One of the natural consequences of having the ability to imagine is also having the skills to use our imaginations to conjure up sexual fantasies. But, just because we can think them up, doesn't mean we're comfortable talking about them, or further still, acting them out. With help from researchers, sex therapists and authors of sexual fantasy novels, in "Part 1 of The Psychology of Sexual Fantasy," we "normalized" the sexual fantasy, presenting information that showed how "popular" sexual fantasies are. The goal -- to make "the talking about it" piece easier. The next step is to explore whether these sexual fantasies we have should be turned into reality.
First and foremost, acting out a sexual fantasy can be positive if both partners are willing participants. "When desires are expressed and acted on, as long as it is completely consensual, sexual fantasy is a good thing," says Frederick Muench, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center.
Meghan Laslocky, author of The Little Book of Heartbreak: Love Gone Wrong Through the Ages, agrees. "Those in long-term monogamous relationships can invigorate their relationships by acting out a sexual fantasy."
"I wrote Cuba After Dark because I want to talk about the paradox of being human," says Brian White, a debut novelist. "We want adventure while at the same time we want and need security in monogamous relationships."
In her book, Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel asks, "Why is the forbidden so erotic?" She explains that as humans, men and women have a need for security, predictability, safety, dependability, reliability and permanence. "But we also have an equally strong need ... for adventure, for novelty, for risk, for danger, for the unknown, for the unexpected," said Perel in a recent TED Talk.
Fascinated by Perel's research, the psychology of sexual fantasy and specifically the "acting out" of a sexual fantasy, White said he contemplated just how far one partner should go to fulfill the other's sexual fantasy? "I often wondered if the consequence of taking action on a sexual fantasy would be more severely damaging than not taking that action," says White. "That thought turned into Cuba After Dark, a cautionary tale about what happens when one partner wants to push the boundaries of sexuality and the other does not." White says his book asks an important question: how much can we really ask of the person we love?
"Fantasy plays a role," says Meunch. "Figuring out which fantasies should be acted on and which ones are just impulsive desires that should remain fantasies is very important because turning a sexual fantasy into a reality is quite different than just having a fantasy."
Furthermore, not all fantasies should be acted on because quite often, "the fantasy is not about the content of the fantasy, but rather the meaning behind the fantasy," says NYC sex and relationship expert, Megan Fleming. "When discussing fantasies with our partner, we get caught up in the content. But a sexual fantasy is not always about the content. It can be about what's underneath it, the longing, what need is going to be met through the sexual fantasy, what would be satisfying about that sexual fantasy. Again, sometimes it's even about what it feels like to express that need out loud. The sexual fantasy can represent more than just the immediate."
"It's a conversation piece," says White, whose book, a fictional account of sexual fantasy, is supported by his blog, which takes a look at the intellectual side of sexual fantasy while exploring the current research.
That research includes the question of consequence.
White's Cuba After Dark focuses in on one of the same questions posed by the authors of The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating a New Normal in Your Relationship -- that of consequences. In their study, Chrisanna Northrup and Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., who along with James Witte, Ph.D., penned the best selling book, asked, "If you had the opportunity to have sex with anybody you wanted outside your current relationship and it would have zero effect on your current relationship or family, as if it never happened, would you do it?" Of the results, Northrup says, "Wow, did we tap into some randy fantasy. Forty-three percent of women and 65 percent of men say yes, they'd do it! That means two thirds of men (a pretty huge percentage) and just under half of women (not a shabby number either) found this a compelling proposition. To us, it seems that there is a secret longing for sexual adventure and romance... even if we don't act on it," concludes Northrup.
But, when you do act on it, "escaping into a sexual fantasy can be a dangerous escape," says Meghan Laslocky.
"When you go outside the relationship to act out on a fantasy, that's where it threatens that relationship," says Muench.
That said, there can also be consequences if you don't act out one partner's fantasy. "It's one of the things I explored in my book and I discuss in my blog," says White. "The partner whose fantasy is not being fulfilled may choose to leave the relationship and go out on his/her own to find it."
Yet, sexual fantasy can be part of an individual's personal journey.
"I am often mistaken for writing straight erotica," says Shayla Black, a sexual fantasy writer, Shayla Black, who has written more than three-dozen erotic romances, including her most recent, Their Virgin Secretary Masters of Ménage, Book 6. My books are really about, "One person's journey through sexual expression and adventure. I write about the journey of two people (or three, however many are in the relationship) to find their happiness. Everything boils down to people, their conflicts, what they have to learn, how they have to grow to be the happy person they want to be."
"You should be willing to take some risks in life," says the author of Cuba After Dark. "But, every marriage and relationship is different. Sexual exploration can go many different ways. Therefore, discussion is very important. My book is about a happily married couple exploring sexual fantasy together as part of a 40th-birthday celebration. The husband and wife protagonists begin by exploring together, but the husband's desire for more leads him off the rails. Sex is important in a relationship and there is nothing wrong with that, but there can be consequences to our actions," concludes White.
You can continue the conversation about the #sexualfantasy on Twitter:
Brian White: @cubaafterdark14
Chrisanna Northrup & Pepper Shwartz: @TheNormalBar
Meghan Laslocky: @mlaslocky
Shayla Black: @shayla_black
And, you can continue the conversation in person with Brian White and Shayla Black.
Brian White will be at Book Revue, in Huntington, Long Island, New York on June 5 @7pm for a book reading and signing.
Shayla Black will be attending Book Bash in Orlando, Florida on June 28.