Vera Sonja Maass, Ph.D.
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
November 11, 2006, Las Vegas, Nevada
Gender Differences in Sexual Fantasies
Research into the area of sexual fantasies has generally revealed that men and women’s fantasies are qualitatively different. Not only are men’s sexual fantasies more explicit than women’s, there are differences in the roles of dominance and submission within these fantasies. It has been generally accepted that men see themselves as more dominant in their fantasies. Women, on the other hand view their role as submissive in their sexual fantasies. They may entertain fantasies of scenarios where their beauty is so overwhelming that every man is rendered helpless in his desire for them. And the more beautiful they perceive themselves to be, the less activity is required of them. Others, less courageous in assuming this ravishing beauty, may see themselves as a victim of the man’s sexual domination of her, perhaps imagining a scenario not unlike rape. Even those women, who reportedly fantasized about being sexually dominant, did so with primarily focusing on their partner’s sexual pleasure rather than on their own pleasure. (See “Learning to write their own script”)
For their own sake, should we redirect the focus and content of women’s sexual fantasies? Perhaps women do not need additional training in their fantasies for submissive behaviors; they are experts at that. Also, women’s sexual fantasies need to come closer to reality or to what they are willing and capable of doing in real life. Can this be accomplished as part of sexuality education for females or will it have to wait for exploration in therapy?
Categories of Sexual Fantasies
Different categories of sexual fantasies can serve different functions. As sexual fantasies can lead to increased passion and arousal, they can bring another dimension, one of increased intimacy, deeper meaning, and even spirituality to lovemaking. Imaginings can lead to deepening of the experienced sensations but are there limits to be aware of?
The easy access to pornography functions to remove limits to individuals’, especially men’s, sexual fantasies, to the point of desensitization. Sex therapists frequently encounter men who are unable to become sufficiently aroused to experience orgasm in “normal” sexual activities. They have become addicted to the level of sexual arousal felt while watching pornographic materials. Actual sexual intercourse often cannot compete successfully in providing this strong stimulation.
How are women portrayed in pornography? An Australian study exploring the possible objectification of women in pornographic videos found that the majority of videos were American imports (McKee, 2005). The most popular sex act presented in the scenes was that of penile/vaginal penetration. Surprisingly many women were depicted reaching orgasm through this path. In the scenes depicting oral sex, the majority showed women performing oral sex on the male characters.
Aspects of Sexual Addiction
Clinicians who treat individuals with sexual addiction have pointed out that in the context of their addiction some of these clients demonstrate hypersexual behavior whereas in the context of their loving relationships these same individuals experience hypoactive sexual desire. This observation has serious implications for treatment, especially as it is more often played out in couples where the male partner is the one with the addiction problem. The women in these relationships may become confused about the increase of requests for sexual activities under certain circumstances. At first, they attempt to explain this occurrence with increased passion on the part of their lovers or husbands, yet there are dissimilarities in the expression of passion when they compare this to earlier times in their relationship.
Playing a Part in the Partner’s Fantasy
Sex therapists also work with couples where one partner persuades the other to assume the role or parts thereof from what he or she has observed and deposited into memory or fantasies. In cases of the male partner requesting certain sexual behaviors from a female partner, there may be little resistance in the beginning from the female partner who adheres to her submissive role. However, over time, the man is likely to step up his requests or demands for sexual titillation to the point where the female partner finds it impossible to comply. Women may disagree with a certain degree of their own objectification in men’s fantasized scenarios. Sometimes the woman is able to prolong her period of compliance with the use of alcohol.
“Faking” Orgasm as Coping Mechanism
Eileen’s masturbatory study of orgasmic achievement turned her into an expert. Eileen was uncomfortable with her husband’s style of lovemaking. He tried to persuade her to play the roles he had conceived of in his fantasies. In order to avoid or shorten her performances in his fantasies, Eileen “faked” orgasms all through their marriage. After 14 years of “faking” she grew tired of it. In addition, she became increasingly concerned about the intensity of her husband’s wishes, which—at times—resembled demands for acting out the roles he had designed for her. He felt justified in his demands. After all, the high quality orgasms he had provided for her over the years surely entitled him to the fulfillment of his wants. What was Eileen to do? Should she disclose her history of faking? (Maass, 2007)
Considerations for Future Directions
Where is the line between sexual fantasies as fantasies and as becoming parts of reality? And what happens when one or the other sexual partner insists on crossing that line? Many women, just like Eileen, decide to comply with their lovers’ demand for acting out their fantasies. In the beginning it does not seem so bad; they may be able to distract themselves in some ways or devise ingenious strategies like Eileen did. But with time, these demands get “stepped up” and the compliance becomes more difficult or even impossible.
Maass, V. S. (2007) Facing the complexities of women’s sexual desire. New York: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.
Contact Information :
V. S. Maass, Ph.D., 8204 Westfield Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46240
Phone: (317) 251-8448
Return to Program Page
Return to Front Page