Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sexual Fantasy

What was the subject of your last sexual fantasy? For some of you reading this, in response to this question even now your mind is recreating the steamy, erotic and perhaps illicit scene last played out in your head. Yet, despite the fact that you are simply reading a non-threatening question posed on the page of a blog that you know you needn’t answer, others of you are even now forming a denial, a claim that you don’t fantasize or a claim that you only fantasize about your current partner.

Sexually fantasies are something we rarely discuss, even among good friends. Our deepest sexual thoughts are often considered too weird, perverse, or just plain wrong to be shared in polite company. Many people suffer shame and guilt about the perverse nature of their fantasies, even though what they think of as “perverse” may actually be quite common and normal. Some see an admission that they fantasize as possibly indicating that there is something wrong with their relationships, or worse, themselves. However, chances are everyone reading this do have erotic fantasies, and have them on a regular basis. We just rarely, if ever, want to talk about it.

Comprehensive research studies indicate that almost everyone fantasizes. While researching his book, Who's Been Sleeping in Your Head: The Secret World of Sexual Fantasies, London psychotherapist and clinical researcher Brett Kahr, anonymously surveyed 18,000 people in Britain and America. He asked them questions about the frequency and content of their fantasies and found that nine out of ten people have sexual fantasies. What’s more, he believes the remaining tenth person has them too, but is too embarrassed to admit it. Though a typical and unremarkable fantasy for both men and women is dreaming about sex with their current partner, Kahr also found that bondage, incest, sadomasochism, and voyeurism are also part of the varied fantasy life of “normal” people.

Shame regarding sexual fantasies may stem from earlier notions about the role of fantasy in our lives. In the 1900s, some psychoanalysts interpreted “kinky” sexual fantasies as being caused by “kinky” desires or wishes. Fantasies were often treated as pathology. But we now know that fantasies are no more pathologic than masturbation. They allow us to think about doing something and find it arousing that we would neither be willing or capable of doing in real life, or about things we’ve done before and would like to do again. Furthermore, sexual fantasies help our sex lives by increasing our desire and arousal. Those who fantasize frequently also tend to have more sex and of course fantasy has helped untold numbers of masturbations end in orgasmic success.

Research into the area of sexual fantasies has also revealed that men and women’s fantasies are qualitatively different. Male sexual fantasies are generally more explicit than those of women and men tend to see themselves as more dominant in their fantasies. Women, on the other hand tend to view their role as submissive in their sexual fantasies. They may entertain fantasies of scenarios where their attractiveness and desirability is so overwhelming that every man is rendered helpless in his desire for them. And the more irresistible they perceive themselves to be, the less activity is required of them. Others, less courageous in assuming this ravishing beauty, may see themselves as a victim of the man’s sexual domination of her, perhaps imagining a scenario not unlike rape. Even those women, who reportedly fantasized about being sexually dominant, did so with primarily focusing on their partner’s sexual pleasure rather than on their own pleasure. Women may fantasize about being taken and used sexually by a stranger against her will but this doesn’t mean she actually wants to be raped. In the context of fantasy she is able to control the action. Our minds are a safe place to try new and risky sexual deeds without ever getting hurt. Safety is the concept that functions as the key to unlocking the meaning of our fantasies. Being bound and gagged by a dominating partner may not seem safe, but somewhere in the unconscious, submission is desired.

All this is somewhat reassuring. Rather than feeling guilty about thinking about another person while having sex with your partner, we can see it as a way to help spice up the sex, without committing any transgressions. Research indicates that having sexual fantasies is an absolutely normal, if not necessary, part of being a sexual being. It’s not having them that is aberrant.

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