Fantasies and Fiction

by | November 15, 2017 | General | 5 comments

Amid a tumble of weeks in which it seemed every man on the planet, except me, was being accused of or had confessed to sexual offenses against women, ranging from a pat on the behind to outright rape, the passing of Nancy Friday was little noted.

Friday wrote the groundbreaker, “My Secret Garden,” in which she recorded women’s sexual fantasies, and I’ve always thought she should be given credit for launching so-called women’s erotica. Women were stunned and elated to know they weren’t alone, much less freakish, for enjoying a panoply of erotic adventures produced just for them in the theater of their minds. And I’m sure it encouraged many women to not only spin fantasies for themselves, but set them to stories. Before long the Herotica series of erotic anthologies made its appearance.

One would think the Feminist Establishment would welcome an opportunity for women to claim and embrace their sexuality. Instead, the leading feminists proscribed the book and Ms. Magazine smirked, “This woman is no feminist.”

It was one more crack in the schism that separates feminists to this day.

Friday’s interviewees related a rich trove of fantasies, some lurid and transgressive ­‑ rape fantasies. One faction of feminism couldn’t stand the idea that women might daydream about being violated, used, controlled. But as some of Friday’s subjects explained, it was safe if it happened inside one’s head. And the idea of having control taken away allowed them to enjoy the fantasy while maintaining they were still a nice girl/proper woman. It wasn’t her fault, he made her do it. It’s a trope that made the bodice-ripper romance so popular.

The feminist faction that had begun to regard sexuality as a means to an end, and that end the subjugation of women, pretty much regarded Friday as a pornographer.

But she had freed women from shackles that bound their imaginations. And she did a favor for men too. I can only speak for myself, but it was somewhat liberating for me too, to know that women could be as nasty-minded as me.

The anti-porn (include erotica) faction of feminism regarded sexuality as toxic and the more extreme seemed to regard all men as potential rapists. With this current monsoon of accusations of sexual harassment and violations, you might even believe they’re on to something.

It leaves me wondering about how these guys got away with it. It must be a very heady feeling to know you have power over another individual, either as an employer or mentor or just about anyone who can by his position make another’s life a triumph or a living hell.

Look at Harvey Weinstein. If he had been Harvey Weinstein the guy who drove the beer truck for a living, he wouldn’t have had that sway over other people’s lives. I doubt he could have gotten a date.

But he was a powerful movie mogul who could launch careers. As for him and the others accused, it makes you wonder if they did it because they craved the sex, or they did it solely because … they could.

It also makes me wonder if anyone with that sort of power over someone else might not be tempted to exploit it. Is sexual exploitation the sole purview of men, or are women susceptible to the dark side too? I think they are because they’re human. I think the reason you don’t hear about women in authority sexually exploiting others is because there still aren’t a lot of women in authority. But the numbers are rising.

Perhaps some women fantasize about exploiting an employee, or student or someone else under their authority. Hey, that’s fine. It’s just a fantasy.

So let’s see if I can connect another dot, which is what we do as writers of erotica. We put fantasies to words, we tell the stories. There’s much ado about consent and non-consent in stories. Some editors and publishers insist consent must be explicit. I think it waters down the fantasy, and therefore the fiction.

Nancy Friday showed us all that we are human, that is, complex creatures capable of weaving a myriad of stories in which we are our own protagonists. She gave us credit for knowing the difference between reality and fantasy … and fiction. There shouldn’t be any fetters on anyone’s imagination.




Robert Buckley

Bob's stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including multiple editions of Maxim Jakubowski's Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    I hadn’t heard about Nancy Friday’s passing, but I definitely agree with your analysis. And actually, your post is a fine set-up for what I think I’m going to write about next week… if I dare.

  2. daddy X

    What a coincidence! Momma X and I just took a few days up to a remote part of the Mendocino coast. There were a dozen or so books in the cabin, a very worn copy of “My Secret Garden among them. Momma had heard the name but hadn’t been aware of the book, so I explained the gist of it to her.

    Susie Bright has lots to say about those porn/anti-porn feminist wars of the 70/80’s. She says that many friendships and alliances went by the wayside.

    As for the power thing, I wonder what percentage of men would consider an affair with their female boss a negative. … Ahem… within reason, of course. If he’s not gay. On the other hand, if she looked like Weinstein, all bets are off.

    • Daddy X

      Above, I meant Susie Bright’s memoir, “Big Sex–Little Death”

  3. Donna Storey

    Maxim Jakubowski told me many years ago that some of the more detailed fantasies in Nancy Friday’s books were written by professional writers, that is, people like us here at ERWA. I always thought there was a big discrepancy between the lovingly vivid fantasies and the quick little paragraphs, especially in the first volume. Rather than feeling conned though, I’m glad it was a way for erotica writers to go more mainstream.

  4. Mairead Devereux

    Having studied ethology and animal behaviour, I think it is useful to look at rape fantasy from a biological perspective. It is a biological imperative for the male to “spread his seed” among the most, and most fertile, females. In order to be a survivor, he must be physically strong and aggressive enough to defend his progeny. Therefore, men are, naturally, more aggressive; as a point of fact, testosterone has measurable effects on behaviour. Boys will be boys, right? The success of our species, to the point where the planet is hopelessly over-populated, speaks to the efficacy this design.

    And it makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, that submission to sexual aggression be a part of the female make-up. The female is most likely to survive copulation (think being raped upon conquest) through acquiesce, and a desire to please makes it more likely that the resulting child survive and thrive, if the male chooses to “keep” her.

    We are designed the way we are for a reason; in order to reproduce successfully. Unfortunately, this set-up practically guarantees an unequal balance of power. Our patriarchal society speaks to that fact. Men have more money, power and control for basic and obvious reasons.

    Yes, many women do enjoy subjugation fantasies. It’s part of our make-up. And part of our conditioning. So do I believe that if women were in an equal position of wealth and privilege in today’s world, the abuse of subordinate men to women would be evenly distributed? Ummm, no.

    The statistics on intimate partner violence bear this out. Men are victims of partner violence at a rate of 5 to 7%. Woman? 50+%. This is reality, in a world where women routinely earn less for doing the exact same jobs as men. We’re seen as “lesser”; less powerful, less intelligent, less capable.

    I think that’s why the #metoo campaign has come as such a shock to many men but not at all to most women. I’ve been in management positions and would never, ever have taken advantage of the employees under my control. Because I know what it feels like to be groped, belittled, humiliated, talked-over and generally treated as lesser, why would I want to perpetrate this negative cycle by victimizing others?

    For this reason, I understand the resistance of the early feminist movement to embracing traditional pornography. After all, it is designed by men for men and more often than not features women being degraded in some way. Women get that on an everyday basis in our own lives, to detrimental effect. Female-positive porn is an important and growing segment of the industry for this reason. Many of my little stories feature messed-up situations but all parties have consented (my flasher about the woman living like a dog in a cage, for example. She wants to be there; nobody is forcing her). It is possible to be controversial without glamorizing rape and abuse. To my mind, if that’s what people are into, they can simply open up any paper and read the news.

    I also understand that there is an underlying need many women feel to be taken, swept-away, dominated. It’s basic conditioning from the time we’re little with stories about Princesses and the handsome Princes who “rescue” them. This, in turn, reinforces our biological desires. That’s why BDSM fantasy is so popular. The number of women who’d actually like to live with someone like Christian Grey is probably very low ~ especially if said man wasn’t rich. But the fantasy of being swept away by an all-powerful, dominant man to his red room in the condo in the sky? It ticks a lot of boxes for women. Which, when you think about it, is like being an accomplice to our own subjugation. It is very conflicting subject for me, both as an aspiring writer of erotica and a proud feminist. Thanks for the interesting post!

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