Themes of Violence in Replies So Far

What Women Really Think
Oct. 26 2009 8:00 AM

Themes of Violence in Replies So Far

Thanks to everyone for your patience as we get The Desire Lab started. We'll begin posting more replies this week. Let's spend one last week on the range of ideas that have come up around sexual fantasy, with a new subject on the way a week from today. Here's the initial question I asked last month, along with the follow-ups I've posted; I'd still love to hear your thoughts at desirelab@slate.com .

What role does sexual fantasy play in your life? Some researchers say that erotic fantasy does not play a major part in women’s lives. Little is truly known. How often-and when-do you fantasize about sex? What are the fantasies? How long do they last? I hope you will get deeply into the details. Understanding lies in such depth.

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Several of the answers I've received note that fantasy is essential to reaching orgasm. Researchers are beginning to study the parts of the brain that are involved in sexual climax. For those of you who depend on fantasy to come, is your sense that fantasy is putting you over the edge by stoking up arousal? By shutting off the voices of inhibition? By creating a kind of distance between you and your partner? Is fantasy serving in some other way?

I've noticed that very few responders said they do not often fantasize. Probably this was a product of the way I phrased the initial question. Please don't hesitate to write in with your thoughts if you fantasize rarely or not at all.

I’m interested, too, in the fact that themes of violence and submission have emerged so strongly in the replies. When I raised the topic of rape fantasies in my New York Times Magazine article, I did so with some hesitation-and with some uneasiness from the psychologists I had spoken with about the subject. Let’s state clearly what probably goes without saying: This discussion is not an endorsement of sexual assault. But it would be enlightening to hear your analysis about the appeal of such fantasies. And it would be illuminating to know whether there are lots of women out there whose imaginings don’t include the themes of violence and submission at all.

Please do feel free to comment on each other’s contributions, but remember to be respectful. This is a space that aims not for judgment but insight.

Daniel Bergner is the author of the new book What Do Women Want? Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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