Sexual fantasies. You have them. Yes, you do. Don’t even bother to deny it. We all do. If you Google ‘sexual fantasies’ you come up with over 7 million hits. People are thinking about this stuff. Men have them. Women have them. Men have them about women. Women have them about men. Men fantasize about men. Women fantasize about women. Some people have sexual fantasies about shoes, animals, public acts, whips and chains, group gropes, Donna Reed naked in a frilly apron wielding a wooden spoon, or a triad of androgynous phantasms clad in diaphanous lavender performing slavishly adoring acts of…well, fill in the blank with your own imagination. That’s the realm of fantasy…imagination. Sky’s the limit, anything goes. Because fantasies are…well, fantastical.
Someone—I don’t recall who, but someone who purported to know—said that 90% of eroticism happens between the ears. Fantasy fuels sex. Maybe it was Freud. Now there was a man who knew about sexual fantasies!
For those who may not know, I live on a coffee farm in the fairly remote mountains of Panama. I am not privy to much of mainstream US culture and that is okay with me. I like it that way. But, sometimes I’m bored—I mean, there is only so much paradisaical scenery and rural parochialism one can absorb—and I tune into what’s going on “out there.” If nothing else, it stimulates my thinking, inspires a blog, and then makes me really glad I live here in the secluded cloud forest.
Did you know that there is a current best seller, Fifty Shades of Grey—excruciatingly painful narrative—about someone named Christian Grey who gets off on spanking his very ordinary (that’s called ‘vanilla’ in sex speak) girlfriend, and she lets him ’cause she loves him? And it’s on the NY Times Best Seller list? Being bought primarily by women in their 20’s and 30’s?
I ran across this article the other day in Newsweek Magazine. Working Women’s Fantasies: Spanking Goes Mainstream. Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait.
The article, referenced above, lists a number of mainstream books (including the new Grey one), films, series, etc. that focus on erotic spanking, ritualized beatings, bondage, and various exotic types of sexual domination. The author tries to explore—as much as is possible in the format of magazine journalism—why successful women who are so in control in their professional lives would fantasize scenarios of sexual domination (in all its mild to extreme forms) by men. She does not come to any real conclusions about the women (or men) involved beyond, maybe, they are seeking intense connection, or they want to let go of being in control, or they need some spice between the sheets. The author does not explore the sexual domination fantasies or practices of same sex couples.
A number of years ago I was hanging out with a motley group of women. Straight, gay, undecided, curious, randy, and a couple of serious practitioners of S & M—which can mean either sado-masochism or slave-master. I was curious about this. Ok, I was curious about all of it, but the whole S & M thing was so outside the scope of my experience, I was really curious about that. Why do they do it? I assumed it had to do with Advanced Sex Practices, a sort of graduate level foreplay. More interesting was, What do they do? I fantasized about what it might be like. I even went so far as to think, “Well, maybe I’ll try some of that…whatever it is.” (Did I mention I was seriously bored and unhappy with my life at that time and looking for something, anything, to make me feel alive?).
I went to their house one night (not alone—I wasn’t that brave!). Very ordinary small town home with sofa, coffee table, TV in the living area. Nothing unusual except that the doorway between the living room and the kitchen was equipped with padded hand cuffs on links of chain suspended from the top. The friend who accompanied me asked about them.
“Here. Try them out,” our friendly hostess offered, and before we knew it, my friend was suspended from the hand cuffs, arms well over head. Then I noticed that there were also ankle cuffs at the bottom. Hmmm. My friend dangled there, uncomfortably, while we asked questions of the women who lived there.
“So…who gets chained up here?”
“She does,” the hostess, a successful real estate agent replied. “She’s the slave. I’m the master. Or mistress, if you prefer.”
Interesting. The slave in this combo is a former Marine sergeant. This is not type casting as I understand it.
“So,” I continue, “so she’s hanging here, spreadeagled, immobile, and then what?” I have a dirty mind. I confess it.
No. Clearly I didn’t know. Where is the sex?
“Sex? It isn’t about sex,” she smiled. “It’s about power. Which can be very erotic—without being sexual.”
Oh. Well, that explains politics, for sure…but relationships?
The Slave-sergeant explained. “I’m too much in my head and it causes me a lot of anxiety. This,” she gestured to where my friend was still dangling and beginning to struggle a bit, while maintaining good humor, “takes me out of my head.”
Right. Bondage and whipping as psychotherapy?
I didn’t get it. I know that I’ve read a lot of very steamy sexual domination scenes in various books over the years and have been turned on by some of them. That’s the eroticism part that happens between the ears that triggers a response lower down in the body. There is the domination aspect. There is the imagined sense of (manageable) pain—i.e. intense physical sensation, but not injury. There is the sense of yielding control and experiencing guiltless freedom of unrestrained pleasure/pain in spite of ourselves and whatever cultural or religious anti-sex, puritanical baggage we carry. Some scenes are furtive, anonymous encounters. Some are ritualized set-ups between people with a social contract (such as my friends have). Some are between a paying client and a trained sex professional who specializes in helping clients act out physically what has only been imaginal. But, there is always, always, the very real presence of sexual arousal in the scenes. People do it to get off. People read about it because it’s titillating…but still safe.
However, confronted with an actual array of whips, bondage equipment, masks, leather clothing, scary dildos, and my friend still dangling from the doorway, the real life prospect quickly became very unsexy. Like an ice cold shower is unsexy. Or a sharp stick in the eye is unsexy. Curiosity satisfied. This was not for me.
Not too long ago, I made the acquaintance of a a nice looking 50-something gentleman here in Boquete. Turned out, he is a Master and was living here with his Slave. They were very into this subculture and went on lecture tours, exhibition seminars, led workshops at conventions, wrote books. S & M conventions?? Who knew?? He invited me and my partner to dinner. “Only dinner,” he reassured me, “unless…well unless something else occurs and we are all into it.” I did not think it likely.
We went, though, because we live in a very small town and there aren’t a lot of opportunities to do really outrageous things and we hadn’t had a better offer for dinner on a Friday night. The gentleman, who was not nearly as tall as I am, met us at the door, wine glass in hand, clad in a very natty turn-of-the-last-century British Naval uniform with lots of brass buttons and gold epaulets. His partner was wearing fishnet stockings, a leather mini-skirt, an abbreviated top showing a lot of cleavage, and a silver dog collar. Easy to read who was the boss here. The house was immaculate. A fire blazed cheerily in the fireplace. There were place cards with our names on them. Fresh flowers graced the table, right next to the gold handled riding crop. Yep. You read that right. A gold handled riding crop with wicked little metal tipped strands at the end was the dining table center piece.
Dinner was poached salmon with chilled chardonnay, lightly steamed asparagus, garlicky potatoes, and lemon sherbert for dessert. Our host ordered his slave around. “Bring this. Pour that.” She obeyed cheerfully, kneeling at his feet to ask directions, to beg forgiveness for spilling a drop of wine, to seek permission to speak. All very interesting, as a view of human dynamics. It was all very orchestrated and about as sexy as, well, as…I don’t know…watching an I Love Lucy rerun?
Towards the end of the evening, our host allowed as how they were leaving Panama to return to the US. “It’s just too vanilla here. We want to explore the use of fire, next. We need people more like us. People who want to play…but seriously.”
Play, seriously. Ok. So, where, I ask you again, is the freaking sex???????? And fire??? I don’t even want to know.
I guess I am, at best, a chocolate latte in the sexual realm. Some, like our naval hero, might say, with disdain, “very vanilla,” but I really LIKE chocolate and I get to say what flavor I am. I will not be defined by a short man in a moth ball eaten uniform or a former real estate agent who likes to wield a whip. The props? The acting? I’m not averse to games and exploration. Sometimes it’s fun. But not all the time, and not when it requires a huge amount of preparation. That’s what we did as children, played Dress Up and Let’s Pretend. “I’ll wrap up in a bed sheet and be a Roman Empress and you’ll be my slave, and you’ll bring me ice cream and if you don’t do it quickly enough I’ll have you crucified after I whip you.” (I was big into epics like Ben Hur, The Robe ,and The Ten Commandments—lots of bed sheets and slaves). Or, “Let’s play old-fashioned school, and you be the bad student, and I’ll be the teacher, and I have to spank you with a ruler.” And who among us didn’t at one time or another play Doctor? Games. They were fun, but certainly not erotic (we were 10!).
What turns me on, for real, I’ve learned, is intimacy. A knowing glance, a slow dance to Frank Sinatra or a chakra shaking rock ‘n roll boogie, a bottle of wine over a long game of Scrabble, laying on a blanket staring up at the stars and sharing stories, a lingering, exploring, teasing kiss, a span of uninterrupted time with conscious attention to who I am, who she is, who we are together. Intimacy. That’s the thing. Not role playing, or games, or rubbing (or spanking) body parts. Though it can be about all of that. Set and setting, Timothy Leary would have said. There’s a time and place for all of it.
The couple in NC—the real estate agent and the Marine sergeant? They moved to New York, got married and bought a house together. I wonder if there are chains and hand cuffs in the new dining room? We lost touch. The Naval officer and his slave-puppy? They split up. He has a new Mistress now and he reports that she beats him regularly, but only after he has begged and cried for it. The Slave…who knows? She told me that night at dinner (when she had permission to speak), that for her it was all about the attention. I hope she is getting the kind she wants. Whatever floats your boat.
What are your fantasies? You have them. I know you have them. The spectrum of human sexuality is fascinating, don’t you think? I certainly think so—but that’s the 90% between my ears. I’m one of the lucky ones. I am living my fantasy, which means it isn’t a fantasy, anymore. It’s my life.