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“Sexuality is one of the ways that we become enlightened, actually, because it leads us to self-knowledge.” Alice Walker

An androgynous face mostly in shadow, lit from beneath on one side by firelight, against a dark background with eyes closed and sparks flying across the frame.

The Transformative Power of Sexual Fantasies

approx. 6 minutes reading time

Let me be honest– even as a sex educator, I never thought sexual fantasy would actually improve my sex life. But it has, and I want to share that vulnerable experience with you.

My name is Cassidy and I am non-binary, on the asexual spectrum, white, and partnered. After many years of having uninspiring, neutral, or forgettable sexual experiences, I can see now that I started to feel more fulfilled around the time I began to embrace sexual fantasy in my day-to-day sex life. Sexual fantasy has helped me gain confidence, get a clearer understanding of the desire I experience (or lack thereof), and has guided my sexual experiences in a way that feels freeing from gender norms and the pressures of everyday life. 

But what is fantasy? Sexual fantasy is not that scenario you think of that makes your heart race. It’s not that person, in that position, who you think about from time to time. And it isn’t whips and chains or vibrators and dildos either. These can be delightful elements to your fantasy– however, I would argue the core of a fantasy is not the object, setting, or specific people, but the feeling. What do you want to feel and how can you or the other characters in the fantasy get you there? Everyone’s sexual fantasy is going to be a little different, but regardless of your background or identities, you start by giving yourself permission to let your imagination run free.  

Here’s my example– I used to describe one of my sexual fantasies as the act of getting a sex massage from a stranger. What I previously believed was that the fantasy was the pleasure of the physical massage and the anonymity of the stranger. While those things are important factors, the fantasy, however, is the feeling I get– not the acts being done. What I’ve discovered is that you can only or play out those fantasy situations so many times. Sure, you can switch up some of the factors like the masseuse, location, massage oils or lubes used; but just like listening to your favorite song, there comes a time when you need to switch it up. That’s human nature, the truth about anything we do– we need variation. 

But when we get to the feeling we are searching for at the core of our fantasy, we can learn to vary how we seek and receive that fulfilling and satisfying pleasure. By better understanding our fantasies and where they come from, we can explore the variety of them within sex, as well as incorporate the eroticism of those experiences outside of sex. Think: Uses of the Erotic by Audre Lorde.

In the fantasy I mentioned, I feel absolute pillow-princess, non-negotiable self-centered pleasure. I also want to feel safe and private– Yes! While sex with strangers is often considered taboo, in this case having it be a stranger actually adds to the safety and privacy. We all want to feel safe, but that’s a particularly important element of this fantasy– where I can sense a calm, stable, gentle touch and an uninterrupted environment around me. 

But that environment does not have to only be present in a massage room. It can be in the bathroom of a library, a closed office, my own space with a webcam. The physical act also does not have to be a massage, it can be any number of erotic activities– the possibilities are as big as my imagination. In any of those combinations, the fantasy is the feeling of being able to let go of the expectation that I need to return anything, to soak in the pleasure of the moment, and to be comfortable in my body.

Digging deeper into my own fantasies was an important step for my sexual self-care and confidence. Naming the feeling I was searching for within my sex fantasies brought me clarity about what was missing from sex, as well as life outside of sex. When thinking about the sex massage fantasy, I realized I was prioritizing everyone else’s needs before mine. It felt like a fantasy to have all of the attention on me and from someone I knew nothing about and therefore had no responsibility for. It was also life-changing to accept the selfishness of focusing on just my own pleasure. In this fantasy, I do not have to perform for the pleasure of someone else, nor return the pleasure in a physical way. 

Interestingly enough– thinking more deeply about this fantasy I have had for years, and even actualized in some ways, I discovered something that now feels very obvious: I prefer solo masturbation compared to partnered sex. I still enjoy partnered sex at times, but by digging deeper into the feeling I am looking for when I find myself daydreaming about the sex massage fantasy, I now understand that while an anonymous masseuse might not be available, I can still achieve that craving in other ways such as solo play. (Even when partnered sex is available.) I can find ways to exclusively focus on my own pleasure without having to perform or return the favor. 

So, how about we try digging deeper with one of your fantasies? Think of your most recent, most exciting sexual fantasy or try coming up with a new one. 

I suggest answering the questions out loud if you are in a space that feels comfortable to do so or writing the answers down. 

  1. Are you alone or with someone else? Are you with more than one person?
  2. Where are you?
  3. Can anyone else see or hear you?
  4. Is anyone talking or making noise?
  5. Who is leading the physical acts?
  6. What do you feel?

I’m going to answer these questions with another one of my fantasies:

  1. Are you alone or with someone else? Are you with more than one person? – I am with my partner with other people in the room.
  2. Where are you? – I am at a strip club in a dark corner.
  3. Can anyone else see or hear you? – Other people can see our shadows but cannot hear us.
  4. Is anyone talking or making noise? – Other people are talking and music is playing.
  5. Who is leading the physical acts? – My partner.
  6. What do you feel? – I feel dangerous, protected, and secretive.

At the beginning of the questions, I might have thought this fantasy was about the location and the person. But by the end, I see it is also about the feeling – feelings that can be mimicked in other ways when I give my imagination permission to run free. 

Even with other fantasies that seem centered on specific people or locations, I believe there’s something deeper to dive into. It doesn’t matter whether you actually experience that scenario or not. Your fulfillment comes from being able to find a variety of ways to seek that core pleasure that make you feel alive. There is nothing wrong with dreaming about going to a specific sex party that doesn’t feel the same any other way. Or with imagining an experience with a specific partner who is the only person you wish to share it with. But regardless of the fantasy, there is something underlying it that you’re searching to feel– even if it’s just an escape from everyday life. I believe that the true goal of fantasy is to better understand ourselves and our desires and not necessarily to have a specific dream come true. 

Exploring fantasy is a profound and fascinating process, but it can also feel overwhelming or scary to discover our truth. And, some of our most desired fantasies are highly stigmatized or taboo or even physically impossible– and that’s okay! Our goal for fantasy is not to create a perfect blueprint for real-life sex, but rather to feel more satisfied with every aspect of our lives. Fantasy is not the place we first think of for that fulfillment…but it might be exactly where we need to go. 

Join Cassidy on February 28th for their virtual workshop “Exploring Your Sexual Fantasies”, which is designed to explore sexual fantasies in a safe and supportive environment. It’s a starting point for thinking about sexual fantasies from a self-care and sexual wellness perspective that teaches us about our whole selves.

Cassidy Chait (they/them) is a dual-degree graduate student at Widener University working towards an MEd in human sexuality and an MSW focused on sex therapy. Cassidy is completing their sex education practicum internship with The Pincus Center for the duration of the Spring 2023 semester.

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