What’s the Deal with Fantasies?

People worry about their fantasy life way too much. I’m not sure when, or how, as a society, we lost our ability to distinguish between imagination and real life, but I know that loss of distinction affects us in many unhealthy ways. And, as a sex therapist, I’ll assure you, that your sex life is at front and center.

Fantasies are so important that many women have an “orgasm fantasy,” some scene that is so erotic to them that they use it during stimulation in order to have an orgasm. And for most women, a healthy ability to fantasize also suggests a robust ability to get turned on and desire sex. In general, men seem to have less problems maintaining a fantasy life. I’ll address that in another post, I promise. For today, let’s just talk about women.

So first, let me answer that oft-asked question which all of us sex therapists get asked: If I fantasize about something frequently does it mean that I actually want it to happen???? Nope. No. Not necessarily. Maybe sometimes. Mostly, who cares?”

I’m here to assure you that the only thing I know (or more importantly, you know,) for sure when you identify something you like to fantasize about is … that you like to fantasize about that activity. Beyond that, there is no absolutely no implication that you actually want to “actualize” the fantasies.

There may be fantasies you have that you know you do want to act out. If you have always “fantasized” about having sex with a drummer, and you know you do want to have sex with a drummer, then yes, that fantasy is projecting something real and you may indeed want to date a drummer. But that is fundamentally different from a fantasy of having sex on a spaceship to Mars with a group of 10 Martians, and equally different from a fantasy of having sex in the middle of Broadway with 100 onlookers.

There are different kind of fantasies, and understanding that there are some you actually might want to try, does not, in any way, suggest that you want to try any, or all of them! You may not want to try out a fantasy because it is too wild and crazy and unrealistic (take my Martian example) or because, well, you are just not into it in reality, you are only interested in your imagination. And that, my friends is the joy of fantasizing!

We women, we are heavy duty into second guessing ourselves and, as a result, editing our fantasies. And trust me, that is just not helpful with your sex life.

Often patients will say something to me, like “OMG, I have all these fantasies about women, but I’m not really interested in having sex with a woman. Am I a repressed lesbian?” To which I will be found responding: “All it means, when you like fantasizing about women, is… that you like fantasizing about women. Period. And if it turns you on, great. Stop trying to figure out what your fantasies say about you or what they ‘really mean’. You’ll turn yourself into a pretzel for nothing.” Now, if you fantasize about having sex as a pretzel, this might actually work quite well, but for the rest of us, not so much. And for the record, not that it should matter, it is extremely common for women who consider themselves heterosexual to enjoy sexual fantasises about women. Also, very commonly women get upset about their fantasies because they think that they are not politically correct. “Oh my g-d, I fantasized about being overcome by a stranger in the woods.” Or “What is wrong with me, I fantasized about trading sex with a cop to get out of a parking ticket. Am I sick or what?” (And by the way, variations of these are also extremely common fantasies.)

I’m here to tell you that you should never worry about fantasies because the whole fun of fantasies is that they are merely that, fantasies. It does not mean you want the scenario to happen in real life. It just means there is some element of that fantasy that appeals to you.

It is very common for women to have “overpowerment” fantasies when, if in real life, they were raped or taken without their consent they would be devastated and traumatized. That fantasy is one of the most common of female fantasies. And there could be any number of reasons why it’s so popular.

It allows a woman to feel as though she is giving up total control and can then completely submit to the pleasure that sex affords without the concern, guilt or second guessing she might have in real life. Other reasons suggested for the popularity of the rape fantasy is that women get turned on by being the object of desire. A rape fantasy suggests that they are so desirable that someone is willing to go to crazy lengths to “have them” and being desired that much is a turn on. The reality, of course, is that when you’re fantasizing, (even when you’re fantasizing about losing control) you have absolute control over your fantasy. The fantasy is exactly what you want, when you want it and how you want it. And you get to decide when and how that fantasy is going to end. I’m constantly reminding women to enjoy, not edit their fantasies. So what if there is a monkey in your fantasy? Two women? 62 people watching you? Whips and chains? It doesn’t mean that you are a lesbian, an exhibitionist, into BDSM or any particular activity — not that there is anything wrong with any of those things. It just means that thinking about those things turn you on. If you are interested in doing a bit more soul searching, you can think about what appeals to you in the fantasy… it is the absolute power? Is it feeling beautiful? Is it a sense of equality? Is it the romance? Then you can see if there are elements that you might be able to incorporate into your real life sex. But only if you want to. Let’s see… you fantasize about being onstage having sex and people are throwing roses at you… so maybe a little bit of exhibitionism might turn you on. Maybe you and your partner want to leave the shades open sometime, or video yourselves. Or maybe you just want to do a striptease for your partner. Or not. These could be elements of

fantasies that you have no interest in exploring outside the confines of your brain, and that is perfectly fine.

Now about sharing those fantasies with your partner… My only advice is that the decision to do so should be totally up to you alone. If you think it would be fun to act out a fantasy or even just talk about it, go for it! You can shoot an email or leave a note or an erotic story on your partner’s bed if you can’t quite work up the courage to bring it up face to face. Or, snuggled up in bed when it’s dark and they can’t see your face is always another option. Be prepared though, you might have to follow it up with real sex, because, well, fantasies are a big turn on.

But never let a partner push you into sharing a fantasy that you want to keep private — you never “owe” it to someone to tell them your fantasies. Let’s remember that distinction between fantasy and reality I was talking about. Your fantasies belong to you alone and they are for your pleasure entirely.

It is so important for women to learn to enjoy their fantasies and not to feel guilty about them. And even better, learn to revel in them. Fantasies can fuel your sex and love life for decades providing a variety and range that would be impossible in real life. So embrace your fantasies, as exactly that, fantasies and then, my dear, have fun!


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