Both my husband and I are highly sexual people, and luckily, we are well matched in that regard. But while my husband cut a swath through his twenties and took a lot of chances to explore, I was very much concerned about being a “good girl,” and held on hard to the idea that sex should/needed to be an extension of love. I didn’t explore all I could (and probably should) have before I got married. I definitely think back and wonder what exactly I was thinking when I didn’t enjoy my twenty-three-year-old body a bit more! While my first sexual partner (my long-term college boyfriend) was a generous and experienced lover who initiated me well, and while my husband is the most skilled, exciting, and creative lover I could possibly imagine, I came into our marriage with a lot of pent up fantasies, and a little bit of fear that I would never get to play them out.
So my husband and I made a pact: Our marriage was going to be a place where fantasies come to live, not die. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. First you have to figure out what your fantasies are, and then you have to find a way to talk about them before you ever think about whether they can (or even should) become a reality. None of those things are as straightforward as they might seem.
What do I want?
Sexual fantasies are funny. What you think turns you on, or what you think should turn you on, might not be what actually turns you on. So I have found that the first step to cultivating a vibrant fantasy life involves suspending judgment of myself, and then playing with options.
Suspending judgment can be hard. I have found that if I bring the full intensity of my feminist self to my fantasy life, that things record-scratch pretty fast. My inner sex goddess is very femme, likes to be spanked sometimes, and talks dirty about what she wants. She can be really loud, likes to kiss girls, and longs to know what it would feel like to be between two men (cops and helicopter pilots can come to the front of the line). And that’s the tame stuff. I had to give myself permission to be turned on by the things I am turned on by, and approach it with curiosity—even things that feel uncomfortable at first. Otherwise I won’t give myself fantasy options to play with, and may cheat us out of some awesome hot times that could be edgy, affirming, loving, and completely consensual all at the same time.
Play with Options
Playing with options is the fun part. It involves proactively exposing myself to erotic things—and things that might be erotic. I listen to sex podcasts during my commute (including one by feminist sex workers), and then pursue things that I hear about that sound interesting. I read erotica collections, and romance novels, and I look at Tumblr. I also watch some porn and instructional videos made by porn stars. I read Come as You Are and Mating in Captivity, The Ethical Slut, and much more. In our more adventurous moments, my husband and I have visited the red light district in Bangkok, a sex club in our area, and a sexy boudoir-themed New Year’s Eve party in the city. All of it was in the spirit of exploration and adventure—figuring out what’s out there, suspending judgment, playing with the idea of it, and trying it on mentally, for size. The mind is a very powerful sexual organ! Some things I have had a visceral “no!” reaction to, but thinking about “in what conditions could that be comfortable and hot?” has led to some fantastic fantasies and fun.
Sexual Aesthetics and Archetypes
Another fun game I play with myself is based on the idea of “sexual archetypes” that I heard about on Sex Nerd Sandra’s podcast and LOVED. The idea is that we can take on different internal personas that represent different facets of our sexual nature. It’s not exactly like role-playing or cosplay (thought that stuff is awesome too, and it could definitely go there!), but more about figuring out an energy system around a sexual persona. I have several sexual personas that I love to play with in my mind.
For example, Lover Girl is sensual and loving. She loves massages and deep, connected sex with lots of caressing and intimacy. She loves satin and silk and sexy clingy cotton nightgowns. Russian Spy has more of an edge. She has smoky eyes and hot lingerie under her leather pants and stilettos. Russian spy would love to have a pair of devastating Louboutins and crotchless panties made of black lace. She wears Chanel No. 5 and is rather dominant. Bombshell is my inner Marilyn Monroe meets Joan Holloway. She is sultry and curvy and retro, full of class and a little sass. Think Benefit cosmetics. She wears thigh highs with a seam up the back and red lipstick. Bombshell loves diamonds and (faux) fur and long gloves and seduction. She wants to dance to jazz and smoke a hookah and rub a stockinged foot up his thigh. I have Southern Honey (a Texas girl, connected to my cowboy-boot wearing youth), Boss Lady, and even Renaissance Wench in the mix, not to mention Burlesque Beauty. I can imagine an endless set of personas: Earth mother, surfer girl, French Architect… the list goes on and on. I make art journal pages for these alter-egos, but I can see a Pinterest board, a vision board, or aesthetic collage variations. Even narrative character sketches would be fun. Channeling these characters in bed (and around it—during date nights) is fun, y’all!
Shared Erotic Space
The third part of making our marriage a place where fantasies come to live has been sharing them with each other. My partner and I have some practical tactics we’ve cultivated, or heard about, over the years. Please steal!
- Make a shared google doc or spreadsheet of your sexual bucket list (and add things to it). We have some friends who have an amazing spreadsheet that’s color coded and rated, and ranked all the way from: “Have to before I die,” to… “Heard about this and it might be gross but it might be hot…” They have columns for comments from each partner, and even rate experiences they have had on a number scale.
- Use Tumblr. Tumblr is a lot of fun, and my husband and I really enjoy it. We each have a sexy Tumblr and we follow each other. It’s understood that our respective Tumblrs are about things we see that we find hot. Full stop. It’s a window into the others’ erotic imagination and mood—we aren’t submitting things to a literal sexual wish list. Sometimes we have a conversation there: he’ll reblog something I have posted, or I’ll comment on post he’s posted. Even seeing the frequency with which he posts things related to a particular theme helps me understand how much he loves certain things. For example, he loves curvy redheads, and really only posts curvy girls in classy and beautiful lingerie for his own enjoyment. Since I’m a curvy redhead myself, it makes me feel great. Also, since he clearly loves feet and sexy shoes, I have upped my game in that area with pedicures and great shoes. Win-win!
- Use Pinterest. This a variation on the Tumblr theme, except that you can share a secret board and both pin things to it. At the very least, the images can become fodder for a wonderful internal visual monologue that can make even a routine sexy interlude feel exotic, or a conversation starter.
- Use Kik or Line and create a separate digital channel to have an intimate conversation. Texting on regular channels is okay too, but the risk of cross posting is high. (A good friend of mine once sent a naked picture of herself to a colleague.) My husband and I have an ongoing Kik conversation that is so sexy and fun. It’s a place where we have a little buffer and a dedicated space to tease, send pictures, and be playful with each other. We never talk about family business on Kik. When I hear a Kik notification come in, I always get a little thrill because I know it’s going to be something fun.
- Whispers in the Dark. Digital space is great, but physical space is nice too. A device I have used is to talk about sexy dreams I have had (or wish I had had). Before bed, when the lights are off, I’ll say: “Hey, I had this dream and somehow it really turned me on—wanna hear about it?” (He always wants to hear about it.)
- Talk dirty to me. The evolution of whispers in the dark is dirty talk. If I’ve seen him post something on Tumblr, I’ll talk about it while we are together. I describe the scene casting myself in a leading role. Usually I whisper it in his ear and tell him what’s going on. Even if it’s not actually happening, I find that describing complete scene that I’m playing some sort of supporting role in is a really fun way to bring fantasy to semi-life. He does the same. And if the narrative isn’t working for us a gentle “Shhhhh…” does the trick to cut it off.
- Sexy trips. We try to steal nights away. Even just one night in a hotel, an AirBnB, or a bed and breakfast can be a great way to create space to just be together and explore.
- Sexy gifts. We often give each other a sexy gift for our anniversary or Valentine’s Day. My favorite this year? A necklace vibrator from a company called Crave. It’s strong, silent, and very discreet. My most recent sexy gift to him was a gorgeous erotica photography book of modern pin-up girls. Acknowledging each other as sexual beings and gifting around it makes it feel like a priority.
I think sometimes it can feel scary to open a Pandora’s Box. What if your fantasies leave you feeling scared or inadequate? What if they love something that isn’t you at all? What if you find out something about your partner you don’t like? What if you awaken fantasies that can never become reality and that breeds resentment? I have definitely been afraid of those things, and there have been some uncomfortable moments. But overall, we have found that opening up our minds, exploration, and communication has been wildly positive.
I was afraid that when we got married my husband and I would slip into a humdrum routine of good sex, but that our passionate connection would cool to companionate comfort. But for us—eleven years in—married sex has proven to be the exact opposite. The wild infatuation and insatiable desire of our first years has deepened into an intense, deeply trusting partnership where we are more skilled, more open, and more dedicated than ever to exploring pleasure together. And that feels like a sexy dream come true.