After dismounting your partner’s white stallion, Thundersnow, the two of you enjoy a candlelit meal of champagne and strawberries in the manicured organic garden next to the orphanage and motorcycle-repair shop he runs.
Your crystal flute empty, he immediately gives you a massage, until he’s overcome by your beauty. His bulging triceps—though he’s a wealthy philanthropist, he keeps in shape by working as a mailman, pool boy, and plumber—ripple as he tenderly, lovingly, emotionally rips off the size-two bodice you bought on sale.
And then, just when things are getting really good… your Tequila-addled boyfriend accidentally falls off the futon.
That kind of scenario may not play a regular part in your sex life—but chances are some sort of fantasizing does.
Even if you and your partner don’t typically dress up like household laborers or teenage wizards, you no doubt both use your sexual imaginations on a regular basis.
From picturing the hottie in Accounts Payable naked, to role-playing, to thinking about other people or circumstances while masturbating or having sex, people often use fantasies to augment their lovemaking.
In fact, there are women who can achieve orgasm merely by conjuring that philanthropist/mailman/pool boy/plumber in their heads. (Seriously. And they’re being studied.) Even if you’re not blessed with that ability, research has shown that women’s orgasms are in some ways more tied to mental gymnastics than to anything that’s happening in the physical world.
“In women, the vast majority of sex is going on in their minds,” explains Dr. Anita H. Clayton, a professor in the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at the University of Virginia and author of an upcoming book about the relationship between sex and the psyche. “So we can be easily distracted or shift into another set of feelings very quickly.”
Fantasizing is clearly an important component to any sex life.
So it’s equally important that you get over any concerns you may have that a tendency to fantasize means there’s something missing in reality.
“People always wonder if it’s OK to fantasize about someone other than their partner,” says Cory Silverberg, a sex educator and “sexuality guide” for About.com. “Well, of course it is—fantasy isn’t the same as real life. Besides, if you squelch your fantasies, you’ll just create problems. So fantasize about having sex with a thousand different people if you want. Just don’t actually have sex with them.
Perhaps that warning is relevant if you’re a willowy blonde hotel heiress. For everyone else, the biggest fantasy dilemma is figuring out what to do with the fantasies themselves.
Should you keep them to yourself? Share them with your partner so the two of you can act them out? There’s no right answer—but keep in mind that most sexual fantasies remain just that for very good reasons.
“In many cases, the fantasy is better than the reality,” explains sexologist Logan Levkoff.
“For instance, having a threesome is a common fantasy for men. But in real life, mostrelationships couldn’t handle it—plus the reality of having to consider safe sex isn’t part of the fantasy. Fantasies should heighten sexuality, but you have to think long and hard about which ones you should share—the last thing you want to do is make your partner uncomfortable.”
Hilary* had been dating her boyfriend, Sean, for three years when she first broached the subject of role-playing. But the relatively innocuous scenario she suggested—he the professor, she the student—made him uneasy because she was in business school at the time.
“I knew it had nothing to do with any of her profs, but I still couldn’t get past the idea of her thinking of them while she was with me,” explains Sean, a 30-year-old engineer. So he suggested something he was comfortable with.
“He said that, at least at first, he didn’t want to play anyone but himself, which I actually thought was sweet,” says Hilary, a 28-year-old consultant. “So one night he started talking to me as though he had somehow traveled through time and found me while I was in high school. Entering that role immediately made me feel every sensation multiplied by a hundred, like I really was an inexperienced young girl with an older man who knew everything about me. And I realized that was exactly what I’d wanted in the first place.”
You don’t want to hurt your partner if you bring up a fantasy—but you also don’t want to get made fun of for lusting after David Hasselhoff.
Every couple has different boundaries, but it’s always safer to keep things more general. Suggesting that your partner play a mailman is one thing; it’s quite another to suggest he play your mailman… who also happens to be his brother.
“Bringing it up is a big part of the excitement of a fantasy,” says Dr. Joy Davidson, a sex therapist and the author of Fearless Sex. “You’re facing something challenging and scary.”
That said, if you’re not a thrill-seeking adrenaline monkey when it comes to your relationship, you can ease the pressure of revealing a fantasy by leaving it up to someone, or something, else. Rent a movie or watch a TV show that you know somehow addresses a fantasy—or, say, old Baywatch episodes, if you find hairy, brief-stuffing German pop stars attractive—and then ask whether your partner thinks it’s as sexy as you do.
Laura, a 34-year-old physical therapist, had a fantasy she didn’t want to tell her boyfriend. “I wanted to act like a cat in bed, and I don’t even like cats,” she admits. “There was no way I could have brought it up to my boyfriend. But one night Batman Returns came on, and Michelle Pfeiffer was looking hot as Catwoman. So I started ‘jokingly’ purring and rubbing up against him. He went with it, and it soon turned into clawing and biting. We had fun, and I didn’t look like a total weirdo.”
Can fantasies signal problems in your relationship?
Of course. If, for instance, you find yourself thinking about having an emotional bond with someone you know, that’s a problem. In addition, fantasizing shouldn’t involve taking yourself to another place mentally while you’re having sex. You should always try to stay in the moment with your partner, even if you’re both pretending to be different people.
“Sex can get routine in a long-term relationship, but when you know and trust someone, you can also be more adventuresome,” Davidson says. “If something goes wrong and you’re both adult enough to say, ‘Well, that sucked,’ and move on, then you have a playmate and partner with whom it’s safe to take leaps.”
So next time you’re hesitant to reveal an innocuous fantasy, remember one thing: If you want to pretend to have sex with underage students, cats, or—God forbid—underage cats, there’s no better partner in crime than your mate.
– Your Tango