Sexual Fantasies of S/M Practitioners: The Impact of Gender and S/M Role on Fantasy Content

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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Safe, Sane, and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism


Psychologists' perspectives on sexual fantasies have changed dramatically over time. Early psychoanalysts viewed sexual fantasising as a symptom of sexual and psychological disturbance. Freud wrote, 'A happy person never phantasies (sic), only an unsatisfied one' (1908/1962: 146), theorising that people engaged in sexual fantasy as a way to compensate for an otherwise unsatisfying sex life. Research has failed to substantiate this point of view, however, and since that time fantasies have come to be regarded as a healthy aspect of sexuality and an activity in which the vast majority of people participate (Hariton & Singer, 1974; Leitenberg & Henning, 1995; Sue, 1979).
In this chapter, I explore the sexual fantasies of S/M practitioners. Because S/M practice involves an appearance of dominance and submission between partners (Weinber, Williams & Moser, 1984), I was particularly interested in themes of dominance and submission in fantasies. I consider sexual fantasy to be a defining feature of S/M sexuality, so after briefly reviewing the psychological literature on power-related sexual fantasy themes, I discuss various theoretical perspectives that highlight fantasy as an important aspect of S/M sexuality. I then report on the findings of my empirical research on S/M practitioners' sexual fantasies. I situate the results of this study both in terms of gendered sexual scripts and in terms of understandings of gender within the S/M community; thus I conclude by discussing the relationship between gender, sexual fantasies, and sexual identity within the S/M subculture.


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