#179 – The Logic of Our Fantasies with Michael Bader

#179 – The Logic of Our Fantasies with Michael Bader

Listen to “179: The Logic of Our Fantasies with Michael Bader”

The Logic of Sexual Fantasies

Michael Bader, the author of the book Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies joins me in a fascinating conversation about sexual fantasies. We get to hear his ideas about sexual fantasies and what they mean.

Decoding Sexual Fantasies

Michael recognized the need for an applicable approach to sexual fantasies to help patients with their shame and guilt surrounding their sexual fantasies and preferences. His arguments originated from a theory from Joseph Weiss. Michael argues that sexual fantasies are constructed to express our sexual desires and arousals in a way that is acceptable to our guilty conscience.

Michael gives an instance of dominance and submission, and the fantasy of having or giving up control over our sexual stimulation. That control could look like a masochistic fantasy or desiring partners with a rough exterior or self-centered. Curating this fantasy is exciting because ‘they don’t have to feel guilty about hurting the other person.’ A person assuming the role of a dominant knows that they are going to assume control over this person and that person would feel aroused by it and not be hurt and the same goes for the person assuming the submissive role. This fantasy dissolves the guilt of hurting each other. Sexual fantasies are strategies that our mind unconsciously develops to allow us to free our sexual excitement from things like guilt.

The Purpose of Sexual Fantasies and their role

Michael believes a person’s sexual fantasies act as a window into their unconscious psyche. When a person harbors feelings of guilt, shame, or responsibility for another person’s wellbeing, it inhibits the person’s sexual desires and thus resulting in the development of sexual fantasies to avoid such feelings. These inhibited sexual desires can interfere with other aspects of life. In the consulting room, when we analyze these sexual fantasies what we discover is “the revelation of someone’s core beliefs’’, which show up in the other parts of life and not just sexually. Analyzing these sexual fantasies can help the patient’s guilt and shame around their desires and also inspect the roots of their beliefs that caused their sexual fantasies.

Sexual Fantasies Are Not Meant To Be Changed

As long as there’s an innate need for attachment, the feelings of worry, care, responsibility, and guilt towards loved ones will be present. These needs tend to almost always show up in people’s sex lives. There won’t ever be a time where people will stop feeling these that stem from our core needs. And since sexual fantasies arise to overcome those feelings, they will always be needed as a way to express our sexual desires.

Are there Problematic Fantasies?

Every fantasy is enjoyed by somebody. Porn has tons of types of pornography for every population and some of the unpopular categories wouldn’t exist if there weren’t people to consume it. The problems with these fantasies coming true are they produce porn and sex addicts that take people away from being emotionally and sexually present in relationships and marriages. These fantasies could be anything.

Talking about limits to our sexual fantasy, Michael says, unless our sexual fantasies take us away from being psychologically present, being aligned with our values, and doing something meaningful from other people, sexual fantasies are not problematic. Michael also believes sexual fantasies that are illegal in reality are not problematic to think about unless they’re acted even slightly in any way.


Michael Bader, DMH is a psychologist and psychoanalyst with over 40 years of clinical experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has written extensively about the interaction of psychology, culture, and politics and has produced a podcast – Mysteries of the Mind—about these issues. He is the author of Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, and Male Sexuality: Why Women Don’t Understand It, and Men Don’t Either.

Resources and Links:

#176: Trauma Sensitive Sex – Cass Biron

#176: Trauma Sensitive Sex – Cass Biron

Listen to “176: Trauma Sensitive Sex – Cass Biron”

Trauma Sensitive Sex

Today’s episode covers trauma and how it can obstruct our ability to connect our body and arousal to our emotional and social being, and later obstruct the way of connecting intimately with our partner. Cass Biron talks about the structure and ways people can approach this and overcome the struggle by integrating play and flexibility with their partner.

Cass’s Entry Into This Line of Work

Cass’s interest in this line of work stemmed from a young age of asking questions about how bodies work. She later enrolled in the Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy training in New York City and first heard about the vagus nerve and Polyvagal Theory. She dove deep into understanding the interaction between the different states of the nervous system present during sex and how they play a role in enabling richer sex lives and relationships.

Polyvagal Ladder by Dep Dana

Cass explains the model of Polyvagal Ladder by Dep Dana which consists of a top head region where all the social and emotional connections originate. It involves reading facial cues to detect the inner feelings of a person and is especially present during sex. It functions as non-verbal cues that help strengthen the connection and intimacy between the partners. Lower down is the fight or flight area of the torso where our energy is stored. Cass explains the fight or flight function that causes the increase of blood flow, higher heart rate, and heavy synchronized breathing. The bottom of the ladder is the freeze response resting in our genitals between our hips. Cass says it’s present in bodies with a vulva as it facilitates the freeze response that happens with orgasm. However, men have a “jerky kind of orgasm”.

During any sexual encounter or orgasm, we’re in all three states at the same time. Sometimes sex starts from the bottom up and vice versa. Cass talks about identifying physical health through our ability to orgasm by quoting Laura Geiger. She says it’s because we can identify the part of the nervous system that’s having trouble connecting during sex.

Where Does Trauma Show Up In This Picture?

Trauma is held in our physical form and it shows up differently for everyone during sex. Cass says it takes understanding and recognition of how and where we’re holding that stress and tension and pinpointing the occasions that trauma shows up. It takes awareness to incorporate trauma-sensitive sex. Trauma-sensitive sex is about integrating that knowledge about your body into your sex life. To be trauma-sensitive, according to Cass, is understanding your trauma and your partner’s trauma and using that knowledge to build a foundation of communication, consent, and trust. It’s a habit that needs to be circled back every time. She challenges the norm of the “top-down” process by explaining how bottom-down can be just as powerful. Masturbation and sex with yourself can be used as a tool to move through trauma.

Mindful Masturbation

Cass talks about mindful masturbation as a tool to release trauma from your body. She talks about “Masturbation bingo” to help them challenge the ways they think about sex. She suggests picking the video of something you’ve never watched before and suggests deciding on the setting of the room. She starts by having them write down their intentions before beginning. By changing up the routine they’ve built for themselves, they can shift the trauma that’s settled in the muscles of their body to loosen up.

Mindful masturbation teaches the three states of our nervous system to awaken and welcome pleasure rather than reject it. She talks about the challenging experiences people face during this exercise but also talks about how to train your mind to remind you of the present to keep you grounded. It’s about training your nervous system to integrate and work together.


Cass suggests playing as a medium to build a space filled with curiosity and without judgment. Play is the time when our nervous systems are trying to integrate and sync with each other, as well as with our partners’ nervous systems. It facilitates a social-emotional connection between people. Cass urges people to incorporate seduction and flirting into any sort of play. She says play doesn’t have to be something typical, you can introduce seduction into cooking or playing UNO, or getting ready with your partner. The friendly banter and suggestive flirting can in everyday tasks can be play, it’s about understanding what seduction looks like for you and where you want to incorporate it in your day.

Playing outside the bedroom is crucial to building the rapport between partners to handle stressful situations calmly. When something goes wrong in the play, you don’t escalate the situation because it’s just a game. It can be transferred into the bedroom play, says Cass.

Gay Community Expands The Binary Thinking of Sex and Sexuality

Cass takes Alok Menon, a gay writer, artist, performer, and designer as an inspiration to model the expansion of binary thinking of masculine and feminine that limits how we express sexuality. She talks about the challenges that love between couples outside the bedroom has been taken outside the box and how that can be incorporated into people’s sex lives. The act of “penis-vagina sex” confines sex into a box of social conformity and restricts the freedom to be creative in the way we can have sex. She calls on people to examine the ways we used to relate sex to HIV or used to determine our bodies as “gross” because that’s when we learn how these ideas can originate and take root in society. Having been told that the rights to her body were not hers being a catholic, she fights to break the limitations set on having spiritually free and amazing sex.


Cass Biron is a clinician and a sex educator offering parenting workshops and trauma-sensitive sex workshops for universities and organizations. She works within a pediatric clinic that serves families and children within the foster care system in Queens, NY where she works in a behavioral health team offering expertise on sexuality development, puberty, and how to support children with a high ACE score.

A former sexual health educator, Cass received her Masters in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. While extensively trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Cass incorporates somatic theories, the polyvagal theory, art activities, and movement therapies to provide each client with tools for coping and thriving.

Cass wants to bring trauma-sensitive sex to all of her clients, as the sexual life and development of each person is to be of great value and supported throughout the entire life course.

Resources and Links:

Website: http://www.ihitherapy.org/

Instagram: @cass.talks.intimacy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cassie.c.biron

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbUQH_A6pZbwYPxSJTGSCCA/playlists

Email: casstalksintimacy@gmail.com

More info and resources:
How Big a Problem is Your Sex Life? Quiz – https://www.sexlifequiz.com
Access the Free webinar: How to make sex easy and fun for both of you: https://intimacywithease.com/masterclass
Secret Podcast for the Higher Desire Partner: https://www.intimacywithease.com/hdppodcast
Secret Podcast for the Lower Desire Partner: https://www.intimacywithease.com/ldppodcast
#165 – Stepping Into Your Feminine Wild – Natalie Frasca Surmeli

#165 – Stepping Into Your Feminine Wild – Natalie Frasca Surmeli

Listen to “165: Stepping Into Your Feminine Wild – Natalie Frasca Surmeli”

Natalie Frasca Surmeli is here today to talk about stepping into your feminine wild and what it means. This episode talks of awakening feminine desire and pleasure by slowing down and getting familiar with your own body. Natalie shares her insight of pleasure practices, practicing a new way of being and why it matters.

Natalie’s Story – what did she unlock?

Natalie shares the story of her journey that brought her into this path of discovery. Being a mom of 3 at a brink of divorce, overwhelmed and falling into depression, she sought out her therapist’s advice to slow down. The scientist in her rattled between the ideas of the universe guiding her and a lack of proof. When she gave in to the idea she realized that her presence, her actions and what she puts out into the world matters.

She came to a realization that doing more and working harder is not the answer to a fulfilled life. Natalie works with women in teaching pleasure practices to help them slow down and reconnect with their desires, which ultimately leads to a better sex life and intimacy.

Reconnecting with your body – Gender difference

When it comes to exploring self it doesn’t matter where on the gender spectrum you are or who your partner is. Natalie gives yoga, meditation and movement practices as examples to get in touch with your desires. It’s important to be intimate with your body and self before sharing it with your partner.

Advice that drove her away from divorce

Natalie points out advice from her father and later from therapy that drove her away from divorce. To obtain different results you have to start doing things differently. She says it’s a commitment, a process that takes time. It’s intentional work put forth by both partners to grow together. Natalie also talks about introspection. She points out that it’s your partner’s greatest pleasure to please. It’s less of a responsibility and more of a desire and a learning curve to discover what you like.

Pleasure Practices

Natalie gives out a few please practices to implement in getting to know yourself. To explore your body in a sensual way, to discover new areas of your body, she suggests self-oil massage, dance practice with closed eyes and mirror staring in the morning. There’s a number of things we are not taught about our own body and pleasure and it’s time that we explore it. Desire can be accessed in all moments of our life. Awareness practices in which we think about things that make us feel good. Natalie describes these things as the most simple and mundane activities we perform just for the sake of our pleasure. She suggests writing down 3 big to-do things for the day and something else that gives you pleasure. For Natalie, it’s taking a walk in the woods. Make a conscious effort to recognize the simple pleasures of your day and gradually transfer it to sexuality.

What ifs

Women who want to make a change, Natalie says, they’ve to make a choice. A choice to take out time from their busy life, reach out and make a commitment. For all the time spent in taking care of everyone around, it’s time to regain that energy for yourself.

Benefits of non-sexual pleasure

Natalie emphasizes non-sexual pleasure with self and a partner. Natalie calls to embrace the human being’s desire to be seen and to surrender. The greatest intimacy with a partner or with yourself can be built by exploring your bodies.

Feminine and Masculine energy

Natalie describes feminine energy as desire, surrender, flow and creation. Feminine energy calls to slow down while masculine energy strives to move forward and achieve. A balance is needed to be formed between the two for an individual to embrace it to the fullest. It’s the same for all genders.

How to have a conversation about sexuality with kids?

Natalie offers her insight on how to have conversations with kids about sexuality by giving an example of her daughters. She starts by talking about masturbation. She says it’s their duty to get to know their bodies and to explore their own pleasure before exploring it with a partner. She reflects on her own childhood when these conversations didn’t exist in her catholic family. Unlike her upbringing when she was taught bodies to be shameful, she makes it a principle to encourage these hard conversations in her family. It goes beyond sexuality to everyday tasks. Natalie and her family prioritizes activities that excite them and family time over extra math classes. “It’s about making space to explore other interests”, as Natalie says.


Natalie Frasca Surmeli is the founder of “Tribe of Wolves”, a mentor, coach, speaker and a mom of 3. She guides women to explore their feminine wild by making a “Feminine plan”. She teaches the fundamentals of Divine Feminine, Divine Masculine and Universal Energy and how to tap into these energies every day. She helps women reconnect with their self and bodies using pleasure practices.

Resources and Links:

Website: ​Tribe of Wolves
Facebook Group: Tribe of Wolves: Women Who Want MORE

More info and resources:
How Big a Problem is Your Sex Life? Quiz – https://www.sexlifequiz.com
Access the Free webinar: How to make sex easy and fun for both of you: https://intimacywithease.com/masterclass
Secret Podcast for the Higher Desire Partner: https://www.intimacywithease.com/hdppodcast
Secret Podcast for the Lower Desire Partner: https://www.intimacywithease.com/ldppodcast
#70: DJ Burr [Personal Story] – Recovery Saved My Life

#70: DJ Burr [Personal Story] – Recovery Saved My Life

Listen to “70: DJ Burr [Personal Story] – Recovery Saved My Life”

In this episode of the Better Sex Podcast, it is my honor to welcome DJ as he shares his personal journey with you. Having people come in and share the details of their life is one of the best parts of this platform!

DJ is a therapist who works in the Seattle area. He specifically works with patients who are struggling with sexual addiction, codependency, and other process addictions. He is the best-selling author of I Just Wanted Love: Recovery of a Sex and Love Addict, and his story is one of bravery, honesty, and hope.

Listen along and learn more DJ’s story!


#69: Dr. Lori Brotto – Mindfulness and Sex

#69: Dr. Lori Brotto – Mindfulness and Sex

Listen to “69: Dr. Lori Brotto – Mindfulness and Sex”

My guest is Dr. Lori Brotto. She works at the University of British Columbia Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Lori has a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in psychophysiology. She is a practicing psychologist and also spearheads a lab, which focuses on mindfulness-based approaches for the sexual health of women.

And within this episode, she talks specifically about mindfulness and its many powerful applications to sexuality, alleviating sexual dysfunction and performance anxiety, and overall increasing the enjoyability of sex in general. There’s so much to say about experiencing each and every moment. Listen along and enjoy!


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