Q. I’m worried that in order to orgasm when I am with my partner I have to fantasise about other people. Does this mean I don’t fancy them anymore?
If there’s one thing I would tell my younger self, it’s that it’s absolutely normal (and fun) to fantasise during sex. And yet, despite the positive impact this would have had on my mates and I as we got to grips with our sexualities, this information was notably absent from any sex education we received in school.
To right this wrong, I enlisted the help of Alix Fox, sex educator, writer and script consultant for Netflix’s Sex Education, for a deep dive into the world of sexual fantasies.
I want to reassure you that there is absolutely nothing to worry about, fantasising during sex or otherwise is part of what makes us human. But the lack of sex-positive education means some of us aren’t good at speaking openly and honestly about what we want or need sexually – or what we fantasise about.
Fantasising is a form of escapism; it allows us a moment to break free from our immediate surroundings and imagine being somewhere else, doing something else…. potentially with someone else. It gives our minds a break from the onslaught of emotion involved in simply existing. For a moment, we can think about living a different life or trying something perhaps we never could imagine doing in our actual lives.
As Alix notes, this is even more likely at the moment, during lockdown. “While scores of us are still stuck indoors, and lockdown restrictions are placing big limits on how adventurous, exciting and varied our real-life experiences can be right now, it’s no surprise that many people find themselves turning to sexual fantasies as a means of escapism,” she explains.
“It’s not hard to understand why we might be fervently wishing to be in another place, doing something thrilling and exciting that’s in total contrast to the dull, stressful everyday.”
Fantasising about someone else is not cheating
So is fantasising about someone else cheating? Nope, nope and nope. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that thoughts aren’t the same as actions. There’s an important stage we all (hopefully) go through between thinking something and actually doing it.
If we’re lucky enough to be in good mental health, our conscious mind works hard to make sure that the random thought telling us to do something dangerous for no apparent reason is met with a degree of rationalisation. In the same vein, as Alix explains, fantasising about something doesn’t even mean that “you'd like your fantasy to become your present reality in any way.” Maybe it’s just what is says on the tin: a fantasy.
In his 90s book, The Erotic Mind, sex therapist and psychologist Jack Morin offers that the rough erotic formula is attraction + obstacles = excitement. Roughly translated, a big part of the thrill of a sexual fantasy is that it is not easily accomplished.
When I’ve gone out of my way to make a fantasy into a reality, I’ve sometimes been disappointed that the experience didn’t match up to the excitement I felt when it was just a horn-inducing mental flight of fancy. Sometimes it’s better in your head.
And that’s not to say you shouldn’t live out your fantasies – you should absolutely do that if you want to and your sexual partner is game. But rather, if a fantasy is something you wouldn’t want to do in real life, then that can contribute to the overall buzz you get from imagining it happening. There can be something really sexy about thinking about “naughty”or “forbidden” things.
Does it mean you no longer fancy your partner? Again, nope! "Fantasising about sex with someone else – whether that’s a celebrity, a fictional character, or even someone you know – doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t fancy your partner anymore or that you long to be unfaithful,” says Alix. “To understand this, it might help to think about the idea that taking a holiday doesn’t mean you want to sell your house and move abroad; fantasies are usually harmless holidays in people’s heads.”
Sharing your fantasies with a partner can also be incredibly exciting, if you feel comfortable doing so. Often we fantasise about things we may want to explore, and being able to communicate these desires with your partner might help you to crank your intimacy up to another level. And though you are absolutely under no obligation to share your fantasies with anyone at all, if you do choose to do so then it can certainly introduce some fun into the equation. Open and honest sex is the sexiest sex.
For a non-intimidating way to do this, Franki Cookney recently drew my attention to sex menus in her newsletter, The Overthinker’s Guide to Sex (which you should subscribe to). I immediately filled the menu out with my partner. If you struggle to articulate your desire out loud, or would benefit from prompts to help you figure out exactly what you find so sexy about a particular fantasy, then this is a great option. For singles it’s also fun to sit down and really analyse what makes you tick, so that you are better able to communicate it with sexual partners.
Another idea, and something I love to do with my partner, is what we call “dirty story time,” which is exactly what it sounds like. We do our best to conjure up exciting fantasies for one another using our intimate knowledge of what gets the other off, and it usually ends in, well.... I’ll leave that to your imagination.
So to summarise: is it OK to fantasise? (YES) Do my fantasies mean anything sinister? (NO) Am I OK to keep on doing it, then? (ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY).
In the words of Queen Mariah, “it's just a sweet, sweet fantasy, baby”.
Alix Fox’s incredible podcast, KINK! is available to download now on Audible.