Listen to “179: The Logic of Our Fantasies with Michael Bader” on Spreaker.
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:
Sexual Fantasies and Eroticism
I know I say it often, but this topic is one of my favorites. In this episode, I talk with Dr. Justin Lehmiller about the all-important topic of sexual fantasies.
Justin is a celebrated speaker, researcher, author, and a very effective educator on the psychology of sexuality. His blog Sex and Psychology gets millions of visitors every year, and he regularly contributes his writing to major publications. This talk about his research is guided by his expertise and experience in the field.
Listen to “89: Dr. Justin Lehmiller – Sexual Fantasies” on Spreaker.
The Most Common Sexual Fantasies
Justin says that when he surveyed almost 4,200 Americans from 2014 to 2016, the most common fantasies encompassed 7 different themes.
- Multi-partner sex
- Novelty, Adventure & Variety
- Taboo activities
- Emotional connection and fulfillment
- Homoeroticism and gender-bending
Justin describes these as the building blocks of fantasies, meaning that they are not mutually exclusive and many overlap. For example, you can very well dip your toes into multiple categories in your own personal fantasy life.
Are people ashamed of their fantasies?
As Justin states, he found that men reported more shame about their fantasies than women. Overall, the majority of study participants reported that they held a positive relationship with their fantasies, but there were still some who felt negative emotions towards their fantasy.
Another important thing he found during his research is that just sharing sexual fantasies can open up eroticism and alleviate feelings of embarrassment or shame for having certain fantasies.
The Differences between Men and Women regarding fantasy
Although the data showed that both sexes share a lot of commonalities, there were still some marked differences.
Men had more multi-partner fantasies than women did. And women had more fantasies about emotional connection with a partner. Women also had way more BDSM fantasies than men by a large margin. In addition, men usually had a specific person in mind during their fantasies, and the women-focused more on the setting and environment overall. Justin also found that the LGBTQ community had more sexually adventurous fantasies, as well as taboo fantasies.
Justin provides some insight on why women might like BDSM more than men, as well as the LGBTQ community and their sexual fantasy preferences. Listen in for that.
Sexual Fantasy by Personality Type
Justin shares some interesting insight on the correlation between personality type and sexual fantasy. For example, those who are more extroverted by nature will be more outgoing the bedroom. And for those who are ‘agreeable’ personality types, there will be a higher incidence of focusing on their partner’s sexual satisfaction in the bedroom.
He also talks about what conscientiousness has to do with fantasies, as well as self-esteem.
“Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar”
Justin says that sexual fantasies don’t really have to mean all that much. They can offer a glimpse into something deeper, but for the most part they are just a product of your environment and genetic makeup and can be left out of the examination room. Fantasies can be a good evaluative road map to follow for your own unique sexual satisfaction, though.
But when talking about sexual traumas, there were small connections between sexual victimization and types of fantasies. But there was a lot of inconsistency in the data.
Hear Justin explain the data on this subject.
How to Share Your Fantasies with Your Partner
Justin says that before you share with your partner, you first have to feel good about yourself. You aren’t alone in your fantasies, so there’s a normalization that needs to first occur.
He says to lay low and start slow. A gradual buildup for disclosing your fantasies to your partner is much more powerful than an overwhelming information dump!
He also goes into detail on how important sharing is for increasing overall sexual desire and satisfaction within the relationship.
Key Links for Justin:
Affiliate link for Justin’s book: Tell Me What You Want : https://amzn.to/2ZPPezs
His website: https://www.lehmiller.com/
Justin Lehmiller Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/psychologyofsex/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justinjlehmiller/