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'08 Authors Insider Tips


Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Inspirational
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
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Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
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The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft


Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
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For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons


2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
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Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
Im Easy, But Im No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy


Get All Worked Up
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Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
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Election '08
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Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel


Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn


Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics


On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank


Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

Whos Been Sleeping in Your Head?
The Secret World of Sexual Fantasies

by Brett Kahr

Book Review by Rob Hardy



Who's Been Sleeping in Your Head?I think that most people have sex lives that they are fairly happy with, and it surprises me to learn that 90% of the people out there are sexual fantasists, routinely screening some sort of interior porn film in their heads just for the sake of getting off. If you ever feel ashamed of having such fantasies, prepare to have an uplifting experience in reading Who’s Been Sleeping in Your Head? The Secret World of Sexual Fantasies (Basic Books) by Brett Kahr. The author is a psychotherapist working for over twenty years in a fairly classical Freudian tradition, but in 2003 he began to add to his clinical experience of fantasies by means of the British Sexual Fantasy Research Project, which eventually included American subjects as well, some twenty thousand subjects in total. Some of the research was done by exhaustive five-hour interviews and some was done on-line; the project is continuing, and the book includes the web address for participation if you’d like to help with some interesting research. And it is interesting. Many pages in this big book are devoted to verbatim reports of fantasies, which Kahr warns will cause in readers either sexual arousal or embarrassment; he could also have included shock and also laughter, for no one else has fantasies like your own, and the fantasies of those other people, well, they can be downright weird. That so many people participate in this hidden activity must mean that it does something for our species, and for our sex lives, and besides commenting on the general purpose of fantasies, Kahr analyzes their purpose and meaning for individuals in many cases. His explanations are generally Freudian, of course, but explained with a minimum of jargon and with a high degree of humane concern and with good humor that makes the book delightful as well as instructive reading.

The fantasies are broken into categories for chapters, devoted to subjects like group sex, infidelity, sex with celebrities, homosexual encounters, violence, humiliation, and so on. These are fantasies held by people who are not psychiatric patients or prisoners, just regular folks. Not all the fantasies can be described in a family-friendly review like this one, but here is a quick description of some of them. A woman imagines that her boss declares that today is Sex Friday, and everyone can have sex with whoever seems desirable. Another woman imagines Saddam Hussein having her “really really hard and just treated like a piece of meat”. Saddam is far from the only celebrity here; Brad Pitt shows up pretty often, as does Britney Spears. Inexplicable (to me!) is why Baroness Margaret Thatcher should pop in so often. One woman says, “Gregory Peck. I guess this dates me.” Another wants to be squeezed between the thighs of Serena Williams. Many fantasies are almost rated PG: “Seeing my wife naked” or “Being alone without the children.” Others involve specific X-ratings, for they have been borrowed from porn: “About being in a porn film and being watched whilst I am made to perform sexual acts.” There are plenty of distressingly violent fantasies here, but more of them are simply odd, like the fellow who could never get excited except by thinking of two German women fighting each other in a boxing ring, or the other man who got off picturing himself “playing golf with a woman for sex.” In the final pages of the book, Kahr includes one-offs like, “Me and my partner, me in my monkey suit, her greased up with butter and a large traffic cone on her head.” He has to say that of his respondents to the computer questionnaire, “a small minority seemed to be pulling my leg, although I cannot be absolutely certain.” Other outlandish descriptions here, some from face-to-face interviews, would seem to verify the need for that lack of certainty. Another respondent took the opportunity to admonish him that finding Christ would control “unwanton desires”.

You might find your own private fantasies here, but of course many of the other fantasies described will be surprising to any reader. “After nearly a quarter of a century of clinical practice,” writes Kahr, “I sometimes believe that I have heard every possible fantasy imaginable, until of course the next patient comes along and reveals an erotic fantasy that I never knew existed.” Not all fantasies are private; in a barroom setting, one pal might tell the encircled buddies about a sexual fondness for the pin-up de jour, for instance. But during coitus itself, and especially during masturbation when there is no distraction from a partner, there often are fantasies so individual and secret that many of the respondents had never told anyone, even lovers, about them until Kahr’s survey. Kahr describes the “masturbatory paradox”: fantasies can help increase bodily and genital pleasure, but also (often simultaneously) cause disquiet or guilt. Like any good paradox, this one can be explained in different ways, and it is still a puzzle. If the fantasy helps promote actual coital contact, then it “may play an important, previously unrecognized role in the continued propagation of the human species.” If sex is for fun, though, along with procreation, why would the mind manufacture interior movies, however stimulating, that were also so deeply disturbing? It is here that Kahr most strongly keeps to the Freudian line; he explains that aggressive or destructive fantasies might come from infantile trauma or early abuse, but represent a creative capacity to overcome such memories.

Kahr describes how he would go about analyzing individual fantasies as he works with patients, and his combination of concern and detachment seem exemplary, as does his acknowledgement that any answers he comes up with would be tentative. Even with all this data, he has plenty of puzzling questions, like whether it is we who control our fantasies or vice versa. He admits that there is controversy over the issue, but thinks that generally we cannot control fantasies, especially since he has seen many people who try but cannot get rid of fantasies brought on by religious or parental prohibitions or sexual abuse. He has no one answer about whether we should share fantasies with our partners, as he has seen this go both ways. It can promote trust and a stronger union, but it can also cause unpleasant surprise or distress. He does advise against acting fantasies out, even the harmless ones, “bearing in mind that a fantasy and a reality might be experienced rather differently... For many, the fantasy will be exciting precisely because it will never be enacted.” He thinks that those who have simple, non-elaborate fantasies seem to have simpler and less complicated demeanors, but admits that more data is needed. He knows that there is no correlation between outlandish fantasies and true psychopathology, and that aggressive or destructive fantasies help seal off such ideas from the realm of action; they might rarely be a step into, say, sadistic action, but only rarely, and thus they have no predictive value. He takes issue with the classic judgmental position that “only an infantile person will need fantasies”; his research would indicate that if this is true, almost all of us are infantile.

Learning more about fantasies might even have practical application; I think Kahr is not half joking when he suggests that matchmaking services might incorporate potential partners’ sexual fantasies as a criterion for a match’s fitness. “Such factors may prove to be much more pertinent to compatibility than whether one enjoys films, eating out, and country walks.” This humane, erudite, and thoughtful book, however, ought to have even more practical value in allowing us to regard our fellow creatures with increased sympathy and understanding. Think, for instance, of the twenty-year-old woman who blushed when she told Kahr that she had a “very perverse” fantasy that she knew would disgust him. Kahr says he braced himself, but found that she was talking about her fantasy of making love to a lecturer at her university. “Isn’t that awful?” she explained. “I’m trying to get over it, but he’s just so cute.” Kahr gently wonders, along with the reader, if she might read this volume and, seeing how perverse (whatever that might mean) some fantasies truly are, whether she might come to view her own as a little more acceptable, playful, and fun. His explanations of the kinkiest of these visions provide a unique service in showing that all we fantasists are not so different from one another, and that it’s a good bet that all of us are at least a little kinky.

Rob Hardy
May/June 2008


Who’s Been Sleeping in Your Head?

(Perseus Books Group; February 4, 2008; ISBN-10: 0465037666)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK


_______
© 2008 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.



About the Reviewer:
Rob Hardy is a psychiatrist who lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife, two terriers, five cats, and goldfish.

He reviews nonfiction for The Times of Acadiana, but has been reviewing books as a hobby for years before that.
WebBio: Rob Hardy



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'08 Movie Reviews

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'08 Book Reviews

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