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Michael Bader, the author of the book Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies joins me in a fascinating conversation about sexual fantasies. We get to hear his ideas about sexual fantasies and what they mean.

Decoding Sexual Fantasies

Michael recognized the need for an applicable approach to sexual fantasies to help patients with their shame and guilt surrounding their sexual fantasies and preferences. His arguments originated from a theory from Joseph Weiss. Michael argues that sexual fantasies are constructed to express our sexual desires and arousals in a way that is acceptable to our guilty conscience.

Michael gives an instance of dominance and submission, and the fantasy of having or giving up control over our sexual stimulation. That control could look like a masochistic fantasy or desiring partners with a rough exterior or self-centered. Curating this fantasy is exciting because ‘they don’t have to feel guilty about hurting the other person.’ A person assuming the role of a dominant knows that they are going to assume control over this person and that person would feel aroused by it and not be hurt and the same goes for the person assuming the submissive role. This fantasy dissolves the guilt of hurting each other. Sexual fantasies are strategies that our mind unconsciously develops to allow us to free our sexual excitement from things like guilt.

The Purpose of Sexual Fantasies and their role

Michael believes a person’s sexual fantasies act as a window into their unconscious psyche. When a person harbors feelings of guilt, shame, or responsibility for another person’s wellbeing, it inhibits the person’s sexual desires and thus resulting in the development of sexual fantasies to avoid such feelings. These inhibited sexual desires can interfere with other aspects of life. In the consulting room, when we analyze these sexual fantasies what we discover is “the revelation of someone’s core beliefs’’, which show up in the other parts of life and not just sexually. Analyzing these sexual fantasies can help the patient’s guilt and shame around their desires and also inspect the roots of their beliefs that caused their sexual fantasies.

Sexual Fantasies Are Not Meant To Be Changed

As long as there’s an innate need for attachment, the feelings of worry, care, responsibility, and guilt towards loved ones will be present. These needs tend to almost always show up in people’s sex lives. There won’t ever be a time where people will stop feeling these that stem from our core needs. And since sexual fantasies arise to overcome those feelings, they will always be needed as a way to express our sexual desires.

Are there Problematic Fantasies?

Every fantasy is enjoyed by somebody. Porn has tons of types of pornography for every population and some of the unpopular categories wouldn’t exist if there weren’t people to consume it. The problems with these fantasies coming true are they produce porn and sex addicts that take people away from being emotionally and sexually present in relationships and marriages. These fantasies could be anything.

Talking about limits to our sexual fantasy, Michael says, unless our sexual fantasies take us away from being psychologically present, being aligned with our values, and doing something meaningful from other people, sexual fantasies are not problematic. Michael also believes sexual fantasies that are illegal in reality are not problematic to think about unless they’re acted even slightly in any way.

Biography

Michael Bader, DMH is a psychologist and psychoanalyst with over 40 years of clinical experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has written extensively about the interaction of psychology, culture, and politics and has produced a podcast – Mysteries of the Mind—about these issues. He is the author of Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, and Male Sexuality: Why Women Don’t Understand It, and Men Don’t Either.

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