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Module 5. Fantasy

This module aims to help you to:

  • Become aware of your current sexual and non-sexual fantasies
  • Recognise and reflect on the link between your fantasies and your behaviour


What is a fantasy?

Do you ever think about winning the lottery? How would you spend the money? Where would you go?

This is one example of a fantasy. A fantasy is something that is imagined.

In this section, when we are talking about ‘sexual fantasy’, we are referring to something that is imagined which you find sexually arousing.

It could be a thought about a specific person or people you know or about imaginary people, or even be about you in a situation on your own. It might be about a situation that could possibly happen in the future, or re-running something in your head that you have seen or has happened to you before (e.g., fantasising about a scene in a movie or about someone you met) or something sexual that you don’t think could ever realistically happen in real life (e.g., having sex with a famous person or having superhuman powers).

It is important to recognise that sexual fantasy can involve thinking about things, people or situations that would not necessarily be obviously sexual to other people.

Not everyone relates to the idea of fantasy. However, by accessing this self-help guide it is assumed that you are concerned about your sexual thoughts to some extent. If these thoughts ever involve you imagining acting on any of your sexual interests, however briefly, that would be an example of you using sexual fantasy.


Fantasy and arousal

Sexual arousal can be considered as a continuum, which begins with the trigger of the arousal (‘stimulus’), through increasing levels of arousal which may or may not lead to sexual behaviour and culminating in orgasm/ejaculation. On this continuum, sexual fantasy is depicted after the initial sexual arousal.

Although the initial sexual arousal may not be a reaction you can control, all along the continuum, the arousal can be controlled and interrupted – if you wish to do so – right up until the point of orgasm has begun. However, the desire and motivation to stop the process typically reduces the further along the continuum you allow yourself to progress.

Once you allow yourself to dwell on these thoughts and begin to fantasise, rather than changing the sexual content of the thoughts to something more appropriate or distracting yourself from sexual thoughts altogether, you have already reduced your control.

The same applies to the use of online pornography for those concerned about their use of the Internet: if you allow yourself to search for sexual content when already in a state of sexual arousal, your ability to confine your actions to legal content may be impaired.


Why do people have fantasies?

Fantasies can be about a variety of different things and everybody will have their own reasons for engaging in a fantasy…

  • For some, a fantasy will give them confidence, increased self-assurance and a sense of control over a situation by letting them rehearse how they will deal with a situation.
  • For others, it may be a form of stress release (escapism) or a way to experience things that they wouldn’t in everyday life (that lottery win).
  • Negative fantasies can be a way people try to cope and prepare themselves for something they fear will happen, or a way of punishing themselves.
  • Some people use sexual fantasies as a form of sexual outlet; often if they are not meeting their sexual needs within a relationship.

A fantasy can have…..

  • Positive outcomes: for example imagining achieving an award or winning a competition.
  • Negative outcomes: for example if a partner does not return home on time, imaging that they have been in a car accident.

Some fantasies are…..

  • Planned, rehearsed and used repeatedly by a person e.g. scoring a world cup goal.
  • Triggered by an emotional response or an external stimulus e.g. replaying bad day at work.
  • Sometimes a person’s thoughts stray and it takes them a short time to realise they are fantasising and not doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Sexual fantasies themselves are not necessarily a bad thing; it’s what happens in that fantasy or who is in that fantasy which may need to be addressed. In the next section of this module we consider appropriate and inappropriate fantasy.


Continue to Appropriate versus inappropriate fantasy