Monday, May 18, 2009

Viva Sexual Fantasies

Hope you all had a nice weekend! As the work week begins, it’s back to porn stash studies for me. We’ve done the pictures, now it’s time to move on to the good part: the words. Pictures may indeed be worth a thousand words, but when it comes to arousing me, the right thousand words always do a much better job. It could be that I’m just a more auditory, language-focused person, but even at 14, it wasn’t the pictures in Viva that kept me coming back for more. It was the monthly feature called “Sexual Fantasies” by Dr. Robert Chartham.

I know I read these smutty confessions tons of times, settling on particular favorites, but really enjoying them all. The early 1970s marked the discovery of the sexual fantasy in American culture—or rather the willingness to recognize and exploit this aspect of our eroticism in a self-conscious way. Because of course, all pornography is a sexual fantasy of a sort. But with the publication of Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, suddenly even the minds of ordinary women--gasp!--were goldmines of dirty thoughts and scenarios. However, unlike Penthouse’s letters, these shocking, taboo-busting fantasies were considered safe to read only if they were properly “analyzed” by a trained professional.

Enter Dr. Robert Chartham who presents his insights into erotic fantasies including “their Meaning, Significance, and Contribution to the Human Sexual Condition.” Each issue of Viva generally ran three different fantasies (at first it was just men’s fantasies, but quickly went co-ed and females tended to dominate 2 to 1). Each fantasizer was identified by a first name with last initial and described in terms of height, weight, health, job, marital status. The reader was thus encouraged to think she was dealing with a real person, not by any stretch of the imagination the output of some professional writer who was given an editorial prompt to write something about gangsters or threesomes (more on that next time!) The fantasy is then presented in frank, titillating language which can definitely get you worked up if you're in the mood for it. It’s not unlike an erotic story or even a Penthouse letter, although the action is of course acknowledged as pure imagination. After each confession, Dr. Robert Chartham comments at length. Back in the summer of '76, I read these commentaries with great interest, part of me hoping this expert would enlighten me as to what my own fantasies meant as well as give me insight into the minds of those strange creatures called men.

Yet, even at 14, still subject to whims of teachers and other authority figures, I knew there was something a bit off about Dr. Chartham. He definitely played favorites. Rereading his comments now, I declare the guy a total fraud and complete mind fucker. Talk about having complexes! You only need to read a few issues to see the pattern. Dr. Chartham basically chides all the males for their politically incorrect dreams, whether it’s sleeping with a mother and daughter or transforming a plain Jane into a sex goddess. In the former case, the two fantasy women “are probably his way of compensating for his lack of sexual stamina.” In the latter, Dr. Chartham issues this sermon: “What selfish men these Pygmalions are…they feel like gods to whom women ought to be grateful…I have always based my sexual activity on the equality of the partners. Insofar as I am motivated by a certain degree of selfishness, I frequently have a strong desire to be the entirely passive partner. But I’ve always believed that ‘share and share alike’ gives both partners the best of both worlds. I am not, therefore, in sympathy with Richard (the fantasizer under scrutiny who claims to have lived his fantasy of transforming plain women into beauties many times), and I am sure no woman would be who had been through his hands and dumped.”

It may be true that “Richard” or his real life counterpart is a jerk, but surely a trained therapist should not be in the position of judging a fantasy as sympathetic or worthy or indeed assuming to know what others think? Or on the other hand seeing it as an expression of inadequacy, as if any human being on earth is without unfulfilled yearnings and needs. Although the feminism of the 1970s did express a lot of anger towards men, even then, I knew that belittling men was not the way to go. And to do it under the guise of an expert opinion is bordering on the downright dangerous. It’s true that women suffered far more abuse than men at the hands of mental health professionals, but to see someone, man or woman, reveal themselves in this way (even if it is all fictional) and then be held in contempt just, well, it pisses me off!

Dr. Chartham does not redeem himself in my eyes by treating the ladies more gallantly. If your name is female, it doesn’t matter what sort of fantasy you have, the good doctor is there to support you—and probably invite you over to his place to show you his black-light posters later. Yep, he’s full of crap, but I still have to share this little love letter to a writer named Martha W. who fantasizes that she’s at a swimming pool and a dozen gorgeous men come up and service her in various ways. Here’s what the doctor has to say from his professional perspective. I wonder, fellow writers, if you agree?

“The full-time writer’s job is a lonely one. If you write fiction, the experience is even more lonely. People your pages with all kinds of imaginary characters, make them as real and as solid as you can; but not one of them can rise from the page, put his or her arms around you, and provide the emotional and sexual solace you crave. It’s a hard life and it’s a lonely life. No wonder one fills one’s fantasies with crowds in a dolce vita setting.

“You and I, Martha, being writers, experience our sexual potential vividly. Because of the austerity of our working conditions, we have become fantasizing sybarites, seeking the practical comforts our lives deny us.

Let me be honest: I like being made love to slightly more than I like making love. You seem to feel similarly. And while I fantasize that my cock is capable of satisfying countless numbers of women, you fantasize that your cunt can make happy countless numbers of men. [blogger’s aside: one of these scenarios is more realistic than the other ;-].

(Caption from Viva cartoon: My mommy says when I'm older I can have as many of those as I want.")

In my fantasy, odalisques bathe all my sensitive zones with expert fingers and mouths. It is delicious, and so softly inspiring.

In fantasy, we are omnipotent. You say, ‘Stand in line, boys; you’ll all be accommodated.’ I say, ‘Stand in line, girls; my cock is there for anyone’s pleasure.’ Of course, both of us are sexual show-offs. We both need to be the center of sexual attention. But by God, we know we can deliver the goods! And it is this which gives us our sexual power and our sexual satisfaction.

No, I don’t think you are strange in the least! Take time off from your work, and use your ingenuity to find a real lover for yourself. [blogger’s aside: time to provide your phone number, doctor?] Or check out the group-sex scene, where you may find others who are in search of the same pleasures.”

Whew, well, he has us female writers pretty much pegged, but at least I’m not sick like those two weirdo guys! Ah, Robert Chartham, what happened to you in the intervening years? Did you merely pass on to the next world one afternoon as you lay passively in bed being serviced by a dozen female patients? Is this perhaps another research project to pursue in my endless quest to unlock the history of eroticism in America?

Next time—another light bulb goes on when I see how the good doctor inspired one of my first erotic publications!


Jeremy Edwards said...

Wow, what a trip. An ego trip for the doctor, among other things.

I discovered the Nancy Friday books in the '80s and gave them some eager attention. But I was disappointed to see that her largely accepting professional attitude toward fantasy turned to a sort of "eww, whatever" tone when she presented the watersports-themed fantasies in Men in Love. As I recall, she was quick to attribute all such fantasies to an unimaginatively narrow set of inferred motivations/complexes; and she went so far as to offer the opinion that perhaps Mother Nature had goofed by locating sexual pleasure centers in proximity to the urinary apparatus!

Donna said...

I agree, Jeremy, what is with this judgmental crap? I thought her analyses in Men in Love were also more mean-spirited than those in the women-focused books. She would actually criticize men openly for their particular fantasies as you point out. As in "this is not acceptable." She also did this with a guy who had a very elaborate version of the "slab fantasy." You know that old standby where a woman is tied a slab as in a religious sacrifice or something and priests/doctors/doms do things to her. I kinda like that one myself, so I was annoyed that she found this politically incorrect.

Plus I just don't like the dynamic of inviting people to open up their secret selves and then you tell them it's wrong somehow.That's sick in my book!

Craig Sorensen said...


I do think that the social shifts of the 70's toward woman's liberation might have colored the "good doctor's" responses to try to appeal to his readers.

Something I find interesting about most of these experts (and this goes right back to Freud) is that each of them has at least one juicy hang-up that color their viewpoint.

In a case like the "good doctor" and the Nancy Friday books Jeremy mentioned, they can be totally supportive of all sorts of thoughts, but find that button, and they become defensive.

And probably deep down, they're getting a nice forbidden tingling feeling!

Donna said...

Excellent point, Craig. You might say that Chartham is laudably self-aware in revealing his particular turn-on's so openly. But you think he'd make the next step and say you can't judge or rank these things as acceptable or unacceptable. To me fantasy speaks its own language. When a woman fantasizes about being raped, it's not about actual rape, it's about giving up the guilt of making a choice to be sexual. Same with the guys who want two girls, a more interesting and compassionate analysis would look at fantasies of abundance in a world where sex is so sadly rationed.

Cripes, I could go on and on... this topic pushes my buttons, lol.

I've no doubt all of the sex doctors have tingled a lot throughout history!

Craig Sorensen said...

I've no doubt all of the sex doctors have tingled a lot throughout history!I imagine that's why they got in that business! ;-)

It's a topic that pushes my buttons too. When experts become judgmental, and when they seeing people through only one lens, oversimplify them, that's when I take exception.

Like everything in life, dreams are subjective, and need to be considered in context. One cannot dig into a persons psyche by reading a single letter.

Yeah, I could go on and on too!

Erobintica said...

It's all pretty amusing. I too had the Nancy Friday books - wish I still had them to compare the writing - it's been so long I don't really remember. I'm wondering if the attitude in those re: the fantasies that I found intriguing - contributed to some of my shame and guilt (for a time in my life). And my copy of Men in Love disappeared once after a party at our house - I've always wondered who made off with it. Hehe.

Hey Donna - that "slab fantasy" (didn't know it had a name) got me early on - there was a scene in the Beatles film Help that had quite the draw for me.


Donna said...

Hey Robin, funny how books like that disappear. A number of times I've left my novel at bookstores and when I call back to check on their decision, they tell me they can't find the book!

My friend and I came up with the name "slab fantasy." She has some really good ones involving coaches instructing the soccer team or the hockey team or whatever about sexual technique on the body of my friend as she lies on a table in the locker room. One time her husband mentioned in passing about another fantasy or movie or something--"yeah, the woman was tied to a slab, just like your fantasies." So we dubbed it the "slab fantasy." And I think I originally became interested in the idea from the scene in Help! as well!

Emerald said...

That does seem quite interesting that he seemed so sympathetic to the female fantasy and supportive on a practical level (going so far as to suggest checking out the "group sex scene") and so condemning of the male fantasy. Huh.

It seems to me somewhat dangerous to condemn one's sexual fantasy(ies). "Fantasy" is a key word, first of all (it seems to me), and if it is condemned, it's not as though one can just "get rid of it" then. Exploring it and examining seems a lovely idea, and if it makes one feel uncomfortable that s/he has a certain fantasy, even more so, but indeed condemning them in others seems, as you alluded to, Donna, dangerous territory to me.

Incidentally, I agree with Craig's statement:

"I do think that the social shifts of the 70's toward woman's liberation might have colored the 'good doctor's' responses to try to appeal to his readers"— in that it could have had less to do with sexual fantasy at all and more to do with a perception of politically correct women's empowerment.

Thanks for sharing!

P.S. Wow, my verification word is "uniseq." Singular form of "unisex." ;)

Donna said...

Hi Emerald! I swear there's an intelligent being choosing those verification words. And yes, the doctor might be trying a little too hard to redress the wrongs of history. But he still comes across like he's trying to seduce the women and chide the men. The erotic mind as battleground. No winners there!