Pleasure in the face of reality

The best experience of pleasure occurs in the space between fantasy and reality. It’s temping however, to deny this and say that ultimate pleasure occurs only in the vacuum of absolute fantasy. Where nothing is as it seems and the suspension of disbelief is a requirement for engagement in this level of pleasure. Sure, places and states like that are tremendously exciting; the whiff and anticipation of the unknown and the promise of hedonistic bliss are deeply alluring. Why wouldn’t one want to stay – or return to – this state of play all the time?

Because it’s not real.

But what does reality have to offer that fantasy doesn’t? What is fantasy anyway, in this context? I’m talking porn, one-night-stands that blow your socks off, swingers clubs, BDSM dungeons, sex parties and anything else that removes you so far from your reality that you forget who you are. And therein lies the problem if this is the only place you want to live. Or is the only place you can get off. Forgetting who you are, or the repeated desire to forget, indicates a deeper issue at hand. If humans are fundamentally social creatures upon which connection creates healthy adults (see studies on monkeys raised without mothers and orphaned humans raised without affection and love to see the effects on the brain and behaviour – or not if you don’t want to be highly disturbed), wanting to do away with connection and always forget who we are suggests there is something wrong with our reality. And why might this be? Or more importantly, what can be done about this?

Reality is brutal. Make no mistake about that. From our entry into the world and all it’s glorious, bloody brutality to the inevitable bumps, roadblocks, accidents, dramas and heartbreaks that occur along the way, life is tough. We need a little (or a lot) of fantasy to soften the blow of real life. Children do this in play and with their inherent connection to their imagination. They haven’t forgotten who they are, even if they don’t know who they are. They just know they exist and that their job is to be a child and to play. Simple.

And then comes adolescence and adulthood…. Play and fantasy often make way for commitments, responsibilities, pressure, competition and uncertainty. Suddenly everything one thought was real and known, is unknown. Priorities shift, the brain, body and behaviour fluctuate wildly. Reality starts knocking at the door and suddenly there is no time or inclination to play. But perhaps that’s why God gave us orgasms and a mind which is never not able to imagine. It’s why creativity exists. Sex acts – both inside our heads and outside in/with our bodies – are primal creative forces. Sex and orgasms (2 distinctly different things) bring reality to fantasy. Even if the mechanism by which we get there was not quite real. Even if we had to forget who we are in order to well, forget who we are (given that in a state of orgasmic bliss the ‘forgetting’ of the self is undeniable), there is still a paradoxical event occurring: the blending of reality with fantasy.

In many ways this is what Esther Perel talks about in her book Mating in Captivity. It is the eternal dilemma (in our modern monogamous dyads) of wanting what you already have, as she says so eloquently in one of her talks. Can ultimate (sexual) bliss be found in a long-term reality-based relationship? Once the shine wears off of playing with something sparkly and new, how can we integrate our reality of a stable and grounded union with the desire to take risks and explore/try new things? Is it the same if you ‘try new things’ with your partner(s)? And what about the bringing in of another, in the case of polyamorous relationships or open marriages or D/s dynamics where there are multiple subs? Or infidelity; is this a symptom of being bored with reality and craving more fantasy?

So. Many. Questions.

So. Many. Thoughts.

So. Many. Possibilities.

A true experience of reality and fantasy in creating profound pleasure takes profound risk. Ironically, it takes more risk than the risks of trying new things, new people, new positions, and new activities. Being in the space between reality and fantasy requirements a degree of vulnerability. It’s a place of allowing you to be seen and known by the other, and loved despite (and because of) this. Despite yourself. With all of our glorious flaws and disgusting parts, we allow ourselves to be loved and desired. We allow ourselves to connect and risk heartbreak, when we move into the pleasure-space of reality and fantasy. When we set up shop with one person to the exclusive of all others we are secretly craving to be totally accepted for who we are.

And we want to try ALL THE THINGS with this person, in the safe bubble of companionship and security. It’s using familiarity and groundedness to launch your little team off into new territory to explore new things together.

Yes fantasy and reality to happily co-exist in a little pleasure bubble. But you have to be brave as-fuck and willing to go the distance.

And I believe the rewards are worth it.

Author: The Pleasure Advocate

A pleasure seeker like every human, I have a background in therapy and health, and am a passionate student of human sexuality. I'm a pleasure-inclusive sex educator, writer, lover, mother, and sexual explorer. May (consensual!) pleasure be yours always, Melanie x

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