In 1973, a 40-year-old woman named Nancy Friday released her first book; a compilation of stories titled My Secret Garden.
Friday collected women’s deepest, most private sexual fantasies, through letters and personal interviews, and presented them in a modest book. Discreet enough to fit into a woman’s purse.
The book became an international bestseller, appearing on bedside tables all over the world, carrying with it a message that women – just like men – had wild erotic imaginations and engaged in self pleasure.
Women, Friday’s book told us, were not passive objects for sex to be performed upon, but rather sexual agents who had complex and exciting desires.
Earlier this month, on the 5th of November, 2017, Friday died at age 84. But looking back on her work, four and a half decades since it was published, the jaw still drops.
It was a daring, revolutionary book, which made public women’s most private, most unspoken and most shameful thoughts, forever changing how we understand female sexual desire.
In memory of the brave woman who fought tirelessly for gender equality by placing female pleasure on the political agenda, here are a few of the most unforgettable fantasies Friday uncovered.
Madge is a married woman, who has a very detailed fantasy she eagerly shares with Friday.
“I find myself at the door of a big house,” she begins.
A black man, and a ‘buxom’ black woman invite her into their home. She is dragged into a room with a large male dog and a young man.
“I am ordered to strip naked,” Madge recounts, and the man says “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
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“I protest and he produces a whip while his wife forcibly undresses me and ties my hands behind my back. She takes his trousers off and exposes his prick,” which she describes in great detail.
She is made to beg to be penetrated, and then the dog is unleashed. It performs oral sex on her, eventually engaging in intercourse. The man then places his penis inside her mouth, while the young man touches himself. The ‘buxom’ woman is naked the whole time, watching, and eventually Marge performs oral sex on her.
It is this scene that goes through Madge’s mind when she pleasures herself.
Sondra imagines the wispy end of Salvador Dali’s moustache tickling her clitoris, and then an octopus from one of his paintings comes to life.
“I want that big black octopus to take me in every way all at once,” she says, “with every tentacle going full force at the same time since I tire so easily.”
She sees every tentacle as a “rhythmic finger” going in and out of her body, and it makes her scream with pleasure.
Francesca is Jewish and has three children, and says her fantasies are “just the usual ones”.
Her favourite features herself as a teenager, where her mother sells her to an Oriental potentate.
In Francesca’s mind she’s been taught how to perform sexually since childhood – “She’s performed cunnilingus on me, done everything to me, and showed me with her own body,” Francesca says.
Eventually, she enters a palace and a Buddha-like figure is sitting on a throne. Her mother shows her exactly what she must do, and then performs a number of sexual acts on her.
"I lie there," Francesca says, "responding just as I should as her finger or her tongue enter me, my beautiful body reacting perfectly."
The Buddha figure is very impressed, declaring that she is the most sexual figure he's ever seen and he wants her to himself.
Alix is married, but has almost exclusively lesbian fantasies.
"Most of my lesbian fantasies occur during masturbation," she says.
Her most common one involves her watching women demonstrate masturbation, with all different positions and techniques. One is a native woman who dances around her and forces Alix to watch her masturbate, and another fantasy includes Alix walking through the woods and stumbling upon a woman "making love to herself".
While touching herself, Alix imagines a neighbour or her husband walking in just as she is climaxing, but she can't stop because the pleasure is so intense.
The fantasies in Friday's book are as diverse as they are creative. Many involve themes of rape, incest, bestiality and violence. Some women conjure up scenes of their husband sleeping with someone else, while they watch on. Others see a doctor, or a man in a position of power, taking advantage of them.
It must be said, that just because these themes appear in one's imagination, does not mean they are at all condoned or invited into one's own life. Often, they are metaphors, breaking taboos and exploring ideas of power and subservience.
My Secret Garden introduced us to confessional writing, with many prefacing their stories with, "I've never told anyone" or "please excuse me". They are loaded with guilt and shame, but ultimately each 'confession' provided a gift for generations of women.
We learned that just like men, women possess erotic thoughts.
"I do think a lot of women are likely to begin fantasising after reading this book,” Friday said after the book's release.
"Or rather, become aware that they have been fantasising all along, and that these sudden odd ideas or notions they have up to now forgotten, or repressed, are indeed fantasies.”
You can buy Nancy Friday's history-making book, here.