Fantasy without desire?

Desire is always for the other, I have been told. I felt like I ought to know this from the amount of interest I have shown in psychoanalysis and Freud, over a time, but I had never noticed it. Now a few years on it suddenly seems to matter a lot.

I separated from my partner of nine years and naturally, for me, I am now passing through phases in my attitude to sex. For a long run up towards the end I thought: ‘No, we can’t possibly break up, the sex is good, worth fighting for, we deserve better and we can achieve better, including in our sex.’ When we broke up: ‘Oh my god, now no sex. It doesn’t matter though, everything else in life added together is surely more important!’ Concurrently with this phase: ‘Hooray! Now I can have sex with anyone in the entire world (ish) whenever I like, including non-serious, casual, once only, even anonymously.’ Still not interested in animals though, sorry.

There was also briefly: ‘I’ll never have sex that good again.’ But now there is more a sense of: ‘When I began to feel more and more the frustrations with our sex why did I still hang on to dreams of our developing together for so long, instead of adding that to the mounting evidence that we were flaking away?’ Recently the fantasy of unlimited fun sex has made way for: ‘What if I never find anyone I am particularly sexually attracted to again?’ But the worst, the real terror, maybe it’s one you know: ‘What happens if I slowly fall head over heels in love with someone and they tick all my boxes (developing checklist for another blog), but then, in the sack, we just don’t do it for each other?’ Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhh.

I have started remembering previous casual encounters more clearly. One night stands can be fun but I can’t remember many where I had an orgasm. Am I therefore too old for that now? I don’t want to spend ages cruising for hot men, in order to satisfy the idea that I can express free agency, only to find all I have is freedom to choose to be vaguely disappointed. Am I being pessimistic? Probably. I can imagine hooking up and having good sex because I can’t possibly imagine getting into bed with anyone that I don’t really, really like, and that narrows things down a lot. And, if I do remember my one night stands clearly, it’s what makes sex incredibly satisfying whether you come or not: giving pleasure in the hope of simply exchanging it. Giving pleasure to someone you really like is good. It’s obvious that what you share or get back is unknown.

Suddenly a terrible thought occurs: ‘What if I have sex with someone who is critical, or disappointed?’ Oh dear, better go into hibernation for good.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Christ why doesn’t she just buy some toys and have a wank?’ Well, of course that’s a good option. One I was far too distracted by to have been able to write this blog first; although I have resisted making rash purchases. But guess what? I even managed to let my theorising get in the way of that.

I am aware of plenty of times I have enjoyed sex alone without a fully fledged fantasy in my head, in fact it’s rare that I fully fledge a fantasy, being really too lazy for that sort of thing, a bit of visualisation is normally enough. But it got stuck in my head that I would always need to rely on an image of someone real, and someone I desire, to get off. During the last few phases I have drawn in and spat out lots of potential fantasy material, leaving me with the unhappy question: What if every time I masturbate my head fills with images of people I don’t want to masturbate about? What if I betray myself? What if I get off thinking about my ex; will that compromise me in my recovery? What if I get off thinking about that guy who … (this, that or the other)? Will it mean I develop stronger daytime feelings that aren’t any good to me?

Marvelling at my own ability to make things that should be simple, wholesome and fun (and potentially healing and stress-reducing), into things complicated, stressful and serious, I have kept falling asleep unwantedly. Then yesterday, out walking, the penny finally dropped.

My anxiety, with apologies from the heart to all the people in the world with actual problems (I am ashamed), has been that fantasising about people I don’t really fancy will affect me in life, or reveal to me that I do fancy them, and this stems from my belief that fantasising strengthens feeling, and that I will inevitably fantasise, confronting me with things about my desire which I am denying. So I asked myself whether there was actually anything or anyone so important that it would really matter? This involved a run through of potential fantasy objects, and guess what … it turns out that none of them I fancy.

Does it matter? Yes, it’s a total breakthrough for me. In my parallel questioning about future romantic entanglements, I tell myself (if I can get a word in with all the other people telling me, and reminding me), that I need to take a long break from relationships. I believe us all. I worry only slightly that I might slip. These thoughts frequently lead me back to casual sex, but also to its perils.

But my masturbation anxieties, that I need a real object to get off (so to speak!), and that I am probably hiding something from myself, have shown me that for possibly the first time in my life, I don’t care that I’m not attracted to anyone. It’s a total mindblower. I didn’t even realise how essential it has been for so long, to have that mental sexual object. Still eyeing (or lining) people up is the fading reminder of my long term obsession with having another person to be in love with and to desire. And I’m not the only one.