Making Love, Sex, and Orgasm

Women's Sexual Fantasy & The Female Orgasm

One of the great works of modern literature, James Joyce's Ulysses, was banned as an obscene book for many years, largely because of its superb final chapter in which Molly Bloom lies in bed fantasizing about sex.

The modern revolution in attitudes to sex had hardly begun when Ulysses was published (1922) and to suggest that women entertained and enjoyed sexual fantasies was considered by many to be an infamous slur upon the "gentle sex."

Nowadays we know better, and we are able to appreciate James Joyce's marvelous artistic insight. Not only did he show that women do fantasize but he also demonstrated that they do so differently from men.

Their fantasies tend to be based more on their actual experience than on repressed or unfulfilled desires.

Molly Bloom does drift into contemplations of what it would be like to give herself to anonymous sailors on the docks, but most of her fantasies are re-enactments of scenes from her past sexual life with her husband Leopold, or experience of the individual.

However men are much more dependent on fantasy and psychological stimuli for their sexual arousal than women, and Kinsey's statistics seem to confirm the fact, as does the commercial success of selling male sexual fantasies in the form of porn movies. "We have nearly no cases of females utilizing erotic books or pictures as sources of stimulation during masturbation," Kinsey wrote.

But some women would disagree about their susceptibility to such forms of arousal. To quote one woman: "I know that they say women aren't turned on by visual stimuli; I think it's untrue. It's another unexplored area where women are silent or ashamed. I am very aroused by hard-core porn. If I see a picture, for instance, of a black man and a white woman, I'm ready for sex almost immediately. "

The sentence we have italicized raises the important question of whether women have always been entirely frank with sexologists about the sensitive subject of their private fantasies.

Have the statistics been falsified by women's inhibitions and secretiveness? Kinsey found that there were 2 or 3 percent of females in his sample "who were psychologically stimulated by a greater variety of factors, and more intensely stimulated than any of the males in the sample," and who could actually reach orgasm by fantasy alone without any physical stimulation.

The question is, is that 2 or 3 percent too low an estimate?

When the American journalist and writer Nancy Friday advertised in British and American newspapers requesting material for a study of women's sexual fantasies, she had a flood of replies.

She followed up more than 400 of them with interviews, and in 1975 published My Secret Garden: Women's Sexual Fantasies. The book is an eye opener, for some of the fantasies are as elaborate and remote from normal experience as any male's.

Nancy Friday identifies a number of principal themes that are recurrent in female sexual fantasies, and gives some examples of each.

Anonymity. Linda fantasized that at a hair salon she was in a reclining chair with a facial mask on. There was a silk curtain from ceiling to floor which fell across her and the other women lined up in the salon so that the lower parts of their bodies were on the other side of it, where a group of strapping young men were employed to perform acts of cunnilingus on them.

The Audience. Celeste fantasized that she was lying naked on a gynecologist's stirrup table with her legs spread out, and that the table was on a revolving platform in a huge stadium filled with men who were clamoring with desire for her. Then she was wheeled by uniformed ushers into a room where her husband Charlie was waiting with an immense phallus upon which, silently and apparently emotionlessly he impaled her. These include using some of the best sex positions available to a couple.

Rape. Dinah fantasized that she went into a chemist's shop to buy a tube of lube, and a number of men present locked the shop door and said she should try the lube out.

They, stripped her and squeezed the liquid silk or Astroglide into her vagina and anus and then took her by force, with three of them having their penises simultaneously in her vagina, anus, and mouth.

The most powerful element in the female rape fantasy is that the woman is so desired by the man that he is prepared to go to any lengths to make love to her. The crucial difference between the fantasy and the reality is that in the former the woman desires the man and she ultimately wants to be taken while in the latter she most certainly does not.

Other Women. Christine fantasized that she was in a steam bath where the steam was so thick that she could scarcely see. She reclined on one of the tiled seats, closed her eyes and began fondling her genitals.

But she became aware that there was another woman present, and in shame lay back and pulled her towel up over her face. She felt the woman's hand stroke her thighs and gently part them. Gently, slowly, and expertly, the woman began to work with her mouth using oral sex in this position on Christine's genitals until she reached an intense orgasm.

The Thrill of the Forbidden. Emma fantasized that she was at a party where they played a game of sardines. She found an empty room at the top of the house and hid under a bed, and soon a man in the group she hardly knew joined her.

In the dark they began to make love wildly and without inhibition. People kept calling her name, and she heard the voice of her boyfriend Larry the sound of which excited her to do "incredible things" to the stranger. Her build-up to orgasm was paced by the sound of Larry's approaching footsteps, and her orgasm came just before he discovered them.

These, then, are some of the female fantasies from Nancy Friday's book. Some of the other principal themes she illustrates are: pain and masochism, domination, the sexuality of terror, transformation (imagining oneself as a different woman), incest, animal contacts, black men, young boys, and prostitution. The study certainly illustrates that some women do fantasize vividly.

However, the main issue is that most people will never connect their wounding with their sexual fantasies. For example, the women who have rape fantasies, as was just described, may well be experiencing some version of the misplaced or unconscious desire for connection which stems from the Lover archetype's drive for close loving relationships with other people. It is, literally, a matter of survival for us as a species.

Nancy Friday's data were obtained through advertisements and not through the statistical study of a random sample of the female population we still do not know whether such fantasies are typical of more than the 2 or 3 percent of women who are greater and more responsive fantasists than the men of Kinsey's sample.

When we discussed deviant sexuality in the previous chapter, we said that it was a predominantly male phenomenon. This is particularly true of the deviations described there, sadism, fetishism, and transvestism.

It is generally true that a far greater proportion of men than of women have "special tastes" or are dependent on unusual circumstances for orgasmic experience, but there are some abnormal sexual practices that a sufficient number of females engage in to warrant a mention in a discussion of female sexuality.

Obviously, when a deviant man's taste requires a woman's cooperation, that woman has to be something out of the ordinary.

Most women would consider the prostitute who offers chastisement to be sexually abnormal.

Professional services have to exist for the sadomasochist, presumably because there are not enough women of complementary tastes and inclinations but there undoubtedly are some females who are truly masochistic in the sense that they need chastisement in order to achieve orgasm.

For instance, one woman wrote to the Hegelers, the Swedish sex counselors, as follows: "When I got married, my husband soon found out the best way to make me satisfied. I get a thorough spanking from him at regular intervals, and now and again I have a violent orgasm right in the middle of it."

The correspondent attributed her preference to the frequent beatings her father had given her when she was a child, and the Hegelers found that when the subject was brought up a surprising number of other females wrote confessing to similar experience and tastes.

Men and women alike have an element of exhibitionism in their sexual make-up, so it is difficult to determine a precise point where exhibitionism becomes abnormal. Many women deliberately dress in a manner with which to arouse men and obviously enjoy displaying their sexuality in their mode of dress, but we know of no female equivalent to the male exhibitionist who exposes his genitals to strangers.

 However, women who do have similar tendencies might be able to manifest them in other ways.

One of Nancy Friday's correspondents, an actress, recounts how she got a part in a stage production that required her to be nearly nude on stage and very realistically to simulate making love with a man.

She was very nervous at first, but said after playing the part a few times: "I found I was looking forward to it. My nipples would become tight and erect. It was a surprisingly seductive feeling, one I enjoyed.

I began wearing tighter and tighter blouses, filmier ones, more see-through, so that the audience could see the excitement I felt right down to my nipples."

The interesting point about this is that the actress had no idea that she would have these feelings before she got the stage part. It makes one wonder what proportion of women would find they had the same feelings if they had overcome their inhibitions.

And what of sexual dysfunction?

The only exclusively female sexual dysfunction that language recognizes is nymphomania.

The compulsive pursuit of sex with a succession of males more or less indiscriminately chosen is still seen as abnormal in many societies, but it is not deviant in the sense of being the nymphomaniac's only satisfying way of achieving orgasm.

In fact the true nymphomaniac's problem is precisely that she is non-orgasmic, during sex or any other time, and so she tries sex with one man after another in the vain hope of finding the one who can give her an orgasm during intercourse.

 But the highly sexed woman who enjoys sex and does not much mind who she has it with is enjoying sex in the way that men have always been entitled to.....and, if you react to this statement, think of prejudice and the double standard and then think again!

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Updated: January 10 2019