In my work with trauma survivors (many of which have sexual addiction), especially those who have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused as children, some share the perplexity of having fantasies that disturb them while arousing them at the same time. As we uncover the deeper meaning of these fantasies, individuals often say that they experience a sense of resolve with this part of their painful past, and begin to be able to embrace intimacy in a new and healthier way, regardless of their sexual preference.
Many clients feel shame and guilt related to certain fantasies, especially if they don’t involve their spouse or partner. Helping them understand the reasons behind certain fantasies can bring a sense of relief from the shame and guilt that is often attached.
Michael Bader wrote a fascinating book titled Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies. In it he describes sexual fantasies and arousal as “resulting from an unconscious attempt to solve problems and not, as many psychoanalysts would have it, recreate them (p. 9). He adds, “Whether that person’s sexual arousal is a response to a picture, person, sexual position, or elaborate daydream, it derives from the same set of psychological dynamics” (p. 9). Meaning, the underlying message behind fantasies are the same regardless of the situation, and the feelings elicited come from the same “psychological source”(p. 9).
Often times, sexual fantasies alleviate feelings of shame and guilt that individuals experienced; they “reverse feelings of helplessness (Bader, M. , pg. 114).
A few examples of sexual fantasies and their possible meanings, according to Bader pgs: 119-141):
Sadomasochistic fantasies: Often involve an attempt to resolve unconsious feelings of guilt related to a desire to let others do to you what you feel guilty about doing to others.For instance, “If someone feels guilty about being strong, then a fantasy about being weak might appease....enough to allow sexual excitement to emerge” (p. 119).
Multiple Partners, otherwise known in popular culture as “Swinging” (Salt Lake has a rather large underground Swingers group) often involves different scenarios, depending on the couple’s desires. According to Bader (2002) the presence of more than one partner may mean someone needs “double the attention” (p.133). Or the observer of other’s having sex may subconsciously believe that he/she doesn’t deserve to be loved, wanted. Some people seek multiple partners to alleviate guilty feelings associated with their strong appetite and not wanting to burden their less sexual partner. Still another reason may be trying to overcome responsibility for one’s partner (i.e., a man who is with another man and woman may be “attempting to master burdensome feelings of responsibility for women...to satisfy them and make them happy”(p. 134).
Exhibitionism: The book 50 Shades of Gray has been viewed as giving women an exhibitionistic view into sadomasochism, many of which admit to being aroused by the dominance and submission. What is it about exhibitionism that turns some people on? Why do some people like to take pictures or film themselves having sex? The person, according to Bader, that is being recorded likes the attention and special focus (p.138). It may also be an attempt to master a sense of loneliness and rejection. For men/women who “flash” their genitalia, this is largely an attempt to resolve shame and neglect from childhood (Bader, p.138). For instance, a man ashamed of his masculinity may “triumph over his shame by showing off the source of it” (Bader, p. 139)>
Same sex attraction when one identifies as “heterosexual”: According to Joe Kort’s article Straight Men Who Have Sex With Other Men (2006), “ A recent New York City survey found nearly one in 10 men say they’re straight and have sex only with other men....”; 70% of these straight identified men were also married (www.joekort.com/articles84.htm).
What is the reasoning behind same sex attraction in individuals who believe they are heterosexual? Individuals who act out their homosexual fantasies or simply fantasize about a same sex partner may or may not be gay or lesbian. Individuals who were sexually abused as children or teenagers may re-enact the trauma through fantasy or engaging in homosexual behavior. Some women, gay or straight “who have been sexually abused will repress their sexuality, while others re-enact their early abuse by being sexually promiscuous with men when, in fact, they are lesbians” (Straight men... 2012). Some men may not have had an emotional connection to a man as children and may use same sex attraction or sexual behavior as a means to gain closeness or intimacy.
Bader explains in detail a variety of fantasies from incest, rape, dominance, slave, asphyxiation, diapered, men wearing women's underwear, and golden/brown showers. He does an excellent job guiding folks, particularly those with sexual compulsivity, in understanding the reason for their fantasies. His book is one of several that I use when treating individuals with sexual addiction, as well as trauma (when applicable). If you are concerned and would like to explore the reasons behind your fantasies and arousal patterns, contact our office today at 240-257-6463. Namaste~