NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Your Sexual Fantasies Don't Always Match Your Values and Beliefs

In my prior article, Elevated Erotic Feelings Can Enhance Your Mood For Sex, I focused on elevated erotic feelings, core erotic feelings, peak erotic experiences, erotic themes, emotional aphrodisiacs, sexual fantasies and how these emotions and fantasies can enhance your sex life (see my article: Core Erotic Feelings: What Emotions Help You to Get in the Mood For Sex?)

Sexual Fantasies Don't Always Match Your Values and Beliefs

Guilt and shame are often major stumbling blocks to exploring sexual fantasies, especially fantasies that don't match everyday values and beliefs (see my article: Exploring and Normalizing Sexual Fantasies Without Guilt or Shame).

When I work with clients in my New York City psychotherapy practice about these issues, I help them to realize and accept that sexual fantasies have unconscious elements to them and that there's a difference between what they fantasize about and what they actually want to do.

It's also true that many other people do find it exciting to experiment with their fantasies either during solo sex or during partnered sex where the behavior is mutually consensual.

Sexual Fantasies Don't Always Match Your Everyday Values and Beliefs
In his book, Tell Me What You Want, Dr. Justin Lehmiller, Kinsey sex researcher and social psychologist, surveyed over 4,000 people about their sexual fantasies.  He discovered that it's common for sexual fantasies to be completely different from people's everyday beliefs and values (see my article: The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).

Dr. Michael Bader, a sex therapist who wrote the book, Arousal, gives many case examples from his clinical practice where sexual fantasies are different from people's beliefs.  He also discusses the unconscious elements in sexual fantasies which stem from clients' personal histories (see my article: Understanding the Unconscious Meaning of Your Sexual Fantasies).

For many people, transgressive sexual fantasies, which are completely opposed to their beliefs and values, are often the most exciting fantasies.

Examples of Sexual Fantasies That Don't Match Values and Beliefs
Let's explore this further with examples below which are fictionalized versions of common sex therapy cases:

Vera spent her life advocating for women's rights and non-violence.  These issues were very important to her, so she felt confused, guilty and ashamed that her sexual fantasies included being dominated and humiliated during sex.  Although she found these fantasies exciting, she wasn't interested in actually being overpowered or humiliated by her lover.  

Sexual Fantasies Don't Always Match Your Values and Beliefs

When she attended sex therapy to deal with her inner conflict between her beliefs and her sexual fantasies, she learned that it's common for there to be a mismatch between beliefs and fantasies.  She also learned that it's common for people to have sexual fantasies that they never want to enact in real life.  She and her sex therapist also explored the unconscious elements of her fantasies and she realized how her fantasies were related to her personal history.  Over time, she was able to enjoy her fantasies without being worried, guilty or ashamed.  

Being kind to others was important to Peter.  His friends and loved ones often commented on his kindness and compassion.  But Peter experienced an inner conflict about himself because he had sexual fantasies about dominance and humiliation.  He couldn't understand how his sexual fantasies could be so out of synch with his firmly held beliefs.  He wondered if these fantasies meant he was really an awful person.  

Talking to Your Partner About Your Sexual Fantasies

With much guilt and shame, Peter confided in his wife.  After he told her about his fantasies, he was surprised by her reaction.  She told him that, based on her readings about sexual fantasies, she knew that these fantasies were common and nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about.  She also told him she always thought of him as being a kind person and his fantasies didn't change her view of him.  Even more surprising to Peter, his wife said his fantasies got her sexually aroused.  She suggested they do a sexual role play about them just for fun.  This idea excited Peter so they experimented with elements of light BDSM: Bondage Discipline (Dominance), Sadism (Submission) and Masochism.  This really spiced up their sex life and Peter no longer felt ashamed or guilty (see my articles: How to Talk to Your Partner About SexThe Benefits of Sexual Role Play and The Power of Novelty to Enhance Sexual Desire in Your Relationship).

Jane considered herself to be devoutly religious, but when she watched the movie, "Fifty Shades of Gray," she felt surprised that she felt sexually aroused.  She also felt guilty and ashamed about being aroused, especially when she imagined herself to be in the role of the woman in the movie.  With a great deal of hesitation, she confided in her close friend, Carol, who attended the same church.  As she told Carol about her thoughts, Jane couldn't even look Carol in the eyes because she felt so ashamed.  

Confiding in a Supportive Friend

But when she looked up, she saw that Carol was smiling.  She told Jane, "I felt the same way when I watched it!  Isn't it great?" At first, Jane wasn't sure how to respond, but she was relieved to know that she wasn't the only one with strong religious beliefs who was turned on by this movie.  After a while, Jane got curious about whether other people might feel the same way, so she read books written by sex therapists and researchers and she discovered that her experience was common.  This was a great relief to Jane.  Although she would never tell her pastor about it, over time, Jane began to enjoy the transgressive nature of her fantasies, and she no longer felt ashamed or guilty (see my article: Destigmatizing Sexual Fantasies of Power and Submission).

Ed advocated for women's rights through his volunteer work. This work was very important to him.  But when he was at home alone, he often enjoyed watching pornography, which he felt guilty and ashamed about afterwards.  He couldn't understand how his beliefs and values about the importance of women's rights was so different from what got him sexually turned on when he watched porn.  

Sexual Fantasies Don't Always Match Your Values and Beliefs

He felt like he was a terrible person, so he sought help in sex therapy to understand these contradictory feelings.  His sex therapist helped him to connect his sexual fantasies to unconscious feelings related to his personal history.  Over time, Ed was relieved of his guilt and shame.  His therapist also told him that if he preferred to watch porn that wasn't degrading to women, he could watch ethical pornography, which was produced and distributed by women.  Ed tried watching ethical porn and he discovered that he enjoyed it much more (see my article:  What is the Difference Between Ethical Pornography and Mainstream Porn?).

Overcoming Guilt and Shame About Sexual Fantasies in Sex Therapy
Whether you enact your fantasies or not, sexual fantasies can enhance your sexual experiences during solo sex or during partnered sex--as long as whatever you do is with an adult who consenting enthusiastically.

Many people know on an intellectual level that they can fantasize about whatever they want and there's nothing wrong with it, but on an emotional level they feel guilt and shame.

If you struggle with shame and guilt about your sexual fantasies, you could benefit from working with a sex therapist.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.