Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Symmetry of Sexual Fantasies

I put this out tentatively, and would welcome correction as well as comment.

One of the most common sexual fantasies of men is of the nymphomaniac, a woman with an endless desire for sex.

One of the most common sexual fantasies for women is of being ravished, particularly by a bad boy.

It is very puzzling why women, who hate rape so much, and want decent men to marry, would have a fantasy like this.

It is also puzzling, though not puzzled over as much as it should be, why men, who fear sexual comparison and want loyal women to marry, would have a fantasy like this.

I think I have been looking at these fantasies the wrong way.  If I ask "what's in it for the fantasizer," the potential appeal is a little clearer.

Women want to feel irresistible, and wish their sexual attraction to be enough to not only draw a strong man, but to tame him, to overcome his resistance to commitment.

Men want to feel free to have sex with a woman without judgment, commitment, or, importantly, injustice.  They do not need to deceive a nymphomaniac that they are more committed to her than they really are.

And here is where the symmetry breaks down.  Women might fantasize about taming the ravisher and marrying him.  Men are not likely to fantasize about marrying the nymphomaniac. She goes on a different list than the potential wife.

[And no, I do not think these differences are the result of socialization, nor can they be simply abolished by social engineering.  Civilization teaches us to self-control our actions much better than it can change our fantasies.]


Anonymous said...

Do we really know what people fantasize about? How big a percentage of the people actually (and honestly) tell that to anybody?
I don't recognize myself in the fantasies men are here said to have... So, now I have said it.

John said...

Nancy Friday used to write books that compiled fantasies for both sexes and sorted them by theme.

The first of which was "My Secret Garden".

Optimist said...

Two comments come to mind:
(1) The beauty of fantasies is that we don't have to accept the reality of what we fantasize about. We might fantasize about quitting our jobs, but we don't actually want to do it, because in reality we not only like the paycheck, but also like the responsibility and independence, etc. Similarly we will fantasize about sex in public, in threesomes, with strangers, etc. because the fantasy allows us to enjoy things without dealing with the reality (that sex outside of a committed private context is unsafe physically and emotionally).

(2) When women "tame" this sexual fantasy of a ravager... he can shed his ravager past and be someone he wasn't before. When men are with this nymphomaniac woman, even if she reforms her behavior, she still carries the taint of being unpure from all that sex she had before. It seems that the distinction has more to do with the ability of us to forgive violence if it is reforms, but unwillingness to forgive unpurity as is cannot be reformed. I don't think it's about the fantasy, but the reality that would attach to the fantasy if it became reality that is the issue.

Victoria Wheeler said...

There was a really interesting discussion about what you describe as the female sexual fantasy on, of all things, a new geek bookclub called The Vaginal Fantasy hangout. (Felicia Day is the main leader behind it, if you've heard of her.) It's a bookclub dedicated to romantic fantasy/sci-fi stories. As you describe, one of the recurring elements of these books is the rake who reforms somewhat and often "takes" the woman. This was the case in the very first book they read, and it prompted one of the first huge, serious discussions about the genre and its relationship to feminism, particuarly why this is an accepted trope in the romance world, and whether or not it's okay to enjoy the fantasy because it's in literature, and even if this even IS a titillating scenario, or if the women found it unappealing. There was a wide range of discussion.

In short, RELEVANT: