by Nancy Friday
As usual, the most compelling insights in this book by the author of My Secret Garden and My Mother/My Self do not come from the author herself. A relentless interviewer and survey taker, Friday has again compiled a fascinating—some might say titillating—assortment of sexual fantasies. Taken together, these frank interviews certainly suggest that women today are less interested in viewing themselves as victims; in fantasy, at least, they are “empowered.”
Still, this is a hard book to read straight through—and not only because, like most erotica/pornography, it gets repetitive. Although she is not a psychologist, Friday often overanalyzes. Particularly irksome are her repeated references to mothers as stern, antisexual beings and her persistent overwriting: “My fantasies play with guilt like a spool of silken thread that strings out my pleasure.”
And the book’s structure is a problem: Friday divides the bulk of it into three sections defined by “types” of fantasies (Seductive, Sometimes Sadistic; Women with Women; and Insatiable Women). But the women interviewed are not so easily categorized.
Nevertheless, some of Friday’s own views—like her attack on Women Against Pornography—are provocative. It’s just that most of the time you wish she would allow both her subjects and her readers to figure out for themselves just what all this stuff means. (Simon & Schuster, $22)