Erotic Fantasy Reconsidered: From Tragedy to Triumph PART ONE

Sex, Self

Fantasy can be a tool to heal.

How we understand fantasy.


Many people approach the inner workings of their erotic mind with great trepidation, believing that the content of their fantasy life is inappropriate in the context of a loving relationship. Our cultural taboos about erotic fantasy are so strong that the very idea of discussing sexual fantasy leads some of us to anxiety and shame. Fantasy, however, can be an ingenious way for the creative mind to overcome relational and intrapsychic conflicts around desire and intimacy. Fantasy can be a tool to heal.


By developing a view of fantasy as a narrative that creates a safe space, we open ourselves to the experience of pleasure that has the potential to invigorate a loving relationship. We decipher the meaning of sexual fantasies approaching them more as dreams or complex symbolic structures than as literal narratives of secret intentions. Once the depth, complexity, and healing qualities of the erotic imagination are realized, sexual fantasy can be viewed as a staging ground for action and escape that turns the tables on those responsible for earlier experiences of demoralization, defeat, and even trauma.

Sexual fantasies are a wellspring of information about our internal life and the relational dynamics of a couple. They remind us that sex isn’t something we do, but a place we go, inside ourselves and with another. Too often, we focus almost exclusively on the act and the statistics of sex, especially if we are caught in a sexual stalemate.

How can we think differently about sex and fantasy?

When we exit the “doing” story of sex, and enter the subjective and inter-subjective experience, we find our world expands.


The erotic landscape is vastly larger, richer, and more intricate than any repertoire of sexual techniques. Sex is a receptacle for our longings, hopes, fears and struggles, and we invest our erotic encounters with a complex set of needs and expectations. We seek love, pleasure, escape, validation, ecstasy, to be seen, and even spiritual union.

Ask yourself:


W hat does sex mean for you?

What do you seek in sex?


What do you want to experience in your encounters?

This article was originally published at Esther Perel. Reprinted with permission from the author.