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Should you be worried about your sexual fantasies?
Vivek Fernandes
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April 17, 2007

The moral police, which is currently on overdrive, may not agree, but get a load of this. Of the over 93,000 people around the world polling to the question 'Do you know the sexual fantasies of your spouse?', Indian men ranked the highest, with two-thirds of them answering in the affirmative.

Clearly, sexual fantasies are shedding their taboo-tainted image, moving from bedrooms to boardrooms, and now to the couches of sex therapists.

Scoff not at the power of fantasising -- it could even help save stagnating relationships.

First off, let's deal with the idea at hand -- what is a fantasy?

'A fantasy consists of an unconscious wish worked on by the capacity for logical thought so as to give rise to a disguised expression and imaginary fulfillment of the instinctual wish,' writes British psychoanalyst Hanna Segal.

Too complex for you? Let's take this slow.

"A fantasy is a thought associated with feeling and behaviour in reel state, not a real state that a person wishes were real," says Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty. "Fantasies could be related to sex and physical desire, vengeance, love, success and fame, luck, immortality. Even talking to God in person is a familiar fantasy I've come across."

In other words, daydreams, visions, wishful thinking are all fantasies. And guess what? Everybody fantasises!

The most common fantasies, however, relate to sex. And most human beings indulge in them at some point in time.

"Sexual fantasies entail mental scenarios involving one's regular partner, spouse, or other persons, and include sexual activities considered culturally inappropriate or unacceptable," says Dr Shetty.

Fantasies could be triggered by external stimuli, such as an attractive stranger, an erotic picture or story. Of course, fantasies vary with age, lifestyle, and state of boredom.

Dr Nirmala Rao, who works with the Mumbai-based counselling centre Avishkaar says things are different in India. Here, fantasies revolve more around other individuals that one may fantasise about for a number of reasons. "Celebrities -- actors, actresses and models -- are undoubtedly the most fantasised about across gender and age groups," she says. "Another recent trend is that of couple swapping, thanks to Bollywood influences like the movie Fun, which makes no bones about it."

Dr Prakash Kothari, a practising sexologist affiliated to the department of sexual medicine at Mumbai's KEM hospital, agrees that most common-man fantasies revolve around celebs. He adds, however, that he has come across several people who fantasise about anybody from the doctor to a close friend. Other than pretend partners, the fantasy may manifest itself as a desirable feature -- a fetish for long hair, for instance. "Strange as this may seem, rape is a very common fantasy among Indian women," he says.

Do sexual fantasies help?

Indeed they can. Dr Kothari explains, "Sexual fantasies are psychological aphrodisiacs. They are colourful and harmless, for people in a dull and monotonous relationship, or who experience difficulty performing sexually."

"Fantasies are valuable therapeutic tools. They play a role of intervention in sexual therapy. Although we (sexologists) don't provide a fantasy, we do try to find out what causes a heightened desire in an individual. Fantasies help generate sexual interest and aid both arousal and the act," he says.

Shulagna Mehnot, 28, says she tried reading an erotic novel and watching an adult movie with her partner to put the spark back in a stagnating relationship. "Role-play added that necessary touch of spice. It's a great stressbuster for those who can't seem to connect," she says.

Dr Kothari adds that sexual fantasies are most helpful to bisexuals or homosexuals trapped in conventional marriages. "Fantasising about their desired partner helps them fulfill the obligation of intercourse and satisfy their partners."

Although everyone indulges in sexual fantasies, and they are for the most part a harmless indulgence of the imagination, they can sometimes take an unhealthy turn.

A few problems that sexual fantasies are associated with:

Guilt: The biggest problem with fantasising and then acting on such impulses is the pangs of guilt felt once the deed is done with. An individual may suffer from guilt arising from a number of situations -- from hiding a sexual preference, from having cheated on a partner or spouse, or from having indulged in a sexual act that is perceived as socially unacceptable.

Virtual sex was something that 27-year-old Raman Nair had always fantasised about. Giving into temptation, he acted on his urge and indulged in cyber sex. "It kept pricking my conscience. I eventually had to come clean to my wife; fortunately, she understood and forgave me," he says.

Dr Kothari recommends 'guilt-free fantasy'. "Be open about your fantasy, inform your partner of your desire and get involved wholly; it will help reduce post-fantasy guilt pangs," he advises.

Dr Shetty says another problem he has come across is that individuals often feel they are the only ones who face such problems. He terms this as the 'only-to-me' phenomenon. "Fantasising is normal, so don't fret. You are no pervert and there is nothing to be ashamed of," he says.

Obsession: Fantasies can sometimes turn into haunting obsessions. "When a fantasy intrudes into daily life, it a sign of things taking a wrong turn," says Dr Rao.

Psychologist-counsellor Mareesa K Dannielle agrees that fantasies could lead to trouble if one becomes fixated on them -- especially if they begin to block intimacy in real life.

In their book Private Thoughts, authors Wendy Maltz and Suzie Boss provide a few questions individuals can ask themselves to help evaluate whether, and to what extent, a particular fantasy may be causing problems:

If the answer to any of the above question is in the affirmative, your fantasy could be potentially harmful, and it's reason enough to be concerned. You may even need psychiatric help.

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