[Intelligent Lust Part Four | Part One: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life | Part Two: How Sex Heals: Embarking on the Journey of Intelligent Lust | Part Three: What Brings You To Orgasm?]
What Gets Other People Off?
Step 3: Identifying Fantasies and True Desires
In the previous column I asked a series of questions to help you identify the thoughts, images and fantasies that actually bring you to orgasm whether you are engaged in sex with a partner or enjoying masturbation. Learning about other peoples’ fantasies can also bring clarity to our own because we often see ourselves in other peoples stories.
The following are some of the most common themes found in people’s fantasies identified through a variety of surveys and sources. Each is illustrated by an example taken from a patient’s fantasy or compiled from fantasies on Internet sex sites. Some were sent to me in response to a request made on Craigslist asking people to tell me what brings them to orgasm as research for my book, “Your Brain on Sex.” You may recognize your fantasies and sort out their themes by comparing them to the ones described.
Keep in mind that some of these fantasies may arouse you. Others you may find disturbing. A knee-jerk reaction such as shame or disgust may sometimes be a defense against a deeper feeling – an unthinkable attraction that you fear might rise to the surface. If you have a strong reaction to a fantasy, take the time to be honest with yourself. Lift up the rock and search for what might be underneath. No one is watching and no one is judging. This step is about understanding.
Ask yourself: “What are my most compelling thoughts and images? Which stories excite or arouse me the most?”
Fantasies with Themes of Romantic Sex
These fantasies involve emotional attachment and are like romantic novels in which an exceptionally handsome or beautiful person is overcome by our looks or personality. We fall in love or lust and engage in anything from a simple kiss to our suitor ravishing us in some beautiful or exotic setting. The stories can be simple or elaborate with back stories taken from history or science fiction. Always emotionally satisfying and optimistic, they are often the stories that make up romance novels.
Jane, thirty-four: “I am on vacation in Italy with a best girlfriend. One night after an amazing meal together she goes back up to our room alone because she has a headache or something. I decide to stay at the restaurant and have another glass of wine. While I am there, I notice this gorgeous younger Italian man. He’s watching me. He’s dark and sexy, with these penetrating eyes, nothing like my husband! After a minute he walks over to me and asks where I am from. We chat for a minute and he asks if I would like to go for a walk, if I’d like to see the river at night. I know I shouldn’t but I say yes. We start walking and it is so sexy. It’s a warm night and he keeps brushing his arm against me. He’s flirting, and after a bit he tells me how beautiful he thinks I am. He tells me how much he would like to be given the chance to caress me. To kiss me all over. To make love to me. I’m practically swooning. After a few more minutes, we duck into a dark alley and he lifts me up, raising my skirt. We make love and all the while he is whispering things to me in Italian. I don’t even know what he’s saying, but I feel like it’s all very appreciative of me, my body. After we are spent he writes his number on a piece of paper. He hopes that we can see each other until I have to leave. That’s when I usually pull myself out of the fantasy. I almost feel like it’s fine, normal, to have a fantasy of one night of passion, but more than that and I start to feel guilty. As if I would get carried away with this man and leave my family behind.”
Fantasies of Forced Sex
These fantasies usually involve passion and force but are rarely violent or painful. Sometimes we resist the aggressor, other times we obey. We are excited by single images or we imagine elaborate stories about being kidnapped or held prisoner in settings like a detention cell, basement, cave, or desert tent. The sex often is wild or “dirty.” The bottom line is that our choice about having sex is taken away and we are helpless and powerless in the situation.
Some of us may act as the aggressor in our fantasies and overwhelm a defiant or unwilling partner, forcing them to have sex with us.
Cathy, twenty-eight: “I’m home alone one afternoon. I’m standing naked in front of the mirror, admiring myself, which I don’t normally do. I’m gently brushing my hand across my body when I hear a sound coming from the living room, but I don’t pay it much attention. I caress my breast, watching myself in the mirror, when suddenly there’s a man’s hand over my mouth ‘”Don’t say a word,’” he says. ‘”I’m not going to hurt you.’” I can see him in the mirror. He’s short and stocky, nothing like my usual type. I’m frightened and excited at the same time. He throws me to the floor, holds my hands over my head with one hand, and unzips his fly with his other. I try to resist, but he’s too strong and powerful for me to move. He takes out his penis and, without saying a word, he enters me without a condom. I continue to resist for a while then finally give up. He ejaculates inside me, which I would never let anyone do.”
Fantasies with Multiple Partners
These fantasies take a few forms. We are adored or worshiped by various partners who can’t keep their hands off of us. We receive physical pleasure that can’t be achieved through just one person. All of our erogenous zones are stimulated as we are ravaged by other people who have an uncontrollable desire for us.
Among the most common form of this fantasy for men is to see two women together. For women, it is to enjoy sex with a man and another woman who knows exactly how to please her.
Ellen, forty-six: “I always wanted to try it with two men. I imagine them competing for me. Each one doing something more interesting to get me excited. They never touch each other. All the energy is focused on me. They get in a rhythm, each of them alternating between my mouth, breasts, and vagina with their tongues. I go crazy. Then one guy penetrates me while the other goes down on my clitoris. I don’t think that I would really ever want that to happen. I would probably be overwhelmed. But it’s fun to imagine.”
Fantasies about Sex with a Stranger
Pure recreational pleasure is the theme in these fantasies. We imagine anonymous sex with someone with whom we have little or no history or who we will probably never see again. We see him on the subway or in a restaurant, or he is faceless and approaches us from behind or wears a mask. We enjoy completely uninhibited sex without requiring intimacy.
Warren, thirty-six: “I have this fantasy about meeting some girl online. We exchange some instant messages and our pics. It’s pretty straight forward. I want to fuck and she wants to get fucked. She invites me over. We talk for about two seconds and get right down to business. We don’t even know each others’ name and I fuck her. We finish and I leave. We’re both happy. No emotions, no strings attached.”
Fantasies About Domination
Unlike fantasies of forced sex, we willingly surrender control to a more aggressive partner. In submitting, we consent to engage in sexual and non-sexual acts involving devotion to a partner, Master or Mistress. There is a sense of freedom, rather than fear, in letting go and allowing someone else to be in total control of the moment. In these scenes, we imagine being “used” by our partner for their pleasure.
For some of us, fantasies in which we perform as the Master or Dominatrix provide the turn-on. We, demand, command, or coerce our partners into giving in to our deepest desires. Sometimes we play on the edge between pain and pleasure. Consensual slavery, sexual slavery, feminizing and collaring can all be elements of these fantasies.
Jeff, thirty-nine: “I’m a financial advisor. It’s important in my work that I come across as confident, in charge. But in my fantasy life, it is totally the opposite. This is pretty embarrassing for me to talk about, but what turns me on the most is the idea of being a sex slave. Totally dominated. Like being forced to crawl around on the floor behind my Mistress. In my fantasy, she bosses me around completely, is rude, sometimes even cruel. A lot of the time it’s not even sexual stuff she wants me to do. I lick her boots, even clean her toilet on my hands and knees. She doesn’t allow me to look up or make eye contact with her. If I do, she punishes me by getting spankings or by bending down and kissing the floor in front of her, like, fifty times.
“Sometimes in my fantasy she even has a friend come over and I have to remain like this, naked, with a collar around me, following her around and taking orders from her. In my fantasy I am totally humiliated but for some reason that’s why I like it. That’s what gets me really excited.”
Fantasies about Bondage
Bondage fantasies are a form of domination in which we are rendered physically helpless through restraints such as ropes, handcuffs, or leather straps. Similar to domination fantasies, these don’t necessarily involve sexual acts and are often more about the paradox of mental liberation through being restrained. We are not so much submitting to the Dominant as we are to the bondage. Sometimes sensory deprivation, mouth gags, chastity belts, or even mummification is part of the turn-on.
Jennifer, thirty-eight: “I have these fantasies regularly where I am, like, sort of a dominatrix. It’s totally not who I am normally. I have pretty normal sex, you know, nice guys, missionary position. But when I masturbate, I think about tying someone up. Sometimes it’s a man, sometimes a woman. Sometimes I have this whole sex-room thing going on. Like a basement where I take people where I have a chair with straps, tables with harnesses and whips, that kind of thing. But usually in my fantasy it’s a little simpler. I go on a date with a guy, or out to for a drink with a girlfriend, and we end up back at my place. He’s tired so I let them him lay lie down for a few on my bed. After a little bit I wake them him up by running my hand between their his legs. When I can tell that he is turned on, I undress him and tie his wrists and ankles to the side of the bed. Sometimes I blindfold him, but sometimes I want him to look at me while I am doing this. Sometimes I gag his mouth. Sometimes I use feathers or hit him lightly with a leather whip. He is totally powerless. I like to tease him but ultimately I want him to please me. To be aroused but maybe for him to not even be allowed to get off himself I might lift myself over him, his face buried between my breasts or my legs. I might fuck him until I come and stop before he does or just make him watch me masturbate with my toy. When I am done I untie him and hand him his clothes. I thank him for a nice evening and ask him politely to leave!”
As much as we may identify ourselves in others’ fantasies, it’s also important to keep in mind that for some of us, our fantasies will fall outside of the most common ones described here. Just as no two people’s life experiences can be exactly the same, neither can our fantasies. The mind is an extraordinarily creative instrument, and the kinds of images, narratives, and metaphors we use to describe our desires, are very much part of our own unique creations.
For a description of the eighteen most common fantasies see, Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life.
In my next column you will learn about where your fantasies come from and what they reveal about the deeper nature of who you are.
Stanley Siegel, Intelligent Lust
First published on Psychology Today on September 13, 2011.