If talk of sexuality offends you please skip this post.
A girl vows to honour her faith and remain celebate until marriage, then feels remorseful after giving in to the urge to masturbate. A woman in her mid-forties finds herself attracted to a boy more than twenty five years younger, but quickly shuts down when she realizes their difference in age. A girl fantasizes about her boyfriend's best friend while she's having sex and tries to put it out of her mind. A woman confesses a sexual fantasy about an animal and wonders if there's something wrong with her.
Something that's become very obvious to me in these conversations is there's a tremendous amount of guilt out there. I want to talk a bit about it because I believe it's not only unfounded but potentially self-destructive.
Sexual fantasy has a huge advantage over sexual reality because we're in complete control over everything that happens. It's our mind's playground; we're free to imagine doing anything we want with no consequences. None. No one's affected and nobody gets hurt because we haven't actually done anything.
So why is there so much guilt?
It was once believed if your sex life was adequate you wouldn't need to fantasize (in 1908 Freud wrote, "a happy person never fantasizes, only a dissatisfied one.") Today the opposite is accepted. University of Vermont psychologist Harold Leitenberg, Ph.D., and South Carolina's Kris Henning, Ph.D. reported in Psychological Bulletin that people who frequently fantasize have sex more often, engage in a wider variety of erotic activities, have more partners and masturbate more frequently than people who don't fantasize often. Other studies have reached similar conclusions.
Sexual fantasies are normal. If you're uneasy about what's running through your mind, it's important to realize that no matter what it might be there are other people who think and feel the same. We should explore these thoughts and try to understand them rather than be fearful.
A few of my female friends have told me they have erotic rape fantasies**, and a couple of them have acted them out with their partners. This is not a wish for it to actually happen. Most often these thoughts involve an attractive man whose restraint is overwhelmed by the woman's attractiveness; it feeds a want to be desired. Not surprisingly, guilt (and uneasiness) often follow.
Near the top of my blog is one of my favourite quotations, "If you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind goes when it wanders." It can also be said, ""If you want to know where your desire is, look where your mind goes when it wanders." Perhaps sometimes you close your eyes and find your mind drifting to someone else while making love with your partner. Whether an old flame, a friend or the construction worker you saw earlier come to mind it's nothing to be distressed about, it happens often and is quite normal. The danger lies when the urge to make some of these desires come true becomes overpowering, or if you prefer to live in the world of these fantasies rather than with the reality of sex with your partner. If you're able to keep this in check, in most cases there's little to worry about.
Fantasies can be good for our sex lives and relationships. They can work as an antidepressant, a way to briefly escape reality, release aggression and satisfy curiosity. Most people don't need a reason, the arousal factor is reason enough. So indulge and let your mind run wild.
**In an erotic rape fantasy the woman is typically approached aggressively by a dominant and attractive male who is overcome with desire for her. She feels or expresses non-consent and puts up minimal resistance, he overpowers her and takes her sexually. Her resistance is a token "no" and she enjoys the experience. It's often a common theme in romance novels. This should never be confused with less common aversive rape fantasies where a woman is forced against her will, often violently and does not enjoy the experience. The percentage of women who have experienced rape fantasies is far higher than most people believe, most study results I've seen put it somewhere between 55%-62%.