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What Is Sexual Fantasy and why does it matter?

I remember first reading Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, a collection of her interviews with women discussing their sexuality and fantasies, and being amazed at their wealth of detail, ingenuity and richness. The book was published in 1973, and her primary motivation for writing it was to confront the widespread belief at the time that women didn’t have sexual fantasies. When asked about it, she said that “more than any other emotion, guilt determined the story lines of the fantasies”

In an ironic turn of events, many women now feel guilty at not having sexual fantasies.

On enquiry, what they tend to mean is that they don’t have a story like structure that they find arousing and masturbate to.

What is Erotic Fantasy?

In the Immortal Words of Bonnie Tyler:

Somewhere after midnight in my wildest fantasy

Somewhere just beyond my reach there’s someone reaching back for me

Racing on the thunder and rising with the heat

It’s going to take a Superman to sweep me off my feet

Doesn’t a small part of us die when the talk turns to our “wildest fantasy”?

Either we feel awkward about not having one at all, or that if we did say what it was, people would either be dropping off to sleep or calling child protection.

In my exploration of fantasy work with Rachel Connor, what we’ve noticed is that almost everyone does have sexual fantasy, it’s just it doesn’t necessarily appear in a story like form. Because it doesn’t, it’s disregarded. And being disregarded, it becomes formulaic and repetitive, and loses its capacity to be creative and expansive.

These alternative forms of sexual fantasy include:


Fragments can be visual, or can involve on of the other senses. A visual fragment is something very short, a second or so of something, like an item of clothing being lifted up. An auditory fragment might be a phrase [“She put her hands inside my pants and pulled them down”]. A fragment could be an imagined smell or scent, or taste.


Many people seem to have an arousing image, or a series of arousing images [ a bit like a pack of playing cards]  

Anticipations and Memories

Remembering something arousing which happened to you, or anticipating something which has not yet happened is sexual fantasy too, but tends to be ignored because it seems to be “life” rather than “fantasy”

How can we open all these varieties of fantasy to our wider life, and make them creative, embodied and relational?

Rachel and I have uncovered a number of ways to do this, and we have got to the point of sharing these methods and approaches more widely.

We ran our inaugural course on Erotic Fantasy over 4 x 90 minute sessions, which started Thursday 17 June. In 2022, as we come out of the pandemic, we will start in person workshops.

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