Monday, October 14, 2013

Fantasy Part 3

Hello, and happy October!

Here is my final installment of the fantasy series - unless you request additional topics, in which case I’m happy to oblige. Otherwise, here is the final important-to-know information related to fantasy:

How do you know if you have problems with fantasy? 

Sexual fantasies are extremely common. Still, many people wonder if their use of fantasy at all is “ok,” like President Jimmy Carter whose religious beliefs were interpreted such that thinking about a “sinful” fantasy is as bad as doing it. Some worry that the content itself indicates some sort of pathological problem. As discussed in Fantasy Part 1 & 2, a healthy fantasy life is an inner world that explores the erotic in ways you may or may not want to act on.

The content of the fantasy doesn’t mean there’s a problem with you or your relationship, that you will act on the fantasy, or that you even WANT to act on the fantasy. The taboo is a typical theme in fantasy.

Nevertheless, there are some related indicators that professional help might be right for you:
  • If you use fantasy constantly with a partner and/or  greatly prefer them to the “real world”
  • If the fantasy/fantasies don’t feel optional or within your control; in other words, if they appear as intrusive thoughts. Survivors of trauma may experience this, but not all people troubled by unwanted fantasies have experienced trauma or assault. 
  • Therapists typically see two types of unwanted fantasy: survivors troubled by thoughts eroticizing the trauma, and people having fantasies they have acted on or are afraid they’re going to act on.
  • If you are troubled by your fantasies, or you feel a compulsion to act on fantasies you believe are unacceptable, this would be the time to seek professional mental health care. 

How to deal with unwanted fantasies 

Wendy Maltz, LCSW, LMFC, CST has written a great deal on the subject of fantasies in general. Her book, Private Thoughts: Exploring the Power of Women’s Sexual Fantasies, includes the following advice on unwanted fantasies as I have paraphrased below - Please check her out at

  1. Analyze the fantasy - Assess the content of your fantasy from different viewpoints until you identify the origin of the troubling aspects; this might provide some insight into the unaddressed issues you may have in your life. 
  2. Reduce the need for the troubling  fantasy - Prioritize positive sexual experiences in your life to counterbalance the troublesome fantasies. If you don’t have  a partner, try reading some erotica and find some more acceptable fantasies to use. Reducing your stress level may help; try deep breathing to calm your thoughts.
  3. Disrupt the function - Stop sexual stimulation (be it during masturbation or partner sex) when the fantasy comes up, only beginning again when it has gone.   
  4. Transform the fantasy - Within the content of the fantasy, change what aspects you can from negative to positive, until the story/scene has changed completely to a substitution you consider acceptable. 

Should you share your fantasies with your partner? 

First of all, intimacy in relationships does not mean “tell each other everything.” Remember, everyone in Masters and Johnson’s survey on fantasy reported thoughts about other people! It’s normal, but it’s probably not a good idea to tell your partner you’re thinking about other people. Let each other keep this aspect of fantasy private.

If your fantasy involves a sexual activity you might want to experiment with, it’s fine to tell your partner! I will warn you, most of the time when people act out their sexual fantasy it loses its eroticism. Nevertheless, it can be a bonding experience between partners. If you’re not sure how to talk to your partner, read my blog on communication, or go see a sex therapist.

That’s all for this week - look out for the next blog in which I’ll be sharing some stories about my time at The Masters and Johnson Institute! 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fantasy Part 2

Fantasy, Part II

In my last blog I discussed the basics about and uses of sexual fantasy. In this blog entry, I want to talk about the content of sexual fantasy. 

Many people wonder if their fantasies are common or “normal.” Fantasies are as variable as the people who have them, but many researchers have found themes within certain populations.  A survey conducted by the  famous researchers Masters and Johnson classified participants according to their sexual orientation and gender, and then ranked the top five fantasies in each population according to commonality.

What is MOST interesting about the findings is how similar the four  group are. As you’ll see, both straight (heterosexual) and gay people have several fantasy themes in common. Take a look...

The most common fantasies, based on Masters and Johnson’s research are: 

Heterosexual males (Straight men)
  1. Replacement of established partner - This fantasy is a safe way of experimenting with something/someone new, without actually having sex with another person. (Remember, this does not necessarily mean he wants to or will cheat on his partner! )
  2. Forced sexual encounter with female - “Forcing” in this fantasy does not usually mean rape - the general consensus is that men are thinking of use of more subtle force such as “talking her into it”. Our society’s romantic notions include the tale of a man sweeping a woman off her feet - passion that she cannot resist! In reality, forcing someone to have sex means having sex against their will. In this case, researchers noted that “forcing” meant “taking a woman forcefully and aggressively,” with the implication of consent. While sexual assault is a very real and destructive reality, this particular fantasy does not mean you are or are with a potentially violent sex offender.
  3. Observation of sexual activity - Watching others in sexual activity (voyeurism) is a very common fantasy for many people 
  4. Homosexual encounters – Similar to other categories, heterosexual men reported sexual fantasies about the gender with whom they don’t typically have sex, other men - remember, we like to think about new experiences!
  5. Group sex experiences - this is a fantasy that both straight and gay men have in common. 

Heterosexual females (Straight women)
  1. Replacement of established partner - Again, this is a safe way of experimenting - straight men and women hold this fantasy in common.
  2. Forced sexual encounter with male - as mentioned earlier, this fantasy is not so much about a lack of consent as it is about being “swept away” or overtaken by desire... or rather, a man being overtaken by desire, and she wants him to take her. Our society often shames women for their sexual desires, so this fantasy may be a way of keeping the woman from feeling guilty about her desires.
  3. Observation of sexual activity - Secretly watching others engaged in private or sexual activity is another common theme among heterosexuals.  Probably the earliest basis of the porn business!
  4. Idyllic encounters with unknown men - A picture-perfect erotic encounter is a fantasy that straight women AND gay men and women share, although straight women and gay men chose a male stranger for their fantasy partner (lesbians often choose their current partner).
  5. Lesbian encounters - again, fantasizing about same-sex experiences is very common for heterosexual individuals.

Homosexual males (Gay men)
  1. Imagery of male sexual anatomy - this fantasy is unique to gay men. You can see it reflected in gay pornographic magazines. 
  2. Forced sexual encounters with males - the same concept as the straight men applies here; men are socialized to be conquerors, including in the bedroom, and this often comes out in their fantasies.  
  3. Heterosexual encounters with females - gay men and lesbians, like heterosexuals, fantasize about being with novel partners - i.e. a different gender than their primary attraction 
  4. Idyllic encounters with unknown men
  5. Group sex experiences 

Homosexual females (Lesbian women) 
  1. Forced sexual encounters - did you notice that everyone reported this fantasy?? It’s quite common. 
  2. Idyllic encounter with established partner
  3. Heterosexual encounters
  4. Recall of past sexual experience - not necessarily involving the current partner. This is unique to lesbian women.
  5. Sadistic imagery - this was also unique to lesbians at the time of the survey; this decade, post-Fifty Shades of Gray, more people may report an interest!   

Did you notice the themes? Male/female, gay/straight, all share fantasy interests in new experiences, conquest, experimentation, and observing others. Against popular belief, our sex fantasies are actually quite similar.

Another common theme, forced sex fantasies, are quite common. As we said, many people have forced sex fantasies in which consent is implied. The popularity of the recent trilogy, 50 Shades of Grey, may be as popular as it is because of the theme of sexual domination.

Next time, in Fantasy Part 3, I will discuss how to know if a fantasy is cause for concern, and what you can do to address it. I will also discuss whether or not to share your fantasies with your partner. Until then, peace and light! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fantasy Part 1 - September Blog A

Sexual fantasy - What is “normal”?

Happy Monday, and welcome to my bigger better blog! In this entry I want to talk about an important facet of human sexuality that is still wrought with misunderstanding: sexual fantasy.

First, let’s clarify what a “sexual fantasy” isOne team of authors put it this way: “Any mental imagery that is sexually arousing or erotic to the individual.”* Basically, fantasies are impressions or stories having an erotic component. The definition is broad on purpose, because fantasies vary greatly between individuals. They could be stories with complete plots, or simply an image, picture, or particular scene - pretty much anything that helps trigger erotic feelings.

Who has sex fantasies? Well, nearly everyone! Based on the broad definition of fantasy, this make sense... However, many people have a particular idea of what a fantasy “should” look like. For example, some think   it should have a complete plot, or include another person, or explicitly involve the genitals. Because of this, some people don’t realize that the erotic thoughts they have actually ARE fantasies! 

Here’s another interesting fact: some folks have internalized our social messages that shame sexuality to the point that they either don’t acknowledge that they have fantasies, or they block awareness of them  completely!  Sometimes this results in erotic dreams which might include an orgasm. During the sleep state, control of sexual fantasy is more difficult as our autonomous systems take over.

Why is it important for people to know they have fantasies? Because fantasies serve some important functions.

For one, they aid and abeit or allow us to function, sexually. Three themes are common in the functional uses of fantasy: 
  1. to get in the mood for sex, 
  2. to return to focus when distracted during sex 
  3. and to allow yourself to fall over into orgasm
 Maybe you’re not really feeling sexy but it’s a special night and/or you just really want to connect to your partner; maybe you are in the middle of things but you can’t help but think of the massive workload waiting for you.  Maybe you begin and feel that orgasm potential starts slipping away from you. Fantasies can be used to help with all of those. 

Another common function of fantasy is to allow us to connect to the erotic while substituting for an actual partner. Perhaps you are abstaining - perhaps you have never had partnered sex - but you imagine what the experience would be like. Or, perhaps fantasy is used for mental rehearsal of that sexual experience. 

Fantasy also allows exploration without the real-life consequences. Sexual fantasy can provide a safe way of experimenting, especially with things that are taboo. Maybe you haven’t had sex with a partner of the same gender, but wonder what it would be like. Maybe you would like to engage in a particular sexual activity that feels morally incongruent, such as sexual domination. 

Now to address some common concerns about fantasy...

Is having a sexual fantasy cheating?
While some people might consider having a sexual fantasy cheating, most people acknowledge the usefulness of fantasies in FACILITATING their sexual interest and response with a partner.  Most people use fantasy sometimes at those 3 points mentioned earlier. If a person always uses a fantasy when with a partner, that’s when there may be a problem.

Am I likely to act on a sexual fantasy that is incongruent with my morality?

Many people fear that having a taboo sexual fantasy will lead to acting it out. There is no evidence that that is true. In fact, for most people, acting out the fantasy (e.g., having sex while tied up) may lead to the loss of the eroticism of that fantasy.  For a small segment of the population who have had difficulty with sexually compulsive behavior, acting out a fantasy may have the opposite effect, meaning they may engage in the behavior compulsively afterwards.

My next blog entry will discuss specifics on sex fantasy content, including common themes in different populations. Stay tuned! 

*  Source: p 470 of Leitenberg & Henning’s 1995 article “Sexual fantasy,” published in the Psychological Bulletin 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blog Updates!

Hi everyone,

You may have noticed that the weekly Monday blog has been missing for the past couple weeks. That is because I am working *hard* with a media team to vamp up my internet presence! As part of this effort, I have decided to develop the blog to a more in-depth and meaningful publication; therefore, it will only be published every OTHER Monday, starting next week.

If you want to stay in touch with me or check in with Intimate REconnections (my therapy practice) more frequently, you can follow me on Twitter (@couplesguru) or like my Facebook Page (Linda Weiner, Sex Therapist LSCW). Links are below this post. I read your comments, so message me if you have questions!

Look forward to a bigger better blog starting Monday, September 16th. See y'all then! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sex & Communication

It's been discussed in multiple texts, media, and thousands of therapy sessions, and yet couples still have trouble communicating in the bedroom (or living room or where ever you choose to be intimate!) So why do we still have so much trouble talking about our sexual wants, needs, and concerns? Asking our partners what they want? Processing embarrassing moments?

Numerous historians have analyzed the development of sexuality since the founding of the United States. I'll skip to the point: the general attitude perpetuated has been one shaming both physical acts and personal self-exploration of sexuality, especially before a marriage - which is assumed will always be heterosexual. 

If you believe in waiting to have sex until marriage, that's not a problem. (Neither is having a different-sex partner!) The issue is thinking that people are essentially asexual until marriage, and then *poof* they're suddenly able to access and feel comfortable with their sexuality and communicating these feelings to their partners. The choice to remain sexually abstinent may be separated from a personal reflection and development of sexual attitudes, beliefs, comfort levels, and the ability to talk about such things.

Maybe you're not abstaining; maybe you're married, maybe you're not. Plenty people still have trouble communicating to their partners, whether they be the first or the latest, a spouse or a new lover. If you're having trouble getting the communication flowing, there are some tricks and tips you can try:

  • Don’t be a mind-reader! People don’t know what the others are thinking - it’s up to those others to speak their minds! Sure, easier said than done... but think of the last time someone - friend, lover, whomever - did something you found unpleasant. You didn’t say anything because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings? Now think about what YOU would want. Do you really want your partner to stay quiet if something you’re doing is making them uncomfortable? Speak up, and encourage your partner to do the same. 

  • "I-statements" are often used in conflict management, but it can be used as a general tool to aid communication. An I-statement looks like this: "I feel uncomfortable when we have sex with the lights on,” or “I really enjoy it when you kiss my neck.” I-statements help you express your own desires and thoughts without putting your partner on the spot: “You make me feel awkward when you keep the lights on,” etc. Even saying “You always know what I like” might not be true for your partner - maybe they’re just making lucky guesses! Try it out when you’re worried about protecting your partner’s pride.

  • Active, reflective listening involves two parts: active listening, in which you are physically engaged (think eye contact, facing bodies) AND mentally engaged (focused on hearing not planning your answer) with your partner. “Reflective” listening means you repeat back what your partner said to show them you heard. It helps to paraphrase instead of directly quote, so they know you understood their meaning and aren’t sassing or mocking them! Feeling heard helps us lower our defenses and really truly communicate with one another. 

  • The above are just some favorites of many strategies - numerous books and films have been created on the subject of sex partner communication. Browse the internet or library and see what comes up - it’s best to check to make sure the author is trained in the field, of course.

  • Come in for therapy! I see both single and partnered clients. We start with an initial assessment, after which I assess how long our work might take, we chat, and then get down to it! My hours are Monday through Friday, 10am-7pm. Call (314) 588-8924 and feel free to leave a message!

Monday, August 12, 2013

A History of Sex.... Fun Facts! (Part 1)

Did you know: Sexuality in Ancient Times

Next time you’re at a party, entertaining friends, or just chatting with your partner over dinner, you can wow them with these fun facts about the history and development of human sexuality - and probably spark some interesting conversation!

  • Only in humans are the breasts sexual organs - this is thought to be because our upright posture allows for the exposure and manipulation of the breasts, unlike in other animals.

  • The first known circumcision was performed in Egypt. 

  • The Greek goddess Aphrodite was not actually the deity of love - she was the goddess of sexual intercourse. Her son Eros was the god of love.

  • Both the ancient Greek and Roman cultures were very open to homosexual and bisexual relationships; older Greek men would mentor teenage boys, and the boys would act as passive sexual partners (receiving penetration) as a sign of appreciation. 

  • In ancient Rome, sexual monogamy was not necessary for a happy marriage; respect, mutual consideration, and fair treatment were more important. Wives would even encourage their husbands to obtain male and female sex slaves for their personal enjoyment.  

  • The Indian Kama Sutra discussed more than fun sex positions; it gave instructions on love, homemaking, family values, and moral guidance. 

That’s it for now! Stay tuned for some fun facts on modern developments in human sexuality on another week!


Carroll, Janell L. (2014). Sexuality Now, Embracing Diversity (4rded.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Virginia Johnson: A Tribute

          Today I am remembering and paying tribute to Virginia Johnson who passed away last week at age 88. I had the honor of training and working at the Masters & Johnson Institute in St. Louis, where Virginia played an important role in my professional development. This woman’s journey from big band singer and twice-divorced mother of two to sex researcher and creator of post-psychoanalytic sex therapy will be forever remembered.  It was Virginia whose charisma convinced many medical residents to volunteer for the lab to become part of the discovery of what really happens in the mind and body during sexual interaction.  It was Virginia who mined the social sciences to incorporate relational and short-term behavioral treatment methods into a new, brief sex therapy treatment model. And it was Virginia who transformed her own childhood experience of relaxation and bonding via facial tracing by her mother to create the foundation of sex therapy, sensate focus – a series of non-sexual touching exercises which allows couples to reconnect, rediscover, and reconstitute their sexuality.  Sensate focus experiences form the basis of sexual healing methods used by many sex therapists today, and is directly attributed to Virginia Johnson’s work.
          What do Marie and Pierre Curie, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Simon and Schuster, and Virginia Johnson and Bill Masters have in common? Synergy. A critical aspect of Virginis’a success was due to synergy, the whole of something being greater than its parts, creating an effect which could not have been produced singly.  Without the pairing of Virginia with Dr, William Masters, the stoic, professionally connected chairman of Washington University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the creation of the Masters & Johnson post analytic short term treatment for sexual distress could not have occurred. Together, like many other famous creative duos, their capabilities coalesced to create something which neither could possibly have achieved on their own. 
Hats off to you, Virginia! And our eternal thanks.