9 Reasons Sex Fantasies Are Good For You
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The following is an excerpt from Private Thoughts: Exploring the Power of Women’s Sexual Fantasies by Wendy Maltz and Suzie Boss, 2008. Copyright Wendy Maltz and Suzie Boss.
The beauty of fantasy is that we can tap this wellspring of creativity at any time, in any place, with no one else privy to our thoughts. ‘‘A major advantage of fantasy as an aid to physical sexual stimulation,’’ wrote Lonnie Barbach, Ph.D., in For Yourself, her 1976 classic about female sexuality, ‘‘is that it requires no equipment and is always available.’’ Temporarily and vicariously, fantasy allows us to sample highly charged sexual scenarios that exist in a world beyond what real life allows. Not surprisingly, women use fantasy most often to increase sexual desire and to facilitate sexual functioning, especially orgasm.
Besides being effective in turning up sexual heat, fantasies also have an amazing ability to help us cope with the emotional stresses of sex. They offer a way to immediately reduce the biggest block to sexual pleasure: anxiety. Looking more closely at how certain fantasies work, we can discover how they soothe our worries or distract us from concerns that would otherwise get in the way of enjoying sex. By focusing on the steamy images and stories in our minds, we can feel less inhibited and more inspired to be sexually open and expressive. Thus, fantasies often work to increase sexual stimulation while simultaneously decreasing emotional anxiety. When women consider when and why they turn to fantasy, they often mention both sexual and emotional issues.
Usually, we can identify a very specific reason for the fantasies we are most likely to replay. These repetitive fantasies tend to be the ones that we hone, achieving a particular purpose with them. Women describe them as reliable, often adding a comment such as ‘‘It always works.’’
The most common functions of women’s sexual fantasies fall into nine categories:
FUNCTION #1: ENHANCING SELF-ESTEEM AND ATTRACTIVENESS
Although Margaret and her lover usually have sex in bed with the lights off, in her favorite fantasy she sees herself standing in front of a mirror under bright lights:
‘‘I imagine that I’m in a dressing room at a chic department store, trying on a low-cut silk dress that accents my breasts, hugs my torso, and flares out at my hips. In real life I’d never wear anything so revealing, but I look damn good in this sexy black dress. I spin around slowly, admiring myself from all angles. Then I poke my head out into the hallway and call to my lover. He’s been waiting for me patiently while I try on dresses, and I’ve decided to let him take a close look at this one. I wave him into the dressing room with me, holding a finger to my lips to signal him to keep quiet. Once he’s inside the booth, I bolt the door and turn to face him. I can tell he likes what he sees. He lifts me onto a stool facing the mirrors and begins running his hands all over the dress and my body. He reaches under the dress and pulls off my lace panties. Then he ducks his head under the flared skirt and begins to kiss and lick my crotch. My hips start to pump in a familiar rhythm that I know will lead to climax. I watch us in the mirror. Smiling boldly, I decide to buy this dress after all.’’
Just as a wave of her fairy godmother’s wand gave Cinderella a new look for the palace ball, women can use sexual fantasy to help them feel better about themselves and more attractive as a sexual partner. Fantasy enables us to focus on whatever qualities we define as being sexy. We can highlight or even improve on our real appearance in fantasy. Some women imagine looking more like the cultural stereotype of female beauty, perhaps making themselves younger, with fuller breasts or slimmer thighs, longer hair, smoother skin, or stronger muscles. Picturing themselves as more attractive can enhance women’s sexual energy or distract them from what they consider to be shortcomings. These imagined changes also help some women feel more deserving of a partner’s sexual attention.