Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
In the 1970s, feminist activist Nancy Friday changed the social world with My Mother/My Self.
Nancy Friday, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on August 27, 1937, changed the world in the 1970s by writing about female sexuality in My Secret Garden. She also authored seven other books—Forbidden Flowers (1975), My Mother/My Self (1977), Men in Love (1980), Jealousy (1985), Women on Top (1991), The Power of Beauty (1996), and Beyond My Control: Forbidden Fantasies in an Uncensored Age (2009). Friday explored sex and fantasy from a woman’s point of view. In her later writings, she also tackled relationship problems, most notably the significant, but difficult, mother/daughter relationship. Friday has homes in Key West, Florida, and New York, New York.
Nancy Friday was born on August 27, 1937, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Growing up, she felt threatened by her exceptionally gorgeous mother and sister and, unfortunately, had no father to look up to. She had to learn about the world while feeling alone, unloved, and vulnerable, which is why she adopts such strong opinions about relationships and how they affect people both physically and spiritually. After graduation she attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Friday then worked briefly as a reporter for the San Juan Island Times in Puerto Rico from 1960 to 1961. Then she edited the regional magazine, Islands in the Sun. This great opportunity, however, did not satisfy Friday, who moved to New York City in the late 1960s, where she changed the world with her outspoken views on the sexual revolution and the feminist movement. The same passion that brought her to New York City led her to marry her first husband, writer W. H. Manville, in October, 1967. The marriage did not last. Friday re-married in July of 1988 to Norman Pearlstine who was an editor. They got divorced in 2005. In her first book, My Secret Garden, Nancy Friday wanted to explore female sexuality, relationships, and the idea of fantasy from the woman’s point of view. As she stated on her website, “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.” While she found 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. After being rejected by editors because of the content of her books, and after having been told for three years by psychologists that men are the only people who have sexual fantasies, Nancy Friday was finally published. About 20 years later, in The Power of Beauty, Friday changed her subject matter and tone, exploring how beauty affects the lives of both men and women in an image-conscious society. Again, her topic proved to be cutting-edge. In this book, she discussed the idea of feeling invisible in a society obsessed with looks and body-image, a subject that goes back to her childhood and the struggle she felt growing up. Interestingly, she even touches upon the topic of men feeling inadequate and insecure in their own appearance—an idea not commonly discussed. In all her works, Friday advocates open sexuality and truth in relationships, and she has certainly helped to shape views on a topic that has been silenced for a long time. Nancy Friday has tackled relationship problems in her writing in many ways; from the significant mother/daughter relationship to the passionate relationship of sexual fantasies, she leaves none untouched.Our Looks, Our Lives—part memoir, part history—was published in 1999. This work discusses the trends in society and feminine self-perception. This brutally honest, eye-opener on how women really view themselves became another popular book. Never too reserved to say exactly what she felt on topics pertaining to sexual fantasies and other relationship issues, Nancy Friday has authored eight international bestsellers:My Secret Garden (1973), Forbidden Flowers (1975), Men in Love (1980), Jealousy (1985), Women on Top (1991), The Power of Beauty (1996),Our Looks, Our Lives (1999), and the highly popular and internationally award winning My Mother/My Self (1977). Her most recent book is Beyond My Control: Forbidden Fantasies in an Uncensored Age and was published in 2009, after a 13 year break from publishing. For her latest book, Friday chose to focus on fantasies that incorporated domination and forbidden sex. Specifically, Friday looked at and talked to people of different genders, ages, and sexual orientation regarding how their level of arousal changes when they encounter these forbidden sexual fantasies. Friday’s curiosity was peaked regarding how the influx of Internet usage in addition to women’s evolving roles in society may influence reactions to such fantasies. Nancy Friday currently lives in houses in Key West and New York. She has influenced and changed the nation’s views of sexuality, and will most definitely continue to defy the odds in the future.
My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973.
Forbidden Flowers: More Women’s Sexual Fantasies. New York: Pocket Books, 1975.
My Mother/My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity. New York: Delacorte, 1977.
Men in Love: Men’s Sexual Fantasies; The Triumph of Love over Rage.New York: Delacorte, 1980.
Jealousy. New York: Perigord, 1985.
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual Fantasies.New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
The Power of Beauty. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.
Our Looks, Our Lives: Sex, Beauty, Power, and the Need to Be Seen. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
Beyond My Control: Forbidden Fantasies in an Uncensored Age. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2009.