I remember a short time ago seeing on television, or in the cinema, a short film in which a couple of lovers met at the house of the woman while her husband was at work.
They behaved in every respect like guilty people do who are caught up in an illicit relationship.
There was clock-watching, references to the time when the husband would be home, and care taken that the man left no trace of his presence in sitting-room or bedroom.
Only in the last two minutes of the film was it revealed that the couple were, in fact, husband and wife, who, periodically played out their charade, not only as an antidote to sexual boredom, but because they had a much more intense sexual experience when they made love while fantasizing that they were committing adultery.
This is a rational reaction, for what is forbidden often much more exciting than what is permitted. It is not commonly appreciated how widespread both male and female sexual fantasy is in both men and women when they are involved in sexual activity.
It is difficult to assess how widespread it is, because some people who fantasize feel very guilty about it, and tend to keep it to themselves.
Not long ago this email arrived:
I'm pretty certain that I am not a homosexual. Of course, at school I took part now and again in mutual masturbation, but since I was eighteen I have been completely heterosexual, not only in my sexual activities, but in my sexual desires. I am 27 and have been in a sexual relationship and married for nearly three years to the most adorable woman I know, who is also perfect as a wife and mistress.
Anne has always been completely uninhibited about making love. I had a happy home background, too, but my parents were not quite so free about sex as Anne's.
But I've never had any guilt-feelings, and our lovemaking is warm, loving and fun. and I think out of this world. So why, why, why, while we were making love one day a couple of months back did I suddenly, without any warning, begin to pretend that Anne was a boy?
And why, the more I imagined she was a boy, did I become more and more excited? I've had a good number of fantastic orgasm experiences in my sex-life-time, but when I came this time it was tremendous.
Indeed, I was so excited I experienced premature ejaculation on some occasions afterwards when I enjoyed the same fantasy.
Afterwards I felt pretty awful about it. I couldn't bring myself to tell Anne, for reasons I'm sure you'll understand.
For the first time since we've known one another I had a sex secret from her. I was pretty worried about it, one way and another, and made up my mind not to let it happen again. But it did happen, and with equally fantastic results.
I nearly told Anne after the second time because she made some remark about how excited I had been, and that my excitement had increased her own.
But I kept it back because I'm sure Anne would be terribly hurt if she knew that my extra excitement was not caused by her but, by my fantasy of someone else, and not even another woman, but a boy.
The homosexual fantasy is so real that Anne actually changes psychically into a boy during those few minutes. What am I going to do about it? Why am I doing it? How can I make myself stop doing it? Please suggest something!
The psychiatrists would have explanations for this young man's particular fantasy, but I don't want to go into them here.
Rather I would like to consider the situation in practical terms. First of all, I am certain he is wise to have kept this particular fantasy secret from his wife.
A really wise and understanding woman might - just might - understand a husband fantasizing that she was another woman, though I very much doubt if it would make her happy.
It is too much to ask any woman to accept the fantasy that she is a man with whom her husband is having a homosexual relationship.
I don't think any woman would be happy thinking she was not a fully acceptable partner. It would be a natural blow to pride, and on that ground alone would hurt, and this goes against my firm maxim for all sexual relationships, namely, that neither partner does not demand any activity of the other which will hurt the other physically or mentally.
In addition, however, there would be an equal risk of producing in the partner feelings of sexual inadequacy.
Feelings of sexual inadequacy can be absolutely devastating to sexual responsiveness and performance. The same is true when sex is not possible because of, say, a yeast infection or some other problem.
A very high proportion of female anorgasmia and delayed orgasm, and of male premature ejaculation and partial impotence, are the result of feelings of sexual inadequacy.
To force such feelings and their unhappy consequences on a partner whom one loves, merely for the sake of feeling comfortable because one is frank and honest, appears to me cruel in the extreme, and completely unjustifiable.
But are the guilt-feelings engendered in the fantasizer - possibly because he/she is being disloyal or unfaithful to the partner - justified?
Before I consider this very important question, let us consider a few more types of fantasy involving the transformation of the partner into another person.
Since Alan, the young husband, emailed me, I have come across other cases of men fantasizing that their partner is a gay man with whom they are having a homosexual encounter.
Two of them fall into the same category as Alan; that is, they are not conscious of having homosexual tendencies and they never indulge in homosexual activities and would shy away if the opportunity ever presented itself. Like Alan, too, they use their fantasies only intermittently.
Two are latent homosexuals - they made their discovery some years after marriage - and use their fantasies permanently.
By doing so they hope to avoid seeking homosexual contacts and are desperately trying to save their marriages by continuing to have intercourse with their wives, an activity they now find distasteful and possible only if they act out their fantasy every time.
They claim that their motive for behaving in this way, is that they do not wish to hurt their wives by breaking up the marriage.
Homosexual fantasizing is not confined only to men. Quite a number of women bisexuals and latent lesbians imagine their men partners to be women.
They can operate their fantasy during foreplay, especially during cunnilingus, and, somewhat strangely, when they are playing the active role in lovemaking and couple in the woman astride position.
A large proportion can fantasize while having sex in any position, by transforming the partner's penis into an imaginary dildo. By far the largest body of fantasizers are men and women who transform their partners into other people of identical sex.
I very much doubt whether there is a single man or woman who has not at least once, and probably more often, fantasized in this way while making love.
I recall, on a visit to New York not long ago, being invited to the home of a recently married young couple, who proudly showed me over their apartment. I was struck by the large number of big-breasted naked pictures round the bedroom, and when I was later able to get the young husband alone, I asked him why?
"I go for big-breasted women," he told me. "You've probably noticed that Miriam isn't all that big, but I fell head over heels in love with her, despite that I thought it wouldn't matter but found that it did.
I tried to imagine Miriam was big-breasted but I'm obviously not very imaginative. It didn't work, and we went through a very bad patch lovemaking-wise. Fortunately I was able to tell Miriam what the matter was, and it was her idea to stick the pictures up."
One of the most popular is the fantasy in which the woman imagines herself to be a prostitute. This can be difficult to act out, because the role, to be successful, seems to require action as well as internal imagining.
It can be successful, however, if the partner is prepared to co-operate. When the couple has a good and frank relationship, the partner's cooperation is often possible.
The ideal situation, of course, is where the man is able to adopt the fantasy that he is with a prostitute.
Quite a number of men do find this fantasy stimulating - in fact, it is a fairly common male fantasy - and I have encountered a good many cases in which husband and wife devise elaborate charades.
Not all fantasies involve the partner. The favorite fantasy of a friend of mine is that he is in a harem surrounded and ministered to by a company of wives and concubines.
A woman I know has a similar fantasy; she imagines she is an Empress being bathed in asses' milk by a number of beautiful young Greek men who take a variety of liberties with her under the cloudy cover of the milk while bathing her, while drying her and while oiling her off afterwards.
One man fantasized that he was a baby, and with the co-operation of an understanding wife, dressed as one and was pushed about the house in a pram.
This particular fantasy is one of the classics; all the expert sexologists record such cases.
It is also a fact that there is a significant number of women who cannot obtain any sexual satisfaction unless they fantasize that they are being raped.
A fair proportion have to have assistance - being stripped and bound hand and foot to the bed - in order to work out the fantasy.
About as many men have the need to fantasize that they are raping their partners, and require their partners to be bound in order to fantasize successfully.
Sexual fantasy is a widespread and normal sexual activity, neither sinful or shameful. You need not have, no matter what the fantasy is, any feelings of guilt about your fantasizing.
Sexual fantasizing is a natural human activity. But having accepted this, how is one to react towards one's partner?
Where the partner can be asked and is willing to cooperate in the fantasy, and where the partner is not involved in the fantasy, there is, of course, no problem.
But what if the partner cannot be consciously involved, as in the homosexual fantasy, or in the fantasy that transforms the partner into a film-star, the pop-idol, and so on, for the reason that the knowledge would hurt?
Fantasy is often a spontaneous activity -one suddenly realizes what one is doing, as Alan, the young husband with the homosexual fantasy, so underlined; if it is a spontaneous activity, it is also, except in certain rare cases, a spasmodic activity i.e. one does not fantasize every time one makes love.
This means, I think, that there is no real need to have guilt feelings about doing it.
I am thinking chiefly of those who feel they are being disloyal or unfaithful to their partner because they transform him/her into either an imaginary or a real other person.
But what are the fantasies actually doing?
Any fantasizer will tell you that the fantasy heightens sexual arousal; indeed, that is the whole point of the fantasizing. Heightened sexual arousal - which leads to more intense orgasm and sexual satisfaction - can only have the effect of heightening the response of the partner.
Anyone who has made love with a very aroused partner knows how infectious the partner's arousal is, and how one's own responses automatically become more intense.
You are just helping to make every session of lovemaking as intense an experience as all the circumstances will permit, because only by behaving in this way can one demonstrate to one's partner the depth of the emotional love one has for him/ her.
Surely if any fantasy can help to achieve this result, the use of it cannot be condemned on any grounds whatsoever?
And the morality of it? Should one feel guilty because one has to deceive the partner? I think not, on the grounds that to reveal the fantasy would hurt the partner.
If fantasy undermined one's love for one's partner, then, in my view, it would have to be resisted. But this does not happen.
For the majority of those who do fantasize, it is a spasmodic activity which has spontaneous origins. Sexual fantasies are sexual day-dreams, and are no more dangerous than any other kind of day-dream indulged in by ordinary, normal people.
But there is one aspect of fantasy on which I feel I must comment. I think it is absolutely essential that men and women should fantasize while privately masturbating.
By doing so they are able to heighten the experience, particularly because masturbation is a solitary enough experience as it is, and even the fantasy presence of an imaginary partner can dispel most, if not all, of the loneliness in which most of us masturbate.
Not only that, the imaginary partner can transform the act from the purely selfish and purely physical experiences into one with mental response. All physical sexual experiences are enhanced by psychological pleasure.
I believe that masturbation fantasizing is so important to normal sexual development, that all adolescents should have it explained to them when masturbation is being discussed.
Finally, for those who still regard sexual fantasizing as unnatural, remember that more than 99 per cent of all men and women who experience wet dreams testify that as the sensations mount and the orgasm breaks there is an accompanying erotic dream involving a sexual partner.
And, in the majority of cases, we do not know and have never seen this figure before, but he or she always matches our ideals of physical sexuality. In other words, erotic dreams are fantasies. We have no control over our dreams. They are the product of the unconscious.
Updated 23 February 2020