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October 23, 2004

Sex Fantasies

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Forgive me for treating myself to an E-Z posting. I was taking part in one of those irresistable commentsfests over at GNXP, and I wound up feeling pleased with what I was typing. So I've copied and pasted my comment here, cleaning up a bit of bad grammar. But I'm truly curious to learn what others' impressions and thoughts on the topic are. Here it is.

Since the ever-interesting subject of sex fantasies has been raised ...

How much -- and/or what kind - of a relationship would you guess there is between a person's sex fantasies and who and what that person really is and wants? I mean, in real life.

My impression is that the answer is "not much, at least not in many cases." We get overfascinated by our sex fantasies, or maybe it'd be better (since it's in the nature of "our sex fantasies" to fascinate us) to say that we too often look to them for significance or meaning. As though what turns us on (at a given moment) really, really means something about us.

I'm not sure it does. In a basic and obvious way, yeah, sure. Women will tend to have more getting-raped fantasies than men will, and maybe something like a hint of masochism comes as part of being physically female -- "Story of O," Catherine Breillat's movies, and Toni Bentley's new book all more or less say as much. After all, women aren't running around with a mighty sword in hand that makes them want to slay dragons and make off with distressed maidens. However awe-inspiringly dynamic women may be, they're also hormonally and emotionally tricky creatures with fascinating secrets tucked away inside. And a big part of their lives is deciding who they're going to admit into their magical palace. It makes simple sense that the fantasy -- the fantasy! -- of having someone make that decision for them would have its appeal.

But, aside from the biologically obvious, do our sex fantasies mean much about what we as individuals want or are looking for in real life? And is it wise to consult with our sex fantasies for real-life guidance? I read a recent Dan Savage column where Dan was urging someone to take his fantasies seriously, as indicators of what this reader really wants, sexually speaking. And back in the '70s, books like "My Secret Garden" were telling women not just that it was OK to indulge in sex fantasies, but that it was a Good, even a Politically Good, Thing. Something wonderful, god only knows what, was supposed to result from total immersion in sex-fantasy-ville.

Me, I wonder. I think we often drive ourselves a little nuts when we tell ourselves that our sex fantasies are like tea-leaf indicators to our souls and our desires. We're often just letting self-absorption sweep us away. In my experience, a woman's quite capable of, for example, enjoying violent fantasies but really wanting (back in the real world) a cozy domestic life with a man she trusts and admires. And, really, why shouldn't she enjoy both the life and the fantasies? And who says that fantasies need to be acted out in order to be enjoyed in the first place? If the woman's hubster isn't too, too boring, that's nice too. And a guy is quite capable of enjoying fantasies about orgies with supermodels while really wanting a real life with a woman he admires, likes spending time with, and can talk with. If she takes a little care of herself and doesn't get too fat, well, that's not so bad.

FWIW, I think a lot of people torment themselves too much with their sex fantasies. (Although I guess the self-torment can have its sexy appeal too. And maybe fantasies are by their nature a little deranging. Still, there are better and worse -- or at least more and less agreeable -- ways of managing our relationships with our fantasy lives.) "I'm not getting what I just know would finally, really, really do it for me, and that's driving me nuts" -- I've run across an amazing number of people who seem to feel this way. They aren't having, or being, or screwing their fantasy -- and how ... intolerable is that?

After decades of Very Deep Thought about such matters, I've come to suspect that maybe this anguished person is just someone who's confusing "what I enjoy in fantasy, for god knows what reason" with "what I really want from my actual life."

So: do fantasies offer guidance to what we really want in life? Maybe they do sometimes, but maybe they don't the rest of the time. I suspect, in any case, that's it's generally a mistake to see our fantasy lives as keys to our characters, except in the most general (and non-guidance-giving) kind of way. Maybe it's best to look at them as something like movies. Some are fun; some are boring; some please on first viewing but don't hold up the next time around; and some become long-term favorites. (In my case: topless beaches, girls in those string bikinis that tie on the side, artists' models ... As well as a few scenarios I'll keep to myself.) Maybe it isn't terrible -- or dangerous, or idiotic -- to steal a few ideas about how to flirt, or how to dress, or where to go on vacation, from our fantasies. But maybe the sex fantasies we enjoy are generally nothing more (in most cases, anyway) than the sex fantasies we enjoy.



posted by Michael at October 23, 2004


I think I mostly agree with you, Michael. On the other hand, I've certainly seen the fantasy end of the spectrum take on (forgive me) "Dungeons & Dragons"-like proportions for some people. Hmm. Now that I think of it, it's the D&D crowd in high school that grew up to become the sexual D&D crowd (usually of one) in real life...

Posted by: Whisky Prajer on October 23, 2004 1:09 PM

How dare you suggest something other than immediate gratification?

Posted by: . on October 23, 2004 5:21 PM

Michael, I vote yes, sexual fanatasies DO have to do with who we are. A virgin girl's hottest
fantasy may be that of two men getting it on,
precisely because she herself is not involved
except as a voyeur.

Posted by: Winifer Skattebol on October 23, 2004 9:00 PM

"I think a lot of people torment themselves too much with their sex fantasies."

Although this topic is presented in a light hearted way, it does have its serious side.

Sex fantasists - by definition those who allow their fantasies to get out of hand - (impossible to talk about this subject without falling into double entendres) suffer greatly from them. The fault lies in the proportion of life given over to sex. I realize this is a boring thing to say - very unhip - nevertheless, moderation in all things IS the rule. When the rule is broken the organism, the individual, suffers.

The solution lies in will power. Again, an unhip thing to say. But an individual CAN make the decision not to allow himself to be ruled by, to be enslaved to, naturally occuring impulses which CAN be kept in check, not denied, just kept in check. This - when you think about it - is the definition of adulthood. I don't think it's a coincidence that the incidence of out of control (and unnecessarily suffering) sex fantasists increases in societies in which a higher and higher percentage of the population refuses to grow up.

Posted by: ricpic on October 24, 2004 9:31 AM

Agreed - moving a fantasy scenario from your mind to the real world completely saps the fantasy's power. It's the difference between thinking, "Man I'd really like to kick my boss' *ss" and actually doing it!

Posted by: J on October 24, 2004 9:49 AM

Couldn't agree with Michael more. (unintended there & not an endorsement of anyone other than This Michael). In fact his
argument I would extend to porn as well. What anyone enjoys
watching or fantasizing about has nothing to do with much of
anything except as already noted, the pleasures of movies and gratification.

Posted by: santiago on October 24, 2004 2:49 PM

So in other words, sometimes a donut is just a donut?

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on October 24, 2004 5:32 PM

A long time ago on an Upper West Side far away, I saw a movie called Acting Out (1978, Carl Gurevich and Ralph Rosenblum). This was peddled as "art," by which they meant breasts, and in 1978 I would have been around 17, so clearly we were meant for each other. I see that Troma picked up the video distribution, which is pretty funny.

Anyhoo, Acting Out is a curious item. It's a precursor of sorts to today's reality plague. I remember the film only vaguely, but it involved a kind of post-Kinsey fetish of getting people to write out their sexual fantasies and have a set of on-camera interviews about them, after which they would meet up with a troupe of liberated actor-types (aka porn extras) to act out the fantasies - thus the title.

I recall it wasn't nearly as erotic as planned, nor as incisive as hoped, nor as jaded as might be feared. In think most of the subjects were profoundly uncomfortable with the incorporation of their fantasies; in memory there are glimpses of jes'-plain-folks in odd doctor outfits or rubber gear, their faces uneasy and uncomfortable.

I'm probably doing 25 years' worth of disservice to the picture, but I think there was only one person who really had a ball (haw haw) with her fantasy, and that was a woman who wanted to do the football team. Played on her terms, it seemed to work. For everyone else, fantasy incarnate was embarrassing.

Me, I'll keep mine fictional and close to the chest. Because the truth of it is, if Angelina Jolie actually did show up in my bed, she'd probably scare me off before we got to the fun part, and then I'd have to kick myself about it for the whole rest of my life.

Most of my fantasies are tailored to people I know or knew, and they involve intimate rewrites of history, or places we didn't go, or interpolations of shared moments. So much narrative goes into the eroticizing of moments like that; they could never actually play out in real life. Which is, of course, the point.

Posted by: Linus on October 25, 2004 3:49 PM

I'm not like Linus at all - it seems... forward to have particularly graphic thoughts about people one knows. And then there's the jinx factor if the person has potential.

Seriously, less than one hour ago I had a very vivid fantasy about crushing a man's skull with a jar of canned kidney beans. Fantasy victim was treating his wife like dirt in the grocery store. I doubt this Walter Mitty moment means anything, in the long run.

If I've had a rape fantasy, I don't recall. They must be common enough, though - Marge Simpson has what amounts to one.

What you think about your dreams and fantasies might be significant - the dreams themselves, though... how could all that mean anything?

Doesn't everyone have fantasies about everyone else being dead? (Okay, everyone but that blond guy riding his bike across the grocery store parking lot when I left.) Millions of sci-fi dollars have been made on that one. I certainly hope it doesn't reflect a true desire.

Posted by: j.c. on October 25, 2004 11:54 PM

" memory there are glimpses of jes'-plain-folks in odd doctor outfits or rubber gear, their faces uneasy and uncomfortable."

Omigod...I'm still laughing. Doesn't sound like it wound up being terribly sexy for them.

Which is the wierdest part to me. I would think a fantasy coming true would in fact be very sexy. I mean...if dressing up like a doctor doesn't turn out to be very sexy, how badly or incompletely would someone have to know themselves to have been turned on by the thought of it? How could they not know what would be truly sexy to them?

Although I do agree---sex fantasies and revenge fantasies do seem different to me. I might love the fantasy of seeing an ax sunk into someone's head---but I would never do it, and would be horrified to see it actually done. So...maybe it's like that for sex fantasies for some people.

Posted by: annette on October 26, 2004 7:03 AM

I wonder if I'm being terribly out of date. People used to have obsessions and neuroses, and there was this thing called "depth psychology," and it was common for people to look to dreams and fantasies to give them access to what was going on deep inside them, which in turn was supposed to be terribly exciting and full of wisdom, etc. So people would often sit around fiddlig with their fantasies, and assume they were really "getting somewhere." I wonder if much of that still goes on. These days, all seems to be superabundance and whimsicality. You don't even need to have fantasies anymore; the web will do it for you. I remember once hearing a kid talk about doing a "brain dump," by which he meant he was offloading the contents of his brain into his Palm Pilot. It seems to me like we've all offloaded our brains (and fantasies) onto the web. Which seems to enable us to not feel so weighed down. On the other hand, we do seem awfully distracted, and distractable.

I don't know what goes on in young people's minds any longer. Do they even have fantasies? Or do they just flip thru the media and surf the web?

But people really used to get worked up about their fantasies, and not just in a "this is my fantasy and of course I take satisfaction in it, otherwise it wouldn't be my fantasy" way. They'd fantasize about killing someone and "omigod, what does this mean? About me?" Or they'd fantasize about kinky sex and "omigod, what does this mean? About me?" Well, maybe it means nothing at all about what you really want to do with your real life. Maybe it's just a fantasy, and is there to be enjoyed as a fantasy. A gift, a little personal movie to enjoy, and not a burden or a message or a puzzle or a mystery.

I wonder about living out fantasies. Not that I've gone out of my way to experiment, but it does seem like it often leads to disappointment. I was a little apprehensive about dragging The Wife to the Caribbean for a week on a French island. Frenchiness, beaches, toplessness, suaveness -- a big part of my fantasy life. Would it all come crashing down? Actually, to my relief, it was terrific. But I did go into it with deliberate low expectitions, cautiously, determined that we'd enjoy ourselves no matter what. So I was really delighted and tickled whenever anything worked out as hoped for, or even approximately as hoped-for.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 26, 2004 11:13 AM

I would think self-consciousness about how other people will react to your fantasy scenario (a non-issue in fantasy land) could have a big negative impact on the fun-quotient of acting out.

On the other hand, I have occasionally been lucky enuff to be on the same fantasy wavelength with my partners, which has turned out to be pretty entertaining.

As I've always said, good sex is more about rubbing brains than rubbing body parts.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 26, 2004 11:18 AM

Fantasies, in my opinion, are a necessary part of what might otherwise be a depressing routine. They carry us away, just as literature and film, to parts that are inaccesible perhaps.

Do I want my fantasies to become realities? Some of them. On the other hand, some of them are better left to go on and on without the taint of reality.

Posted by: susan on October 26, 2004 12:51 PM

"....and it was common for people to look to dreams and fantasies to give them access to what was going on deep inside them, which in turn was supposed to be terribly exciting and full of wisdom, etc. So people would often sit around fiddlig with their fantasies, and assume they were really "getting somewhere." " ('fiddling with their fantasies' cannot have been an accidental phrase, Michael. Omigod, what does that say? About you?)

"I would think self-consciousness about how other people will react to your fantasy scenario (a non-issue in fantasy land) could have a big negative impact on the fun-quotient of acting out." (Well, ot if you are with a very kinky girl, the kind you don't take home to mother. Wait, wrong posting).

You guys are hilarious. Both of those lines could have been on The Daily Show. Why do I find talk about sex fantasies hilarious? What does that say? About me?


Posted by: annette on October 26, 2004 7:21 PM

We should probably do some depth psychology and find out!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 27, 2004 10:31 AM

For me, there are two types of fantasies: the ones I would love to come true and the ones that are a little more transgressive and better left in the mind. I've had a couple of my big ones play out in real life, and they were both fantastic experiences, probably better than I imagined. The fallout from one was not good.

I really think "the media" of the past decade has pushed a view that people's fantasies should be coming true and if they're not, then you aren't living. Specifically the threesome fantasy.

Posted by: sac on October 27, 2004 4:21 PM

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