‘A central agent of the erotic act, of eroticism, is the imagination, if that goes away, that’s when the breakdown of desire often occurs.’ -Esther Perel
I often tell people that the sexiest part of their body is their brain. Usually I am trying to get them to understand the connection between their olfactory system and the limbic part of the brain where memory, emotion and sexuality are activated. But the more I talk about it, the more I have come to realize that this is also a key entry point to our sexual imagination and our capacity for fantasy. We all have our own personal brand of eroticism, how sexuality is transformed by our imagination, but we don’t all have equal access to it.
By definition, long term relationships provide the safety and stability that many of us crave, but taken too far, the attachment to safety can also diminish the erotic vitality of the relationship. When we close our relationship to the element of surprise, we suffocate what is mysterious, raw and evocative. Suffering through bad or mediocre sex often has to do with choosing safety over exploring the mystery and separateness that makes living with a partner so vital. This is where having the capacity and courage to access our imaginations in our sexuality can reinvigorate our relationships and our intimate lives.
Applying your imagination to sexuality is more than just the cliche ideas that come to mind for many people when they hear the word ‘fantasy’ and think of costumes, props and scripts for sale in adult stores. Allowing your imagination free rein during your lovemaking allows you to ‘experience things that you can’t possibly act out,’ wrote Alex Comfort, MD, in the classic bestseller The Joy of Sex. “Fantasies can be heterosexual, homosexual, incestuous, tender, wild, or bloodthirsty; don’t block, and don’t be afraid of your partner’s fantasy; this is a dream you are in.” Trust and intimacy bloom when partners risk sharing their most private thoughts with each other. That said, there are many thoughts that dance through my mind in sexual intimacy that I wouldn’t repeat even to myself. I know I am not alone in this. But if you start with allowing your fantasies to spark passion in your lovemaking, as your intimacy warms up, so will your ability to explore sharing these fantasies with your partner.
In fact, what might surprise you even more is that the top five fantasies, that you never thought you could tell anyone about, actually occur to most of us. A poll of 10,000 people found that both men and women share the same five fantasies. They include: self-pleasuring while partner watches, experimenting with a variety of domination and submission roles, having sex in public (think elevator, back row of an airplane), making a homemade porn flick and inviting a third person to bed.
Taking the leap to living out a fantasy with your partner can be as small as buying a pair of soft fuzzy handcuffs for the privacy of your own bedroom or it could mean experimenting with the dining room table in a new way. Sometimes seemingly small changes in routine are all it takes for us to wake up and actually see the person we are loving. Taking your fantasies to a new level takes the courage of first acknowledging them, being able to communicate them and then making clear agreements with even clearer boundaries. The new explorations may push you outside your shared comfort zone and allow you to believe in an intimate life that you can only imagine.