Sweet sweet fantasy baby
When I close my eyes
You come and you take me
~ Mariah Carey, “Fantasy”
Oh, Mariah. She’s the one I fantasized about in high school. I can vividly recall watching one of her music videos, looking for nude pictures on the internet (all fakes, but I didn’t care), or just closing my eyes — then she came. And so did I. It didn’t matter that I knew nothing about her as a person aside from her appearance and that angelic voice of hers. I had no idea what she looked like waking up in the morning, what kinds of weird quirks she might have, what made her laugh and cry, or anything about her deepest thoughts. But seeing her sing and move gave me an erotic charge, nonetheless. And it was all my own erotic charge — a one-way blast of sexual energy. Mariah didn’t know I was pleasuring myself while thinking of her. I’m sure she knew she was a sex object to many people. But she didn’t know me and my mind. It was my sweet fantasy. And I enjoyed the hell out of it. Mariah, if you’re out there reading this. Thanks, on behalf of all teenage boys in the 90s.
What is it about fantasy that is so powerful and gripping to us? How could it be that the mere thought of someone — whether you know the person deeply or not — can bring about arousal? We know it is not the object of adoration who is “giving” the fantasy — it is the person who is creating the fantasy in their own mind giving it to themselves. In the music video for “Fantasy” Mariah can be seen expressing pure pleasure and bliss, yet no object of her fantasy can be seen. It’s all in her mind. She is seen basking purely in her own imagination, and she knows exactly what to imagine to elicit the feelings of eroticism that suit her mood. That is the beauty of fantasy. It doesn’t require anyone else to participate. It is ours to own and to play with. And play with it we do. Because … why not?
Yet recently I’ve wondered: when can fantasy become detrimental to our psychological well-being? While I believe it is harmless to imagine wonderful things in our own minds that get us off — or even to pursue some of those things to make them reality — I’ve begun to run into a bit of a problem lately with fantasizing. I’ve become attached to something not real. I’ve allowed fantasy to dictate my emotions. How? Simply by wanting the fantasy to manifest in reality and then feeling let down when it does not happen. It has also skewed my ability to really see people as they are, rather than how I want them to be. There is disappointment and objectification where there is fantasy run amok.
I have often objectified people before actually getting to know them. I’ve started sexual relationships before an emotional connection is formed, and then I put focused energy into thinking of the person sexually in various ways. It’s pretty fun and exciting for a while. And then I see who they really are — their insecurities, challenging quirks, and the like — and the imagined picture of who they are falls apart, and I’m left with a decision: do I really want to continue this relationship? If I am honest with myself, I then have an extreme mental shift to make in order to stop objectifying the person. I have a choice to see them as a human being, not as an object of my fantasy.
Sometimes the fantasy is so powerful that I can trick myself into glossing over obvious faults: “Sure they’re a little unstable and chaotic, but they have such potential.” Well, of course every human being has potential, but looking at it more closely, my choice revolves around whether it is my job to help them unlock that potential. It is not. It is everyone’s job to evolve as they will, at their own pace. So if someone is not in step with me, and I feel responsibility for their process in some way, it’s probably not a good idea to form a deep intimate partnership with that person — unless I want to play “hero” and save them. And that works about 0 times out of ten. I’m not a believer in saviors. I believe we all have to save ourselves.
Now, none of this is to say that I can’t form some kind of intimate connection with someone who has readily apparent faults, but the boundaries of that connection have to look very different than one of a deeper life partnership where I mesh and match with a person — where both participants are teachers to each other. The boundaries of a “lesser” connection have to be communicated very clearly. I have some friends who have a lot of drama in their lives. Sometimes I listen to their stories, and I give some friendly reflection. I am not really attached to their outcome. Rather than being an active participant in their process, I remain more like a mirror that helps them see themselves. And it doesn’t feel like a lot of work because I’m not attached. Now, if I have a sexual fantasy about that same person, well it’s tricky. Sometimes I can be real with them and be unattached. But other times I co-sign their B.S. and listen to them with the hope that maybe I can get in their pants at some point. I wouldn’t exactly call the latter a satisfying connection, would you? On some level I am deceiving myself. And self-deception doesn’t feel good to me. Even doing it with self-awareness, there still is a missing element of expressing my true perception to the person and defining boundaries in the relationship. Gray area will always be there, but when everything is gray, all you have is a giant, bland mess.
So nowadays I try my best to practice authenticity in my sexual relationships. That doesn’t mean that every person I have sex with has be some evolved, spiritual individual who has their shit together. But it does mean that I have to see the person as they are. I have to acknowledge when I am engaging with someone who I see more as a friend and not a long term romantic partner, and that means to see their humanness in all it’s chaotic glory. And it means acknowledging what we share. If it’s not a life partnership, what is it? Friends with benefits? Calling something out for what it is and defining boundaries might mean that my sexual fantasy will be compromised. After all, part of what makes fantasy work is objectification and idealization. But, if I really want authentic connections with the people in my life, I have to meet them where they are, not ignore the parts of them that don’t suit my imaginings.
This process has been a difficult one for me, but I get better and better at it. Do I still fantasize about people I don’t really know? Sure I do. But there is a major difference I can feel, and it has to do with letting go of my attachment to those fantasies. I am more playful with them, less dependent on them being real and more aware of how they suit me in the here and now, and I don’t need the person to feed that fantasy directly. When I see an object of my fantasy, I hold awareness around how much I am letting idealization rule my perception and how much I am actually present with the person, seeing them as they are. It’s a very necessary shift that I’m learning to be more comfortable with.
You know, Mariah, you are a bit of a narcissist. I don’t really find that attractive. I think we should just be friends.
But maybe I could fuck that narcissism out of you … 😛
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