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About the Author
Suzie Boss, a journalist and editor, has written for the New York Times, Newsweek, and Travel&Leisure. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
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Exploring the Power of Women's Sexual Fantasies
By Wendy Maltz, Suzie Boss
New World LibraryCopyright © 2001 Wendy Maltz and Suzie Boss
All rights reserved.
Our Most Private Thoughts
Faye was nervous. A mother and computer programmer in her midthirties, with a robust laugh and an ample build, she had never told anyone about her sexual fantasies before. In fact, she wasn't sure that she had anything valuable to tell us now. "I don't know that I've ever had a sexual fantasy anyone else would find significant or even interesting," she said. After considering for a moment, she added, "Let me tell you about one experience, though, that I often think about when I want to feel sexy."
With that, Faye adjusted her eyeglasses and took a deep breath. "I didn't deliberately plan this out as a fantasy. It began unexpectedly when my husband and I were attending a classical guitar performance in a large concert hall." As she began to share this story, the nervousness in her voice gave way to excitement and the unmistakable ring of pride. Clearly, this was a sexual fantasy she loved:
In my fantasy, my husband and I have seats so close to the stage that we can hear the musician's fingers slide across the strings. The guitarist performs solo, with a single beam shining a pool of light around him. His eyes are closed, his head turned down and at an angle. From where I sit, I can see his exquisite profile. I notice his lips trembling when he plays one passage with great emotion. His straight, black hair falls across his forehead and moves in rhythm with the music. The performance is so flawless, the notes so clear, that when my husband slides his arm around my shoulder (which he did in real life), I can feel goosebumps rising on my bare arms. As I'm listening and watching, I begin to imagine that it is my body cradled in the musician's arms in place of the guitar. When he wraps his left hand around the slender neck of the instrument, I feel his tender grip on my own neck. The curve of wood that fits across his thigh becomes the curve of my hip. And the strings, when he plucks and strums them with his strong fingers, echo with a throbbing rhythm between my legs. I can barely sit still as the music soars to a climax.
As she came to the end of her story Faye paused for a moment, then added, "The night of that performance, when my husband began to touch me in bed, I let those images from the concert hall wash over me. I deliberately lay across his lap and guided his hands to the places I wanted played. Only that time, there was no holding back at the crescendo." Smiling shyly, she asked, "Tell me, does this qualify as a sexual fantasy?"
Does it ever.
From the outside, no one can imagine what thoughts or images might be thrilling a woman's senses, igniting her passion, and leading her to heights of sexual pleasure. Nothing about Faye's outward appearance hinted at her lyrical approach to lovemaking or her enjoyment of sensuous sexual fantasies. That's why it takes some detective work to discover what really goes on inside a woman's erotic imagination, and why.
When women like Faye accept their sexual fantasies as natural, normal, and worth exploring, they're taking the first step on a fascinating adventure. By using a new approach for unlocking the mystery of our fantasies, we have a chance to make important discoveries about ourselves, our sexuality, and our intimate relationships. This new approach isn't any more complicated than paying attention to what our dreams have to tell us. But because we're dealing with an explicitly sexual subject, it does require a fundamental change in how most women think about sexual fantasies. In order to learn all that fantasies have to teach us, we need to consider them as treasures — not taboos.
If we're willing to look at our fantasies more closely and from many new angles, we can discover why certain thoughts excite us and others leave us cold. Our fantasies can not only teach us more about our sex lives but also offer insights into our whole lives. Rather than brushing off our fantasies as embarrassing secrets or idle thoughts, we can start using them as the wonderful resources they truly are.
COURAGE AND CURIOSITY
It takes courage for women to talk about their sexual fantasies as candidly as they do in the upcoming pages. We have encouraged women not to hold back in describing their fantasies, and we haven't censored their language or omitted the sexual heat from their stories. Rather than telling women what we mean by fantasies, we have invited them to describe this world in their own words. "What do you think about," we might ask to get the conversation rolling, "when you're making love, daydreaming about sex, or masturbating?"
Many women are motivated to answer this personal question because they want to make sense of fantasies that have left them puzzled or mystified. They may be eager to figure out where certain images have come from, and why they are such reliable turn-ons.
Gale, a thirty-year-old woman, wondered why, when she makes love with her husband, she often imagines herself surrounded by women bathing topless at the beach. The images feel so vivid to her, she can imagine the smell of suntan lotion and feel the sun warming her skin, just like when she was a girl growing up near the ocean. Yet, she has no idea why thinking about the curves, contours, and nipples of other women's breasts is guaranteed to make her climax.
Sybil, forty-three, wondered why she needs to imagine herself getting punished in order to get in the mood for sex. In real life, she said, her lover is tender, caring, and romantic, "everything a woman dreams about finding." Yet, to get turned on enough to enjoy sex with him, she has to imagine his hand slapping her bare bottom and squeezing her breasts hard. To keep her sex life interesting, she regularly browses porn magazines and reads erotica to find new ideas that she can file away in memory and hook onto during sex to turn up her own response. "Pictures of people fucking don't turn me on, though," she said with a shrug. For reasons she can't explain, she hungers for stories about naughty girls, spankings, and light bondage.
Brooke, twenty-eight, wondered if she was secretly being unfaithful to her new lover when she thought about her old boyfriend during sex. She explained, "These memories from my first real love affair pop into my head so unexpectedly. I imagine my old boyfriend touching me, kissing me, and stripping off my clothes. Then I get turned on. After sex, though, when I open my eyes and see my new boyfriend lying next to me in bed, I start feeling guilty."
Women's natural curiosity about sexual fantasy is far-ranging but typically comes down to these five basic questions:
* "Am I normal?"
* "Where do my sexual fantasies come from?"
* What do my sexual fantasies mean?"
* If they are upsetting, what can I do about them?"
* Can fantasies enhance or improve my sex life?"
These five questions are compelling, and we'll answer them in more detail in the chapters ahead.
As soon as we start hearing more about other women's fantasies, though, many of us will have a nagging thought. Suddenly we want to know "How do I measure up?"
If we're prone to judge or compare ourselves against other women, we may start wondering if our own fantasies are too raunchy or too politically correct, too sexy or too prudish. We may worry that we fantasize about sex too often or not enough. And that's a big mistake. Exploring our fantasies isn't a competitive exercise. There's no right or wrong way to think sexy thoughts. Although almost all women and men fantasize about sex at some time in life, there's no magic formula that equates certain sexual fantasies with a great sex life.
Instead of measuring ourselves against other women's fantasies, we can use these stories as an opportunity to find out about the range of women's experiences. We've included a wide variety of stories because they illustrate variations and similarities from one woman to the next. As we'll hear, some women love their fantasies and call them up at will to enhance sexual pleasure. Others despise the erotic images that invade their minds during sex. Still others appreciate how reliably their fantasies work, but feel stuck or bored with them. Women nearly always express delight when describing fantasies that have carried them into peak sexual experiences.
By paying close attention to our own reactions as we hear these stories, we gain an immediate sense about whether certain fantasies arouse us or turn us off. And that quick insight can be a helpful clue as we become more conscious about our own fantasy life. Long after their erotic buzz subsides, many of these stories will continue to resonate because of the lasting truths they also tell us about our own sexual style.
DETAILS AND CLUES
Daphne is a twenty-two-year-old woman whose graphic fantasy aroused her for many different reasons:
In this fantasy, I imagine that my boyfriend and I are at a seedy bar with another couple, Pamela and George. When I make my way to the ladies' room, Pamela follows me. As soon as I lock the bathroom door, Pamela pulls down my pants and begins licking my clit. I can hear our boyfriends talking just outside the door, and I quietly slide up on the white porcelain sink and push her face further into my cunt. After we have been in there quite a while, our boyfriends start pounding on the door, calling our names. Pamela sucks all the harder. Just then, I notice that the bathroom walls are tiled with shards of broken mirror. As I watch myself come, my image is reflected in a hundred pieces of mirrored glass. It is like watching an art film.
If we had asked Daphne to describe her fantasy in just a couple words, she might have said it was an oral sex fantasy. We never would have heard about the "art film" quality of the images that excited her or understood how the chance of being caught was part of the sexual thrill of her fantasy. Without taking time to hear more about her life, we never would have known that she considers her boyfriend a wonderful lover — but that fantasy allows her to indulge her desire for what's not possible to experience sexually with him.
Really listening to women's sexual fantasies is an active process. We need to ask lots of questions in order to bring out all the facets of a fantasy. The right questions can help a woman figure out whether a particular fantasy holds a significant psychological message or whether it's just plain fun. As we'll see, fantasies get even more interesting when we look at them in such detail.
When women explore what's so special about their fantasies, we also find out how varied and complex this world of fantasy really is. One woman explained how, as a young mother, she often eroticized the sensation of babies nursing at her breast. "I loved the softness of skin, the way their little heads smelled, and I would weave those sensations into my fantasies during sex." Clearly, she said, she wasn't having fantasies about incest. "I would never want to have sex with my children." But for her, those skin-onskin sensations proved powerfully erotic.
Many women highlight the relationship dynamics as key ingredients in their fantasies. In fact, the actual sex in women's fantasies is often only one moment in a much longer erotic story. As one woman said, "When the sex is over in my fantasy, I imagine my partner holding me and talking to me, not just rolling over and falling asleep." When a woman in her twenties explained why she often fantasized about Denzel Washington as her imaginary lover, she said his intelligence reminded her of her real boyfriend. But unlike her young and rather inexperienced boyfriend, who tended to rush through sex, she imagined the older and wiser actor appreciating her sensuality and spending more time on foreplay.
From listening closely to the details of fantasies, we find out that women think about sex in all sorts of interesting ways. Some of us entertain only fleeting thoughts, as quick as an unexpected smile. Others create fantasy scripts that are as intricate and carefully plotted as a full-length suspense film. Some women describe lusty images of erect nipples and hard penises, soft breasts and tight butts, as explicit as any porn film. Others speak in ways that evoke the soft, moody light of perfume ads.
While women most often have fantasies during sex or self-stimulation, boosting arousal at a specific place in their sexual response cycle, many also experience fantasies in nonsexual settings. We'll be hearing from women who make up sexual fantasies while swimming laps, cooking dinner, driving through rush-hour traffic, or speaking in public. Some have sexual daydreams that help them relax, but stir no sexual response. A few women describe fantasies so erotic to them that they climax on the strength of their thoughts alone, with no accompanying stimulation.
Whenever a woman says she's not sure that her own fantasy "qualifies" or "fits in," we've learned to listen closely. Those are often the moments when a woman's creativity has challenged old stereotypes and myths about sexual fantasy and expanded the boundaries of what we know. Some women find erotic thrills in roller coasters, saxophones, ocean waves, and mangoes, for instance. Sexual fantasies can include sensory experiences that don't follow a narrative script (like Faye's guitar story) or even involve images we would not normally define as being sexual.
These variations have led us to a new definition of sexual fantasy that is broad enough to take in the widest range of women's experiences. Sexual fantasy includes all sexual thoughts and images that alter our emotions, sensations, or physiological state. We label these thoughts as sexual either because they have an erotic effect or because they include images we commonly associate with sex.
Given this expansive definition, only a handful of women said they never fantasize about sex at all. When they explored why not, they often realized that their innate ability to fantasize was inhibited by past experiences, repressive beliefs, or common misunderstandings about fantasies.
One woman, for instance, said she had assumed that having a sexual fantasy would mean picturing herself as a Playboy bunny, Marilyn Monroe, or some other cultural stereotype of how a sexy woman should look. She said, "I don't want to think of myself as a silly woman or a slut in order to be sexual." Realizing that she has the power to see herself however she chooses has helped her to become much more free and playful within her erotic imagination.
Women shut down their ability to think about sex for many different reasons. Among the strongest influences that can limit a woman's fantasy life is a history of sexual trauma. Similarly, a sexually repressive childhood or religious messages against fantasizing can also affect a woman's fantasy life in profound ways. The lasting impact of such experiences makes it important to trace a woman's personal sexual history when we begin to explore her fantasies.
For example, a woman whose father forced her to pose for kiddie porn when she was a girl wound up feeling afraid of the whole subject of fantasy. "It's a place my mind cannot go now, however much I might want it to as an adult," she said. Another woman also censored her own sexual thoughts after adolescence, but for a very different reason. She planned to become a nun. At age fifty, after she left her religious order and began dating men, she was delighted to experience her first erotic fantasy about a male friend kissing and sucking on her fingers. The pleasure generated by that sweet fantasy made her eager to invite bolder and more graphic sexual thoughts into her imagination.
Women's fantasies evolve and change over the course of a lifetime for all sorts of reasons. One young woman said she fantasizes less frequently now that she is comfortable enough with her lesbian orientation to begin a long-term relationship with a woman partner. "Who needs fantasy now, when the real thing is right here beside me?" she said, patting her lover's thigh. In contrast, another woman said that she started fantasizing more often after falling in love in her forties. "I got back in touch with being sexual after a long dry spell and my fantasies have started up again," she said with a satisfied smile. Women have also noticed that their ability to fantasize has been affected by such biological factors as aging, stress, and hormone levels.
A PERSONAL APPROACH
The way women talk about their own fantasies has helped shape our approach for further exploring this complex aspect of our sexuality. We take what we call a personal experiences approach. This way, we look at fantasies within the context of an individual woman's life. One woman understood immediately how much sense it makes to explore our own fantasies in this new way. She said, "A fantasy is like a beautiful piece of cloth made up of all the threads of who you are. It takes you your whole life to weave it together." As we apply this personal approach to fantasies, we also assume that each one of us is our own, most reliable sleuth for identifying where our fantasies have come from and figuring out how well they work for us in our everyday lives.
Just how does this personal experiences approach work? Let's use it to take a look at one fantasy theme that we've heard many women describe in different variations. This fantasy is typically about a teacher seducing a student. Yet, no two women tell this erotic story in exactly the same way. When one woman described her teacher-student fantasy, the story unfolded like this:
I imagine a young girl, just starting to develop breasts. She lives on a farm way out in the country, and is often lonely. One day, a traveling salesman stops by. Her dad offers to let him stay in the hayloft. Late at night, the man and the girl start talking. She's excited to have a new friend. As they talk about more personal matters, she mentions that men seem attracted to big-breasted women. She worries that hers will stay small. In his travels, he says, he has gotten to be friends with many women. Once, one of them told him the secret for growing big breasts, and now he'll share it with her.
First, he tells her she needs to massage her breasts and nipples before she goes to bed. He suggests that she do so in front of her bedroom window. That way, he can watch to make sure she's doing it right. Then, he offers to teach her some new strokes to "wake up the growth hormones." Next, he mentions that having someone suck on her nipples will make her breasts grow. Hasn't she noticed, he asks, that nursing mothers have big breasts?
Each time the salesman comes back to stay in the hayloft, he brings her another new secret tip to make her breasts grow. She feels lucky to have her own tutor, even though she doesn't notice much change in her breast size. He assures her it's working, though. In fact, he tells her the same exercises can make a man's penis grow. He asks her to massage his penis, and she's amazed to see it grow before her eyes. He has one more lesson to teach her, but says he'll need her help. He has her undress, then shows her how well his hard penis fits into her body. After he shows her how their bodies fit and move together, he tells her she's finally all grown up.
Excerpted from Private Thoughts by Wendy Maltz, Suzie Boss. Copyright © 2001 Wendy Maltz and Suzie Boss. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 OUR MOST PRIVATE THOUGHTS,
CHAPTER 2 DESCRIBING OUR FANTASY STYLE,
CHAPTER 3 WHERE SEXUAL FANTASIES COME FROM,
CHAPTER 4 HOW FANTASIES HELP US,
CHAPTER 5 RECOGNIZING FANTASY TRAPS,
CHAPTER 6 DEEP DISCOVERIES,
CHAPTER 7 GUIDED EXPLORATIONS,
CHAPTER 8 HEALING AND CHANGING UNWANTED FANTASIES,
CHAPTER 9 SHARING FANTASIES WITH LOVERS,
CHAPTER 10 CREATING FAVORITE FANTASIES,
ABOUT THE AUTHORS,