I often counsel people who begin their sessions with the following statement: “I have never told anyone about this before.” Then, sheepishly and with reticence they disclose an erotic fantasy, finishing with a wince indicative of anticipatory terror over my response. The guilt and embarrassment that surrounds these disclosures relates to their desperate longing to understand “Where does this come from and why do I have it?” People worry terribly about what their fantasies might reveal about them and their real-life longings. This becomes clearer as the fantasy is spoken out loud and their anxiety mounts. I watch them bracing themselves for a response from me that confirms their greatest fear; they’re fantasy makes them a sexual pervert and will land them in a world of trouble.
My take on sexual fantasies is pretty straight-forward and uncomplicated; more power to you if you have them and they enhance your satisfaction. Fantasies are not the same as actions, which I find myself reminding people of all the time. This is where the glitch is. People feel and fear that having the fantasy in the first place somehow commits them to eventual, real-time activity even in the absence of any drive or desire for true-to-life experience. This is a bit like worrying that you’re at high-risk for committing a homicide when, after someone really pisses you off, you say: “I am going to kill him!”
When someone’s erotic fantasy is markedly in conflict with their outward identity or self-perception their distress over it becomes proportional to the mismatch between the two. For example, the ardent feminist who attends “Take Back the Night” rallies and tells me she fantasizes about a brawny man “kind-of raping me” can’t easily admit this without feeling like something is very wrong. Or, how about the man whose hottest fantasies are about sex with another man and a women but has no real desire for a same-sex partner? One fantasy that haunts both man and women often is when they imagine themselves having sex with another person while having great sex with their partner - who they actually want to be with. This can cause immeasurable distress until I speak the word of absolution: N-O-R-M-A-L!
I am convinced the reason so many of us struggle with our erotic imaginings is because we don’t have honest, detailed conversations with anyone about sex so we have absolutely no idea of what’s going on in other’s people’s minds. With nothing to compare our own fantasies to, it’s no surprise we scare ourselves half to death. Sadly, by the time many people end up in my office they’ve succeeded in torturing themselves with worry over fantasies they happen to share with large portions of the population and which reflect nothing more than an amalgam of historical influences mixed with great imagination. For anyone reading this who can relate to what I am writing, I encourage you –first and foremost – to stay calm! Chances are good that whatever your fantasy is, it’s more normal than you think. And don’t spend too much time trying to figure out where your fantasies come from and why. As long as you’re not coercing someone in real-life or committing a crime, enjoy yourself and stop throwing your sexual satisfaction under-the-bus. Remember, it’s a fantasy, not a contract for real life action.
© E. Resh 2013 Reprinted with permission
Evelyn Resh is a certified sexuality counselor and a certified nurse-midwife with over 20 years of experience as an integrative health and sexuality practitioner. She has also written for many websites including Oprah.com and The Huffington Post. Her second book: Women, Sex, Power, and Pleasure: Getting the life (and Sex) You Want will be released in Spring 2013. Her previous book: The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn’t Talk About but Your Daughter Needs to Know takes a distinctly sex-positive spin on the topic of sexually active teen girls.
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