Em & Lo's RSS Feed Em & Lo's Daily Email Feed Be Our Facebook Friend! Follow Us on Twitter!

LEVI's on Amazon

Good Vibes Cupcake

Buy on Amazon Kindle!

Sandals on Amazon


Dear Em & Lo: Do My Kinky Fantasies Need Therapy?

Fri, Oct 9, 2009

Advice, Dear Em & Lo

bondage_barbiephoto by Dale Gillard

Dear Em & Lo,

I have this really awesome, sensitive, caring, sweet, good-in-bed, blah blah blah boyfriend — I wouldn’t leave him for the world. I also have wild fantasies about being tied up, demeaned, beaten . . . you get the idea. Is this a problem? Maybe fantasies are not supposed to ever come to life? I have asked him to entertain them, just mildly, but his respect for women and his need for soul-defining sex makes bondage and S&M a no-go. Is there something wrong with me? Should I see a therapist or something?

– Gimpy

Dear Gimpy,

There are basically two camps of thought on this: A) Your fantasy life reflects past experiences, obsessions, and/or deep-seated issues — if the fantasies tend toward the dark, disturbing, and/or chronic, that can indicate personal problems which should be dealt with. And B) Fantasies are an outlet for your imagination and sexual tension that don’t automatically reflect past trauma or things you want to do in real life.¬†We tend to side with Camp…B.

A few years back, we were on a panel discussion at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London with Brett Kahr, a Freudian psychoanalyst and author of Who’s Been Sleeping in Your Head, one of the largest studies of fantasies in the world. He argued that certain unseemly fantasies should be considered red flags for possible mental issues, while we argued that what gets you off in the privacy of your own head (as long as it doesn’t prevent you from being an upstanding citizen) is your own business and shouldn’t be subjected to the laws of government, of political correctness, or even of physics.

Who’s Been Sleeping in Your Head is undeniably a fascinating read, but it’s not what we would call scientifically sound. Remember, these days you’re more likely to find Freudian analysis in literature (i.e.¬†fiction)¬†classes¬†than you will in science-based psychology courses at any respectable college. In general, the scientific community considers analyses of fantasies simply subjective interpretation without hard evidence. That’s why there’s so little research on the topic out there — the ethereal and individual nature of fantasies make them too hard to pin down and dissect.

That’s not to say that with a little soul-searching or a therapist you might be able to figure out why your fantasies tend toward the kinky. Maybe you were pushed around on the playground by the school bully whom you secretly had a crush on. Socrates did say the unexamined life is not worth living.

But then again, once Sophocles’ Oedipus examined his own life he poked his eyes out. We’re not suggesting that you shouldn’t deal with past trauma (like accidentally sleeping with your parent), but sometimes worrying and overthinking things becomes counterproductive. Everyone has their own preferences: some people like blondes, others like brunettes; some people like slow, face-holding “love making,” others like rough sex; some people like oral, some don’t; some people like candlelight and lingerie, others like candle wax and nipple clamps. It doesn’t really matter why we have these preferences, so long as everyone is having a good time in bed. In fact, going against your nature because it doesn’t quite fit into the narrow mainstream idea of “normal” sex is what could be unhealthy.

BDSM enthusiasts very passionately and very convincingly defend their “safe, sane and consensual” lifestyle. (Pick up any book on the topic.) And while they may be a little earnest at times, even a little dorky or creepy, there’s no denying that they have interesting, varied, dramatic, intense sex lives — which is a lot more than most people can claim. Sure, the more extreme people get in living out their fantasies (e.g. actually eating their dominatrix’s¬†poop out of a dog bowl in a human-sized cage), the harder it is not to judge and question their mental stability. But your ravishment fantasies are so common (some might say even cliche) among women, both inside and outside the BDSM community, that we could understand someone writing in asking us if there’s something wrong with her because she’s never had one of these fantasies.

So, no, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just that you and your boyfriend may not be that compatible sexually. He’s got his preferences, you’ve got yours. We love that he respects women and finds meaning in sex, but that shouldn’t negate a little consensual kinky play, especially with someone he loves and trusts who’s asking for it nicely. Explain that you’ve got these slightly dirty desires that you want to share with him, especially because you love and trust him. Tell him that pretending to overpower you sexually with some nice fuzzy velcro cuffs and a little hair pulling doesn’t make either of you bad feminists — just creative playmates! Start slowly, i.e. don’t whip out the gimp mask just yet. (In fact, save the more hardcore fantasies for your alone time.) And present it as healthy compromise — he gets Tantric soul melding on Fridays, you get romance-novel bodice ripping on Saturdays.

For more on this topic, see our advice column on ravishment fantasies (what are commonly referred to — including, previously, by us — as rape fantasies).

Cracking the whip,

Em & Lo

, , , , ,

 

7 Responses to “Dear Em & Lo: Do My Kinky Fantasies Need Therapy?”

  1. Spes Says:

    In my experience, many women enjoy some time playing the submissive in the bedroom because they spend the rest of their lives having to be in control constantly. It’s their way of relaxing by letting someone they trust relieve them of having to make a myriad of decisions for a while. Sometimes a drink just isn’t enough to soothe away the work week.

  2. rhapsodyblue Says:

    Wow, this takes me back – I used to be in almost exactly the same situation as Gimpy: a mentally stable woman with sub/dom fantasies and a partner so sweet he couldn’t imagine acting them out. There is hope, my friend. It took some time and some trust-building, but he’s learned to understand that me wanting to be spanked, bitten and held down isn’t abusive on his part, maladjusted on my part, or anti-feminist on either of our parts. It’s hard to know if your man will come around to the idea as smoothly as mine did, but it’s very likely that you’ll find someone who can meet your needs.

    As for your worries that you might need therapy, I don’t think you do, unless there’s an already existing obvious reason to seek treatment. Two of my most hardcore BDSM friends have been through therapy because they are multiple rape victims. One is from an abusive household, and one has the added issue of being pre-operative MTF transgendered. On occasion, they have both wondered if their interests spring from troubles in their pasts. My answer? I have no idea why they like what they like, but I don’t think it has to be old trauma. While I’m not quite as hardcore as either of them, my interest in being dominated is something I can trace all the way back to daydreams I had during my very mellow, non-abusive childhood. If the only reason you think you need therapy is your fantasies, you’re probably more like me than my friends, and I think you’re fine.

  3. Karen Affeldt Says:

    I have acted out on several of my more erotic fantasies and I think it’s healthy to do so. It’s also a learning experience and I have certainly had a ton of fun with what we have discovered and learned. It just seems to me that achievable fantasies left untouched only grow more intense and denying yourself of an obtainable goal seems unjustified. I feel that experimentation is so much better than the unrealized.

  4. kb Says:

    your boyfriend can respect women by doing what they ask, and really, is it soul-defining if you’re leaving out a lot of your soul(I don’t know how important these fantasies and playing them out is to you. it may be a big part of your soul, it may not). those are the only things I can say that might help-I do have a very very good, and very equal relationship that isn’t opposed to some rough spanking and being tied down when we both are in the mood. but that’s how we’re both wired, and it sounds like your boyfriend isn’t. so I don’t know.

  5. kb Says:

    and to answer the actual question asked-what, get side tracked? no, you don’t need therapy.

  6. Bee Says:

    I have spent most of my life as an unsatisfied sub. I’ve been with various people who entertained the concept of BDSM but never took it further than a pat on the backside or some half hearted insults midway through coitus. One of my old friends had a similar problem, a while ago he split with his partner of two years because, even though he loved her dearly he was unsatisfied by her vanilla tastes and when she asked him to live with her he realised that he was only sexually satisfied by his very elaborate acts of sexual violence upon himself when alone and that he would have to abandon that. They ended their relationship and somehow he fell into a casual one with me. I became a switch, he still occasionally takes the literal and metaphorical reins in bed, but I tend to dominate him more. We are constantly telling each other how we are both more sexually satisfied than either of us have ever been. It’s really wonderful, really really wonderful, and we got engaged last month.

    I respect him, he respects me; it’s just something we both find sexually exciting and fulfilling.

    If you haven’t coaxed him with props or a bit of dirty talk in the first instance I think you should give it a go. My partner didn’t realise how unhappy he was hiding his real desires until he found someone he could be open about them with.
    Perhaps you could explain to your partner that by submitting to him fully in the bedroom and asking him to dominate you you are demonstrating a level of trust and respect that many couples don’t experience.

    Good luck with it.

  7. Shanel Says:

    There is nothing wrong with having sexual fantasies so long as you have a partner that understands exactly what you need and want and is willing to try. Just have a “safe word” or something so you can both be aware if one or the other is uncomfortable with the situation.


Leave a Reply