Sexual Fantasies and The Road Not Taken, Part Two


This is Part Two of a two-part post. Reading Part One first might help it make more sense.

So if fantasies — and sex fantasies in particular — are a signpost to the road not traveled… how do we know whether to travel them?

I’m going to say right now: I am not a psychologist, or a sexologist, or any kind of expert on this topic. I have not done controlled, double-blinded, peer-reviewed research on the connection between fantasy sexual activity and sexual activity as enjoyed in real life. (As far as I know, no research on this topic exists: if anyone knows of any, please let me know.) I’m just a smart, thoughtful person who thinks sex is important, and who’s thought a lot about this question, and who’s paid careful attention to how it’s played out in her own life. (And in the lives of the friends and lovers who have been kind enough to let her in on how it’s played out for them.)

So that being said: Here are a few guidelines that have worked for me, and that have helped me sort out my sexual fantasies from my real-world sexual desires. If you have ideas and insights on how this has played out for you, I’d love to know about them.

How often do you have these fantasies? When I was coming of sexual age, I was told — by Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, among other sources — that I didn’t have to worry about my lesbian fantasies. Lots of women had lesbian fantasies. They didn’t mean I was really a dyke.

But I had lesbian fantasies a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Like, way more than I was having fantasies about men. Like, almost every time I was around other women. Which was to say, almost all the time.

That, to me, was a clue that these were more than just fantasies. That was a clue that this was something I really wanted to do. A central defining feature of my sexuality, even.

I didn’t know for sure until I tried it. Some very frequent fantasies don’t pan out in real life. I didn’t know for sure until I put my actual tongue on another woman’s actual clit, and realized that my entire body was waking up and saying, “Hello.” But the fact that I had lesbian fantasies all the freaking time was a big, big clue: This was not a fantasy. This was a desire.

(Ditto my kinky fantasies. Substitute “kinky” for “lesbian” above, with other substitutions as appropriate.)

Other fantasies aren’t nearly as frequent. They’re shaped by what I’m doing, who I’m hanging out with, what’s in my environment. Sex in a factory; sex with a pro dominant, sex on a big tarp greased with canola oil… these fantasies come and go. So these might just be fantasies. I might or might not enjoy them in real life. I have less of a clear sense about that.

How consistently do you have these fantasies? See above, re: lesbian fantasies. I didn’t just have them often. I had them often — for years. They did not go away with ignoring them; they did not go away with trying to hide from them; they did not go away with whacking off to them; they did not go away with reassuring myself that lots of women have lesbian fantasies and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re queer. And they sure as hell didn’t go away once I started having sex with other women. They stayed with me for years. They’re still with me.

That, to me, was a big-ass clue that this was not just a fantasy. This was a real desire.

(And again: Ditto with kinky fantasies. I’ve been thinking about kinky sex for as long as I’ve been thinking about sex.)

Other fantasies, however, have come and gone with the years. Public sex. Ritualized group sex. Assorted celebrity and fictional- character crushes. Assorted crushes on particular friends. And with those, I’m less clear about whether I might enjoy them in real life. Maybe; maybe not. Those roads don’t have big neon arrows blinking and pointing and saying “This Way.”

Again — this isn’t a hard and fast rule. (Heh, heh, Beavis. She said “hard and fast.”) Fantasies can stay with you for years and still just be fantasies. But for me, the fantasies that have stayed with me for years? They’ve tended to be the ones that worked out when I tried them in real life.

How do you feel after you’ve, shall we say, enjoyed these fantasies? If I whack off to a fantasy, and afterwards I feel happy and satisfied and ready to fall asleep/ get on with the rest of my day… that’s a sign that this is a fantasy I’m perfectly happy to enjoy as a fantasy, and don’t feel a compelling need to explore in real life. (Either that, or it’s a fantasy about something I’m already getting a fair amount of in real life, and am not feeling super-deprived of.)

But if I whack off to a fantasy, and afterwards I feel restless and deprived and dissatisfied… to me, that’s often a sign that the fantasy isn’t enough. To me, that’s a sign that this might be something I seriously want, and if I don’t find a way to get at least some form of it in real life, it’s likely to cause real dissatisfaction.

Is the grass always greener?

There’s an important caveat that I need to make here. I’ve been talking about how we can look at our fantasies and use them to tell us what’s missing. But I’ve known people who always feel like something is missing. I’ve known people who have spent their whole lives fixating on what they don’t have, mooning about how much greener the grass is everywhere but under their feet. When they’re single, they yearn for love; when they’re coupled, they yearn for freedom. When they have a stable job, they long for excitement and risk; when they’re freelancing, they long for security. Not just in an “enjoying the occasional fantasy or daydream” way… but in a restless, dissatisfied, “grass is always greener” way.

If that’s true for you… then I think this exercise may not work for you. Or at least, it’s going to work very differently for you. For you, the thing that you’re lacking might not be freedom or security, control or spontaneity, excitement or peace. For you, the thing that you’re lacking might be the ability to be satisfied: the willingness to accept the choices you’ve made, and enjoy whatever pleasures they have to offer, and accept the non-perfectibility of life with some degree of serenity. And that’s not something that’s going to be handled by tinkering with the details of your choices, changing jobs or changing lovers or moving across the country. That’s work you’re going to have to do on yourself.

What are you not fantasizing about?

Finally — well, not finally finally, I could gas on about this for hours, but finally for now — I think our fantasies can offer a clue to our desires in another way.

Namely this: What are we not fantasizing about?

Of course I can think of plenty of sexual examples. But the clearest example I can think of from my own life is actually non-sexual.

I have never, in my entire life, fantasized about having children.

I’ve daydreamed about having kids in my life in some way. I’ve daydreamed about being an aunt, a mentor, a teacher. But at no time in my life have I daydreamed about being a mother. Not even once. Not even when I was planning to be one someday.

That, to me, is a huge sign that I should never have kids. I apparently have no desire to have them. Not even an idealized, day-dreamy desire about an impossibly idyllic parenting life. And people who don’t want kids ought not to have them. Every child a wanted child, and all that.

And I think we can apply this principle to our sex lives as well. If you never have fantasies about the opposite sex, chances are excellent that you might be gay. If you never have fantasies about vanilla sex, chances are excellent that you might be kinky. If you never have fantasies about romance, chances are excellent that you might not be cut out for relationships. Etc.

If our fantasies can tell us what’s missing in our lives? The things we don’t fantasize about can tell us what isn’t missing. Even if everyone around us is saying that it’s missing. Even if we’re getting bombarded with social messages saying that it’s missing. Even if our families and friends and TV shows are all saying that we have a marriage-shaped hole in hearts… if we’re not fantasizing about romantic sex with a partner we’re intensely in love with, then maybe marriage isn’t missing for us.

Our fantasies are a map to the roads not taken.

And it’s worth paying attention to which roads aren’t on the map at all.

Comments

  1. Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM says

    Really interesting discussion, Greta. I’ll be looking forward to the responses to it. I think that last point is the real winner, for me.

    As for me, I’m still trying to figure out what it means that I’ve only ever had one sex dream and I was male in it…

  2. Daniel Schealler says

    Interesting.

    I’m hesitant to get into the discussion regarding sexual fantasies. I use my real name on this site and I work in IT. I’m fine with the public atheism and in-your-face criticism of religion, happy to wade into feminism, pleased to be given the time of day in a philosophical controversy… But when it comes to sex, I’ll keep that very much to myself.

    But I can comment on the thing with kids.

    One of the many ways in which I break the stereotypical male mold is that I love kids. Well… Some kids. It depends on the kid. Some kids are little nightmares. But unless I have a compelling reason to dislike a kid, I always like ‘em.

    So fantasies about having kids of my own some day come up every now and again.

    Recurring one is with a (perhaps) baby daughter in the hospital room. My partner/wife is passed out exhausted in the hospital bed, and I’m nursing my daughter and holding her up to my face and being generally adorably disgusting in the manner of new fathers everywhere.

    “Who’s my little girl? You are!”
    “Who’s gonna grow up one day and move out of home and break daddy’s heart? You are!”
    “Who am I going to exact preemptive revenge on for that by embarrassing them in front of her friends at every opportunity I get throughout their whole lives? That’s right! You are!”
    “Who’s going to huff and scream that she hates me and slam the door before going into her room in disgust? You are!”
    “Who’s going to be annoyed at herself and be unable to escape the fact she still loves me deep on the inside? You are!”

    And so on.

    It’s possible that I may have a warped sense of fatherhood.

  3. Sarah says

    But if I whack off to a fantasy, and afterwards I feel restless and deprived and dissatisfied… to me, that’s often a sign that the fantasy isn’t enough.

    Yes! This exactly. Something I hadn’t really acknowledged consciously, but upon seeing it written, it makes perfect sense. Thank you for putting it down so clearly!

  4. Sackbut says

    I enjoyed the article very much. I was surprised, however, at essentially no mention of one of the biggest reasons not to engage in a sexual fantasy: somebody gets hurt. Fantasies about raping your boss’s spouse, or kidnapping children, or having sex in the front of the room during the physics lecture, or propositioning your sexy married neighbor, or masturbating with your severed foot, all have consequences in the real world; some involve physical harm, some break the law, some damage relationships or reputations. Some people do not put adequate thought into the consequences of their actions, and this is at least as true regarding fulfilling sexual fantasies as it is for anything else.

  5. Sara K. says

    I also agree that the last point is a great one.

    I, for one, have never fantasised about marriage, and I figured out a long time ago that I don’t want to get married.

    I also don’t think I’ve any fantasies about romance or falling in love since I was a teenager, so I’ve relegated that to the “something I’ll probably never do, though if it happens, it happens” category. It took me a bit longer to figure this out, because I do love good romance stories, but I enjoy reading/watching *other people* getting all romantic, I am not so fond of the idea of *me* engaging in romantic business.

    Actually I take that back. I still do sometimes have a fantasy about being borderline, but not quite, romantic with a person for a night, and then never seeing that person again (a fantasy I actually tried to carry out 8 years ago, which shows you how long this fantasy has been with me). However, that is definitely not a fantasy about a long-term romantic relationship.

    What I do have fantasies about is getting pregnant. It is definitely a persistent theme. I also have fantasies about raising my own child, though they are not as persistent. However, I do not want to carry through with the first fantasy (getting pregnant) if I am not absolutely committed to the second (raising a child).

  6. says

    Another wrinkle:

    As an author, an aspiring paperback writer from a family of same, I’ve discovered that the fantasies of the imaginary people in my head aren’t necessarily mine. If they ever were, I’ve ceded ownership. The only desires I know are my own are the disasters I’ve yet to mine for material.

    The summer after I graduated college, I spent a while travelling and meeting up with friends who’d scattered around the country. In Portland, Oregon, I stayed with a young woman on whom I’d had a terrible crush in high school. It’d long since passed; I’d managed to get my heart broken by somebody else at least once in the interval, and have a few odd incidents besides. She was getting a tattoo and checking the trade paperbacks of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman out of the library to look for art. In the last volume, the Will Shakespeare character says something which stuck with me.

    “I wonder if it was worth it. Whatever happened to me in my life, happened to me as a writer of plays. I’d fall in love, or in lust, and at the height of my passion, I would think, “So this is how it feels,” and I would tie it up in pretty words. I watched my life as if it were happening to someone else. My son died. And I was hurt; but I watched my hurt, and even relished it, a little, for now I could write a real death, a true loss. My heart was broken by my Dark Lady, and I wept, in my room, alone; but while I wept, somewhere inside I smiled. For I knew I could take my broken heart and place it on the stage of The Globe, and make the pit cry tears of their own.”

    Just to tie it all up in a strange loop, my latest crush — hopeless, unrequited, awkward, fuelling the standard paranoia that it will destroy a treasured friendship — is on someone who likes my writing.

  7. says

    [Sackbut]: I was surprised, however, at essentially no mention of one of the biggest reasons not to engage in a sexual fantasy: somebody gets hurt. Fantasies about raping your boss’s spouse, or kidnapping children, or having sex in the front of the room during the physics lecture, or propositioning your sexy married neighbor, or masturbating with your severed foot, all have consequences in the real world; some involve physical harm, some break the law, some damage relationships or reputations.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that fantasies which can’t be enacted consensually are out of the question. However, there may be reasonable adaptations of that fantasy which can be used. There’s no need to try to make every detail fit literally into the image produced by a fantasy. Sometimes, not doing so makes the situation more exciting because it’s no longer predetermined.

    As to breaking the law, it’s important to remember not all laws are just. Homosexual acts of many kinds are still prohibited by laws in many places in the United States, even though those statutes are essentially unconstitutional and unenforceable. In the broader world, there are many countries where homosexuality is still actively prosecuted — usually by the local community. I’m sure we don’t need to remind anyone in those countries that defying sexual norms may result in summary execution; they’ve seen plenty of examples made already.

    Adultery is a very gray and murky issue. Oftentimes it is difficult to determine whether more harm is done by the actual acts of adultery themselves, or society’s severe reaction to them. There’s also a severe gender bias in adultery, in that men can typically manage to overcome any social pressure from the results but women cannot. We might call this the Gingrich Effect.

    There are also serious problems with laws prohibiting multiple marriage and incest. However, those discussions would wander off on tangents.

    Some people do not put adequate thought into the consequences of their actions, and this is at least as true regarding fulfilling sexual fantasies as it is for anything else.

    People can be selfish and destructive regarding anything. It would be wise not to establish a special set of rules that govern only sexual behavior and nothing else, but our society has manifestly failed on that point.

  8. Dhorvath, OM says

    Erotic play has worked out well for me in life, pretty much anytime I have had inclination to try something, I have also had adventurous partners to try it with, so fantasy hasn’t played a huge role in how I practice sexuality. I don’t identify with the techniques here, nor do I have anything to add per se, save for the idea that some people are traveling with groups that help make sure they don’t have untrod roads teasing at them to explore. I realize that not everyone has that luxury, they may not be around people they can trust like that, so please don’t think I am saying people should be more like me, it’s not my point. Merely that one of the great treaures that life can present is a group to explore within: people to keep one safe and help map out our sexuality.

  9. Another Matt says

    I have not done controlled, double-blinded, peer-reviewed research on the connection between fantasy sexual activity and sexual activity as enjoyed in real life.

    Heh heh, she said “double blinded.” =o)

  10. says

    I know a lot of asexual people, and anecdotally, a few experience sexual fantasies even though they don’t want sex. This is a source of much self-doubt, though many decide that it does not affect their sexual identity for the reasons you listed. Namely, the fantasies are infrequent, inconsistent, not enjoyable, or wildly unrealistic.

    As for me, I don’t experience sexual fantasies at all, but I still decided I like sex. Though to be honest I wouldn’t miss sex if I never had it, so maybe I’m not really a counterexample to your last point.

  11. says

    I think karegato has addressed most of Sackbut’s points in the same way I would have, but I’d like to add an additional point, which is one that Greta has made in the past. Some fantasies that would cause harm, such as those that involve rape, or pain, or voyeurism, involve a great deal of implicit information in the fantasy that would not carry over into real life. In pain, for example, you want it to hurt more than you like, but still like it. In rape, you may want to cede all control to a complete stranger, you may even get off on shame or violation, but you want those things rather than actually having your consent and agency taking away from you. In those cases, it’s a good idea to examine the fantasy very closely and try to model it with safety and consent in the ways that karegato pointed out rather than ever seek to make all of the explicit elements of the fantasy come true.

  12. ttch says

    kagerato wrote:

    I think it’s pretty obvious that fantasies which can’t be enacted consensually are out of the question.

    Out of the question as fantasies?

    Well, if so, I agree. Routinely rewarding yourself with excitement and orgasms for thinking about things like hurting or degrading people, or abusing your power over them is at least dangerous. This is one of the principal arguments many feminists (of both sexes) make against pornography, both visual and written.

    P.S. Blake, do you hope your crush will read your comment?

  13. Greta Christina says

    Routinely rewarding yourself with excitement and orgasms for thinking about things like hurting or degrading people, or abusing your power over them is at least dangerous.

    ttch: Do you have even one shred of good evidence suggesting that this is true?

    Consensual sadomasochism — which typically (although not always) involves fantasies and acting-out fantasies of hurting people, degrading them, and abusing your power over them — has been taken out of the DSM by the American Psychiatric Association. And it’s been taken out for a reason. There is not one scrap of good evidence that people who have these fantasies, and who consensually act them out with eager partners, are any more likely to have mental, emotional, or social dysfunction than anyone else, or are any more likely to abuse people.

    People often have fantasies — sexual and otherwise — about things that would not be ethical if we did them in real life. It’s a human trait. It seems to be a mostly harmless one — whether those fantasies are sexual or not. Consensual sadomasochism has been taken out of the DSM. It never should have been there in the first place. It was only ever there for the same reason that homosexuality used to be in the DSM — ignorance, carelessness, bigotry, and fear.

    I strongly suggest that you educate yourself about this subject before you comment on it further. Here are a couple of good resources:

    Bound to be Free
    http://www.amazon.com/Bound-be-Free-SM-Experience/dp/0826410472

    Consensual Sadomasochism
    http://www.amazon.com/Consensual-Sadomasochism-Talk-About-Safely/dp/1881943127/

    And if you continue to marginalize consensual sadomasochism in this blog, you are not going to find yourself very welcome in it.

    (And now the rest of us can move on from SM 101, and can move back to the interesting and nuanced discussion of sexual fantasies.)

  14. Treban says

    (I am posting under a different name than I usually do – I am not trying to play at sock puppetry, merely keeping part of my life relatively secret)

    About four years ago I was a sex worker for almost a year. When I first started out I advertised as rather standard fare, but soon began advertising to fulfill fetishes and fantasies – thus beginning one of the more fascinating periods of my life. Having gone into this with a profound interest in sexual psychology, I was absolutely blown away by the things that people were sexually stimulated by.

    What I think is most interesting in this, is that it didn’t take me very long to learn a whole lot of people were trying to live fantasies they didn’t really actually want to experience. They thought they wanted to and in many cases were very strongly convinced they wanted to – only to discover that the reality, or the best analog we could create wasn’t actually desirable. I eventually worked out a checklist for people who had particularly odd or repugnant* requests. The frequency of and how long ago they first had the fantasy were at the top of the list.

    What I noted was that many men (and I am sure this is true about women as well, unfortunately women rarely frequent male prostitutes) would have an intense fantasy that led to a particularly intense orgasm and decide they must really want that fantasy to happen. If that was what was going on, I would strongly suggest that they might want to reconsider what they really want. I never insisted they wouldn’t be happy with the results however, because what they thought they wanted could be adjusted to become something they actually want.

    Before my professional experience I was an ardent supporter of legalized prostitution. Now I am even more intent. I believe that it is important for people to have a safe environment in which to explore their sexual fantasies. This is something that cannot always be worked out with a partner. The fantasy might seem too strange, repugnant or simply too difficult for a partner to fulfill. In many cases I had to read very subtle cues so as to adjust the scenario to increase my client’s enjoyment. I was also very adept at developing the scenario from what someone described into what they really wanted.

    Both of these are things I happen to be very good at. There are actually rather a lot of people who are pretty damned good at them. But rather a lot more people are really not good at them. What is really cool though, is that it is easy to help people develop some skill at reading sexual cues – it merely requires attentive sexual experience with someone who is good at it. Learning to develop fantasy scenarios is a little tougher, but like any skill, it can be developed. Once these two skills have been fostered, I think it makes it easier to determine what a given individual actually wants – when you can visualize the reality of the experience, you may not feel the need to experience it.

    All in all, I think it is good to explore your sexual fantasies – whether they should be made real or not. Discovering what turns you on in your head, but not elsewhere can provide important insights into what you really want. I also think it is good to try to explore them with a partner you care about, but sometimes that is the worst thing you can do. Though generally speaking your experience with your partner should essentially be your safest place, when you feel your fantasies might threaten your relationship with that person it can become the least safe place to explore that sexual desire.

    Exploring your sexuality can be very, very complicated, but it can also be intensely rewarding.

    * A lot of people have rape fantasies – like a lot lot of people.

  15. ttch says

    Ahh, consensual abuse! In your fantasies everyone is consenting!

    Well, let’s leave the world of consensual BDSM behind (!). After all, no woman has ever been tied up, beaten and raped in real life. Personally, I knew only one.

    Exactly how much consenting is going on when an adult teacher is having sex with one or more of his or her teenage students? In the fantasies they’re all consenting, even eager. I guess all the real-life teachers being convicted of these crimes are too dumb to know the difference between fantasy and reality. Really, it’s an indictment of our educational system.

    Every rape begins with a rape fantasy. So, no, not all fantasies are okay.

  16. Greta Christina says

    Every rape begins with a rape fantasy. So, no, not all fantasies are okay.

    And the overwhelming majority of people who have rape fantasies do not rape anybody. Ever.

    People have fantasies all the time about things that would be unethical in real life. People have fantasies about punching their boss in the mouth; cheating on their spouse; paint-bombing the White House; setting fire to their school gym; etc. These fantasies are a fundamental human activity, and are probably e necessary part of our mental and emotional functioning. The problem is not with the fantasies. The problem is with impulse control, the inability to tell right from wrong, the inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, etc. — things that make people act on fantasies in harmful ways.

    Do you really think these non-kinky fantasies are bad and dangerous If so… then I suggest you take a Psychology 101 class. And if not… then why do you make an exception for kink?

    There is, again, not a scrap of good evidence to suggest that people who are into consensual sadomasochism, and who engage in fantasies about about harmful or abusive sexual behavior (or indeed who act out those fantasies in negotiated ways with consenting partners), are any more likely than anyone else to harm or abuse people. You have not provided any evidence to support this claim. Unless you are willing to do so, I see no reason why anyone should listen to you opinions on this matter.

  17. Ramel says

    Just to tie it all up in a strange loop, my latest crush — hopeless, unrequited, awkward, fuelling the standard paranoia that it will destroy a treasured friendship — is on someone who likes my writing.

    This is the kind of thing I’ve never really figured out how to resolve, the fantasies that involve people we know well but for what ever reason can’t have, especially when it comes to falling for close friends.

  18. Treban says

    Every rape begins with a rape fantasy. So, no, not all fantasies are okay.

    That’s not actually true. I would suggest that if you want to get into a conversation about rape and sexual assault, you should educate yourself first*. Not that this is such a conversation – this is a conversation about sexual fantasies.

    So let me ask you this; Have you ever fantasized about telling someone off – say, your mother or father? Have you ever thought; Christ, these people are so fucking stupid? I don’t mean in terms of actually believing they are stupid – just thinking it in the heat of the moment? Have you ever actually thought about how nice it would be to slug someone across the jaw? Please don’t try to claim not to have. While it is possibly true, the likelihood of it being true are on a par with winning the lotto.

    It is abnormal not to have these kinds of fantasies. Sexual fantasies are also normal – even sexual fantasies that violate complete strangers. It is normal to see a particularly exceptional member of the sex you are attracted to and think about having sex with them. It is normal to fantasize, for example, of walking up to them, touching them in a wildly inappropriate fashion – to imagine that touch reciprocated…Etc… On occasion those fantasies might take a rather darker turn, consent may not be explicit – or forthcoming at all.

    While the latter fantasy is obviously darker, the former fantasy is still a violation. And mostly when the latter happens, those having it feel as much, if not more shame than titillation. Why? For the same reasons we generally feel like shit about aggressive fantasies – it would be wrong in real terms. Even having rape fantasies wherein you’re the victim can feel like you are violating people who actually have been victims of sexual assault. I had a few clients who were disturbed by that consideration of their fantasy.

    A very dear friend of mine from high school was horrified when she started having extremely intense, extremely stimulating fantasies about being sexually assaulted. We had two mutual friends who had been raped and it was horrifying. My friend was not at all aroused by what had happened to our friends, or any story of non-consensual sex. She just got very hot about being completely powerless and vulnerable in a sexual situation that she didn’t initiate – didn’t have any say in initiating. I ended up setting up a scenario for her (this was years before I became a sex worker), in which she was aware that something of that nature would happen to her within a given timeframe (in this case within a four day window) but she wouldn’t know when and wouldn’t know the guy or guys involved (like any good geek, not being sure what to do, I looked it up).

    The important thing in that situation was that it was absolutely consensual. Care was taken to make it as shocking as possible, but part of the difference between this and reality is the anticipation that is built and becomes part of the experience. The key though, is consent. Without consent, her experience would have been the exact same horror experienced by our friends and any other experience of rape. Consent is also key to those who have rape fantasies wherein they’re the rapist. Unless they believe outside the context of their fantasy that lack of consent is ok, they are going to be as horrified as anyone else at an incident of actual rape. They might engage in rape role play – but the role play is all that will provide them with satisfaction. They cannot derive pleasure from a lack of consent any more than the “victim” can.

    That is not to say that many, probably most rapists have rape fantasies – they certainly do. But I suspect you would be shocked by the sheer numbers of people who fantasize about sexual violence from one perspective or another – or multiple perspectives. Those who actually pursue some satisfaction in the context of those fantasies are a fraction of the people who have them.

    * I would suggest David Contor’s Criminal Shadows as a good starting point.

  19. Treban says

    After all, no woman has ever been tied up, beaten and raped in real life.

    You know, this kind of patronizing fucking bullshit just irritates the shit out of me. Smug little shits who want to judge what they don’t fucking understand. You make stupid assumptions about what consenting adults could want, should want, shouldn’t want – when you know absolutely nothing about what you are talking about and base your judgments on what you believe instead of reality.

    I would strongly suggest that you learn what the fuck you’re talking about before you try to engage these sorts of conversations.

  20. Another Matt says

    I would strongly suggest that you learn what the fuck you’re talking about before you try to engage these sorts of conversations.

    I agree with your assessment of ttch’s position, but as someone who has put his foot in his mouth too many times to count, I would say that one way to learn what the fuck you’re talking about is to engage these sorts of conversations and learn from your mistakes. When someone tells me “get educated,” I want to say “that’s why I’m here!”

  21. Another Matt says

    I would say that one way to learn what the fuck you’re talking about is to engage these sorts of conversations and learn from your mistakes.

    Also, please don’t take this as a plea not to call out BS when you see it. Quite the contrary.

  22. says

    Greta, this is a fascinating topic. As you said, we have fantasies about all kinds of things (sexual and non-sexual), some of which we may want to do and others we may not want to do.

    Another thing to take into consideration is why a person doesn’t act on a certain fantasy: Would it be harmful? Do they personally don’t want to do it? Is it something not harmful that they really want to do, but feel too afraid/shy/intimidated by societal expectations to act on? (I think you’ve written about this before, if I’m remembering correctly.)

    As you pointed out in comment #16, we have thoughts about all sorts of thing we wouldn’t do in real life. How many people have, for instance, mentally projected themselves into stories in books, movies, tv shows, etc. in which the characters are doing things that they’d never actually do in real life (whether because it’s not possible or because it’s morally wrong)? How many people have fun imagining to be the hero as well as the villain?

    @Blake Stacey (#6):

    I’ve discovered that the fantasies of the imaginary people in my head aren’t necessarily mine.

    That’s a good point.

    Personally, it’s sometimes difficult for me to know if things I’m thinking about characters doing are just a part of the character or if I’m projecting my own thoughts/feelings onto the characters. (I’m thinking especially of fanfiction in which fans, myself included, change the characters in some ways from how they are in the original canon, but this could apply to original writing as well.) It sometimes feels like I’m writing/reading about this character being brave enough, etc. to do the things I wish I could do, but at other times, the story is a way to explore things I really don’t want to do but am wondering about.

  23. Treban says

    Another Matt –

    I get very cranky when people compare reasonable, safe and consensual sexual activities with repugnant and violent criminal activities. And if he had taken Greta’s response as an indication he should possibly be asking questions instead of making statements, I wouldn’t have gone asshole about it. But he was making such comparisons, making assertions and not asking any questions.

    Here’s the thing – none of what he is talking about is my thing. About the closest I get is very mild biting and spanking. But due to my interest in the psychology of sex and my previous professional experiences I know a whole hell of a lot of people who are – including people I care a great deal for. They are just like most everyone else who has Teh Sex, excepting that they like a specific kink that involves certain language, often times some level of pain in a role play.

    I have no tolerance for people who refuse to entertain the notion that their commonsensical assumptions might be wrong. I am all for skepticism, but skepticism isn’t skepticism without education. That is just common sense…

  24. Another Matt says

    I get very cranky when people compare reasonable, safe and consensual sexual activities with repugnant and violent criminal activities.

    Agreed. I spend much of my time feeling cranky because of unreasonable people.

    And if he had taken Greta’s response as an indication he should possibly be asking questions instead of making statements, I wouldn’t have gone asshole about it. But he was making such comparisons, making assertions and not asking any questions.

    Also agreed. I have had many changes of heart because someone had the balls to go asshole on me when I needed it. Looking back I’m not even sure what my comment to you was supposed to accomplish – I wouldn’t want you to soften your stance. I guess it’s more a hopeful observation that people sometimes change than a plea for a change in tone.

    Thanks for the reply.

  25. says

    Ani Sharmin (#22):

    I’m thinking especially of fanfiction in which fans, myself included, change the characters in some ways from how they are in the original canon, but this could apply to original writing as well.

    The only fanfiction I’ve written myself is this bit of screenplay-style crossover, in which I might have been true to something, though I’m not quite sure what.

    My impression has been that some fanfiction departs from the original due to carelessness or ignorance, like Harry Potter fans writing American slang or forgetting that Harry’s parents went to school in the 1970s, not the 2010s. Other times, the changes are more deliberate. . . though given the weird ways writing works, the former can turn out well and the latter poorly.

    And when you consider adaptations from one medium to another, the question of being “true to the original” becomes much more complicated. I could go on for ages on this — a semester of Shakespeare-on-Film will do that to you. (Man, we are so cultured today it’s like this blog is a schoolgirl and we’re like Western-canon bukkake.) To pick just one example: consider a cinematic adaptation like Sir Ian McKellen’s Richard III (1995). Rather than setting it in the 1480s (the period where the action is nominally happening) or the 1590s (when the play was written), the moviemakers created an alternate version of 1930s England, in which Richard of Gloucester rises to power as a fascist. The original play isn’t particularly faithful to history, so why not divorce it entirely and have its story stand on its own?

  26. says

    Ani Sharmin (#22):

    Personally, it’s sometimes difficult for me to know if things I’m thinking about characters doing are just a part of the character or if I’m projecting my own thoughts/feelings onto the characters.

    Once, I introduced a character midway through a story without knowing any more about her than that she was the ex-girlfriend of my heroine. It turned out horribly — her scenes read as sleazy, exploitative, played for cheap titillation, and not even in a fun way. Rewriting with actual character traits made her something other than an embarrassment. I suspect that bringing in a character — a comparatively major one, on whom a sizeable length of story depends — who is nothing except an indulgence in a particular kink would also end badly.

  27. says

    “But if I whack off to a fantasy, and afterwards I feel restless and deprived and dissatisfied… to me, that’s often a sign that the fantasy isn’t enough. To me, that’s a sign that this might be something I seriously want, and if I don’t find a way to get at least some form of it in real life, it’s likely to cause real dissatisfaction.” – Greta Christina

    If I bought an ebook at $9.99 and this simple statement were all it contained, it’d be a bargain. I might buy several copies and gift them to people.

    – emc

  28. Hazuki says

    You can end up losing the ability to care after a while. If you go through a nasty enough breakup, you just lose all the dreams, and all the zest for life goes out of you. It’s possible, if the breakup also includes things that could be matters of life and death, to be so completely shattered that you can’t feel those things any longer. Not just being turned off the idea of a relationship, but broken to the point that you can’t feel those things any longer.

  29. Jeffrey Soreff says

    I ‘ve got to ask…
    You write
    “I have never, in my entire life, fantasized about having children.”
    I’m also a childfree atheist. Do you get hassled more for atheism,
    or for not wanting children? From what I saw on alt.support.childfree,
    women seem to be hassled far more than men are for varying from that
    part of the life script. (In my case, once I answer “children?” with
    “zero, deliberately and successfully avoided” the subject does not reappear)
    Great blog! Happy New Year to you, Ingrid, and the three kittens!

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