The Truth About Acting Out Your Fantasies

sexual fantasy
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Sex

I am a closet exhibitionist. Very few people know this about me because I'm a bookish introvert who has seldom been the life of a phone call, let alone a party. However, the vast majority of my masturbation fantasies involve me having sex with one or several partners, while one or several other people look on. Planes, trains, automobiles, construction sites, fishing boat—any public venue works in my dirty mind's eye.

My partner knows this about me, and while he's squeamish about public sex in the "real world," he did agree to take me to a sex club where we could get it on in a room full of other couples doing the same. Neither of us was a stranger to the idea of sexual adventure, but this particular kink was new to us both, so it was a shared initiation. Inside An NYC Sex Club

I loved the club environment: open eroticism all around me, combined with the surprisingly warm, safe feeling of being in a walled garden of sexual delights. The freedom to be sexual in a public place was liberating and titillating, and I immediately found myself wanting to join in. The sex we had was really no different from the sex we have at home, only the venue and context were different.

But as we got busy, I discovered something surprising: for me, partnered sex and masturbation alike are ultimately inward journeys. I struggled to stay present, to savor the novelty of our surroundings, but ultimately I succumbed to the undertow of my imagination. In order to plumb my initial arousal and reach orgasm, I needed to go deep inside myself, and when I came, it was with my eyes closed—and I was far away somewhere, fantasizing about being watched by an entirely different group of people.

According to Amy Alkon, who writes a syndicated newspaper column as The Advice Goddess, this sense of deflation is entirely to be expected.

"The funny thing about fantasy is that it's not always what it's cracked up to be. When people think about having a threesome, they don't picture someone sitting on the edge of the bed reading Newsweek, wondering when their turn comes," she says. Alkon sees a definite trend among her readers, who are more and more comfortable expressing, and acting out, their sexual fantasies, than they were just a few years ago. Threesomes: A User's Guide

"I used to get a lot of letters from lonely guys in the middle of nowhere who were wondering if they were perverts for liking women's feet," she says. "Now with the internet, I get fewer of those, because it's easy enough for them to find other people who are into the same thing, and gain some reassurance that they aren't alone." Alkon thinks that if anything, the trendiness of acting out elaborate fantasy scenarios has created unreasonable expectations.

"This I'll-be-the-pirate-you-be-the-slave girl thing, the stuff that's so routinized and put on, people do because they're determined to make their sex lives more interesting—it becomes another requirement, and it's not fun. If you're looking to keep your sex life interesting, it's the spontaneous stuff that works."

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So in the end, was living out my most deeply held sexual fantasy a disappointment? Not at all. It was just different. While I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure, it in no way replaced the role of fantasy in my personal sexual chemistry. Nor did the enjoyment come from the same places that I expected it to: I didn't feel any frisson or thrill along with the act of exposure, for instance. And the feeling of others' eyes on my body wasn't as powerful as in my mind's eye.

Sexual fantasies, I've learned, aren't the same as sexual desires. A desire is something we want to realize, a yen for a person or a specific act. A fantasy is self-contained, a personal myth that can perform powerful voodoo in our interior landscape, but that doesn't always keep that power when exposed to the light of day. To complicate matters, sometimes our fantasies and desires overlap, but not always. Why We Fantasize And What's Normal

My friend Alex recalls his first attempt at enacting a spanking fantasy many years ago, with a partner named Lisa, whose fanny had been the object of much onanistic speculation on his part. When Alex finally fessed up to his desire, Lisa gamely agreed to bend over and give it a try, but the results were underwhelming.

"In reality it was just kind of awkward," Alex told me. "Not embarrassing, just uninspired and oddly unarousing. I think because it was my fantasy, not hers, so she wasn't really feeling it."

Interestingly, this bucket of cold water didn't stop Alex from continuing to fantasize about spanking Lisa in the privacy of his wanking chamber. Years later, Alex has had several partners who enjoyed a playful spank as much as he did, but to this day he occasionally still fantasizes about spanking Lisa. Spanking For Beginners

The trick is not to take fantasies too seriously, or to confuse them with reality. It's important not to fall into thinking that a person's sexual fantasies represent what they "really want." The fear of being misunderstood in this way is the main reason we withhold our sexual fantasies. As a self-sufficient, powerful professional woman, I don't want anyone to think that what I "really want" is to be dominated by a big, strong man. So I don't tend to advertise that occasionally, my dirty little mind does go all lumberjack on me.

So much of sex involves the exchange of trust and of power, and many of us are shy to express fantasies that we see as violent or untoward. But when I fantasize about being overpowered by someone bigger and stronger than me, it's not because I am a weak woman who "really" wants to be dominated by a man—in my fantasy, I am the strong man as often as I am the weak woman. In Jungian terms, the struggle taking place is an archetype, and the combatants my animus and anima. In reality, the partners I choose do not tend to be domineering types, further indicating that my domination fantasy is just that—a fantasy.