Your Sexual Fantasies – Part I
They’re Probably Not What You Think
Are you amongst the millions who’ve read E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy? Well, if not, let me tell you that the erotic romance series is causing quite the stir. Masses of women –and yes, some men–are openly admitting to getting turned on by its sexually explicit and sadomasochistic content, some even going so far as to claim the book has improved their otherwise boring sex life!
As you might expect, there is a lot of controversy surrounding James’s novels (i.e. Is it literature, erotica or porn? Should libraries stock them? What does its huge readership say about women’s sexuality?, etc.) Given the controversial attention these books are receiving, I thought I’d put my two cents in and write a trilogy of my own on sexual fantasies: what they’re about, when do we share them and when do they become problematic.
So let’s start with a few facts about the mysterious and complex world of our sexual imagination.
1. Sexual fantasies are not necessarily elaborate scenarios.
When asked whether they have sexual fantasies, many of my clients often don’t realize they actually do. They don’t believe that what they think about during sexual stimulation counts as a fantasy. Sexual fantasies include any thoughts or images that we use to turn ourselves on and heighten sexual arousal. They can range from a simple visual “snapshot” (e.g. breasts, a sexy smile) to a full-length production. They can also be sexually graphic in nature or involve no sexual contact at all (e.g. imagining a romantic dinner, the conversation, exchanged glances). Remembering a particularly hot past sexual encounter also constitutes fantasy. And you can always add a few details of your own to make it even hotter!
2. Sexual fantasy is make-believe and not necessarily something people want to do in real life.
Just like one can at times get some satisfaction in fantasizing about telling off their bossbut would never actually do it, much of what we fantasize about sexually are not things we’d want to experience for real. As shown by the reaction of so many to James’s novels, many women (and men for that matter) get aroused by fantasizing about being overpowered by a dominant figure and forced to have sex. However, most (if not all) of these people would not want to experience this in real life. In fantasy, interactions happen only in our minds and we have complete control over what takes place. What turns us on in our heads could very well turn us off in real life. The women who love James’s books would most likely feel violated rather than turned on.
3. Like dreams, sexual fantasies should not be taken literally, but rather symbolically.
Clients often feel guilty, ashamed or confused about the content of their sexual fantasies. For many, what turns them on in their erotic imagination is in contradiction with who they are or what they value in real life.
Women who have found themselves getting turned on by James’s depiction of a dominant/submissivesexual relationship might feel conflicted as it goes against their real life goal of achieving gender equality in their relationships with men. But by unearthing the hidden meaning behind the fantasy, they might discover that what is most captivating in the sexual submission is the opportunity to let go and abandon oneself to pleasure.
Let’s take for example the president of a large corporation who spends his days making tough decisions and is responsible for hundreds of employees. At the end of the day, it might be quite liberating for him to imagine he’s being pleasured and disciplined by a dominating woman. In his fantasy, he has access to pleasure without any responsibility. His partner orchestrates the whole thing so he can relax and be taken care of, getting much needed release from daily pressures, something he might not allow himself to do in real life or in his relationships.
4. Fantasies can fulfill our emotional needs.
We use our imagination all the time to fulfill non sexual needs: we might visualise ourselves laying on a sun-filled beach if we’re in need of relaxation or imagine reaching the finish line before running a marathon to psyche ourselves up.
Sexual fantasies can play a similar role. We can fulfill not only physical needs but emotional ones too. For example, for most women, feeling desirable is essential to feeling desire for sex. So imagining seducing and having sex with more than one man at the same time might serve to boost their self-esteem and make them feel sexy. Meanwhile, a husband with a sexually non-responsive wife might sooth his sense of inadequacy by fantasizing about a sexual encounter with a very vocal and expressive partner.
5. Sexual exclusivity need not apply in the world of fantasy.
When in a relationship, fantasizing about someone other than your partner does not necessarily mean you’re dissatisfied with your sex life or looking to jump into bed with someone else. The majority of people fantasize about having sex with other people (real, fictitious or even faceless) than their spouse but continue to want their partners sexually.
Our main fantasies are formed early in life (usually during adolescence) and what turns us on doesn’t change much throughout our lifetime. If your partner fantasized about women with big breasts or sex with men in uniforms before you met, it’s likely these fantasies will remain arousing and a source of pleasure for them. Our inner erotic world is part of the baggage we bring into a relationship.
And plus, in fantasy land, we can have sex with that cute neighbor without actually straying from any of our commitments!
6. Fantasy allows us to go beyond personal, social and cultural boundaries.
What dictates behavior in the real world does not necessarily need to apply in our erotic imagination. Through our imagination, we can more easily go beyond cultural notions of femininity or masculinity, sexual orientation or what is deemed improper. Women can be sexually aggressive while men can be vulnerable or passive and same sex fantasies need not lead to scrutiny about one’s true orientation.
Fantasy can allow us to be risqué and have sex with a stranger in a public place without taking the actual risks of possible arrest, physical harm or STDs. And it can be a safe place where we can express our hidden personas: the most sexually repressed can become wildly uninhibited, the shy and awkward can become skilled seducers…
So what do you think your fantasies are about?