“You are not cheating even if you fantasize about another person when you have sex with your partner. Fantasies are like fuel in a relationship, and your thoughts are yours, and yours alone”.
This statement comes from the Italian sexologist Roberta Rossi in a conversation with our journalist. She is a psychologist, psychotherapist and deputy head of the Italian Association for Clinical Sexology.
Over the past ten years, she has experienced a threefold increase of men who say they have lost their desire for sex and she believes that the reasons for this are many and complex.
“What is clear and which also seems to be a trend throughout the Western world, is that people are experiencing the lack of a sex drive as a major and serious issue, both in their relationships and in their lives in general”.
Men who previously were mostly concerned about not getting erection, now more and more often explain the lack of an erection with a lack of desire.
“One of the reasons why the man loses interest in sex and his partner, is that he does not dare to fantasize”, explains Roberta Rossi.
“Many men are caught in their own perception of adultery. It would be very tough for a man to know that his partner thinks of another while they are having sex. The men will experience this as if they themselves are not enough, and that their partner is being unfaithful by thinking of another person”.
Rossi continues, “This means that they themselves do not allow the fantasies when they are having sex, and that can be the death of arousal. Our fantasies act as fuel for the spark that ‘revs the engine’; and without that fuel, the drive stops, whether we’re talking horsepower or sex drive”.
“Men are often more visual in their sex drive; they’re more likely to get turned on by things they see, and feelings are not necessarily as prominent. So when the sex act is disrupted by fantasies that are not about the partner they’re actually have sex with, it can be very confusing. There are no limits to our fantasies, sometimes unwanted fantasies can have a bad tendency to appear when we least want them to.
What kind of fantasies can make these types of disruptions?
“It may be that they fantasize about another man, that can make many men anxious and perceive it as being unfaithful to their partner. There may be fantasies about a sexy woman, and it can be a huge problem for some. They can fantasize about situations and activities that surprise or scare them; it can be something like S&M play, dominance or violence.
Is this a bigger problem for men than for women?
“Yes, it may seem like it is. Us women are probably better at using our thoughts and fantasies while having sex. A few years back, a book called ‘My Secret Garden’ was published. It describes how women use fantasies and dreams to enrich their sex lives, often without their partner being aware of their fantasies. I use the book and the cover image often in my work to make the men more at ease. It’s all right to have your own secret garden where you get inspiration, fantasies and dreams,” Roberta Rossi explains.
So it’s all right for a man to fantasize about his partner’s brother or Brad Pitt, or that he is about to climb on top of his slave while he has sex with his partner?
“Sure, why not? Your thoughts and imaginations are your most private treasures. What goes on inside your head is your exclusive capital, and you can freely use it to give yourself and your partner a better sexual experience. We should think of our imagination as something good. We are able to think and dream. This can help enrich and enhance our relationships because they give you a better sexual experience by imagining.”
Some fantasies you can talk about with your partner, and some can even be lived out – but it is important that you do not deliberately go in to harm or to hurt someone. Usually it’s enough to just walk around in your secret garden and pick out the fantasies you need and want at the moment.
This text has previously been published in the Norwegian magazine Cupido.