Literary motivation & Criticism
"In the late 1960s I chose to write about women's sexual fantasies because the subject was unbroken ground, a missing piece in the puzzle, and I loved original research. I had sexual fantasies and I assumed other women did too."
Finding research difficult due to the lack of information available, she used her own experiences and fantasies to complete her book. Erica Jong, a fellow writer, tackled similar issues with her first book, Fear of Flying, in 1973, published around the same time as Friday's book. No one had attempted to confront such issues before these two women. They offered a fresh, new outlook on women and their sexuality.
For years rejected by editors because of the content of her books, and despite psychologists insisting that men are the only people who have sexual fantasies, in 1973 Nancy Friday finally corrected the damaging misinformation.
Friday considered that "more than any other emotion, guilt determined the story lines of the fantasies in My Secret Garden...women inventing ploys to get past their fear that wanting to reach orgasm made them Bad Girls." Her later book, My Mother/My Self grew immediately out of My Secret Garden's questioning of the source of women's terrible guilt about sex.
When she returned to her original topic of women's fantasies in Women on Top, it was in the belief that the sexual revolution had stalled: "it was the greed of the 1980s that dealt the death blow...the demise of healthy sexual curiosity."
Friday, like other feminists, was especially concerned with the controlling role of the images of 'Nice Woman...Nice Girl' - of being bombarded from birth with messages about what a "good woman" is... focused so hard and so long on never giving in to "selfishness"'. However, as feminism itself developed a stunning array of customs, opinions, moral values, and beliefs about how the world of
women...should conduct itself, so too it ran into the difficulty of moralism versus human nature - the fact that 'feminism - any political philosophy - does not adequately address sexual psychology' eventually sparking the 'feminist "sex wars" from the early 1980s' onwards. Against that backdrop, Friday's evidential and empirical concerns continue to address the open question of how many of their sexual freedoms the young women...will retain and how deeply they have incorporated them.
Some Critics have labelled Friday's books unscientific because the author solicited responses, thus potentially biasing the contributor pool.
My Secret Garden was greeted by a salvo from the media accusing me of inventing the whole book, having made up all the fantasies; My Mother/My Self was initially...violently rejected by both publishers and readers; while Women on Top was heavily criticized for its graphic and sensational content.