Your fantasies are always with you, playing hide-and-seek with your perceived realities, whispering wild ideas into your inner ear, showing movies in your mind, stirring your passions mysteriously, yet so powerfully. If you are imprisoned in any way—by your work, your family, your education, your religion, your government—your fantasies become your freedom. Sometimes your ability to fantasize is the only freedom you have.
Where does fantasy end and reality begin? The English philosopher John Richter said, “Fantasy rules over two-thirds of the universe, the past and the future, while reality is confined to the present.”
Fantasy—the original “theater of the mind”—makes up a huge portion of human consciousness. Memory, as it filters through the mind’s eye, is a kind of fantasy that gazes backward, into the past. Hope, anticipation, fear and ambition are fantasies that look toward the future. Our sexuality is fueled by fantasies of the past and the future, as well as “pure” fantasies—wild dreams that never happened and that you never really want to have happened—that haunt and stimulate you like a kinky parallel universe.
A sexual fantasy can be a long, complicated story, a quick mental flash of erotic imagery or something in between. Whatever form it takes, it arouses your sexual feelings. As such, your favorite fantasy is the G-spot of your mind.
Experts agree that sexual fantasies are important, powerful and pervasive. But they can’t agree on much more. For every study that concludes women or men fantasize one way, there’s another that concludes the opposite. If you look hard enough, you can find a study to prove any theory about sexual fantasies and another one to disprove it. Maybe this is because it is very difficult to measure fantasies except through questionnaires, and it is so easy and tempting to lie on questionnaires, especially when it comes to opening up about our deepest, darkest, most embarrassing, secret sexual fantasies. Therefore, I will not use many studies to justify my points here. I base my observations on my own professional and personal experience, which I believe is as good a “study” on fantasy as any.
Before we discuss where your secret fantasies come from and whether or not to share them with anyone, let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
- The Perfect Lover
The most popular sexual fantasies among men and women involve images of sex with a passionate, attractive, exciting partner who will do whatever you want, even if that means dominating you. Your Perfect Lover could be someone you know; it could even be your real-life partner. It could be someone you saw in class or at work but never talk to, a celebrity with whom you feel a connection, or a complete stranger you happened to face for two intense minutes in a crowded elevator. It could be someone that would be your ideal mate, if only you could be together. Or it could be someone very taboo: a relative, your best friend’s spouse, a “bad” boy or girl, someone of whom you know your family would disapprove. Perfect Lovers run the gamut, but the universal characteristic is that you find this person irresistible and extremely satisfying, at least in fantasy.
Even very traditional ladies who prefer romance to porn enjoy the fantasy of the Perfect Lover. While such a scenario might involve nothing more than kissing, Perfect Lover fantasies can entail sexual intercourse in every position. Oral sex (giving or receiving) is a big favorite, followed by manual sex, anal sex (giving or receiving) and mutual masturbation. In addition to these basic physical sex acts, there are many other types of sex about which you might fantasize, especially if you feel deprived of a particular favorite activity. Your Perfect Lover will never deprive you…unless you have a deprivation fetish.
One popular variation on the Perfect Lover is what I call “Some Enchanted Evening”: sex with a sexy stranger. It’s not that I’m recommending sex with a real-life stranger, at least not without sheathing your body in a suit of latex armor, the shining armor of the knight of the 21st century, but the fantasy of sex with an exciting, attractive stranger is a delightful aphrodisiac that many women and men enjoy. One of the reasons these kinds of lovers are “perfect” is that you don’t know them at all.
It’s even more common to fantasize about your real-life lover, who may not be perfect, but must be pretty hot and is certainly familiar and easy enough to conjure up in the erotic theater of your mind. But because it’s a secret sexual fantasy, you might imagine something different than the usual. Maybe you fantasize that your real-life lover is aggressive even though he or she is usually passive, or the two of you are being watched, or perhaps you imagine yourself watching your lover have sex with someone else. This brings us to the next most popular type of fantasy…
- Two Perfect Lovers—Or More!
Double your pleasure, double your fun; sex with two lovers is more fun than one! The threesome is another very common sexual fantasy. It’s often associated with the male erotic imagination, and it’s certainly one of the most widespread male fantasies, invoking images of double-wived patriarchs and the pleasures of the harem. But women are catching up as it becomes more acceptable for us to admit we’d like to be with two hot men at once, or perhaps a man and another woman.
The male standard is sex with two women, of course–often a girlfriend and another lady. This sort of ménage à trois fantasy is flattering to your erotic ego and gives you a sex-educational glimpse into the secrets of lesbian sex. Of course, these are not man-hating lesbians; in fact, they love your penis!
More and more men now also confess that they fantasize about having a threesome with a woman and another man. The level of imagined physical intimacy can run the gamut from barely touching the man while you both focus on the woman all the way to the two men having intense sex while the woman simply watches or “directs.” You might also imagine watching the other man have his sexual way with your woman, with you as the “cuckold,” creating what I call the “sperm wars” effect, a competitive rise in your sperm count that arouses you even if you feel jealous and insecure.
Threesome fantasies can be so vivid, especially if one of the partners is your real-life lover, that many people try breathing life into them. The resulting reality spans from having a beautiful experience which enhances your relationship, as well as your sense of your sexual self, to an awful, awkward incident that hurts everyone involved. One thing is for certain: Everything in any fantasy is “perfect” as far as your libido is concerned. Reality, however, is not quite so in tune with what turns you on, let alone what turns on your real-life partner or the third party.
A threesome can become an orgy, which is another common sexual fantasy. One way to keep sexual monogamy from becoming monotony is to maintain an active fantasy life with as many different partners as you can imagine. I happen to have a personal soft spot for real-life orgies, holding them regularly at my Institute, giving me and everyone here not just the chance to live out a common fantasy, but the opportunity to experience real-life communal ecstasy.
- Bisexual Fantasies
Sometimes when you imagine a threesome with someone of the same sex, it’s a prelude to fantasizing about a more intimate, same-sex twosome. Or maybe the third opposite sex lover is just there for show, to “guide” or even “force” the two same-gender lovers to play with each other. Or maybe your erotic theater of the mind will just combine the male and female into one and imagine sex with a pre-op transsexual or shemale.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re truly gay, though it could. It most often means you’re truly bisexual, which I believe most of us are, and that your fantasy life is making up for what you repress in your real life. Just because you fantasize about having sex with someone of your gender doesn’t mean you ought to do it. Same sex fantasies can signify a lot of different things for people who lead mostly straight real lives–from seeking personal validation to breaking societal taboos.
It’s funny; it used to be much more taboo for women to admit to any kind of fantasies, except the kind revolving around love and “bodice-rippers,” a.k.a. romance novels. But now that more women are creating porn and erotica, making it more romantic–that is, story and character-driven–younger women are unabashedly eating it up. Modern ladies also seem to have an easier time accepting their bi-curious fantasies than most men do. There are various sociopolitical, cultural, psychological and physical reasons for this. Women know that most men are turned on by two women together, whereas it’s still a rare, very open-minded woman who enjoys two men together. Our society is more homophobic than lesbian-phobic. Then there are the real-life, physical risks which tend to be greater between men, since penetration is more often involved, than between women.
When fantasizing about sex with another female, most women imagine the other woman’s whole body: her breasts, buns, hair, lips (both pairs), clitoris, soft skin, seductive eyes, etc. When men fantasize about other men, they tend to focus on one part: the penis. Usually, they envision a big one. So Freud was wrong about “penis envy.” Women don’t have it; men do. At least, a lot of men do. Certainly, Freud himself did.
Even, perhaps especially, the outwardly homophobic male has gay fantasies. Why do you think a guy like that is so scared of gays “converting” straight men? Because in his fantasies, that’s exactly what happens: a hugely endowed male dominates him, forcing him to have sex—usually giving oral or taking anal–and he likes it, at least in fantasy (again, this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s truly gay). Masters & Johnson reported that heterosexuals often fantasize about homosexual encounters and vice versa, more often reflecting curiosity and other impulses than the desire to change the gender of one’s real-life lovers. Norman Mailer went so far as to say that “There is probably no sensitive heterosexual alive who is not preoccupied with his latent homosexuality.” I would add “at some point in his life,” since such desires come and go.
Our society tends to make things black or white, good or bad, male or female, heterosexual or homosexual. But the human sexual imagination is most definitely bisexual, even what you might call omnisexual. When Edna St. Vincent Millay went to a doctor for her headaches, he suggested they might stem from “an occasional erotic impulse toward a person of [her] own sex.”
“Oh, you mean I’m homosexual?” Millay responded, “Of course, I am, and heterosexual too, but what’s that got to do with my headache?” Maybe that’s what the Pulitzer-prize-winning poet and Vassar girl meant when she wrote “my candle burns at both ends.”
Men are not from Mars, and women are not from Venus. We’re all from the same beautiful, wild, sexual planet Earth, and we’re far more alike than we are different. Dr. Alfred Kinsey was among the first to show that we’re all on a bisexual continuum with absolute heterosexuals on one end and absolute homosexuals on the other end. Very few of us fall at one extreme or the other. Most of us are bisexual to some degree. That doesn’t mean we like both sexes equally at all times. It just means most of us can potentially, under the right circumstances (boarding school, prison, a desert island, etc.), with the right person (the Perfect Lover), be aroused by either gender. Certainly, we can, and often do, enjoy being “bi” in fantasy.
- Surrender and Power Trips
Power and surrender, or “dominance and submission” (D/s) fantasies are quite common among both men and women. They seem to be gaining in popularity, but they’re even older than the human race, probably flowing through the erotic minds of our bonobo and chimpanzee cousins. They can be crude or romantic, marvelous or dangerous. D/s fantasies may involve sadomasochism (S/M), bondage and discipline (B/D), an imagined abduction, a fantasy “rape,” spanking, whipping, tickling, torture, teasing, body worship and a host of other activities that may or may not entail actual sexual intercourse. In D/s fantasies, being “bad” – whether you are the nasty Dom or the naughty sub–feels really good. It’s another trick of the imagination that turns the “good” status quo on its head in order to turn you on.
It’s easy to understand why people enjoy dominating others. Power is a rush, especially in fantasy. You get to do whatever you want to the sex object of your dreams. What more could you desire? Many people pursue physical power over others in real life, often entering political, police or military careers. Others prefer to go on their power trips in their erotic imagination. Traditionally, “domination” is considered a male fantasy, probably most popular among young men who are relatively powerless in real-life society, even though they have testosterone-pumping energy to spare. But more and more women say they enjoy the fantasy of being dominant, “on top,” wielding a whip or even sprouting a penis (okay, Freud was right about some women) or other penetrative “weapon,” perhaps wearing a strap-on dildo in real-life sex.
But why do people long to submit? It’s certainly not all Stockholm Syndrome. As a therapist, I hear many more fantasies of submission than dominance, from both men and women. That’s partly because private therapy is expensive, and the men and women who can afford it tend to be successful professionals who dominate others in real life. Nature seeks a balance, often finding it through our fantasy life, making otherwise dominant people long to surrender, to be overwhelmed by someone else’s passion and power. In their erotic imaginations, and sometimes in a real-life role-playing session with a dominatrix, they surrender control for a brief period in their busy, power-packed day or week. They take a mini vacation from real life stress and the responsibility of being in charge, perhaps a time trip back into a childhood or adolescence under someone else’s control. Since society puts so much pressure on us to achieve–and achieving is hard work–deep in our secret erotic imaginations, many high-achievers long to surrender.
But there’s another, even more pervasive reason many people eroticize submission: guilt. Forced surrender allows you to do something sexual without it being your “fault,” absolving you of guilt, at least in fantasy. No one likes to be raped in real life, of course, but the rape fantasy is extremely popular, as long as it’s being perpetrated by someone attractive. Usually, your fantasy rapist is a kind of Perfect Lover, someone you would actually be thrilled to have sex with in real life. But, in a rape fantasy, you give yourself the additional pleasure of resistance and the absolution of innocence (it’s the rapist’s fault, not yours!). Though, of course, it is your fantasy mind that creates the rapist and everything he or she does. For obvious reasons, the rape fantasy is most common among sexually repressed “good girls” and outwardly conservative men. It’s also an ego-boost to the sexually insecure, as it allows you to feel extremely desirable, so much so that your rapist finds you impossible to resist.
Whether you are being raped, ravished, abducted, tied up, spanked, teased, forced to dress like a slut or led around on a leash as the slave of a powerful, sexy Master or Mistress, in a submission fantasy, you get to be made to do or get what you secretly desire. So a foot fetishist will be “made” to worship feet, the nipple masochist “forced” to suffer extra painful nipple clamps and the panty lover “ordered” to put on the mistress’ knickers. Dominant/submissive scenarios may involve master/slave, goddess/supplicant, rapist/victim, boss/employee, teacher/student, parent/child, john/hooker, doctor/patient or guard/prisoner.
Men and women probably fantasize with equal passion about sexual surrender. But it’s still more socially acceptable for women (even feminist women) than it is for men, so men more often combine feelings of humiliation with submission. Politically incorrect as it may be, often male submission fantasies involve being dressed up in traditional, sensuous or “slutty” women’s clothes and called derogatory female names. This may or may not overlap with cross-dressing or transgender fantasies.
Keep in mind that some people have transgender fantasies that are not at all submissive; they really do feel that they were born into the body of the “wrong” gender, and their fantasies are sometimes a prelude to “becoming” the opposite sex in real-life through hormones, surgery and lifestyle changes. But very often, male transvestite fantasies aren’t about really wanting to be a woman; they’re about submission in the form of erotic degradation.
I could go on and on about the many different types of sexual surrender and submission that people enjoy. In love–as opposed to war, politics or business, where “surrender” conjures images of defeat and shame–surrender can be sweet and the ultimate, intimate fulfillment. The ancient Taoist masters said, “In yielding, there is strength.” In surrender, there can be power–certainly sexual fantasy power.
- Exhibitionism and Voyeurism
Another common fantasy combo is seeing and being seen, showing off and watching the show, exhibitionism and voyeurism. It’s not all visual; you can be an audio-voyeur who enjoys hearing someone talk “dirty,” and you can be an aural exhibitionist who gets off on telling your sex secrets to the world. But most exhibitionism and voyeurism is about the joy of the erotic gaze and the thrill of being gazed upon, breaking through the strong social taboo of visual privacy.
The entire porn industry is based on people’s voyeuristic desires to see otherwise forbidden images of other people engaged in sex. We love to watch. There are obviously enough people who love to be watched that there are plenty of porn stars and strippers. Those are extreme professions to be in, but in fantasy you can do it all and bare it all before thousands or in forbidden places. Marilyn Monroe is said to have had recurring dreams in which she stripped off all her clothes in a church as a stunned congregation silently worshipped her naked beauty.
With the advent of reality shows, erotic blogs and obsessive, sexy photo-posting on social networking communities, exhibitionism and voyeurism are busting through the erotic theater of the mind and into that half-way house between fantasy and reality: the media. More and more, natural exhibitionists are just making and posting their own porn, turning everyone on their “friend list” into voyeurs.
In our society, we tend to think of exhibitionism as female and voyeurism as male. After all, due to the hot politics of cold cash, most strip clubs have female performers for male customers and the great majority of straight sex magazines and websites have pictures of women for men to admire. You can post anything on the Internet but, still, women tend to be the ones who get paid for sex as a stripper, prostitute, porn star, mistress or other sexual performer. Whether this shows that women are dominant–making money doing what they already enjoy as they call their own shots–or submissive–allowing themselves to be exploited and made to do things they don’t like for the sake of money–depends on the woman. Likewise, whether “paying for it” shows that men are dominant–wealthy and powerful enough to pay and get what they want–or submissive–forced to pay because that’s the only way they’ll get what they need–depends on the man.
Most people would say the He-Pays-To-Watch-Her scenario is the natural relationship between male and female, but is it? In nature, it’s usually the male of the species that’s the exhibitionist, the classic example being the peacock. His sex drive programs him to strut his sexual stuff for the female who watches him voyeuristically and quite critically, deciding whether he’d make a good sex partner based largely on the beauty of his tail. Since there aren’t too many opportunities for men to sexually display themselves for women in our society, many men secretly fantasize about exhibitionism. They desperately want to show themselves off, with special emphasis on their taboo penises that are so forbidden everywhere except hardcore porn. In fact, there’s a fetish that is gaining in popularity on the Internet known by its initials CFNM: Clothed Female, Naked Male.
- Animals and Angels
Your wild erotic nature may emerge in animal fantasies. Don’t worry, having animal sex fantasies doesn’t (usually) mean you want to have sex with animals in real life. You may just revel in the ultra-taboo, bestial wildness. Horses and dogs figure commonly in men’s bestiality fantasies which usually involve them submissively receiving sex from the animal or voyeuristically watching a woman engaged in sex with the animal. Female fantasies tend to involve the woman being the animal, often something in the wild “pussy” family, such as a lioness, tiger or cheetah. No wonder wildcat patterns are so popular in women’s fashion.
Of course, real-life bestiality is appalling to most people. But animal sex fantasies connect you to your animal nature, often freeing your mind from the all-too-human sexual oppression that lurks within you.
On the other end of the sexual fantasy spectrum lies the spiritual. Sacred sex. You might fantasize about an Eros angel with wings to take you flying. Dreams of flying are often considered symbols of orgasm. You might imagine a divine threesome with you, your lawfully wedded spouse and the all-embracing presence of God or the Goddess. Your sacred sex fantasies might be influenced by a religious upbringing, the Bible, the Koran, the Tao Te Ching or other spiritual teachings that elevate the sex act to something heavenly, such that you might imagine your sexual union as a cosmic merger of two souls becoming one. Religious people don’t tend to characterize their ideas about spiritual union as fantasies, but if the holy robe fits, wear it. Fantasies of sex with space aliens and superheroes go into the “angel” category, though some might be a bit more animal.
These are the most basic types of secret sexual fantasies. There are many more variations, and I’d love to hear some of yours. But first let’s answer a few fundamental questions about sexual fantasy, where it comes from and where it can take you.
Where Do Fantasies Come From?
Your fantasies begin in the cradle, perhaps even in the womb. By the time you reach your teens, they get really intense. Many of your erotic fantasies stem from early memories, the first images you find arousing. If for no other reason than constant proximity, these images often come through interactions with family: your mother’s lingerie hanging on the clothesline, your father spanking you, catching your sister naked in the bathroom, your brother wrestling you to the ground. That’s one reason why incest fantasies of all kinds are so common. But don’t worry; just having incest fantasies doesn’t mean you’ve ever really had incest or ever will.
It’s true that real-life incest victims and perpetrators tend to be preoccupied by such imagery, often arising from traumatic memories. But most people who have incest fantasies have never acted on them. Oedipus complex, anyone? Freud may have been off on penis envy, but he was right on the money shot when he theorized that Oedipus and Electra, Mommy and Daddy complexes, and other types of terribly taboo incest fantasies permeate the secret spaces of many of our erotic minds.
Of course, the family is not the only source of secret sexual fantasy. You might pick up images from friends, neighbors and school experiences, as well as from your favorite fairy tales, movies, TV shows and popular music, not to mention Internet porn. These early images are very powerful, because they impress themselves upon you when you’re very impressionable. They become blueprints for your desire, repeating themselves in your memories and activating your imagination, infusing your natural sexuality with meaning and excitement. They alternately confuse, excite, please, comfort and torment you. And they become secret sexual fantasies.
Your erotic fantasies might be influenced by aspects of your early years that aren’t so obviously sexual. We human beings are masters at finding silver linings in black clouds, and we often do this through the “magic” of sexual fantasy. For instance, if you were very sick as a child and confined to bed, you might go on to fantasize about bondage or sensory deprivation. If you were abused or bullied when you were small, then later in life you might turn being bullied into something pleasurable and fantasize about erotic submission or humiliation. On the other hand, your fantasy mind might rather turn the tables on reality and eroticize domination. Your sexual fantasies are keys that unlock the doors of your repressed personal history. They can help you to cope with your real-life problems, just as your dreams do. But they tend to do it when you’re awake.
What Are Fantasies Good For?
Sexual fantasies can be keys that unlock the doors of your repressed personal history. They can help you to cope with your real-life problems, just as your dreams do, though they tend to do it when you’re awake. They can help you work through past trauma or abuse, operating like an erotic painkiller on negative, hurtful memories. Of course, that can lead to other problems, such as wanting to act out the fantasy and perpetrate the abuse that you experienced onto someone else. But it doesn’t have to. Sexual fantasies and erotic dreams, especially when accompanied by orgasm and perspective (not necessarily in that order), can help to release the stress and trauma of the past. They can also help you relive good sexual memories. You appreciate this benefit of fantasy more as you get older. And no, you don’t have to act out anything in real life; you can keep your secret sexual fantasies and memories locked up in your mind for safekeeping.
But fantasies aren’t just about the past. They can also prepare you for the future. Fantasies can be hazy or detailed rehearsals in the erotic theater of the mind for sexual acts you haven’t yet experienced. That’s probably a pretty common use of fantasy at Yale, or on any college campus. Just as athletes imagine playing and winning the Big Game before it actually happens, so you might imagine seducing or being seduced by your Perfect Lover before the Big Date–or the Big Hook-Up. Some Casanovas and Cleopatras combine fantasy with strategy to entice any partner they desire. This is part of the Mystery method that Matador represented at Sex Week at Yale in 2008. If you can dream it, you can do it.
On the other hand, your secret sexual fantasies can trip you up. Fantasies can be very perverse, enhancing your insecurity, even as they arouse your passions. If you tend to fantasize about being humiliated by people you desire, then you might have a hard time–so to speak–psyching yourself up in a positive way for a date with someone you’d like to impress.
Understandably, people often would like to get rid of troublesome fantasies. Maybe they fantasize about being embarrassed when they’d like to be confident, or having gay sex when they’d like to be straight, or doing their partner’s sister when they’d like to focus on their partner. But deleting a secret sexual fantasy from your mental hard drive is much easier said than done. In fact, it really can’t be done. Very often, the harder you try to banish a bad fantasy from your head, the more insidiously it will wrap itself around your every thought and feeling. You simply can’t control your fantasies, at least no better than you can control your dreams.
But your fantasies don’t have to control you either. Just because you imagine doing some crazy, kinky thing doesn’t mean you have to do it. You can’t control what you imagine. But you can, more or less, control what you do in real life. So don’t make like the Thought Police and bust yourself for your fantasies! Hold yourself accountable for your actions, not your thoughts. Your favorite, secret, sexual fantasy is a gift you can’t return, though sometimes, with time, it fades.
To Share or Not to Share?
Make friends with your fantasies. Don’t vainly attempt to control them, and maybe they won’t take control of you. Then you can use them as safe outlets for dark, naughty or forbidden desires that you can’t, or wouldn’t, want to live out–perhaps because you know that doing so would hurt you or someone you love. For some people, fantasies are great mental sex toys, interactive mind-movies, playgrounds for the libido. We grow up playing as children, but gradually all our games become serious and there’s very little playtime left in our adult lives. The erotic theater of the mind is a place for you to play. Do try to play safe, though that’s not always as simple as it sounds.
What about sharing? Opening up about otherwise secret sexual fantasies with your partner can make lovemaking more exciting. Sharing fantasies isn’t usually necessary when you first have sex together. So much is new in reality, your mind doesn’t have to go much farther than the present moment for stimulation. But after a while, when you’re in a long-term relationship, you get to know each other’s bodies so well that your mind is bound to drift…into fantasy. After all, there are only so many physical positions into which you can bend your bodies, but there is an endless array of mind-games you can play, or role-play. On the other hand, your secret sexual fantasy could hurt, anger, scare or disgust your lover. One person’s fantasy is another’s nightmare.
So, to share or not to share? It really depends on you, your partner and the fantasy. In other words: proceed with caution. Take baby steps…
If you’ve never shared a fantasy with your lover, and you’d like to try, start by sharing a memory, a thrilling erotic experience you actually had together. Reminisce about it in bed, then embellish the memory by imagining something that could have made the experience even more exciting. You can also stimulate the sharing of fantasies by reading or looking at erotica together. Be poetic, be explicit, be romantic, be outrageous, be honest, but be sensitive. Try tossing out small parts of your secret fantasies like test balloons; if it floats, keep embellishing; if you can see it sinking by your partner’s negative reaction, switch gears.
It’s risky business, but nothing great in life comes without taking a chance. If you can share your fantasies with your lover, you can get to know each other deeply, weaving powerful strands of feeling into the fabric of your relationship, blending fantasies with memories and ever-expanding possibilities.
Source: Susan Block