Renowned couples therapist and TED speaker Esther Perel is the best-selling author of Mating in Captivity and the host of top Audible original series Where Should We Begin? Her newest book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, publishes in October 2017. Her exclusive mbg class, The Essential Guide to Sparking Your Erotic Intelligence, will help you create the relationship you’ve always wanted and take your sex life to a whole new level. (This piece originally appeared on EstherPerel.com.)
People sometimes confess to me that they don’t have sexual fantasies. They assume they have no imagination. I want to tell you that everyone has the capacity for fantasy.
But what is fantasy? The idea of it has been coopted so that we view it through a narrow lens. It has come to mean costumes, porn-star poses, elaborate accoutrements, and role-play.
But here is the radically simple definition of fantasy: Sexual fantasy is simply anything that enhances excitement or pleasure. Whether it’s the time of day, the way the breeze drifts across a field, or a story you create about the way someone looks at you. Let’s continue to unpack the idea of fantasy.
Fantasy is a story.
This story—our fantasy realm—is what allows us to distinguish between sexuality and eroticism. Sexuality is instinct or biology. Eroticism is sexuality that is transformed by the human imagination.
We all have these imaginative resources that allow us to play and be curious, to go beyond our lived experience. The wonder of fantasy is that it allows us to bypass reality; we can let go of the constraints of age, physical limits, material realities, health conditions, and religious restrictions.
What a relief to know that the central agent of the erotic act is our imagination rather than the toned abs we can’t ever quite seem to achieve. Fantasy is our very human ability to come back to something and forever change or relive it. Fantasy has the power to connect us to hope, playfulness, and mystery. I believe, if we didn’t have fantasy, we couldn’t live.
Fantasy is a gift.
It can transform the traits that irk you—your shyness, for instance—into something that you imagine turns someone else on. Or you can become all-powerful and confident, fearless and bold, in your fantasies.
Fantasy allows us to bifurcate our inner blocks. The fears, anxieties, and inhibitions that roil inside you can dissolve so that you can experience the joy of sexuality. The pitfalls of your relationship can be sidestepped in the moment of fantasy.
Fantasy is an imagined place.
Does that mean that the fantasies you have are what you really want to happen? Not necessarily. A fantasy is a game, an imagined place. Fantasies are different from what we want in the cold, harsh light of our daily reality.
If you know how you want to experience sexual pleasure, even if it’s simply the way someone strokes your hair, you are already in the realm of sexual fantasy. Embrace it.
Want more insight into your sexuality? Find out the two types of passion (and which one is good for your sex life), then learn what the number of sexual partners you've had actually says about you.