What Makes Sexual Taboos So Popular?

Noemi J. Mullins

People are always willing to share their dreams with you. Ask anyone if they have any dreams from last night. They will tell you about their chase, how they flew through the air, and what it meant to them. They’ll tell you what made them feel and what it all means to them. They may have memories that could hold the key to unlocking every symbol. It all felt so real, they’ll tell you.

Ask anyone how they slept last night, and they will tell you wellnot so, or not at any. You might hear them complain about their back. Perhaps you’ll suggest nighttime tea or a better pillow.

Dreaming and sleeping are two different things. The same goes for sexual fantasies and sex life. The many scenarios we create to make our lives more enjoyable and intense are called sexual fantasies. It could be as simple or complex as the weather, temperature, and breeze quality. Or it can be as complicated as power dynamics or transgressions that make us energized. The goodnot so, and not at any are the sex lives. Yet, we are more likely to discuss our sex lives and fantasies than our sexual fantasies. Why?

Our fantasies, like our dreams, can be bizarre and irrational. These fantasies can harm how we view ourselves and others. If sex is fraught with shame and embarrassment, our fantasies can push us over the edge. What if our partner is offended by what we do? Worse, what if it makes them irritable? Our erotic brain is sensitive to censorship, and when it smells judgment, it knows where to hide underground. Many people wonder if it is worth the risk to follow our desires down the rabbit hole. Accepting that we are multifaceted and full of contradictions is a way to embrace our otherness. It doesn’t mean that we will be a witch, a pirate or any other type of character just because we have a costume. We want to experience the intimacy of not being ourselves when we participate in sexual theater. Our fantasies and the taboos surrounding them are symbolic maps of our deepest desires and needs. It is possible to make our sex lives more meaningful by exposing that vulnerability. However, it is not easy. Talking about it is key.

The Formation Of A Fantasy

Chapter 6 of “Mating in Captivity” explains the history of our sexual dissonance from the Puritans’ days to the present. We live in an age of unprecedented sexual freedom. However, the U.S. still has a deep ambivalence about sexuality. This leaves us balancing between extremes like excessive license and repressive tactics. The vast majority of sex education that litters our teens’ years can be summarized as a big DO NOT. “The Talk” is about the dangers of diseases. It rarely focuses on the intimate or imaginative. Our sexuality is determined by the psychological details of how we live and how our emotional histories shape our erotic blueprint.

These 5 Sexual Taboos are More Common Than You Think

This month on Sessions, my online training program for therapists, coaches, and educators, I spoke with Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute and an internationally-recognized sex educator, about the most common sexual taboos. 

1. Multipartner sexual activity

Like threesomes and orgies. 89% of respondents said they dream about multi-partner sex. Why? Perhaps it’s because we are less likely to worry about rejection when multiple partners. Also, we feel less like we are “too many”. We are assured that we are sexually strong because we can take on multiple people. Multipartner sex can provide a way to release your emotions. Sex can feel more normalized, accepted, normalized, and intense when done in a group.

2. Powerful, controlled, and rough sex

65% said they dream about BDSM. Keep in mind BDSM is more than whips and chains.

3. Variety, including adventure and novelty. The most popular fantasy among surveyed women was public sex. Why? Because we are drawn to new experiences that spark our curiosity, imagination, and creativity. Sex is an art form. However, the very thing that we find exciting and new might also signify our inner conflicts, making it taboo. Someone who values privacy would not want to have sex with others in public. Why would a CEO desire to be spanked and controlled? We find it exciting to experience adventures outside of our daily lives.

4. A non-monogamous relationship

This could include swinging, Polyamory or cuckolding. Lehmiller’s survey found that most people (79 percent) and 62% of women (62%) fantasize about having an open relationship. Likewise, 58 percent say they dream about their partner having sex with others. Consensual nonmonogamy is a union of stable commitment and freedom, belonging and independence.

5. Homosexuality and gender-bending

This is “all about pushing the boundaries of your gender identity/role/expression (such as cross-dressing) and your sexual orientation (such as being heterosexual but having a same-sex fantasy). 59% of straight women stated that they dream about having sex, and 26% of straight men claimed they have the same fantasies.

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