“I want to be fucked like I’m a robot.”
This is a real and direct quote from a friend, when they were describing their very specific sexual fantasy — wanting to be treated like a sex robot, programed to give pleasure. Many folks have sexual fantasies ranging from simply being dominated, to more specific and complex situations involving detailed environments and behaviors. Regardless of your personal fantasies, there are common threads that inform and ensure safety and pleasure across all experiences. The first thing you need to know about fantasies (whether you experience them or not) is that they are a normal and healthy part of full, sexual lives. This isn’t to say that everybody experiences or acts on sexual fantasies, but that many do, and no one should be shamed for having or expressing those fantasies (unless they oppress others, which I will get into later).
Some are lucky enough to be in an environment where these fantasies are not only accepted, but discussed openly and excitedly. In creating these supportive communities, we can validate our many sexual desires and have the ability to empower people to not only claim agency over when and how they want to have sex, but also empower them to seek and expect pleasure. When we give people the tools to talk about their sexual desires, we are undoing the many years of socialization and stigmatization around sex that is so rampant in U.S. society.
Fantasies, by definition, are not necessarily acted out, but serve as an erotic exercise that can then be physically expressed (or not). Many people have sexual fantasies that they feel comfortable sharing with other people, but some that they might to just play with in their head or by themselves. Whatever you’re into, I bet you that someone else has the exact fantasy you might feel weird about. Spaces like the internet, for example, show you just how imaginative erotic fantasies can be, and a lot of very common fantasies might surprise you. While many studies on sexual fantasies tend to be cissexist and limited in scope, there are some interesting results. For example, a 2014 study found that over 48% of men had fantasies of “petting with a complete stranger in a public space,” and over 52% of women said they had fantasized about being tied up during sex. While this study was based on a cisgender framework, taking these very common sexual fantasies we can see that a vast majority of people may think their fantasies are “unusual” even though many people share their desires.
Whether or not people choose to act on fantasies is dependent on a few things; chief among them consent. Consent is always necessary when other people are involved and interested in fulfilling one of your sexual fantasies. While people may not share the exact fantasy you have, they might be excited to fulfill a role for you and make your fantasies a reality. In these situations, it’s important to discuss before, during and after with your partner(s) your specific fantasies and how to process it afterwards. In fantasies involving BDSM or perhaps triggering scenarios or role plays, it’s especially important that everyone is consenting and excited about what’s happening. If you find yourself having to “convince” someone to fulfill your sexual fantasy, it might be a good moment to recalibrate if this interaction is not only consenting, but, most importantly, providing mutual pleasure.
Another often ignored piece intersecting with sexual fantasies is mental health and past/current trauma. In many cases, our sexual fantasies may be tied with past experiences with sexual or other trauma. While this is clearly not always the case, it’s important to make space for healing and self-discovery in our erotic fantasies. In coping with mental health issues or past trauma, it’s important that we learn to be gentle with ourselves, our needs, and remain non-judgemental about our desires — no matter how unusual we might think our desires are. Of course, if you ever feel like one of your desires could be potentially harmful to yourself or others, it’s important to get help — whether that means talking to a friend, a sex therapist, a mental health counselor, or someone else.
As pointed out in recent articles, most notably Luna Malbroux’s piece exploring BDSM in the black communities, what we fantasize about and how others may fantasize about us is tied to social power relations that are out of control. It’s important, when we think about and express our desires, we are also aware of the many power dynamics we may be indirectly reinforcing, and how our actions and thoughts may impact others and our worldview. In order to de-colonize our minds and bodies, we must first accept and embrace our own pleasure — in whatever form that takes — while taking care to not recreate the structures that oppress other people’s ability to free themselves.