Auntie SparkNotes: Is Fantasizing About Real People Okay?
I could dance around the subject of this message but I’d rather get straight to the point: to what extent is it okay to fantasize about people?
Um, to put this in context: I’ve recently developed quite a large crush on a friend of mine. My problem stems from the fact that I keep fantasizing about her and then feeling guilty about it. (And I’m pretty sure that it’s not internalised homophobia talking with regard to the guilt; if she were male I’d have basically the same reaction.) These fantasies aren’t always dirty; for the most part they’re just us making out.
I feel my problem is largely one of consent; with my ex, I knew he was fine with actually doing said stuff with me, so he wouldn’t have cared about my fantasising about him. And even though I don’t personally watch porn, I don’t have a problem with the concept as the actors are kind of agreeing to it by definition. So is it still okay to fantasise about someone without their knowledge and consent and with no clue what they’d think if they knew? Is it morally acceptable to daydream about kissing her, but not sleeping with her? Can I imagine us HNDing but only as long as I don’t get myself off on it? At what point do you cross the boundary from acceptable crush behaviour to creepy? Is it different for me to do so about a straight girl or one whom I know is interested in girls (or, for that matter, a straight/bi dude or one who only likes guys)? How does how well you know the person affect this?
Oooh, Sparkler, can I tell you a story? Check it: several years ago, I worked with this guy, who I'll call… well, I'll call him Jerky McWalruswang. Because I can. Jerky McWalruswang was one of the most condescending, nasty, malicious, and paranoid people I ever had the displeasure of knowing, and every interaction with him was a misery. (Example: I once yawned discreetly during an early-morning conference call—a reflex over which I had no control whatsoever—and he screamed at me, for ten minutes, for "yawning on purpose" to "make [him] look bad.") And over the course of the year or so I spent as his coworker, I confess that I entertained many a vivid, violent fantasy of striding into Jerky McWalruswang's office, with a two-gallon bucket of venomous spiders, and dumping them wholesale over the bastard's head.
Needless to say, Jerky McWalruswang would not have consented to being a part of this particular fantasy. Jerky McWalruswang wouldn't have liked it at all. And y'know what? THAT'S JUST TOO BAD. Because nobody—not you, not me, and especially not Jerky McWalruswang—gets to tell other people what they are and aren't allowed to think.
In other words, this isn't a problem of consent at all. The power of consent ends where you do. You are in charge of you; you are not, however, in charge of the you who lives within another person's fantasies. Because that's not you. That's somebody's idea of you.
But while the inside of somebody else's skull is officially out of your jurisdiction, the inside of your head is your kingdom. And there is nothing—nothing!—you can do in there that's not morally acceptable. You can be totally gross in there. You can be homicidal in there! And you can fantasize in any way, about anyone and anything you want—and you don't need to worry about the feelings of the person you're thinking about, because that is not a person. It's a figment of your imagination, and having imaginary, masturbatory sex with it doesn't constitute a violation of trust anymore than fantasizing about a pizza means you cheated on your diet.
Of course, if your fantasy life started causing problematic ripples in your non-fantasy life—if, for instance, you can no longer have a casual and respectful conversation with your friend because you're too busy picturing her lying nude on a bearskin rug—then obviously, you should find some different fodder for your DIY HND-ing... although the chances of that happening are pretty slim, because the human brain is an amazing organ, and because in conjunction with our robust capacity for fantasy and fiction, we're also equipped with an equally-robust ability to draw a nice, clean line between fantasy and reality. (Case in point: I never actually dumped a bucket of spiders over my coworker's head. Heck, I didn't even own a bucket.)
Which brings us to the actual, and only, problem: the question of whether having sexual fantasies inspired by actual people makes you feel icky. And if it does, you can always redirect your thoughts elsewhere when they wander into uncomfy territory. But even then, you would do that for no other reason than that you, personally, aren't cool with it. And when you start to get caught up in whether or not the stuff in your head would be acceptable to other people, just remember: at this very moment, somebody you find truly gross is probably picturing you on all fours, greased with coconut oil, with an apple stuffed into your mouth.
Alas, such is the price of membership in the human race.
Do you ever feel weird about your fantasies, or do you rule your brain-kingdom with an iron fist? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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