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He Dreams of Jeannie (and Jennifer—Sometimes Both!)

A woman wonders if her husband longs to actualize his sexual fantasies about other women

Pepper Schwarz, Sexology Column

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Sexual fantasies are as common as having a cup of coffee.

Q: My husband has admitted that he fantasizes about other women, and that worries me. He says it's harmless, but I think it means I'm not enough for him. He says that's not true, but ... I think you fantasize about something you don't have but want, then you do it. What do you think?

A: I think your worries are misplaced. For most men, sexual fantasies are as common as having a cup of coffee. (I should add they are nearly that common for women.)

A Canadian study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2014, found that both men and women commonly fantasized about:

  • having sex with a stranger
  • having sex in a public place
  • having sex in a romantic locale
  • being photographed having sex

A significant number of both men and women, the study found, daydreamed about such 50 Shades of Grey kinks as being tied up or getting spanked. Men fantasized more often — and more graphically — than women, but they were hardly the only ones with edgy sex on their minds; approximately one-third of both men and women fantasized about group sex scenes.

Common themes varied. A typical male fantasy might involve oral or anal sex, or having sex with two women at the same time. A woman was more likely to fantasize about romantic themes — but also, oddly enough, about sexual submission. Indeed, a study on women reported by Psychology Today in 2015 found that more than 50 percent of women's fantasies centered on aggressive sex or forced sex with a dominant (but good-looking and desirable) stranger.

Yes, men were likelier to want some of their fantasies to come true. But most of the men surveyed — like almost all of the women — judged their fantasies to be make-believe musings, not concrete action plans. And that's the blessing of a sexual fantasy: You get the arousal without the entanglements — or trauma — of a real-life reenactment.

How can you know for certain that your husband's fantasies are harmless? If they entail Kate Winslet or Angelina Jolie, I think you're safe. But even if the object of his imagination is a nearby neighbor, that doesn't mean he's plotting an actual seduction.

What's scaring you, it strikes me, is your assumption that his definition of a fantasy matches yours. But whereas you see fantasies as wish fulfillment or concrete longing, what if he sees them as harmless indulgences? Women's fantasies, according to a study reported in Psychological Bulletin, are more likely to be charged with emotion and romance. Male fantasies, by contrast, tend to be more overtly sexual.

So let your guy have a little space to roam in his head — he'll be less likely to roam from your bedroom.

Q: I am 64 years old and have six children. I have never had a climax. I would feel wet, but I've never felt that good feeling. I've always felt uptight, like I had to release something. Am I normal?

A: Orgasm can be an automatic reaction to sexual stimulation, but easy access to a climax just isn't in the cards for many women.

Not uncommonly, women experience their first orgasm in their 30s or later, even if they have a regular sexual partner. It's not so much a performance gap as a knowledge gap: If a woman doesn't know how to build sexual tension into a climax, her pleasure plateaus and no release occurs.

The good news? Any woman can learn to have an orgasm at any age. So unless your sticking point has a physiological origin — worth checking out, though it's seldom the cause of anorgasmia — the following "climax directions" should help you hit the high notes.

It's encouraging that you have shown signs of sexual arousal in the past. The clitoris stays sensitive for a lifetime, and vaginal lubrication means that your blood supply to the vaginal area is adequate for arousal and that your nerve endings are firing. You're halfway home!

Now you need to intensify the stimulation. Don't turn to your husband just yet, however; instead, buy a vibrator (available online from such "safe sites" as drugstore.com or goodvibes.com). Whatever device you choose should feature several speeds, enabling you to experiment with light or more intense vibration, direct or indirect clitoral stimulation. Some women like a combo vibrator such as the Rabbit, which stimulates the clitoris and vagina at the same time. The key, however, is clitoral contact: One reason it's harder to have an orgasm during intercourse than while masturbating is that the penis does not hit the clitoral nerves as directly as a vibrator does.

Maintain vibration as sensation starts to increase, but be careful not to keep the vibrator directly on the clitoris too long; this delicate organ can become numb, then irritated, if you overdo the contact.

As you start to get really turned on, consciously increase the muscle tension in your legs and upper torso. Here's how: Just squeeze the same muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. This tension helps stimulate the nerves even more. Keep this dynamic duo (tension and vibration) going, and you should have an orgasm.

Now that you know what pattern of stimulation leads to an orgasm, a climax during intercourse should likewise be possible. Experiment with your husband to see what positions (or combination of thrusting and clitoral stroking) steadily build your excitement. Tell him when you are getting close and ask him not to stop whatever will take you over the top.

If I've made this sound complicated, it's not. Your orgasms will become easier to have over time. So try to stop fretting about the goal you're trying to reach; when a woman embraces sensation and lets her body take over, a happy ending often results.

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