women’s experiences.


Conversely, many women confessed they would never tell their partners that they fantasize for fear of hurting them. I can’t say I was surprised. In fact, I assumed this was a common occurrence. While some of the women were able to talk openly about their fantasies with their partners, I was still sad to read instances when this was not the case.


While I didn’t relate to most of the fantasies personally, I understood where they were coming from. Some people may criticize and say the fantasies are exaggerated or not typical, but I don’t believe that. There were only a couple that I thought might have been contrived, but after reading the book I do believe the fantasies in the book are genuine to the women expressing them.


I felt emotional reading the amount of guilt, shame, and sadness surrounding some of the fantasies. I also felt emotional reading the amount of joy, triumph, and contentment surrounding some of the fantasies. As I wrote earlier, sexual fantasy is a really important part of my life. While reading this book I felt grateful to have such an insight into so many fantasies. Holding this book even today feels like a treasure in my hands.


My favorite part of the book was one very striking entry written by a widower who embraced his late wife’s fantasies. I believe it was the only entry included in this book written by a man, but the author included it, and rightly so, because it explored the power and nuance of female sexual fantasy. The entry was a moving testament to how sexual fantasies can make people’s lives and relationships better.


In the end, some may disagree, but I feel this book is a classic and still deserves a spot on library shelves—personal and public. Overall I think this is an important contribution to how we relate to and understand human sexuality, in an intriguing and erotic blend of psychology, sociology, and reverie. It’s interesting to think of how many people consider slipping this book off a shelf and peeking inside to be a part of their erotic history.


It is certainly a part of mine.


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