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!