Problematic fantasies: do your politics influence how you get off?

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

Sometimes it’s obvious that a particular scenario will be hot to me. If it fits the template of most of my other fantasies – me in submission, being beaten or used in order to get someone off: tick. If it involves a vast quantity of spunk, or a belt, or a group of eager men: tick. I frequently embrace problematic fantasies – where ‘problematic’ roughly equates to ‘something I’d never want to happen in real life.’ Other times I’ll use fantasy to try out new kinks – in order to work out if something is going to press my buttons, I need to think about it for a while. Close my eyes, picture the scenario in my head, and thoughtfully frig myself off while I try a new fantasy on for size.

This post includes frank discussion of sexual fantasies that include extreme BDSM, and rape fantasies. 

Recently someone asked me if my politics influenced my personal fantasies: if learning new things made me adapt or question a fantasy, or feel any kind of moral responsibility for it.

It’s a fascinating question for me because my fantasies are sometimes quite extreme. Problematic fantasies involve me in a variety of scenarios that involve pain, rough sex, and often non-consent. They frequently include male characters who are fetishised not because I find them sexy, but because I don’t. They are abhorrent to me – usually in a moral way. They’re men who are greedy and desperate for cunt, and I cannot get off without imagining them using words, commands, and actions that in real life would turn me off.

Have these fantasies changed over time? Lots of my personal views have changed, after all. When I first started blogging I had some pretty ridiculous opinions, biases and gaping chasms of ignorance that I hadn’t yet even begun to try and bridge. These were only outdone by some of the opinions I’d held back at University, or before. When I was twenty I remember having a big row with a friend of mine about the word ‘feminism‘, and why I would never call myself a feminist – I was an equalist, dammit, because feminism was too woman-focused and besides women basically had all the rights now in the UK, and these whining po-faced feminist tossers should probably learn to take a joke or two.

Yeah, I know.

But my problematic fantasies haven’t changed much. The women who fuck in my mind tend to do very similar things to the things they did fifteen or twenty years ago. In fact, as I was pondering this question, I had a wank on one of my first ever sexual fantasies, to see if it would still work.

One problematic fantasy that still works perfectly…

In the fantasy, a group of pirates find a woman stowing away aboard their ship, and they punish her by tying her by the wrists to the mast, stripping her to the waist, and taking it in turns to administer lashes with the cat o nine tails. It still works, though now there’s more colour to it – more depth and atmosphere. It’s not just about the lashes but about the fire in the eyes of the waiting men, the way their dicks strain against fabric as they take it in turns to beat her. This time, the fantasy goes from simple beating to fucking, as the captain lifts her torn skirts and plunges his dick into her cunt, gripping on to the ropes around the mast to brace himself for a harder fuck. Nowadays, the men don’t just pass round the implement of punishment, they actively jostle with each other – taking it in turns to touch and grab and run grimy fingers over her skin. They spit on their own cocks, ready to take the Captain’s place once he’s squirted his load and declared open season.

So, I think the primary answer to the question is: no. My politics haven’t changed my core sexual fantasies. Although the fact that I now read and watch more porn with diverse characters has certainly changed the cast of my fantasies: when I was young it was just submissive brunette after submissive brunette, because that’s who I am and I lacked the imagination to put anyone else in my place. Perhaps that’s a topic for another day. Though the cast is more varied, the images that flash into my mind while I’m wanking run on broadly similar themes, and now – as back then – I frequently think about scenarios I’d never want to happen in real life. Whether they’re happening to me or anyone else.

I have other dark fantasies that have nothing to do with sex, and these have remained the same since I was younger too. The ones I have in which I picture my own funeral, the zombie-apocalypse ones where I’m left alone with a group of men I fancy, and they fulfil my every whim. These weird dark thoughts are the equivalent of a safe, imaginary playground – one where you can swing as high as you like because the concrete below doesn’t really exist.

Sexual fantasies change when you voice them

But that’s not to say nothing’s changed. Thanks to writing this blog, I’ve learned more about the politics of presentation and framing. When I started writing, I would fumble with my words, assume everyone knew where I was coming from, and so end up presenting some of these darker fantasies in ways that hurt people. Either by leading them into a hot story and smacking them in the face with some unwanted non-consent or violence, or failing to point out that this fantasy is only fun if it remains unfulfilled.

People who don’t have these fantasies can’t be expected to intuit what they mean in my head, only what I say on the page. Thus some are horrified because they think I’d want this, and others see fantasy as instruction manual. So I change the presentation. Include trigger warnings, or (in the case of extreme BDSM fantasies like breath-play in the bath) explicit messages – don’t try this at home!

Back in 2013 I published a guest post by Greta Christina about dark fantasies and consent. It was an extract from the foreword to her book, in which she explained:

“When it comes to things that aren’t sex, people seem to understand this distinction. People get that enjoying spy novels doesn’t mean you want to join the CIA; that enjoying murder mysteries doesn’t mean you want to kill people; that enjoying heist thrillers doesn’t mean you want to break into Fort Knox. People understand that it’s fun and exciting to imagine things we wouldn’t actually want to do — even things we think are immoral.

“But for some reason, porn often gets held to a different standard. Depicting a fantasy of a sex act is often assumed to be an endorsement of that act. So let me spell it out: I do not endorse sexual force, abuse of power, rape, or any form of violation of sexual consent. I am vehemently opposed to them.”

I still think this is broadly true. Ultimately fantasy is not reality. Problems arise when the line between fantasy and reality is blurred – a blurring that ironically seems to be done more frequently by those who don’t share these fantasies. Does the fact that I enjoy these fantasies make it easier for me to distinguish between that dream-playground and reality? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps more simply a fantasy about violent and immoral acts is harder for an outside observer to empathise with than something that is fundamentally moral – a fantasy about love or togetherness or connection. There’s no cost to an outside observer in saying ‘you can think what you like’ if your thoughts all have the stamp of acceptability. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, and no fantasies that you need to justify.

My politics haven’t altered my fantasies, because I wouldn’t have seen my fantasies as running counter to my politics in the first place. I don’t think it’s unfeminist or illiberal to explore things in your head that you wouldn’t countenance in real life. But lessons I’ve learned have made me more aware of the impact my fantasies have when I write them down. I’ve changed the way I talk about them publicly, and become more cautious about what I actually share.

But I don’t think it’s enough to just point out that fantasy and reality are different. When you share a fantasy – whether through a whisper or words on a page – you breathe at least a little life into it. You don’t make it real, but you do bring it into the real world. My politics haven’t changed my fantasies, but they have helped me understand their power.

4 Comments

  • I’ve always been in the camp of ‘Well, just because you read murder mysteries, you’re not really planning a murder, are you?’. Because I like LOTS of scary/dark/sick things that are not particularly sex-focused (gross horror films, sick jokes, LARP) I’m wholly comfortable with my nastier fantasies. They are fantasies. They’re not real.
    Everyone has fantasies about behaving in unacceptable ways (who hasn’t, at least briefly, considered twatting the annoying colleague who spills tea over their keyboard/having a machine gun mounted on the roof of your car to shoot anyone who carves them up/assassinating either a dangerous politician or just the bank manager who wouldn’t extend their overdraft?).

    I have thought, for decades, that it’s a big mistake to consider sex as completely different and separate to any other recreational activity and porn as separate from any other entertainment media.We have imaginations, we tell stories, we play games – but if we are decent human beings, we make sure that no unwilling participants are getting hurt to provide us with the pleasures we get from our games and stories. Imaginary participants… Oh, we can do what we like with them.

  • Azkyroth says:

    Thus some are horrified because they think I’d want this, and others see fantasy as instruction manual

    In addition to the issues you pointed out, there seems to be a very basic-level disconnect between people who use the word “fantasies” to mean “mental imagery accompanying masturbation” and people who insist on interpreting the word as a synonym of “desires” or “wishes.”

  • Ferns says:

    Most of my fantasies are wrong and terrible and awful. I used to feel really guilty about them and tried for ages to change what turned me on because the badness was disturbing to me ethically, morally, politically, socially, emotionally (i.e. in all the ways), but it doesn’t work like that.

    I am always amazed when people say ‘I don’t have fantasies, I have plans’ because man, what kind of fantasies are you even having?!

    Ferns

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    My politics haven’t changed my fantasies as such, but they’ve helped me to interrogate them. Beyond a certain point, we can’t choose what turns us on (and what doesn’t); but we can always ask ourselves, ‘why do I like this? And not this?’, and question how our sexuality fits in with our social context.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a ‘problematic’ fantasy (most people probably do), but we ought to be aware that it is ‘problematic’. (And that it is only a fantasy!)

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