Thursday 2 June 2011

Sex fantasies make for better sex lives

A fantasy or pattern of thoughts can be a long, drawn-out story or a quick mental flash but which has the effect of creating or enhancing sexual feelings. It may give rise to sexual arousal but then again, sexual arousal may give rise to fantasies. Whatever the case, the two are inextricably linked.

Harold Leitenberg, Ph.D., and Kris Henning, Ph.D. in their 1995 paper "Sexual Fantasy", reviewed research literature on the subject starting with an oft-quoted remark that "sex is composed of friction and fantasy" while pointing out that one's brain is as important a sexual organ as one's genitals. He explains that what we humans think about can either enhance or inhibit our sexual responsivity to any form of stimulation and even in the absence of stimulation, sexual fantasy alone is arousing.

In studying fantasies, Leitenberg says that they allow one to imagine anything one would like, however unrealistic, without experiencing embarrassment or societal and legal restrictions. Therefore, they may be even more revealing than actual behaviour and underline what differences exist between the genders. He adds that fantasies may show deviant behaviour whether about sexual offenses or sexual dysfunction due to guilt or lack of fantasies.

In comparing men and women, Leitenberg looked at three contexts: during masturbation, during sexual intercourse, and during nonsexual activity.

During masturbation, men reported they fantasized 85.9% of the time while women said 68.8%. The researchers did note that more men than women masturbated but stated percentages only for those who did masturbate. They did not have a definitive reason as to why the percentage was higher for men, but felt there may be cultural explanations.

It turns out that it is quite common that both sexes fantasize during sexual intercourse; there is no consistent difference between men and women.

Finally, the data seemed to indicate that the vast majority of men and women have sexual daydreams. As with intercourse, there wasn't a difference between the sexes.

While men and women are similar in incidence and frequency of sexual fantasies during intercourse and nonsexual activity, men are more likely to fantasize during masturbation. The author adds that men appear to fantasize about sex more often throughout the day than do women. Why the difference? One explanation given is that because men masturbate more frequently than women and tend to start masturbating on a regular basis at an earlier age, their sexual fantasies have had a greater opportunity to be paired with orgasm and therefore to be positively reinforced. - However, it is also noted that most men and women, around 90%, reported enjoying their fantasies. - The paper goes on to point out that men and women are socialized differently about sex. Women are focused on a committed relationship and are wary of unwanted pregnancy and a possibly "loose" reputation and hence learn to inhibit sexual responsivity. Part of being masculine is sexual success and part of being feminine is to limit sexual accessibility to the most desirable partner. As a consequence, it is argued that women are taught not to be sexually aroused outside the context of a relationship.

Sexual Satisfaction
Freud wrote that "a happy person never phantisizes [sic], only an unsatisfied one." However, the authors point out that evidence does not support this. It is now considered a sign of pathology not to have sexual fantasies rather than to have them. For example, infrequent sexual fantasy is one of the defining criteria for the sexual disorder "inhibited sexual desire" described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev.; DSM-III-R; American Psychiatric Association, 1987).

Studies have shown that having fantasies are positively related to sexual arousability. In other words, if you fantasize in general, you are more responsive to various sources of sexual stimulation whether erotic materials or self-generated fantasy. These studies go on to show that sexual fantasies are tied to the level of sexual satisfaction of an individual. A person who reports sexual satisfaction is more likely to fantasize and a person who fantasizes reports sexual satisfaction. Unlike food where a subject who is deprived of food may daydream about food, it seems that sexual deprivation leads to fewer thoughts about sex. With more sex comes more thinking about sex and hence, more fantasies.

Of course the biggest stumbling block to any sexual fantasy is guilt. Much of our culture involves guilt when it comes to sex and guilt is a huge impediment to not just sex itself, but to fantasizing about it.

Popular Fantasies
Leitenberg notes that all studies are not the same but some common findings are apparent and generally consistent. While there are differences between men and women, there are also similarities. For instance, fantasies about having sex with a loved one or reliving a previous sexual encounter or having sex with a new partner are popular with both genders. One study cited oral-genital sex and finding one sexually irresistible as two other themes cropping up in various studies.

Differences between the sexes are interesting. In studying responses to pornographic films, researchers noted that men focus on the woman's body whereas women focus on the man's interest in her body. Men's fantasies contained more visual imagery and explicit anatomic detail, whereas women's sexual fantasies contained greater reference to affection, emotions, and story line. Yes, both sexes react to visual stimuli, but men focus on the visual action while women focus on the emotional action. - There is some truth to the idea that men are visual and women are cerebral or emotional. - The authors cite a study which concluded that for women more than men the buildup which precedes sexual encounters was an important part of their sexual fantasies. The same study stated that 57% of women and only 19% of the men focused on "feelings" while 81% of men and 43% of women focused on the visual.

Submission Fantasies
Studies show that no woman fantasizes about being raped per se. No woman wants this in reality. In the fantasy, a woman feels perfectly safe and does not fear for her life. The typical female erotic rape fantasy involves imagining a sexually attractive man whose sexual passion is irresistibly stimulated by the woman's sexual attractiveness. In the fantasy, the man uses just enough force to overcome her token resistance and to arouse her sexually.

Explanations? A submissive fantasy is actually a fantasy about sexual power rather than weakness; the woman perceives herself to be so desirable that the man cannot resist or help himself. In the fantasy, the woman imagines enjoying submitting to the man's force, so it is done for her pleasure. In other words, it could be argued that the rape fantasy is just another example of the affirmation of sexual power-irresistibility theme so common in sexual fantasies involving seduction, group sex, exhibitionism, and the like.

Another explanation centers on guilt if sex is considered socially unacceptable. By being forced, the woman is blameless. If a woman imagines being forced to engage in what is considered improper sexual behavior, she may feel less guilty about it and, as a result, enjoy the fantasy more.

Erotic Materials
Studies show that while women as well as men can become aroused by typical X-rated videos and can masturbate to orgasm as rapidly as men when viewing these films, they have a more negative attitude toward this material. The reason comes back to a woman's preference for a storyline, a gradual buildup, and some affectional-emotional ties. Pornography appears to be commercially successful because it closely corresponds to men's sexual fantasies, whereas romance fiction appears to be commercially successful because it corresponds more closely to women's fantasies.

Another significant difference between men and women: men more than women imagine doing something sexual to their partner, whereas women more than men imagine something sexual being done to them.

Stuff about fantasies on the Net
A Google search on "sexual fantasies" will turn up a ton of material from the scientific to Cosmo articles "How can I get my guy to share his fantasies?" to fantasy stories as erotica. Oprah talks about them with guests like Dr. Laura Berman and Dr. Marta Meana. Redbook lists numerous articles about them with titles like "How Often Women Think of Sex" or "Women's Top 5 Sexual Fantasies". Searching for the word "erotica" or "women's erotica" lead to numerous links. The sky is the limit; there seems to be no end to what's available on the Net about this subject.

Final Word
We all seem to have sexual fantasies in one form or another whether we've admitted it to the researchers or not. - The authors cite a figure of 95% of both men and women. - Somehow this seems like a self-truth and reminds me of an old joke. The sergeant stands in front of his troops and announces, "We've just got back the results of the survey and it shows that ninety percent of you men masturbate. [pregnant pause] And the other ten percent are liars." - If you say you don't fantasize, well, I'd be inclined to think you're not telling the truth.

Sex begets sex. Sexual energy begets sexual energy. Those who fantasize have more sex and those who have sex fantasize more. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy in that if you think about sex you're going to end up having sex and vice versa.

I have to comment about the fantasy where we think of ourselves as being sexually irresistible. Isn't that what all the fun is about? I'm chasing you because I can't help myself. You are just so damn beautiful, I am like a moth before the flame. The more you make yourself sexually desirable, the more I am sexually attracted to you. If you stoke the flames, you get more fire. Hmmm, it seems kind of obvious, no?

Yes, it's self-evident. Sexual fantasies make for a better sex life. Onward and upward! Er, inward?


Wikipedia: Sexual fantasies
A sexual fantasy, also called an erotic fantasy, is a fantasy or pattern of thoughts with the effect of creating or enhancing sexual feelings; in short, it is "almost any mental imagery that is sexually arousing or erotic to [an] individual". A fantasy can be a long, drawn-out story or a quick mental flash of sexual imagery; its purpose can range from sexual motivations, such as sexual arousal and reaching orgasm, to simply passing time or helping a person fall asleep. Sexual arousal may in turn give raise to fantasies.

Psychological Bulletin 1995. Vol. I I 7 , No. 3,469-496: the American Psychological Association, Inc.
Sexual Fantasy by Harold Leitenberg and Kris Henning, University of Vermont
Everybody daydreams and fantasizes, at least some of the time (J. L. Singer, 1966). Fantasies can be about anything—escape to beautiful places, money, revenge, fame—but probably the most intriguing if not most common fantasies concern romance and sex (Byrne, 1977;Giambra, 1974; Wagman, 1967). That "sex is composed of friction and fantasy" is an often quoted remark (Kaplan, 1974, p. 84). Certainly it is by now a truism that one's brain is at least as important a sexual organ as one's genitals. What humans think about can either enhance or inhibit sexual responsivity to any form of sensory stimulation, and, in the absence of any physical stimulation, sexual fantasy alone is arousing.

The University of Vermont - Department of Psychology
Harold Leitenberg, Emeritus Professor; At UVM 1965-2001
B.A. City College of New York, 1960
Ph.D. Indiana University, 1965
Harold authored/co-authored and edited four books and over 100 refereed articles in peer reviewed professional journals.

Portland State University
Kris Henning, Associate Professor
Director of Criminology & Criminal Justice Online
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, University of Vermont, 1995
B.A., Psychology and Sociology, University of Vermont

Google search: "sexual fantasies"

Good Housekeeping Magazine
Married Sex — Making Lust Last By Keith Ablow, M.D.
How to rekindle passion for the husband you still love.

Self Magazine
What's Your Fantasy? By Jennifer Howze
Your private desires can hold the key to unlocking hotter sex. You don't even need to divulge them to indulge them.


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