Fantasies, Fetishes and all things Fun
So you have met this amazing guy and have been hitting it off for months. It has been full of great conversation, exciting adventures and of course great sex in bed. One night as you make your way to bed, he heads to the bathroom for his nightly routine and comes out dressed in leather, whip in hand and handcuffs for you in the other…hot? Maybe…Or do you run?
People have all sorts of fantasies from simple threesomes; domination and submission; incorporating certain objects, people, places or animals; diapers; fisting; bondage and pain. The list goes on and I certainly am not going to share my own, but we all have them whether they are vanilla or extreme. One question always comes up – are they healthy?
The DSM-IV, the “Bible” for us Shrinks, categorizes possible such things within Sexual Dysfunctions to include Paraphilias and other Sexual Disorders and Dysfunctions. Paraphilias or the ones we are more aware of and often the ones involved in fantasy play including exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, sadism and masochism, and even pedophilia. The second category examines premature ejaculation, erectile disorders, gender identity disorder and others.
But if a pair of leather boots or being urinated on is part of your sexual fantasy world does that mean you should be booking some time on my couch? Not necessarily…
Most fantasies are normal and even healthy as they are a great release of our sexual desires and when played out in a safe fashion can be exciting, adventurous and fun. I mean, who doesn’t like a little role play or being tied up every so often? Incorporating toys or playing doctor (my personal favorite)?
But these can become problematic for some if they start to interfere with your life in some negative ways. The DSM points out that they are not disorders unless these fantasies, urges, or behaviors occur for a significant period of time and interfere with either satisfactory sexual relations or everyday functioning. There must also be a sense of distress. In other words, the fetish or other behavior must negatively impact you and create a sense of distress in that you feel you are unable to control them.
Fantasies can come about in so many different ways from unresolved issues as a child, from pairing an ordinary stimulus with a sexual experience, or the carrying of a transitional object from infancy into adult sexual development. They can also arise from unusual or traumatic sexual experiences in which they are more likely to create problems and distress in adulthood. In the case of sexual trauma, either a reaction that includes fear of intimacy and inability to participate sexually; or a reaction formation in which the victim plays out sexually in order to “normalize” what has happened to them. Both cases are unhealthy and should be referred to for treatment and support.
Fantasy can also just come about by simple curiosity and wanting to push our limits and try new things. Our minds can be creative and fun for sure and it likes to push itself, so enjoy the ride. Pornography, for example, can often introduce us to such things this way and allow us to experience something vicariously through others before participating ourselves or maybe never doing, but just thinking about it!
We are sexually stimulated very easily and by so many different means, and for some that may make us uncomfortable but many times that is part of our social upbringing that seeps into our psychological self. Think about a straight man watching gay porn. It will still turn him on, but does that mean you can change him? No. Give it up, it will only cause more stress for him and for you!
So if it makes us uncomfortable and causes great impairment, then it needs to be examined and you should seek some advice, support or professional care. If it is simply something new and different, we like it and it makes us feel good (and is legal, safe and healthy) then carry on doing it! And do it with conviction and vigor!
Sex is fun! Be safe! Be smart! And remember that healthy sexual development is key to overall growth and sense of self, especially in our “gay” world where there are so many extra turns to negotiate and conflicting messages along the way. Be true to yourself and do only what makes you comfortable!
Join me on my couch next week…I will be waiting…
Alright, so the fetish or paraphilia is causing you problems in developing relationships, being intimate in more “normal” ways, or is causing you other social, professional, or legal issues (pedophilia, exhibitionism, bestiality) in your life. Well then this so called fetish has gone from being fun and playful to being a psychological dysfunction and causing undo distress in your life. Now you need some couch time with the good doctor…
These erotic tendencies can be reshaped through many means so that you can go back to enjoying some good old vanilla sex with your boyfriend or whomever, while also spicing things up but not having to rely on specific behaviors or objects that are causing the distress to yourself or to them or worse, to unwanted recipients. Treatment approaches work around medications, psychoanalysis, hypnosis and cognitive behavioral treatments.
Don’t worry, none of these are too painful and will lead to a better sex life for all, not to mention a whole lot less stress in your life.
The most common intervention is something called aversive conditioning which is just using a negative association to eliminate the behavior. The fetish developed often by the pairing of an object/situation with pleasure, now that process can be reversed and is sometimes done automatically through legal actions or shame. Other means can be more drastic including watching yourself commit the negative actions, watching more aversive consequences or by pairing other negative stimuli (nasty odors) with the behavior. It is just re teaching your brain in a simple form. We really aren’t as complicated as we might like to think we are.
More positive ways include social skills training, teaching empathy to victims (exhibitionism), or using a plethysmograph (machine attached to your penis to measure erection) to control your levels of stimulation. And even more fun, reconditioning the brain through masturbation techniques by learning how to associate the pleasure of masturbation and climax with more acceptable stimuli through repeated exposure and therapy.
Yes, my job can certainly be more than interesting at times. You know this all sounds so clinical in nature, but really it is built upon reversing so many things that we have learned in how we think and our associated behaviors. Remember, we developed the paraphilia by being turned on by something and then associating that feeling with a certain object or situation and making it so that we feel we MUST be in that situation or with that object to get off. We can unlearn that and often a key is in meeting a good and understanding partner that can help you learn to change those behaviors so that you will get off with him instead! You simply outgrow it. And hey, there is nothing more fun than enjoying good healthy sex with another hot guy!
Don’t think that it all has to be boring. Toys, cuffs, leather, outdoor (but discrete) sex and so many other things are fun and fabulous…unless it victimizes someone else or hurts yourself. Sex should be mixed up and fun and interesting, but a paraphilia often becomes compulsive and unhealthy. And our goal of course is to keep sex healthy!
Go have fun and try out some masturbatory exercises! Or get someone to help you!
See you next time on the couch…