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Fantasies During Sex: Welcome Them

Sex is mutual meditation.

Not long ago, a survey reported in the New York Times magazine asked married couples: "As long as you're sexually faithful to your spouse, do you think it's okay to fantasize having sex with someone else?" More respondents said no than yes--48% no, 46% yes, with 6% declining to answer.

Meanwhile, other surveys have shown that during partner sex, the Number One fantasy is doing it with someone else. Many people express guilt about such fantasies, believing them the moral equivalent of unfaithfulness, and harmful to their relationships.

Great sex is a combination of friction and fantasy. Most lovers enjoy the friction. But many feel uncomfortable with their fantasies. What a shame to feel guilty about something as normal--and healthy--as sexual fantasies during lovemaking.

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If you feel "mentally unfaithful" when fantisizing of other lovers during sex, you might be able to forgive yourself if you view lovemaking as a special, interpersonal form of spirituality, a mutual meditation, if you will.

In meditation, people reserve time to take an uninterrupted break from their usual activities. They sit quietly, breathe deeply, empty their minds of conscious thoughts, and repeat a simple word or phrase (mantra) over and over. A while later, they emerge feeling refreshed and relaxed.

But emptying the mind is not easy. Random thoughts dart in and out of conscioussness. Meditation teachers advise accepting these thoughts without judging them, no matter what their content. Teachers say: Your thoughts during meditation are no reflection on you. Thoughts are simply there, like dreams. You're not responsible for them. Observe them, then let go of them as you gently return to your mantra.

Lovemaking is surprisingly similar. Lovers mututally reserve time to take an uninterrupted break from the rest of their busy lives. They breath deeply, relax, and transcend their individual bodies to feel deeply connected with each other, afterward emerging refreshed and relaxed. Lovers don't sit quietly (at least I hope not). Instead, they substitute sensual explorations for the mantra. But in most respects, sex is similar to meditation.

During sex it might be nice to empty your mind of all thoughts other than those of your lover. But that's usually impossible. Other thoughts almost inevitably intrude--including fantasies of other lovers: movie stars, old flames, new acquaintances, anyone. You might also have fantasies of fringe activities: group sex, sex in public, or sexually dominating or submitting to a lover. Just as in meditation, accept your sexual fantasies without judging them. They are no reflection on your morality, faithfulness, or mental health. In sexual fantasy, as in meditation, everything is permitted and nothing is wrong.

The only time sexual fantasies might signal a problem is if you consistently fantasize about making love with one specific other person--and take steps to make that happen. That's a clear sign of a relationship problem. But I'm not talking about falling in love with someone else. I'm concerned with true fantasies, the strange, marvelous, weird, impossible fleeting notions that occupy the mind for a moment then go their merry way.

Accepting one's sexual fantasies allows for greater relaxation during lovemaking. Relaxation is key to sexual fulfillment. Feeling guilty about sexual fantasies causes anxiety and emotional stress, which interfere with erotic pleasure. No wonder that in a survey by a University of Vermont researcher, respondents who said they felt guilty about their fantasies of others lovers reported low sexual satisfaction.

The late comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, told a story of making love with his girlfriend. They're going at it, but something is wrong. Neither feels all that aroused. Finally, Dangerfield asks her: "What's the matter? Can't you think of anyone either?"

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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