It appears almost a given that men’s sexual fantasies will differ from those of women and now there’s a survey to prove it. Apparently us ladies like a bit of narrative, (which explain the books) whereas men prefer something more explicit, (which explains the porn). We spoke to sex therapist Amanda Robb to get the lowdown on sexual fantasies, what they say about us and when – if ever – we should share them.
1.Are there healthy and unhealthy fantasies?
Sexual fantasies or erotic dreams are a completely normal process of being a healthy sexual being. Fantasising is often seen as a channel for our subconscious thoughts and desires and if anything helps us understand and explore our sexual selves for the better.
A study conducted at the University of Granada in January this year concluded that near 100 per cent of men and women have experienced a pleasant sexual fantasy in their life, while about 80 per cent of the interviewees have experienced a negative or unpleasant sexual fantasy sometime in life.
If an individual conjures up an unhealthy fantasy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person is dysfunctional. It’s pretty common to fantasise about sexual experiences that one may feel uncomfortable performing, or consider out of their sexual limitations. Some people may feel shameful about the perverse nature of their fantasies, without realising what they think is ‘perverse’ could in fact be a really common fantasy shared by many.
Most fantasies originate form a taboo or forbidden thought or desire, however, not all fantasies need to be acted upon. The key is to know when a fantasy becomes unhealthy; If you have a reoccurring fantasy that is intruding on your daily living, is starting to feel out of control or obsessive, the content is counter-productive to the feeling i.e.: disturbing, or its impacting on the ‘real’ sex life you are having, then chances are your fantasy has shifted into an unhealthy process and gives reason enough to be concerned.
2. Should you ever discuss your sexual fantasy with your partner?
Discussing a sexual fantasy with your partner depends on your agenda behind it: If you have a fantasy that you are wishing to play out, then having a conversation with your partner to test out the possibility of this is worthwhile. It’s important to keep in mind, just because it’s your fantasy, does not necessarily mean it’s your partner’s, or that they will feel comfortable going along with it. What’s more, if it’s a fantasy that you think your partner will enjoy with you, sharing with them what you have in mind is all part of the foreplay and if anything can heighten the excitement behind it.
Pick your timing; surprising your partner with something from your sexual bucket list amidst the throes of passion may in fact dampen the mood, particularly if your fantasy involves acting out something that is out of your partners comfort zone. The last thing you want is your partner feeling pressured to perform a sexual act they are not ready or willing to. Share your sexual desires and wants with your partner ata time when they can consider this and chose if it’s something they wish to pursue with you. When agreeing to act out a fantasy that’s way out of yours and your partner’s sexual norms it’s wise to stay attentive to your partner’s reactions. For example, if your fantasy involves some form of BDSM it’s imperative you establish a code word or maintain attentive communication with you partner to assure acting out your fantasy remains in your partners comfort zones.
If it’s a fantasy that does not involve your partner and one that you use solely for self-pleasuring purposes, then I don’t think it’s compulsory to share with your partner. However in saying this, I think it’s always beneficial on an intimate level to be as sexually authentic with your partner as you can, even if it means sharing fantasy stories. If it feels comfortable and appropriate the act of sharing fantasies could in fact be a wonderful bonding experience.
3.Can this go wrong and how can you fix it if it does?
Yes, I think so. Sharing a sexual fantasy can be perceived as sharing a sexual preference, which is not always the case. Fanstasising about having sex with another person doesn't necessarily mean that you or your partner are desiring to be with other people, it could just be what excites you/them in that moment.
For many its only human nature to compare their partners sexual fantasy with their existing sex life and be mistaken their partner is sexually unsatisfied. This can be easily avoided in how the fantasy is disclosed to their loved one. It’s called common sense: If you are sharing a sexual desire which involves having sex with a person who is the polar opposite to your partner i.e different hair colour, body size, gender or race, there’s every chance your partner may feel intimidated by it. Perhaps inviting your partner to share a fantasy of his or her own, or better still, suggest indulging in a mutual fantasy together can aid any mishaps altogether.
4.How are men and women's fantasies generally different? And is that a sexist question?
Research suggests that men’s fantasies tend to be more sexually explicit than women’s and have more of a visual focus (particularly genital and body shape). Generally they include multiple and varied partners, the idea of ‘promiscuous sex’ or ‘group sex’ depict more sexually graphic acts and place higher focus on climactic release. Research also shows that men fantasise about sexual experience at a higher frequency than women.
Women’s fantasies lean more towards a romantic connection (erotica, a sexual narrative/script) and place focus on emotional connections, acts of foreplay such as kissing and contain more of an intimate content, a buildup of a sexual act or sexual prelude. I believe any individual, regardless of their gender, can be aroused through sexual stimuli preferable to visual, auditory, tactile, sensual or narrative, dependent on what that individual is responsive to at the particular time of arousal.
5. Is constantly fantasising about a platonic married friend dangerous territory?
The difference between fantasising about a celebrity and a married friend is that for the majority; the celebrity is out of reach. I don’t believe affairs ‘just happen’ and I’d like to raise concern on how these fantasies can progress into something more. Having a sexual thought or fantasy about a married friend on a singular event can be considered fairly normal, however if these kinds of sexual thoughts about a married friend occur regularly, It can lead into a problematic situation. I would ask the individual playing out this fantasy to consider how it is impacting on the real-life relationship they have with the married friend and also with their current partner, and would discourage them to use this fantasy any longer.
8. What role does pornography play in this? Can it be classified as pure fantasy or is it somewhere in between the realm of fantasy and reality?
I would imagine, given the sexualisation of our social media, the idea of ‘pure fantasy’ has been polluted for some time now by direct or indirect pornographic imagery. These days, most sexual fantasies can not only be imagined but also researched, and easily resourced on the Internet.