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. Fans of Fifty Shades of Grey will love this provocative collection of real fantasies from dozens of women—and for the first time, men. Friday knows that forbidden sex “gets us higher faster” and explores love, lust and power through erotic tales of domination, masturbation, S&M, threesomes, and more.
Beyond My Control: Forbidden Fantasies in an Uncensored Age shows that our forbidden fantasies are not compensation for a lackluster sex life, but are a critical component of our fullest selves—and how our secret desires can lead to exhilarating and satisfying sexual freedom.
Beyond My Control, by Nancy Friday 8.0
Many years ago I picked up a copy of Nancy Friday’s book ‘Women on Top’. I don’t remember if it was because I had heard of Friday’s ground-breaking feminist approach to human sexuality or if it was merely the title that drew me to it, or both, but I recall being veritably surprised and taken by it.
In fact, it remains, of all the books I’ve read on human sexuality, one of the most memorable reads of the lot. It built on her previous work, establishing a context for the original one, ‘My Secret Garden’, and then giving a more modern perspective on the same subject: women’s fantasies.
The thing one needs to know is that in 1973, when ‘My Secret Garden’ was first published, it was generally accepted that women didn’t fantasize – that it was exclusively the domain of men. She sought to prove otherwise and her book was particularly notorious, attracting accusations of fraud.
‘Women On Top’ was published nearly two decades later, and by then her books had gained enough recognition that women not only realized that their fantasies were normal, but it was now generally accepted that women fantasized as much as men – and it wasn’t all hearts and flowers, either.
…it was raunchy, naughty – nasty, even.
In ‘Beyond My Control’, which is subtitled “Forbidden Fantasies in an Uncensored Age”, Friday returned to explore where women were at then, in 2009. But she added an extra element: men. Considering that she had already demystified female sexual fantasies, she felt it important to explore both concurrently.
Her key questions: 1) What kind of impact does a world saturated with sex have on fantasies? 2) What impact does the growing global instability (political, environmental, …etc.) have on our quest for pleasure and for sexual distraction? 3) What impact does the current blurring of fantasy and reality have?
This led her to discuss these matters in the context of the following chapters: domination, masturbation, incest, exhibitionism/voyeurism, S&M, threesomes, and Living Out Fantasies – which are all supported by submissions from all kinds of people, all describing their juiciest fantasies in the utmost detail.
Personally, I was left cold in the beginning, reading it in a fairly detached manner. It wasn’t until the fourth chapter that I started to warm up, no doubt because of the way exhibitionists wrote their fantasies. In the end, I enjoyed the variety of stories, even if it paled in comparison to her other book.
Where ‘Beyond My Control’ stumbles, in my opinion, is that Friday makes a lot of assertions but doesn’t substantiate them. Granted, she has years of expertise, but she makes claims without actually backing it with profound analysis. She asks many questions, offers answers, but no conclusive evidence.
In fact, many of Friday’s claims are based on her own experiences. According to her, many of people’s behaviours are rooted in their relationships with their mothers. While her upbringing and connection with her mother is known to be a big factor in her own sexual identity, I think that it’s a stretch to make this generalization.
Of course, it’s natural to view the world through the prism of one’s own life. But it seems to me that it would be important for Friday, as our guide, to try to see beyond her own experiences in trying to understand others. Here, she’s narrowed the range of possibilities and essentially pigeonholed these people in a cage of her own making.
Mind you, this isn’t exactly a research paper. And, ultimately, it’s clear that fantasies are only slightly easier to understand than dreams; they mystify even the people who have them. Essentially, many of us don’t know why we are turned on the way that we are, and often can only speculate as to their root causes.
All things being said, Friday shines in many areas. Towards the end, for instance, she shares her concern about making fantasies a reality, soberly advising readers that fantasies are exciting because we can paint them exactly the way we want them to be – but cautioning that reality doesn’t always turn out the way we plan.
While she revels in her own sexuality and is very receptive to others’ own sexual nature, she is right in telling people that sometimes it’s best to let the fantasies remain exactly that: fantasies, creations that our minds conceive to best get us off. It doesn’t have to make sense, doesn’t have to be politically correct, and also doesn’t have to become reality.
In the end, I’d recommend ‘Beyond My Control’ and Nancy Friday’s other books to anyone who would like to have glimpse into other people’s deepest, darkest sexual secrets. Not only is it informative, giving us a greater understanding of the variety of people around us, but it can shed light into our own hidden places.
And it can show us that fantasies are a natural expression of our sexual nature; it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Letting go of shame is the biggest step towards a healthy sex life. Nancy Friday’s oeuvre has enriched the lives of countless women (and men!) over the years. No doubt that it will continue to for many years to come.