The list of people I have fantasized about is a long one. One that very rarely makes any logical sense in regards to who I would actually approach to engage in intimate behavior. In hindsight, it is a rather rare occasion that I fantasize about someone who I’d actually take on in the naked-sheet-rumble-tumble.
But I will say it, head held high and a twinkle in my eye: I heart my fantasies. I hold no guilt, shame or fear in regards to the content of these mind-boggling scenarios, but accept that my subconscious is constructing narratives that allow me to safely overcome the pathogenic beliefs of my childhood.
Eh? Sorry Caitlin. What is all this nonsense you are babbling on about again? I hear you query. Well, dear reader, I shall tell you a story. Once upon a time, I haphazardly attempted to approach the topic of how arousal works. I shall do it again now, but better. (I will be quoting Michael Bader from his book “Arousal; The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies”)
First off, pathogenic beliefs (a phrase and idea coined by psychologist Joseph Weiss) are irrational and self-defeating beliefs that we build in our childhoods. Usually, this involves blaming ourselves instead of our parents. Mark blamed himself for feeling neglected, Sally fails her tests because she unconsciously infers from her mother’s behavior that the mother will be jealous if Sally does better than she did.
“If I’m independent, my parents will feel drained.”
“If I’m independent, my parents will feel left out.”
“If I’m proud, I’ll be humiliated.”
“If I’m selfish, others will feel hurt.”
As children, our biggest concern is our relationship with our parents, we rely on them for food, shelter, love, support, the list goes on. Children will go out of their way to make sure that their relationship with their parents is o.k.
“We grow up with the pathogenic belief that we are undeserving of love. Someone then comes along and loves us. Are we likely to see, accept, or value this positive turn of events? No. Instead, we give great weight to negative messages that mirror our self-criticisms and discount positive ones that might contradict these same criticisms. Because we tend to discredit evidence that contradicts our beliefs and over-value evidence that confirms them, pathogenic beliefs are circular and self-reinforcing. This is why they persist into adult life.”
But it is these beliefs that shape our adult relationships. And very rarely do we stop and think about the fact that we are experiencing our friends, our lovers, our partners as if they were your parents and you are a wee lad/lass.
Unfortunately, pathogenic beliefs travel over to another spectrum of life: physical pleasure.
If you ask for something as a child and your parent reacts with frustration or irritation, you may develop the pathogenic belief that because you want, you are selfish. This will pass over to your experiences in relationships in the future. For example, every time you desire to orgasm with your partner, you feel selfish for the thought and always ensure that your partner orgasms instead. You feel guilty and unworthy when your partner focuses their attention on you, because whenever you requested the attention of your mother her reaction was indifferent, she had better things to do. So you learnt not to try to garner her attention, and when you followed this rule, your relationship with her became less shaky because she wasn’t directing a negative emotion at you.
“[…] it is important to remember that however much we stifle our sexual desire, it is always with us. This contradiction presents the mind with an obvious problem for which the solution is sexual fantasy. The function of sexual fantasy is to undo the beliefs and feelings interfering with sexual excitement, to ensure both our safety and our pleasure. Our fantasies convince us that we’re not going to harm or betray anyone, and that if we get fully aroused, no one will suffer.”
Basically: even if you wanted to ignore all of your bodily, sensual and normal urges, they’d still be there. That shit don’t disappear. I pinky promise you. Even monks have masturbated a few times…
The job of sexual fantasies is to find a way of turning the ‘no’ of guilt, fear, shame, into a resounding ‘yes’ of pleasure.
The realm of the fantasy allows for ruthless and greedy pleasure (muahahaha). To use the ‘other’ as a means to an end. To disregard any worry you usually may have for the others pleasure and surrender to your own selfish excitement. Letting go of the regard you may have for your partners experience is a difficult challenge (I know this because I went YEARS without being able to orgasm in partner sex merely for my inability to stop trying to figure out what was going on in the head of the guys who were trying oh so very hard to make sure the orgasming was a mutual experience. And I now know:) In an intense moment of sexual ecstasy, the last thing that will be entering your mind will be whether or not your partner can handle it.
The thing that finally got me to ‘let go’ was allowing myself to dive into a fantasy during partner sex (this was not my first nor my most optimal choice, but as all else failed, it was a option I was willing to explore).
Anyone who who has come to one of the Body Pride workshops, especially those who have attended more than once, will realize that I avoid this topic. Not obviously- there is much else to talk about whilst wine-happy and naked. But there is a reason for this.
My fantasies are Messed. Up.
And I know this. I know, that in my head, there exists an intricate map of all the various scenarios that will aid me in obtaining the ultimate naked genital wrestling prize: orgasm. I know that I cannot escape the way my parents influenced me (whether it was good or bad) and I know my own pathological genealogy. And each and every ‘weird and disturbing’ moment that creeps into my head has a well-thought out reasoning as to why it is functioning the way it is – in a manner that turns me on.
The characters in these ‘stories’ exist of two patterns: those I know (and these happen to be very, very strange people to choose to use in a sexual fantasy – these are usually people I have spoken a maximum of ten words to [God forbid that I know them intimately]) and those that only exist within character traits (I do not know these people, they do not have precise facial features, but usually comprise of males who exist in a position of power… I’ve already told you too much…).
There are likely a large handful of girls out there right now nodding their heads and saying “Yeah Caitlin. I know where you at, girl.” But there is a more important point here.
I knew about arousal, I knew how it worked and I knew that my brain was hijacked to feel guilty and shameful of a lot more than I was even consciously aware of. Which was helpful. And then one day, when I had settled down to a solo moment of self enjoyment, it hit me.
Something that had never entered my head before. Something weird. Something mildly mentally disturbing. Something a little uncomfortable. (You are dying to know what it is… I will never tell you.) And this terrified me to the point in which I stopped moving completely, sprung my eyelids open and stared at my ceiling for five minutes contemplating my sanity.
I resolved this issue with one question, which saved my soul. “Would I ever want to do this in real life?”
No. In fact, the amount of fantasy’s I keep in the spank-bank that I actually WOULD like to have happen in reality are… minimal. Maybe one. And that’s a maybe.
At this point, I am at the point of no return. If I want to keep my sexuality guilt-free I have to allow the fantasy to continue to happen. And I have to accept it… And appreciate it.
I need to embrace the ultimate messed-uped-ness of my brain.
And I will never tell anyone about it. Maybe my husband. One day. When we are both very intoxicated and he won’t remember and hold it against me.
But this is the most important and wonderful thing about fantasies. Unless asked, YOU KEEP THEM IN YOUR HEAD. And they stay there, protected in a deep dark safe you keep in your cerebellum, and release every now and then to run rampant through your synapses.
I won’t end this post with “Let cho freak flag fly” but rather:
Quietly, and alone, embrace your inner weirdo.
[As a side note, if anyone DOES want to read some fantasies to see how weird we all are, pick up any of Nancy Friday’s books – careful, my mother had nightmares after she read some of the stories in there… lol…]