The instinct to reproduce is a powerful force. It is driven by the pleasure and sense of release we get from the sex act. This drive for pleasure is ever-present and, however hard we may try, its impossible to extinguish. Given that there is often no mate immediately available, like water in a pipe system, this unruly energy must go somewhere! Some of it goes into creating sexual fantasies for ourselves.
Michael Bader, in his book “Arousal” points out that most fantasies are not the actions we are going to take, but are the pleasures we imagine. In imagination we create scenes that solve the problems of combining pleasure with safety.
We fantasise in order to make unavailable sex both safe and pleasurable. Pleasure is often threatened by two things that make sex feel unsafe: guilt and fear. So the man with guilt about his desire to touch the woman on the bus, (or the pornographic website) creates a fantasy beginning with her publically welcoming it. The woman with fear that her unleashed desires will repel her partner, can fantasise that he is restrained and enjoying them. Gays, lesbians and straights can fantasise about unobtainable others; those overburdened with power and responsibility, about their own passivity and submission.
Fear and guilt can be avoided in endlessly inventive scenes where fearless, guiltless pleasure is achieved. Nancy Friday documented real peoples’ fantasies in her famous books. They include everything from couples to group sex, voyeurism to exhibitionism, submission and domination, gay and straight sex, gender wishes, positions, clothes, situations and narratives. They are often surprising, politically incorrect and socially unacceptable; yet they are rich, creative and full of fantasy pleasure.
Bader points out that our sexual fantasies may say a great deal about our unconscious urges. Sometimes people need/use therapy to resolve sexual fantasy issues: the ‘strong man’ or the radical feminist woman who find they fantasise about submission, the straight person about gay or lesbian sex, or those shocked by the violence of their own imaginations. If this sort of thing causes worries, its time to talk with a therapist.
Yet the vast majority of fantasies can be a route to closeness within relationships, a fast-track to intimacy. When revealed to our partners, they are a way of sharing our most intimate secrets and our vulnerabilities. Be accepting of your partner’s fantasies – enjoy the closeness.
With thanks to:
Men in Love and My Secret Garden… by N Friday
Arousal by M Bader
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