top of page

 My Secret Garden  Forbidden Flowers   Women on Top   The Power of Beauty     Jealousy and Envy    LULU


New York Times bestselling author, feminist pioneer Nancy Friday, the preeminent literary authority on female sexuality

Nancy Friday's books about gender politics helped define American women’s sexuality and social identity in the late 20th century. But Ms. Friday was ot considered a friend of the women’s movement. 

New York Times:  Let’s Read About Sex

October, 2013

Sex is hard in words. Stories seduce a different part of the brain — the one that, er, thinks ... The real triggers of lust are rarely the food of great literature.

While the Marquis de Sade, Henry Miller, John Wilmot, and Erica Jong are worthy salacious suspects, my gold star goes elsewhere, to those who really do it best: horny women. Think of those whose filthy, uncensored fantasies froth forth in Nancy Friday’s collections, like Vesuvius upended, silencing the sentimental soft-core of Anaïs Nin and E. L. James in a single eruption. Here, unconsidered desire slices swiftly to the core of lust, and with their — our — trailer-trash orgies of incest, bestiality, rape, pedophilia, domination and submission, whoredom and heterosexual lesbianism we eat our cake before baking it. And leave men reeling in trailer blowback.

Wrong is hot, and great writing, by definition, can just never be quite wrong enough.


Writing about sex can be uniquely powerful — and perilous. A group of novelists, memoirists and poets tell us about working blue: what novels first inspired them,... and who they think writes sex best.

She published My Secret Garden, her first book, in 1973. The book’s shocking premise was that women had erotic thoughts! Compiled interviews of women discussing their sexuality and fantasies, it became an instant bestseller. Friday wanted to explore female sexuality, relationships and the idea of fantasy from the woman's point of view. Using the same interview format in subsequent books, she ranged in theme from sexual fantasies to  mothers and daughters, relationships, jealousy and envy, feminism, BDSM and beauty.

While her trailblaxing and popular early books were often derided as little more than soft-core pornography, 1977's “My Mother/My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity” argument that women’s relationships are shaped by the dynamics of their connection with their mothers was considered daring and original. Kirkus Reviews called the book ”a stimulating convergence of personal and cultural inquiry.” It remained on the New York Times best-seller list for over a year.

In 1996, she published an ambitious mix of cultural analysis, autobiographical confessional, pop psychology and sexology, The Power of Beauty (It is renamed and rereleased in paper-back form in 1999.)


She contributed an interview of porn star Nina Hartley to XXX: 30 Porn Star Portraits by photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (2004.)

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s she was a frequent guest on television and radio programs such as Politically Incorrect, Oprah, Larry King Live, Tomorrow (with Tom Snyder), Good Morning America and NPR's Talk of the Nation.

While it was the judgment of Ms. Magazine that "This woman is not a feminist," Friday predicated her career on the belief that feminism and appreciation of men are not mutually exclusive concepts.


Friday married novelist Bill Manville in 1967, separated from him in 1980 and divorced in 1986. Her second husband was Norman Pearlstine, formerly the editor-in-chief of Time Inc. They were married at the Rainbow Room in New York on July 11, 1988, and divorced in 2005.


She resided the last decades of her life in New York City.

         Nancy's novella & first work of fiction LULU is a fascinating heroine written by an equally fascinating author. Come take a journey with LULU as she grows from a  precocious Charleston, S.C. child into a college co-ed in the North. The journey is one of first love's heartbreak, a mother's rivalry, a brother's love, and parental betrayal.

With a literary voice in the grand tradition of the great southern writers, one of America's best-selling non-fiction writers Nancy Friday has, in LULU, created a fascinating first work of fiction.

My Secret Garden

Welcome to Nancy Friday's secret garden, a hidden place where ordinary women are free to express the sexual dreams they have never dared to confide before. Safe behind the walls of anonymity, hundreds of real women responded to Nancy Friday's call for details of their own most private fantasies. My Secret Garden is the daring compilation of those fantasies. When it first appeared, it created a storm of outrage in the media...and an equal sense of exhilaration for those women who finally were able to share their sisters' most intimate thoughts. Even now, in a new millennium, over then thousand women each year buy a new copy of this astounding classic of feminist literature. Join them in their exploration of the meaning of desire. Dare to read, dare to dream, and dare to discover the beautiful blossoms, the winding paths, and the hidden nooks of female sexuality.

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

Forbidden Flowers

ISBN-13: 978-0671741020

Finally women can talk about what they used to only dream about....

Forbidden Flowers is Nancy Friday's second collection of sexual fantasies -- and it's even more explicit and outspoken than her original erotic masterpiece, My Secret Garden. The constant refrain from the legions of women across America who read My Secret Garden was, "Thank God I'm not the only one..." who had those wild, exciting erotic thoughts. With Forbidden Flowers, these women can yet again experience the exhilarating freedom that comes with the awareness and acceptance of their sexual selves.


My Mother, My Self

 ISBN-13: 978-0385320153


 When Nancy Friday began her research for My Mother/My Self in the early 1970's no work existed that explored the unique interaction between mother and daughter. Today psychotherapists throughout the world acknowledge that if women are to be able to love without possessing, to find work that fulfills them, and to discover their full sexuality, they must first acknowledge their identity as separate from their mother's. Nancy Friday's book played a major role in that acceptance. The greatest gift a good mother can give remains unquestioning love planted deep in the first year of life, so deep and anassailable that the tiny child grown to womanhood is never held back by the fear of losing that love, no matter what her own choice in love, sexuality, or work may be.

Through candid self-disclosure and hundreds of interviews, Friday investigates a generational legacy and reveals the conflicting feelings of anger, hate, and love the daughter's hold for their mothers (and why they so often become) that mother themselves.

Lulu, a Novella

ISBN-13: 978-0786754465

LULU is a fascinating heroine based on the equally fascinating life of her creator. Come take the journey with LULU as she grows from a precocious child in Charleston, S.C. into a co-ed at a college in the North. A journey that comes with all of the heartbreak of first love, motherly rivalry, brotherly caring and parental betrayal.

With a literary voice in the grand tradition of the great southern writers, one of America's best-selling non-fiction authors Nancy Friday, has in LULU, created a fascinating first work of fiction.

​A sensitive account of three generations of one family from the perspective of the youngest. A compelling read. -

Leonard Iggulden

Jealousy and Envy
ISBN-13: 978-0006370710

Jealousy is an evil word. It is an emotion that gnaws away inside, souring relationships, and if it is not controlled can ruin your life. When Nancy Friday discovered her own strong feelings of jealousy she was shocked. But she found that she was not alone, and that jealousy is at the heart of family life and the core of many relationships. Friday used her own experiences and those of many men and women to strip bare this multi-faceted emotion. Confronting the reasons why you feel so bitter when, for instance, a friend lands the job you've always wanted, your mother confides in your sister rather than you, you fear your partner has been seeing someone else or a baby is born and disrupts your family life, she enables us to recognize that jealousy is a misery we inflict upon ourselves - and it needn't control us.

I love this book. It has been suggested that "the sign of a good book" might be when the author undresses! And you've got to admire Nancy Friday for her passionate quest to rid herself from the plight which pledges the world today. In all honesty I believed she and her great writing ability excel  heights many writers (seek.) Quotes are uniquely and masterfully memorable, with just a touch of poetic flare. Quite often large books bore me and I find the think-mode too similar and common, but not so with this masterful prize. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand people better. Also thebook is excellent for those who just want to learn behavior attitudes and hindrances which limit avenues of success.  -  Millie Hunter


Men in Love, Men's Sexual Fantasies

ISBN-13: 978-0385333429

Nancy Friday's study of the secret, erotic fantasies that men have always kept hidden.

An extraordinary, explicitly masculine journey, Men In Love develops a startlingly honest portrayal of what it means to be a man in contemporary America. Here are the unexpurgated dreams, fantasies and fetishes that excite and obsess men today. In creating this historic study, Nancy Friday listened -- without disapproval, apology or censorship -- to the candid responses of thousands of men aged fourteen through sixty. She gave them a legitimate arena where they could share their "secret gardens" -- the hidden and forbidden but nonetheless real and true. Much more than a litany of erotica, this unique volume doesn't tell us how men should love. It tells us how men do love -- a stunning insight into the desires that dwell within men's psyches... and their hearts.


Women on Top

 ISBN-13: 978-0671648459

 Nancy Friday's phenomenal bestsellers My Secret Garden and Forbidden Flowers broke new ground, revealing for the first time the complexity of women's secret sexual fantasies. In Women on Top, she returns to the subject that made her famous, examining the erotic fantasy lives of more than one hundred and fifty modern women. Drawn from Friday's personal interviews and letters, Women on Top contains transcripts of real sexual fantasies that will change your mind-set about women and sex. A revolutionary exploration of female eroticism, Women on Top reveals the powerful and astounding sexual attitudes that are forever changing our intimate lives.




The Power of Beauty

 ISBN-13: 978-0091777999


 This controversial work traces the evolution of women's attitudes about their appearance, their sexuality and their conflicting feelings about themselves and others. Using her own life story and varied social commentary, Friday offers liberation from the power of beauty.




Beyond My Control: Forbidden Fantasies in an Uncensored Age

 ISBN-13: 978-1402218545


 The bestselling author of My Secret Garden exposes the wild and sexy fantasies that many of us have but are afraid to share. For over thirty years, Nancy Friday has written about eros, love, beauty, and seduction. Now she returns to the territory she pioneered during the sexual revolution, exploring our most taboo sexual desires. In a contemporary world where women are formidable partners in the erotic dance and no topic seems out of bounds, Friday breaks into a still-forbidden world of lust, power, and pleasure. Collecting fantasies from dozens of women and, for the first time, men, Friday explores the wildest corners of our imagination. Beyond My Control: Forbidden Fantasies in an Uncensored Age shows that our fantasies are not compensation for a "missing" sex life but are a critical component of our fullest selves, the secret desires that yearn to soar.


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." Nancy Friday

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.

NOTE: 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 her 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.


Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Aug. 27, 1933, Nancy Colbert Friday grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and attended Ashley Hall, a local girls' college-preparatory school, then Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She worked briefly as a reporter for the San Juan Island Times and subsequently established herself as a magazine journalist in New York, England, and France before turning to writing full time, changing the world with her outspoken views on the sexual revolution and the feminist movement.

Nancy Friday died November 5th, 2017


She is remembered with affection and honor by, among others

New York Times

Washington Post

Los Angeles Times

Huffington Post

(London) The Guardian

Boston Herald



Literary & Media Representation

bottom of page