Sexual fantasies can be helpful in the midst of sex. For example, if you notice your arousal or erection flagging during erotic activity, conjuring up a favorite fantasy may make a difference. And imagining a sexual activity that you haven’t tried but think you might want to can give you a better sense of how you might go about that, and whether you really do want to do it.
Despite the fact that fantasizing about sex comes so naturally and easily to human beings, and despite the helpful purposes it can serve, sexual fantasies are not always as simple as we might wish. Part of the problem, for example, is that a common fear is that if you fantasize about having sex with a neighbor, say, you’ll actually do it.
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There is at least a grain of truth in this, for fantasy can serve as rehearsal for behavior. Imagining the same thing repeatedly may motivate you to try it out. But in most cases this isn’t much of a problem. Real-life obstacles and your own values help keep the fantasy where it belongs – in your head. To make the point again, there is no law against imagining forcing someone to have sex with you, and there are both men and women who enjoy this kind of fantasy. Doing it in reality, however, is another matter entirely.
There is also nothing wrong with fantasizing about protection-free, worry-free sex with strangers. In the real world, however, where sexual diseases are commonplace and where conception and bad feelings occur far more often than anyone would wish for, you ought to take the necessary precautions.
Sexual fantasies can also be helpful in determining what you might want in the real world. Perhaps there are some elements of your imagery that you would like acted out. Please don’t assume that this means you should act out everything in your fantasies. Use your common sense and consider whether this is something you’d really like to try and if you’re willing and able to go through with it. Having sex with your wife’s sister may make for a wonderful fantasy. The reality, however, could be quite costly.
Most men and adolescents have (and enjoy) erotic mental fantasy. It’s usual for boys and men to have fantasies when they masturbate. And from the studies that have been done, it’s typical for men and women to fantasize about sex at all sorts of times. But there are still many questions and doubts.
Some men readily accept that no matter how much they love and are turned on by their partner, they will continue to be turned on by and have fantasies about other women. But other men have trouble with this. It can help if they understand that being aroused by other women is typical for nearly all men. And sometimes, it goes even further than this: after the newness of a sexual relationship wears off, most of our sexual turn-ons may no longer come from our partner.
Yes, you may still get greatly aroused by her, particularly if she says or does a certain thing, but the chances are good that much of the passion you feel and that leads you to want sex with her is evoked by other women or situations.
Since it’s a fact of life that a great many of us get turned on by other people (and this is natural), there doesn’t seem to be any point getting upset about it. You can use the arousal generated by other women to have better sex lives with our long term partners.
What do we fantasize about?
As you might expect, men more frequently imagine sex with strangers, sex with more than one person, and forcing a woman to have sex with them. Women more frequently imagine romantic settings and being forced to have sex.
There is an enormous range regarding the frequency of sexual fantasizing, just as there is an enormous range regarding the frequency of any sexual behavior. Some men have sexual fantasies many times each day, while others can go for weeks without one.
It seems that people for whom sex is a priority have lots of sexual thoughts and fantasies. As long as the fantasizing isn’t interfering with your relationship, your work, and the normal chores of life, it isn’t a problem.
Some couples find it very arousing to share fantasies. That is, the partners tell each other what they fantasize about, either when they’re actually having sex or at other times. These couples not only report increased excitement but also a feeling of greater closeness. As one man put it: “You might think it would make me jealous, hearing her fantasies about sex with other men. But it doesn’t. It makes for an incredible turn-on. It also makes for incredible love-making. I feel closer to her knowing that she trusts me enough to tell me these secrets, things she’s never told anyone else. Now I can also share some of my fantasies with her and that makes for even more closeness. I’ve never trusted any other woman that much.”
Even so, don’t rush off to tell your partner your latest fantasy. While the sharing of fantasies can be wonderful for some couples, it is not without risk. Some women are not comfortable with such matters. They may feel hurt, insulted, rejected, or jealous if you report imagining enjoying sex with someone else. There are also your own feelings to consider. Would you really be comfortable hearing that your partner imagines sex with men more handsome, more muscular, with greater charm or more money or power than you?
Realistically assess both your possible reactions and those of your partner before you conclude that sharing fantasies is a great idea. If you decide to go ahead, do it gradually.
All in all, sexual fantasies are a natural, healthy, and pleasurable part of life. They’re free, readily available, and rarely have side effects that are troublesome. And since you will have them, com what may, it makes sense to make yours as useful and enjoyable as possible.
That said, if what you want to do makes your life difficult or sets you and your partner at odds, then there’s a problem, regardless of how typical your fantasy and subsequent actions may be. To take an analogy, the incidence of premature ejaculation among young men, for example, is so high that it could easily be considered normal or typical; we’re talking about millions of men here. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem for these men or their partners.
Internet porn can be a problem. While some men find images of male power and sexual dominance arousing, they may become addicted to the cycle of arousal and the “reward” that ejaculation produces when masturbating to these images. Unfortunately they can also experience considerable self-disgust – but the compulsive nature of the male sexual urge makes such temptations hard to resist. It also enhances the facility which men have to objectify women.
There are several ways in which sex can be a problem. For example, if it’s driven or compulsive: Some men’s (and some women’s) sexual behavior is compulsive. That is, the man feels out of control; he has to fantasize about sex virtually all the time, has to masturbate or have sex with his partner twice each day, or has to have sex every time he can and doesn’t care who it’s with. This implies some level of addiction to sex. There’s no doubt that compulsive sexual behavior exists and is a source of great suffering for those so afflicted. The major problem for many of those men who feel their sexual behavior is compulsive or addictive is precisely that it gets in the way of getting on with the other important aspects of life.
Talking With Your Partner
The key to resolving difficulties is open discussion, honest self-disclosure, and intimate exchange of thoughts, feelings and fantasies by one partner to another. For example, if you’re having problems being open about how you want to make love, find some pleasant way of sharing this with your partner – a tasteful website, for example.
Another kind of difficulty that occurs in couples is when, for example, you always require a special something in order to get turned on. One woman whose live-in lover could rarely get sexually aroused unless she wore stiletto heels said: “It feels like he’s in love with the shoes, not with me. Given how he carries on about them, I think he should find a nice pair of shoes to marry.”
In one couple the man introduced bondage and dominance games early in their relationship. The woman didn’t mind, in fact thought them an interesting twist, but as time went on she got turned off completely when she realized the man couldn’t get aroused without these activities. She then felt that he was “sick and abnormal.”
Men who always use the same fantasy to get aroused (for example, the partner has to be twenty-five and has to have a certain build) may condition them to be aroused only by that type of partner. They may be unable to get aroused with anyone else. This, of course, can create serious problems in the real world.
Similarly, fantasies involving coercion are common among both men and women, but they can become troublesome if they are your only fantasy. You may be conditioning yourself to get aroused only when coercion is involved, and that will create havoc in a relationship. As long as you enjoy a variety of fantasies, there’s no problem.
There are often disagreements in relationships over preferences or conditions that almost no one would consider strange or abnormal. For example, you may feel most sexy in the mornings and prefer that time for lovemaking, but your partner may feel as strongly about evenings. Because of the conflicting preferences, you and your partner are going to have to work out an agreement.
It’s important to understand this point. Just because you and your partner don’t have the same preferences or don’t agree on when and how sex is to occur does not necessarily mean that anything is wrong with either of you. It usually means only that the two of you need to negotiate a reasonable solution to resolve your sexual preferences and differences.
Fantasizing can sometimes be bothersome in a relationship. For example, let’s say that during lovemaking you “trip out” on a fantasy, and although this increases your arousal and you’re having a great time, your partner feels alone and neglected.
She doesn’t know you’re fantasizing; she knows only that although you’re having sex with her, you don’t seem present. She may not voice her complaint. Instead, she may say that she has trouble getting aroused or maintaining the excitement, or has problems having orgasm. It may only be with further exploration that she can identify the feelings she is feeling.
And although it seems far more common for women to feel lonely and left out in sex, it happens for some men, too. The reason appears to be the same. A partner gets more involved with his or her fantasy than he or she is with you. Then, regardless of who feels left out, something needs to be done. It helps considerably if the one doing the fantasizing can admit it. There’s no need for apologies or feeling bad, just a need to see what’s going on and what could help.
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Another kind of problem that can arise in a relationship is when the woman gets upset about a man’s fantasies or erotic materials. Does his use of them indicate he no longer finds her attractive or desirable? In such situations, a good discussion about her concerns and his feelings is required.
Returning to where we started, with what’s normal and what’s not, my advice is to forget about the question as much as you can. Focus instead on how you feel about your sex life.