Elements of sexual fetishes are common in most people’s sexual fantasies – the strong and attractive look of a high heeled shoe, or the invulnerable appeal of the “bad boy” character – but these mild fetishes are not necessarily preferred routes to sexual pleasure and release for everyone. In contrast, some people require the presence of a particular fetish in order to become aroused, however is cases where the fetishization is mild and perhaps not even noticed, we can learn something about the milder appeal to most, by understanding the role the fetish plays in more extreme examples.
In his book, Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, Dr. Michael J. Bader explains that with fetishes, “the part is treated as if it were the whole, or, conversely, a whole being is reduced to a part.” In sexual terms, a person is said to be fetishizing when they objectify a person, or personify an object, or as Bader puts it, “when we reduce something human to the status of a thing, or imbue things with human qualities.” Specifically, fetishes work to remove the human dimension of a sexual interaction, thereby freeing the fetishist of any guilt or worry they might have for their partner which would ultimately interfere with their ability to abandon control and climax.
How does leather, rubber, or latex function as a fetish? These materials are imbued with a human quality, being that they are suggestive of a second skin, one that is taut, smooth, shiny, and perfect. To the wearer or onlooker, the qualities of this second skin are suggestive of strength and invulnerability, youth even. The unconscious impact is to counteract feelings of worry or guilt on the part of the onlooker, and shame or insecurity on the part of the wearer. This is particularly evident when we imagine the opposite appearance of skin that is looser, vulnerable, older, and wrinkled.
Some examples of this fetish in action are given by Dr. Bader. He mentions a women who reported that she felt strong and invulnerable wearing an outfit made of leather, rubber, or latex. Her usual feelings of insecurity and weakness were smoothed over, so to speak, and she was able to become the strong, confident woman she longed to be. For someone who simply enjoys wearing these materials in a sexual scenario, but for whom their arousal does not rely on them, the element of strength and confidence will likely still be related to the appeal.
Another example is of a gay man who found leather on other men very attractive because it immediately suggested to him that this man would be a “hard-edged top,” thus allowing him to overcome his feelings of guilt for being strong or hard-edged himself. Only a partner who appeared stronger than himself would do, so he could assure himself that he couldn’t possibly hurt his partner by losing control sexually. My post on slave Master fantasies explores this dynamic further.
A third example is given, of a man who also felt guilty about hurting others were he to lose sexual control, and this man enjoyed being tied up to assuage his guilty feelings about this, a concept explored in my post on bondage and beating fantasies. He also enjoyed wearing a rubber suit, and specifically enjoyed being tied up by young boys. Unfortunately, not much explanation is offered for these aspects of the example, but perhaps the rubber suit served as a protective, and youthing layer, to decrease feelings of bodily shame around younger and presumably more smooth and taut sex partners?
Bader doesn’t mention the protective aspect of the second skin, the fact that one’s own skin is literally covered up, that one’s own senses are paved over, but I would suggest that this is another way to look at how this fetish serves the wearer. The covering of one’s own skin would likely have a numbing effect, therefore lending to the feeling of strength and invulnerability, because like with the use of drugs or alcohol, one’s senses are blunted. Yet another way to understand setting free feelings of shame or vulnerability.
~ “I urge you all today, especially today during these times of chaos and war, to love yourself without reservations and to love each other without restraint. Unless you’re into leather.” – Margaret Cho
A fantasy about sex with an animal is so “wild” that very few people will admit to thinking such things, mostly due to the negative stigma associated with it. But does having such a fantasy mean you actually desire to have sex with animals? You certainly wouldn’t be the first person to think of such things. The practice of sex with animals, better known as bestiality, and also known as zoophilia, is a fetish that’s been around a long time. The numerous stories told in ancient folklore about sex with animals attests to this fact.
Most people today would likely regard bestiality as cruelty to animals, and it’s likely that only a small percentage of people act out this fetish in real life. But having a harmless fantasy about sex with an animal is not a likely indication that you desire to act this out in real life. However, you must admit, there is something very “animalistic” you desire, and you can be sure that this fantasy is there to help you reach an ecstatic state.
As mentioned in my first post on the meaning of sexual fantasies, we see that they are always a means of removing any unsexy feelings, like guilt, worry, and shame, so that a person can “let go” and reach climax. This basis for understanding is what I’ve learned from reading Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, by Michael J. Bader. In regards to a fantasy about sex with animals, we must remember that this is a fetish, which can mean the fantasy reduces the sexual partner to the status of a thing, (or attributes human qualities to objects, but not in this case). A fetish works by eliminating the human element present, so that the person can let go of any guilt and worry they might otherwise feel for their partner.
So combined with partner objectification, the animalistic sexual nature of such a fantasy represents a more “pure sex” with all pretense or social rules thrown out the door. It is uncomplicated and represents a desire to experience one’s most base and unchained sexual passion. The sexual partner is not human and so one can surrender to the sexual experience with impunity. And since the animal is free of all social and cultural conditioning about sex, the animal naturally responds to sex, well… animalistically, therefore freeing the fantasizer to do the same.
So if you find that sex with an animal is part of your sexual fantasy repertoire, as Bader puts it, this type of fantasy “negates any irrational beliefs that we are obliged to feel empathy and responsibility for the interior states of others.” This is similar to what we saw with fantasies of bondage and beating, but the key difference here is the fetishization – the dehumanization – of the partner, and as a result the abandonment of society’s sexual limitations and conditioning. Perhaps not everyone will have bestiality fantasies, but we must admit, we all know that some of the best sex always has that animalistic quality to it.
~ “I want to fuck you like an animal.” – Nine Inch Nails
I’ve been on a personal quest lately to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning behind sexual fantasies, and have been reading a book by Michael J. Bader, called Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, in order to gain some insight on myself. The giant breast fantasy isn’t exactly my thing, but it certainly is a common thing, and I found Bader’s explanation of it pretty interesting, so I thought I’d share.
We already know that hetero men love breasts. Some guys refer to themselves as “breast men” after all, so no surprise there. But have you ever wondered why there’s a sexual fascination with women’s mammary glands whose biological purpose is to feed milk to young infants? If you made the obvious connection and guessed it has to do with motherly nurturing, you’d be right, but according to Bader there’s a lot more to it than that. Actually, this might get weird because it has nothing to do with mothers, and everything to do with mothers.
As I covered in my first post on sexual fantasies, we once again see the primary purpose of a fantasy is to relieve feelings of guilt and worry, which are brought on by pathogenic and negative beliefs about the self and others. Orgasm can only be reached once these harmful beliefs are somehow negated, and the fantasy works to do just that. So what sort of negative beliefs does the breast man have?
According to Bader, he likely has a pathogenic belief that he is undeserving of caretaking, and that his needs are burdensome and greedy, that a woman would experience giving to him as depleting. Therefore he feels he has to prove himself worthy of any caretaking from women. He actually feels guilty needing nurturing from a woman, and feels like it is coercive because, after all, he believes women have nothing to give. That’s pretty harsh. Why would he believe these things? Childhood neglect is a big part of it.
He likely had a relationship with his mother that was very one-sided, one that was all about her: her needs, her moods, her wants. He sees his mother as weak and fragile, as someone who he has to worry about all the time. Bader notes that the result of this relationship is a belief that women don’t “have the capacity or inclination to devote themselves to a man’s pleasure or to their own,” and so to want such a thing leads to extreme guilt.
So with all that unsexy guilt for wanting nurturing in the way, he fantasizes that a woman is turned on by “mothering him,” a.k.a giving him the breast, so that he can get sexually excited. For some men this means fantasizing about actual breastfeeding during sex, but it’s not that he is making any direct sexual connection to his own mother. It’s all about removing the guilt and worry he was trained to have for women. He needs to receive pleasure without having any responsibility for his partner’s needs. He needs her to happily give to him and expect nothing in return.
In the breastfeeding/breast sucking scenario, where the woman wants to give to him and is gratified by giving to him, he is free to let go of the guilt. Not only does she not need him to be her caretaker, she wants him to take from her and isn’t depleted when she gives him maternal nurturing. His desire to take is met with her desire to give. His negative unconscious belief that women are too preoccupied, burdened, depressed, or busy to take pleasure in nurturing him is thus negated. And the bigger the breast, the more nurturing she has to give him.
So there you have it! Even in “extreme” cases where a man is turned on by fantasies of breastfeeding from a woman, it has nothing to do with any creepy latent desire to be sexual with his mother. It’s just that his mother was a selfish narcissist! Or maybe just dysfunctional and depressed. Either way, it’s not about his mother, ladies, it’s all about your enthusiasm and happiness to give to him… and your super luscious breasts.
The more I learn about the psychology behind sexual fantasies, the more impressed I am by the kinky yet intelligent conversation going on between our unconscious beliefs and our sexual expression. Here’s what Dr. Michael J. Bader has to say about bondage and beating fantasies from his book Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies.
Once again, we see that the fantasy is a means of removing guilt, anxiety, and worry in order to find a safe place to “let go.” Negative unconscious beliefs are what make us feel these negative and unsexy things in the first place and by creating a very specific fantasy role for ourselves and our partner(s), we find a way to disprove our negative beliefs about ourselves and others.
Turns out a belief that others are fragile and will be hurt by one’s own exuberance, energy, and self-assertion can lead to super hot bondage fantasies that work to remove the guilt a person feels for pretty much existing at all. Neat.
Ironically, when being tied up, the person is released from guilt and freed of responsibility for anyone’s pleasure but their own. While being tied up and/or blissfully beaten, they know that they are not hurting their partner. They are 100% being done to rather than doing to someone else, and so there is also no question of the partner’s complete interest and pleasure of involvement. They know their partner is having a good time, so now they are free to have a good time too.
I’ve often wondered why bondage has historically been so popular in Japanese culture, where they have basically turned it into a beautiful art form called Kinbaku or Shibari. Perhaps there is some collective cultural guilt among Japanese women that they are too strong and men are fragile and must be protected from their strength. Similarly, there may be a belief among sexually dominating Japanese men that they are responsible for the feelings of women and capable of unintentionally hurting them. I covered the topic of Master-slave fantasies in a previous post.
So, isn’t that interesting how a sexual preference for bondage and beatings isn’t so much kinky as it is purely considerate? The person who longs for whips and handcuffs is really just saying, “See? I’m all tied up and helpless over here so if you’re into playing along, I can’t do anything to hurt you even if I lose control!” So the BDSM community has been stigmatized called deviants for nothing? Turns out a lot of them are just super considerate because they falsely believe that they’re the sexual-emotional equivalent of a bull in a china shop. That’s deep.
~ “I don’t mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated. I don’t mind being told to stand on my own feet, not to cling, be all that I am capable of doing, but I am going to be pursued, fucked, possessed by the will of a male at his time, his bidding.” – Anaïs Nin
So, if you caught my first post on sexual fantasies, you’d already know that I’ve been reading Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies by Dr. Michael J. Bader to gain a bit of understanding about human sexuality and the impact of traumatic events on it. I’ll be sharing interesting bits of info as I read, and I thought this topic was worthy of a post.
This was always something I’ve wondered about. Why do some people fantasize about rape, when such an event would actually be traumatic? If you remember from my first post on the meaning of sexual fantasies, all fantasies serve to create the psychological safety required for sexual release, as mentioned Bader.
Here’s the deal with rape fantasies, which both men and women have reported, but which are much more common in women. Women are socialized to be objects of desire, not desiring subjects, which can make it hard for women to be ruthless lovers. They are often feeling guilty and worried.
Rape represents an act of overwhelming and controlling another, and so a woman fantasizing about a man raping her means that she feels she overwhelms and controls men, and needs a man so overwhelming that she couldn’t possibly hurt him.
Rape fantasies counter the belief that a woman is too strong for fragile men, that the woman’s needs and wants are too much for him. In a rape fantasy, she doesn’t need to protect him; he knows how to take what he wants so she can focus on getting what she wants.
Bader adds that “though the manifest script often puts her in a passive position, the underlying unconscious message is that she is guilty about being too much for a weak, limited, or inadequate man.”
Similarly, fantasies about gang-bangs derive from guilty feelings about being so “sexually voracious” that it takes numerous people to do the job. Women often have ruthless sexual fantasies of this type since women are socialized to feel guilt about their sexuality.
Does knowing all this kind of ruin it? I wonder how many men out there think their woman has rape fantasies because she just can’t get enough of him?
~ “Gender differences, though real, are not as profound as one might expect. The only relevant question is: what pathogenic beliefs do dominance and submission solve?” – Dr. Michael J. Bader
I’ve been reading Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, by Dr. Michael J. Bader, out of curiosity. What impact have my childhood abuse experiences had on my sexuality? Turns out… a lot.
I’m only one chapter into the book, but I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far. Apparently, creating safety is the ultimate goal of a sexual fantasy. Why would we feel unsafe? Because we’ve got a collection of negative beliefs, traumas, and emotional hurts from our past that shape our self-image and the image of those around us. A normal part of adapting to any family environment as a child is internalizing guilt, worry, shame, and rejection in varying degrees.
Sexual inhibition is nothing more than our feelings of sexuality threatening our sense of safety, because our warped self-image is incongruent with the freedom of sexual pleasure. A fantasy bridges that gap. As Bader puts it, “our fantasies convince us that we’re not going to harm or betray anyone, and that if we get fully aroused, no one will suffer.”
So here are just a few examples of how certain themes help to make us feel safe:
A sexually submissive role guarantees both an intense connection and an inability to overwhelm or hurt a partner during sex. This role would be preferred by those who have beliefs and experiences that suggest the individual is too much or too powerful, such as those who saw their parents as weak, or even high-ranking CEOs.
A rape fantasy in which one is forced to have sex is an attempt to protect one’s conscience, family, and culture and show that it’s not the fantasizer’s fault they’re having the sex that is forbidden to them. The author notes that men often use this type of fantasy when they make up the story that a woman “made” them lose their sexual control; interesting since rape fantasies are generally attributed to women.
Fantasizing about a ruthless and selfish partner allows the person to be ruthlessly selfish about their own sexual pleasure, not having to feel any guilt or worry about the other or feel responsible for them. Identification with a partner – the opposite of ruthlessness – can also come into play when it bolsters psychological safety, rather than enforcing feelings of guilt, worry, shame, or rejection.
A fantasy about a partner who is helpless to resist our sex appeal – who might even be begging us for sex – serves to negate feelings of rejection, shame, and defectiveness. Genital worship and exhibitionist fantasies also serve to negate shame, showing that others are enthusiastic about sex with us, even powerless to resist us, rather than repelled by us. Group sex fantasies can also show how “wanted” we are.
And… strippers are sexy because they are proudly showing off what they’ve got and the viewer doesn’t need to guilty or worried about her and so can release their inhibitions.
Does this jive for you folks out there? I have found some of it does for me.
No mention yet of why some people like to be humiliated during sex, or why some prefer to play a dominant role. I’ll write another post as I read along…
~ “The quest for psychological safety is at the centre of psychological life.” – Dr. Michael J. Bader