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Love and sex

What do women fantasise about today?


Good luck to Gillian Anderson, says Jemima Lewis in The Daily Telegraph. The actress is about to attempt a sequel to “one of the greatest books ever written” – Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, a collection of female sexual fantasies that fundamentally “changed our understanding of human nature”. In 1973, just before it was published, Cosmopolitan magazine ran a piece declaring: “Women do not have sexual fantasies, period.” But Friday’s “stunningly frank” collection, selected from responses to a newspaper advert she put out promising anonymity, “cleaved open a hidden universe”.

The chapter headings alone are so outrageous they seem to cry out for a trigger warning: “Insatiability”, “Rape”, “The Zoo”. There was, it turned out, “no limit to the transgressiveness of the female imagination”. This was Friday’s gift to women – she showed us we weren’t alone in being weird. No matter how freaky your fantasy, “someone somewhere had thought of something worse”. Friday argued that women’s sexual imaginations were shaped by the mores of the time. Rape was a recurrent theme – not “because that’s what women secretly want but because they felt so ashamed of wanting sex at all”. The “he made me do it” fantasy was a way of escaping centuries of female guilt. It will be fascinating to see whether the relative “sexual sophistication” of women today results in even kinkier fantasies, or whether they will feel less comfortable in the “wild spaces of the imagination”.