We all have sexual fantasies right? I remember fantasising before I even started masturbating. I might have been nine or ten. Or eleven. It doesn’t really matter does it? Our sexuality starts in childhood and carries on from there.
Recently I spotted a link to this piece by sex educator and therapist, Dr Castellanos, on the role of
fantasy in our sex lives. I was pleased someone was tackling the subject and sharing her knowledge. Then I read it.
The article starts off ok. ‘Learning a little about sexual fantasies may help you become more comfortable with your own fantasies’ writes Dr Castellanos. Unless you learn that your fantasies are wrong, or signs of psychological problems, maybe?
She then goes on to look at ‘rape’ fantasies, saying ‘a fairly common fantasy for some women is that might [sic] be ravished or raped. For many women, this fantasy represents the desire to be so attractive and desirable that their partner (or others in the fantasy) would not be able to resist them. It does not automatically mean that a woman would want to be raped or would enjoy being raped’.
The problem I have with this ‘analysis’ is that it totally ignores the role of violence in many people’s fantasies, from an S and M, or kink, point of view. Castellanos tiptoes over the fact that some of us fantasise about being ‘ravaged’ or ‘raped’, not because we want to be ‘irresistible’ but because we like the idea of being taken by force, beaten, hurt and violated, against our will. We like the idea. We may even re-enact this idea in a role-play scenario. We might write stories about it. The Doctor is right. It doesn’t mean we want to be raped, or to rape. But it does mean we are prepared to entertain the idea of forced, violent, non-consensual sex. This is not a crime, unless you are the thought police.
I originally intended to write this post in a friendly, accessible, non-violent manner, so that other sex educators might read it and learn from a practioner of kink, and writer of kink pornography, how violent fantasies are perfectly natural and can form part of a ‘healthy’, BDSM role-play sex life. But I found Dr Castellanos’ version of kinky fantasy so inaccurate, patronising and pathologising of my and many other people’s sexuality that I don’t think I am going to be able to achieve my original aim.
Later in her piece Dr Castellanos writes:
‘There are many things that people fantasise about that they would not look to carry out in real life. But that does not mean you cannot use your fantasies to heighten your experience for you or your partner. Fantasy is just that, fantasy-not reality, it is a creative space in your mind that you can use to pretend and to create exciting stories, and have fun’.
(‘This article refers to fantasies that do not involve harm towards yourself or another person, or fantasies that involve inappropriate partners, such as children or animals. If you are having such fantasies, they should be discussed with a therapist to prevent any dangerous or harmful behaviour or any anxiety or depression that result from them)’.
Thankfully the article ended there, because I think if it had have carried on it would have tied itself into even more convoluted and confusing knots. And I might have committed an act of violence against my computer.
I have tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I can only conclude that Dr Castellanos is saying that S and M fantasy, if not done ‘properly’, and if translated into ‘reality’, is wrong, harmful and requires the fantasiser to seek medical and psychological assistance. If that isn’t pathologising people’s sexuality I don’t know what is.
Kink does involve turning our fantasies into ‘reality’ to a degree. Not literally of course. But in role-play such as ‘rape play’ , ‘kidnapping’, ‘interrogation scenes’ etc sadists ‘harm’ masochists. A key point is that they do so with full consent of the person on the other end of the violence. But still, it is worth noting that it is this very ‘real’ violence that the masochist desires. Try hitting a masochist with an ‘imaginary’ cane/flogger/crop and s/he won’t be very happy!
I know sex educators have a responsibility to advocate awareness of danger, risk and safety in all matters of sex and sexuality. But in my view, the most dangerous thing in our sex lives is ignorance, and Dr Castellanos’ ignorance of kink and BDSM sexuality screams out from her article. Also the fact is that when it comes to awareness of ‘harm’ and the potential for S and M sex to do physical, and psychological damage, it tends to be practitioners of kink who know the most about this and how to minimise adverse effects. Just as sex workers are often the most expert of groups in contraception and STI prevention, so are kinky people often the most knowledgeable about the potential dangers involved in S and M. Not all of them. But there are many responsible, articulate kink practioners and bloggers who could have dealt with this subject much more informatively than Dr Castellanos. Maybe she should have asked them for some advice?
As for her assertion that we should not fantasise about sex with ‘inappropriate partners’ such as children or animals. This is a highly controversial subject. But I retain the position that even if we try to police our thoughts and our imaginations, we cannot, and should not prohibit or denigrate anything that goes through our minds. Novelists, artists, musicians, all deal with the darker sides of our imaginations. Are they to be told they shouldn’t have such ‘inappropriate’ thoughts as well? What about the Murder Ballads ? Or Lolita? Or the work of Mat Collishaw ? Or is the doctor saying that ‘art’ and ‘pornography’ ‘imagination’ and ‘fantasy’ are completely separate distinct things? I don’t see how they can be, as they all stem from the same source.
I wanted this post to be educational. I am worried it has turned into a rant. But after reading Dr Castellanos piece, I felt a degree of ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ myself. I had a brief flash of doubt about the ‘appropriateness’ of my own fantasies and my sexuality. I did seek counsel as well, but luckily not from Dr C. I spoke to someone who writes about kink sexuality who I knew would not tell me I needed ‘help’ with my ‘problem’. I am a confident and aware person but I haven’t always been so, especially not in relation to my interest in S and M. If someone new to this kind of sexual expression read Dr C’s article, I think s/he could feel very unnerved about the kinds of things s/he thought about, desired, and wished to do.
Here, then, for anyone that is interested, is a list of sources of information about kink, S and M, BDSM sexuality. The sex educators could benefit from some education from those who know what they are talking about!
Clarisse Thorn: http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com/
Remittance Girl: http://remittancegirl.com/
Informed Consent: http://www.informedconsent.co.uk/settings/sign-in/
Let The Eat: Pro S and M Feminist Safe Spaces: http://sm-feminist.blogspot.com/
Pandora Blake: Spanked, not Silenced http://pandorablake.blogspot.com/
Thinking About My Kink http://thinkingaboutmykink.blogspot.com/
Oh, and if you have any queries about S and M/Kink you can always talk to me. I may not know the answer to your questions; I will know someone who does!