Understanding Sexual Fantasies
Sexual fantasies provide a way for people to explore feelings and desires.
Harold M. is a 47-year-old, 5'9" man who is in generally good health although he is a bit anemic. Apart from being a pharmacist, he is married, has two children, and earns about $30,000 a year. He is almost completely bald and wears a brown toupee. His fantasy world is based on past experiences and the text that follows is written from his perspective.
Being in my late forties, I can only imagine increasing sexual bleakness ahead. When I want to excite myself I think about notable things that happened to me sometimes as long as thirty or more years ago. If I concentrate hard enough, I can recapture some of the excitement I felt then. The world was a very different place when I was a kid in the early forties. A man could reach the age of twenty-one without ever having seen a naked girl, or, for that matter, a girl in her slip. Virginity was the rule for both sexes, usually until marriage. Consequently, kissing, petting and sex play, were much more thrilling than even a good fuck is today. Maybe it’s my age, but I never get the kind of kick out of sex now that I did when it was strictly taboo.
There’s one fantasy that never fails to excite me, and even now as I think about it I can feel my groin tighten and my pulse quicken. Strictly speaking, it isn’t a fantasy at all but a memory. It really happened, but over the years I’ve polished it and improved it until it’s almost new, and it never fails to get the desired result.
I guess I was about twelve going on thirteen and living in a small city. Next door to our house lived two girls, one about a year older than me and the other about a year younger. We played together a lot, and the girls made the usual “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours” suggestions, which I always turned down. Not that I wasn’t curious—far from it. I was dying to see what they looked like under their clothes. But I was almost pathologically modest in that ultra-modest era, when lingerie ads had to have the models navels painted out before they could be printed. Brainwashed into a state of puritanical shame, I could think of nothing more horrible than having a girl see my sub-teen prick with its brand new scraggly growth of pubic hair. After a while the girls stopped asking, and we remained friends and playmates.
The local movie house had the usual Saturday afternoon kid shows and each week we kids made the pilgrimage to the movies, emerging in mid-afternoon, early enough to play for a while before supper time. To get to the movie from my house, you had to cross a small wooded park. On the way home from the film, we always played in the park, acting out whatever we had seen on the screen. On a certain Saturday, the film had been a Western. It was autumn, and the sun was beginning to set early. My two young neighbors and I walked through the little patch of woods, shooting at each other with our index fingers. Bang bang you’re dead! and we’d fall in mock agony, hide behind trees, and stalk each other fiercely. There had been a scene in the movie in which the hero had been captured by Indians who tied him to a tree and tortured him. In the middle of our game, as though by divine intervention, one of the girls discovered an old piece of rope. We all got the idea simultaneously, and I, who always had to be the hero because I was a boy, insisted on being the one tied to the tree.
They fastened my hands securely around the trunk and then, having no more rope, they decided to use my belt to secure my ankles. I guess it was the awkward and unfamiliar act of pulling a boy’s belt out of its loops that gave them the idea, because as soon as I was firmly tied they began to whisper and giggle. I called to them to get on with the game and stop fooling around. Then, after a few seconds of whispering ‘You do it—No! You do it,’ the younger girl walked up and started to unfasten my trousers. When I realized what she was doing, I began to struggle with all my might, calling them every name I could think of and threatening dire punishment—all to no avail. My pants dropped around my ankles, and I was left in my sweater, jacket, and frayed boy’s underpants. They’d never seen a real-live boy in his drawers before, and you could practically hear the blood pounding in their temples. Their eyes bugged out as I fought to free myself, my face fiery red with embarrassment. Then the older girl, with a might-as-well- be-hung-for-a-sheep-as-for-a-lamb shrug, grabbed my underpants and dragged them down my legs.
It was, I thought at the time, the worst moment of my life. The girls stood thunderstruck at the enormity of what they’d done, hypnotized by their very first prick. They couldn’t take their eyes off it, flopping back and forth as I yanked at my ropes. The incident would have ended there if the younger one hadn’t succumbed to curiosity and reached out and touched it. At that age I was terribly sensitive, and the girls were astounded to see my organ suddenly swell to twice its size and point straight up in the air. Of course they thought I’d done it purposely, and they began to giggle and poke at it. They started a new game of forcing my hard-on down and letting it pop back up again. Then one of them discovered my balls, and both of them had to explore anew. My rage began to subside and a new sensation in my groin took over. Then suddenly, without warning, I came. The sperm shot a good six feet away. By this time I’d realized that we had crossed an intriguing threshold. This impression was confirmed when the older girl suddenly said ‘Now let’s tie me up.’
Over the years, I’ve redesigned the incident in my imagination. I made the girls older and younger and substituted women I secretly desired for the original cast. The scene is always the same, me with my bare ass against the rough bark of the tree, my prick exposed to the eyes of innocent females who’ve never seen one before. Always fumbling, inexperienced, soft little feminine hands touch it and fondle it. I must have relived the incident a thousand times, and always with supreme excitement and a throbbing hard-on.
It is at this point in the text that Dr. Chatham gives his perspective on Harold’s fantasies. “Men approaching middle age often irrationally take it into their heads that as they advance in years their sexual powers will automatically wane. Such men have a tendency to turn to past successes for encouragement. There is also a widespread tendency among younger men to seek present inspiration from the memory of actual outstanding past experiences. Harold M.’s fantasy is, in this respect, a fairly common one. What is not so common is the content of the fantasy, which reveals a number of aspects of Harold’s sexual tendencies and attitudes. There are in more than 99 percent of us, men and women alike, voyeuristic desires. They are fortunately counterbalanced, though to a somewhat lesser extent, by exhibitionistic desires.”
Voyeuristic desires are, in my view, perfectly natural, because we are easily aroused by visual stimuli. This is undeniable in men, and though women have in the past been thought less capable of easy arousal by visual stimuli, recent studies of mine—on which I have reported in my latest book, What Turns Women On—show that women are not only capable of being aroused this way but, more often than not, are aroused this way. Male and female exhibitionistic desires, on the other hand, differ somewhat in motivation.
The woman, aware of the man’s rapid response to sexual arousal by visual stimuli, uses the exhibition of her body, both clothed and unclothed, to sexually attract him. The stripper, though essentially doing it for money, is reacting to the same motivation—she’s sexually attracting men and, on a larger scale, exerting her sexual power over them. The man’s exhibitionist motivations are not based on a desire to attract a sexual partner. As the traditional sexual aggressor, he exhibits his erection in order to impress upon her his male sexual strength and superiority.
Some time ago it was suggested to me that male exhibitionist desires are not so cut and dry as this. The theory was that while these desires may have as their motivation this display of male sexual strength, the men who want to dominate their partners totally are less numerous than those who prefer to share their virility with a partner rather than force it on her. In testing this theory over the past few years, I have asked 387 men between the ages of eighteen and fifty the following questions: would you be embarrassed if your partner saw you naked with an erection while you were moving about the room?; if so, would you still be embarrassed if you were lying or sitting down and your partner saw your erection?
The results seem to show that there is something in the theory, because 131 men declared that they would not be embarrassed if their partner saw their erection while they were moving about the room—and, in fact, often contrived to be seen this way. While 239 declared that they would be embarrassed if seen with an erection while moving about the room, they stated that they would not be embarrassed if seen with an erection while lying or sitting down, and 198 of these confessed that they often contrived to be so seen. (While 17 admitted that they would be embarrassed if their partners saw their erection when they were in any posture, 12 of this group were in the forty-five to fifty age group.)
Harold’s fantasy indicates that he has definite exhibitionist desires, and that their motivation is to subdue his partner by a show of male sexual strength. “I, who always had to be the hero because I was a boy… My prick exposed to the eyes of innocent females who’ve never seen one before,” and “are astounded by it.” But again, all is not quite so simple as it appears at first. For while he wants to impress his partners with his erection, he cannot do anything more than exhibit it because he is tied up. He has, in fact, the motivations of the real-life “flasher” who likes to exhibit his virility in order to impress, but who rarely attacks or attempts to rape. But there are other elements which have prevented Harold from becoming a flasher, or even a suppressed flasher.
I would have liked to know whether in his actual lovemaking he has had a desire not just to share his virility with his partner, but to offer her the opportunity to do whatever she wants with it—if he has, in fact, a strong wish to be the passive partner. It would not surprise me if this were so, nor if this wish has been denied him. If it has, the denial has been the reason for his converting the experience to fantasy. For clearly, what the experience has impressed upon him is his response to being sexually fondled by the girls.
After playing with his cock, one of them discovered his balls—a prominent erogenous zone in most men—“and both of them had to explore anew. My rage began to subside and a new sensation in my groin took over… I came.” And in his fantasy, “always fumbling, inexperienced, soft little feminine hands touch it and fondle it.” This is really a classic example of what the psychologists term “imprinting.” Under certain circumstances, a first sexual experience can make such an impression that it influences one’s sexual experiences ever after. For example, a patient of mine had his first orgasm and ejaculation as a fourteen-year-old while swimming with friends, one of whom masturbated him to climax as they stood in the water at the edge of the pool. From then on, until he consulted me, he could only reach orgasm when he had his feet in cold water.
Because he was tied up, Harold was compelled to be the passive object of the girls’ sexual games. Since then he has had to play the active role, but his response has never been so satisfying as when he was passive. He has discovered, however, that by using his fantasy passive role, he can obtain his best responses and greatest satisfaction while being active. With the help of his fantasy he obtains a sexual experience that he could not achieve without it—one thing fantasies are for.