In which Wade talks about the differences between fantasy and
fantasy. And some stuff about reality too.
Have you ever noticed that the things you like, no matter how weird they are to the rest of society, aren't really weird to you? Or, if they are weird, they are weird "in a good way"? I certainly encounter this in my own life. I mean, people think I'm weird all the time, even though I'm the sanest, most non-weird person I know. Mild weirdnesses like a love of science, math, chess, D&D, and other traditionally geeky interests are at least "familiar" to people, but even these interests often have a negative cast to them. Never mind more "out-there" interests/philosophies like atheism, polyamory and transhumanism.
Now, how about other people's weirdnesses? Have you ever noticed how easy it is to unconciously assume that someone else is weird "in a bad way" if they express interest in something that you do not know about that society considers "deviant"? Even relatively well-known non-mainstream interests/philosophies/orientations, like homosexuality and atheism, get vilified by society, making it easy for individuals to unconciously pick up on the negativity. Personally, I know that this tendency to assume "bad weird" is something that I have to be careful of, even though I am a rather open-minded person compared to most. I have a variety of interests that I consider either normal, or good weird, but that society considers weird "in a bad way". And yet, even though I experience negativity because of inaccurate societal stereotyping, it is distressingly easy to unconciously assume that others are weird "in a bad way" if they have interests/etc that I do not know much about.
Educating oneself is obviously the way to deal with this problem. As an example, my interest in polyamory has exposed me to a variety of activities/philosophies that are apparently strongly correlated with polyamory: BDSM, paganism, and/or reenactment-related activities like the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Knowing nothing of them, upon first encountering them, they all seemed very weird (in a bad way). Even though I should know better. After all, there is also a strong correlation between polyamory, geekiness, atheism, and pansexuality. All of which are considered "bad weird" by mainstream society, but "good weird" (or not even weird at all) by me. Why do I unconciously assume that the unknown is bad, while the known is good?
Nowadays, having learned a little more about BDSM, paganism and the SCA, my negative attitude towards them has lessened dramatically. I went to a BDSM event, as a spectator, awhile ago. Theoretically, certain aspects of BDSM are fascinating (the mental dynamic, and the exploration of alternative mental states) but I doubt I will ever be more than an interested spectator. I view pagans as atheists with a quirky sense of imagination (but have not yet explored the community so my attitude might change, although it is no longer at all negative). And although I probably still have the most negativity towards the SCAish philosophy, I know it is because I know so little about it. I am planning on attending an SCA event sometime this year so I can learn more. However, I tend to be much more interested in the future than in the past, so although I can easily imagine dispelling my negativity, I doubt I will be a card-carrying member. But one never knows till they try!
The point of all this is that without care, it is very easy to attribute inaccurately negative reasons to the interests of others, and to attribute (possibly inaccurate) positive reasons to ones own interests. And this tendency is in real conflict with effective honest communication between people. And we all know that the Meaning of Life is effective, honest communication, right? In the discussion that follows, I'm going to be refering to this tendency a lot, so I am going to refer to it as the negative-positive bias.
Ok, so, the interested reader may be wondering what the hell all of this talk about weirdness has to do with fantasies, since that's what you signed up for when you started reading this entry. Well, actually, I kinda just got distracted by the weird topic :-) Or, more to the point, ended up exploring what was supposed to be a minor initial comment more fully than I had intended. And I will obviously need to make a journal entry to explore weirdness itself in more detail. It will be weird, I promise.
But the discussion on weirdness does have a real relevance to the actual purpose of this entry, never fear! This article is about fantasies (primarily, sexual fantasies). And in some ways, fantasies are the ultimate in individualized weirdness. Real world actions are constrained by practicalities, limited resources, possible downsides, etc., so ones "real world" weirdnesses do have some constraints placed on them. Fantasies, on the other hand, have no such constraints. And every human mind truly is a unique little snowflake. In fact, every human mind is a unique little naughty snowflake. But naughty in a good way! Remember the negative-positive bias.
Related to all of this, I have found, when discussion erotic things with other people (an activity to which I am most strongly inclined, btw) that it is very useful to make a distinction between two different "kinds" of fantasy. I call them fantasy-fantasy and reality-fantasy.
Of course, there is a lot of gray area between these two; slight variations on a theme can turn a fantasy-fantasy into a reality-fantasy or vice versa.
- reality-fantasy: fantasies that are erotic specifically because you would, if given the right situation, explore them in the real world.
- fantasy-fantasy: fantasies that are erotic even if they will not (or cannot) happen in the real world.
This distinction between reality-based fantasies and fantasy-based fantasies is really quite useful, exactly because of the negative-positive bias we discussed above. We all fantasize. We all have some fantasies that are pretty darn crazy. We all have some fantasies that are so crazy, we wouldn't do them in the real world. And although we know that we wouldn't, we cannot know that others know that we wouldn't. Which tends to inhibit people from sharing these oh-so-shocking fantasies with others (which probably aren't nearly as shocking as people tend to believe). And this tendency to bury fantasies is a most unfortunate lost opportunity, because sharing these most private and intimate of fantasies with your lovers can have some profoundly positive effects.
- Increased intimacy, increased connection, increased understanding. Because part of the discussion will be in explaining how it is that this fantasy is positive, rather than negative.
- I mentioned above that oftentimes small changes in a fantasy-fantasy can turn it into a reality-fantasy, especially if you find someone who shares that interest. And guess what? It is easier to find people with similar interests if you share your interests!
- Revealing fantasizes to others can give you a sanity check to make sure you aren't actually walking down a dangerous road.
The above discussion actually skips right past the issue of sharing and discussing ones reality-fantasy fantasies with one's lovers. In some ways, this can actually be more difficult than revealing fantasy-fantasies, since by definition, these are things you would do in the real world (which may possibly be threatening to your partner, depending on what the fantasy is). But just because it might be more difficult doesn't make it less important, or less rewarding, to be honest. For example, suppose you are in a monogamous relationship. And then discover that although you love your current partner, you happen to be having fantasies about a cute fellow worker. You can try to bury these temptations, of course. And maybe it will work. But why? Why not tell your partner about it? It is a fantasy; it doesn't have to lead to anything in reality. And telling them about it really can have real benefits. While discussing it, you will of course also be providing all sorts of reassurance about your feelings for your partner and in general being more open than you might otherwise be. Can't be a bad thing. And even if it doesn't lead to anything sexual in the real world, you might be surprised to discover that your existing sexual dynamic takes on an added positive intensity because of the ability to more openly explore your fantasies. And finally, you may discover that honesty allows you to have your cake and eat it too. Here is personal proof of feasibility. And yes, all of this is just my oh-so-non-subtle attempts to convert everyone to polyamory :-)
Now, you will note that most religions advocate exactly the opposite approach to what I'm advocating. Their attitude: Don't acknowledge your fantasizes to others. In fact, don't acknowledge them even to yourself. Repress, repress, repress. Lie, lie, lie. Yup, that's right. Religions say don't lie, then insists that you do exactly that. To yourself! I much prefer radical honesty. More fun. More honest. More erotic. More fantasies. More love. Admittedly, more effort too, but it is worth it.
The distinction between reality-fantasy and fantasy-fantasy also has the potential to have a positive impact on one's own comfort level in exploring fantasies that are personally impractical/inappropriate in reality. I honestly do not think there is anything that is "wrong" to fantasize about. There are many things that are wrong/immoral in reality, but in fantasy, anything goes. With the caveat that if you, personally, know that fantasizing about something will lead you to actually do it, and that thing is immoral, well then you shouldn't be so dumb as to be fantasizing about it! If, however, you know that fantasizing about it won't lead to it happening in the real world (or, in fact that it is arousing exactly because it will never happen in reality), then hey, knock your socks off!
This journal entry is primarily meant to be used as a reference within more specific and more interesting posts about particular fantasies. You know, I start talking about a fantasy, get concerned about the positive-negative bias of my readers, and refer them to this article so they know I am a nice perv, not a bad perv :-) However, if you have thoughts at this general level, you are most enthusiastically encouraged to comment. If you think I'm nuts, tell me! If you think I'm oh-so-cool, well, I won't complain if you tell me, but you certainly aren't required to. It might embarass me. :-)