“The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.” –Albert Einstein
The sexiest part of the human body lies in the brain, specifically our limbic brain where the libido resides alongside our processing of emotions, memory, and scent. And one of the quickest and most assured routes to sexual arousal is through fantasy. We use our imaginative capacity all the time during our waking lives as we envision all the possible futures that our daily life could result in or even in the most negative of circumstances when we allow ourselves to ruminate and overthink bad outcomes for our relationships and aspirations. Yet, when it comes to the mysterious sexual fantasy life that lives somewhere in all of us, we often keep the door locked.
Allowing yourself the freedom to explore your sexual fantasies by yourself or with your partner is one of the most common sexual acts we share as human beings. In fact, in the groundbreaking Sex in America: A Definitive Survey, the majority of both men and women reported having fantasies while having sex. Some studies report this percentage to be as high as 60 to 90% for both men and women. The Kinsey Institute concurred with this data and showed even higher percentages during masturbation. In fact, using sexual fantasy as the fuel for early eroticism is for most of us our first sexual act. Boys start having sexual fantasies as early as 11 to 13 years old; for girls, fantasy usually begins later in their teens and early twenties.
Telling stories is integral to being human, and sexual fantasies can be amazingly inspiring during sex. In fact, mounting research suggests that the ability and freedom to entertain fantasies actually increases the health of both sexual arousal and desire. Yet, many people feel uncomfortable with the stories that spontaneously occur to them in the course of their sexual adventures. This is one of the first and often persistent internal spaces where our doubts about our sexual “normalcy” is instigated.
Most sex therapists recommend adopting a “no mind-crime policy” for your fantasy life. I remember the remarkable passion that emerged in my own sex life when I stopped trying to suppress the stories that emerged during intimacy.
Given that our sexuality is one of the most mysterious ways that we relate to our partners, it isn’t all that surprising that our range of sexual fantasies is as rich and diverse as we are. Erotica and pornography explore many common fantasy themes of submission, dominance, and even forms of pain infliction, which can be both arousing and disturbing at the same time. Just because you have fantasies about being sexually overpowered or raped does not mean that you actually want to have the experience. Even the very common fantasy of having multiple sex partners doesn’t necessarily translate into an interest in playing it out in real life.
Although I often feel like my husband is interacting with me in my fantasies, I rarely if ever verbalize my thoughts. For other couples I know, they have elaborate games where they both share and agree to act out their fantasies together. When it comes to a shared fantasy life it is critical to be both conscious and communicative about your comfort level and your boundaries. Being able to speak openly about the role of fantasy in lovemaking and agree on what should and shouldn’t be shared provides a respectful space for fantasy to exist between you.
Many sex therapists encourage patients to use fantasy to help overcome sexual problems. Within a therapeutic context, people have been able to use fantasy to confront the fearful stages of intimacy and lovemaking and reduce or eliminate their fears. Sexual fantasies can provide an opportunity to deepen the intimacy with your partner, to learn more about yourself, or to be clued into underlying emotional issues.
One could argue that there may have never been a better time in our culture to explore the power of fantasy. Internet access has made a remarkably wide array of resources, ideas and practices to explore sexual fantasy readily available at little or no cost. Internet fantasy chat rooms, elaborate sexual avatar games, and free exchanges of pornography have all contributed to our awareness and capacity for fantasy.
So, why not let your imagination roam? Creating more space about who you could be sexually – even if only in your fantasies – will add fuel to your love making.