Sometimes, my brain scares me. Often, I’ve actively shut it down because I think the route it’s about to take is going to scare me. Especially where sex is concerned; I have a pretty active imagination, and who knows where that’s going to lead me. But… I’ve learned over the past few years that brains are pretty amazing things and a thought popping into mine doesn’t actually mean anything is going to happen as a result of it. I’m learning that thoughts are just thoughts and that while the realms of fantasy and desire certainly overlap (more on that later), a fantasy is often not necessarily something I want to actually happen. Or, if I do, it is heavily contained within roleplay. Slowly, I’ve learned to distinguish between things I find hot in the abstract, and things I actually want to do and doing so has opened up a doorway in my mind that is no longer controlled by fear.
Fantasy and Desire… What’s the difference?
I learned this quite suddenly one night with a partner. He asked me what my fantasies were and I was reluctant to open up; I voiced my concern that any slightly “out there” fantasies would immediately take on a life of their own and manifest their way into my lived experience. He reassured me and led the way, talking me through an entirely “taboo” fantasy that involved a clandestine meeting between myself and his mother in a sex shop, a meeting that inevitably took a sexual turn and ended up involving him too. I was shocked, but I had to admit… I was also incredibly turned on. As was he. We had amazing sex that night and although we talked about it again in the morning, there was never a sniff of intent on either of our parts to turn the scenario into anything other than a shared fantasy.
And that, in a nutshell, was what helped me to distinguish between a fantasy — the activity of imagining impossible or improbable things — and desire — a strong feeling of wanting or wishing for something to happen. For me, this is a safety net. I can think about whatever I want to think about, but I am very careful about what I actually do.
I’ve been to London Alternative Market a few times now, and for me it’s a smorgasbord of fantasy and desire in a way that other events are not. You can be standing by the bar, casually sipping on a beer, while someone walks by with a person on the end of a leash, dressed as a dog and crawling across the floor. I am becoming so much more fascinated by role play and am starting to see it as the epitome of both fantasy and desire. Role play is a safe way to turn a fantasy into a reality without any dire consequences.
I used to shy away from scenarios like pet play and age play because I was fearful of them but I’m now finding that they are creeping into my realm of desire. I’m learning that wanting to explore these kinds of things doesn’t mean my brain is broken, or that I want to actually have sex with animals or children. Instead I’m learning that fantasy and role play are safe spaces to explore parts of myself. Like… “Little” me is simply the facet of my personality that wants to be looked after, that wants to be protected and wants to play, that wants not to shoulder the responsibilities of adulting for a few hours. When I am in “Little Mode” it isn’t usually sex I am looking for, it’s cuddles and snuggles and safety, but it often doesn’t take me too long to switch into adult play.
For me, there is very little judgement where desires and fantasies are concerned, so long as they are consensual and anything that does move into reality stays within the confines of the law. But it is also important to make conscious decisions about who to share with. While many people fantasise about things like group play with a view to make it actually happen, fantasies can go a lot deeper and be a lot darker than manifestable desires… not everyone wants to be privvy to these parts of your brain.
The Evolution of Desire
Where my personal journey is concerned, I’ve noticed an evolution in both my fantasies and my desires over time. My fantasies are becoming more outlandish (and I like that!) and my desires are becoming more concrete and communicable. I am also becoming more confident in sharing both, but in keeping my fantasies firmly confined to my thoughts or spoken words and putting desires out on the table to really happen with trusted partners.
Fantasies for me are now things like role-playing Wonder Woman, involving costumes and props. Or getting involved with a full on Bacchanalia orgy. This is so unlikely ever to happen but the scenario for me as a fantasy is super exciting… the wildness, the alcohol, being outside in a forest, being with a whole group of people (including strangers) and not to mention the woodland nymphs and mythical characters. These are the kinds of things my brain now conjures up for me, and I’m not mad at it.
Over the course of the years, as I’ve gotten to know and explore myself more, my desires have shifted gear too. While my desires still include a whole range of rather lovely things (including cuddles, emotional intimacy and radical honesty) I am in a position now where things like consensual nonconsent (or CNC, a scenario where something I have previously agreed to is done to me, but where I would be role-playing saying a vehement “No!”) are actively on the table. While I understand fully that these kinds of desires are not for everyone, I am accepting of the fact that it is something I would like to explore. I am also incredibly aware of the level of trust and communication that goes into something as serious as CNC: how intricately limits have to be discussed beforehand; the importance of a “safe word” that stops play immediately; a strong and trusting relationship with the people you are sharing your desires with; and a sound knowledge of your own trigger points to avoid any unnecessary issues.
Ultimately, for me, exploring my own desires and fantasies has been such an exhilarating and freeing process. And the beauty of fantasy is that literally anything goes. By giving my brain free rein, I’ve opened up parts of myself that I was completely unaware of and become so much more confident in my own boundaries around my behaviour — both in the bedroom and outside of it.