Are your sexual fantasies healthy?

I just read Fifty Shades of Grey, and am fantasizing more and more. Is it normal to be so stimulated by the idea of my husband telling me what to do in bed?

Are your sexual fantasies healthy?

Source: Best Health magazine, December 2012; Image: Thinkstock

Welcome to the world of sexual fantasy. Yes, it is normal to fantasize; almost all women do. If descriptions of ‘kinky fun’ and domination (where you obey your lover’s commands) turned women off,  Fifty Shades wouldn’t be the international bestseller that it is. (And if it was a book club that got you reading this particular novel, your partner will likely be thrilled that you joined it.) So relax, you’re not weird. Fantasizing can enhance sexual arousal and orgasm whether you are alone or with your partner. And it doesn’t mean you are unhappy with your actual sex life‘it is simply another healthy aspect of the spectrum of sexual pleasure.

So what do most women fantasize about? Well’having sex! With one person or two, with strangers or people they know, in different positions (hello, Kama Sutra) or in different locations (hello, sex on an airplane)’all the stuff you’ve likely heard of. But if I were going to write an erotic book for women, I would focus on one of the most common female sexual fantasies: the ravishment scenario. (And if I’d done it a littler sooner, I’d be fifty shades of rich.)

In the ravishment fantasy, the woman imagines a sensual, powerful man’he may be someone she knows, but more likely he’s a stranger. The man is very sexually drawn to her, but she initially resists his overtures. He is often imagined as walking in on her and taking control of her sexually. The woman is extremely turned on by him, and he tells her what to do. They have hot, naughty sex. He may tie her up, or spank her. He’s in command, but she loves it.

According to a study published in the April 2012 Archives of Sexual Behaviour, the ravishment fantasy was shared by 62 percent of the 355 undergraduate women who detailed their sexual fantasies for researchers. The study authors believe this is due to the ‘sexual blame avoidance theory,’ which proposes that by imagining the man telling her what to do, the woman is able to give herself permission to do the raunchy, hot sex stuff she feels a little embarrassed about, but deep down really does want to try. Many of the women I see for sex therapy report that they are tornbetween their inner desires and the fear that they will feel like a ‘bad girl’ if they act out their sexual passions. With the ravishment fantasy, they can have their hot pleasure without the guilt (they can think, ‘He made me do it!’ with an innocent grin).

Another theory these researchers put forth is that some women are simply more open to different sexual experiences. These ladies don’t need permission to be ‘bad’; they are sexually liberated and guilt free. A rich sexual fantasy life that includes plenty of ravishment is part of their healthy sex life. These women tend to have positive attitudes when it comes to sex, and high self-esteem.

In Fifty Shades, the female protagonist, Anastasia Steele, starts out sexually inexperienced and unsure. She has a sexual awakening without any guilt because she does not ask for the kinky stuff; she therefore avoids sexual blame. What’s more, the author also makes sure to write Christian Grey as falling madly in love with Ana. He reassures her constantly that she is special, gorgeous and perfect. She feels loved, not used, and therefore she feels safe to play. As she matures, she becomes a sexually confident woman, no longer needing the permission granted by a dominant lover. She grows to be creative, bold and very in tune with her sexual self.

Always remember, however, that sexual fantasy is just that’not reality. Your actual sex life is probably more like fifty shades of beige. And some fantasies should stay in your head (acting out a threesome is almost never good for anyone involved, for example). But it can be a lot of spicy fun to try some new things when you’re in a loving, trusting relationship with your partner, and I highly recommend that you do.

This article was originally titled "Ask a sex and relationship therapist" in the December 2012 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!