A reading from the book of Luda:
I wanna get you in the back seat, windows up
That’s the way you like to fuck
clogged up, fog alert
Rip the pants and rip the shirt
Rough sex, make it hurt
In the garden, all in the dirt
Roll around, Georgia Brown, that’s the way I like it, twerk
Legs jerk, over-worked, under-paid, but don’t be afraid
In the sun or up in the shade
On the top of my Escalade
Maybe your girl and my friend can trade
Tag team, off the ropes!
On the ocean or in the boat!
Factories, or on hundred spokes!
What about up in the candy store?
That chocolate chocolate, make it melt
Whips and chains, handcuffs,
Smack a little booty up with my belt
Scream HELP, play my game
Dracula man I’ll get my fangs, horse back and I’ll get my reins
School teacher let me get my brains
I wanna li li li lick you from your head to your toes
And I wanna move from the bed down to the down to the to the floor
Then I wanna ah ah you make it so good I don’t wanna leave
But I gotta kno kno kno know wha what’s your fan-ta-ta-sy
I think I was either in fourth or fifth grade when I first heard this song, kind of knowing what its lyrics were alluding to, but not really. Coincidentally, if memory serves, my stumbling across it would have occurred around the same time that I was immersed in the brave new world that was formal sex education. In retrospect, the juxtaposition of a curriculum that unpacked the vapid nuances of proper hygiene maintenance and the importance of healthy sexual relations alongside lyrics glorifying rolling around in dirt and having sex in the back of a classroom is a bit of a treat.
Mixed messaging aside, amid the bounty of innuendos that titillatingly illustrated that song’s canvas like a Hieronymous Bosch painting, the bit that bored a hole in my brain–the bit that made the song’s unapologetic raunch the universal success that it became–was the final line of the chorus: I gotta kno-kno-kno-know wha-what’s your fan-ta-ta-sy. That is, after all, the song’s title. It should be of little surprise that the final line of the chorus, the dovetail to each delightfully paraphilic verse, would bring it all home in a blunt appeal to your partner for vulnerability: What gets you off?
I’m not a music historian. My age precludes me from such a title, and even if I were to claim it, someone older than me by one or more generations would almost certainly dismissively reply “you don’t know nothin’ about….” or, “you’re too young to remember…” That being said, I still maintain that What’s Your Fantasy was the first of its kind. Never before had a song made its entire theme a no-holds-barred dialogue between partners about the quirks and imagined scenarios that would lead to the other’s arousal. Not entirely surprising, you might argue, given that for a long time, open discussion about sex fantasies was quite the societal taboo.
And why wouldn’t it be? On one hand, you had religious institutions of all stripes denouncing the mere thought of sex as immoral. On the other, renowned psychologists like Sigmund Freud repeatedly tried to link the occurrence of fantasies with sexual dissatisfaction and deprivation. The fantasies, he argued, came about in lieu of other enjoyable sexual stimulation.
For a while, to share the most intimate details of what got your juices flowing was to risk stigmatization and shaming as an impious, insatiable sexual deviant, likely also guilty of infidelity.
Fortunately, as time went on, these perceptions shifted. Freud’s theory was debunked–frequently recurring sexual fantasies, it turned out, were indicative of a healthy and satisfying sex life–and a number of researchers began floating the possibility that a lack of sex fantasies or guilt tied to them may actually contribute to sexual dysfunction.
As the stigma surrounding sexual fantasy eroded, so too did the guilt that it had caused fantasizers. By 1990, only 25% of those polled in a survey reported feeling ‘strong guilt’ about their fantasies, citing the aforementioned factors along with the sentiment that they shouldn’t “have to” use fantasies during sex with their partner. Doing so, they maintained, was a sign that something was wrong with them.
The remaining 75%, to varying degrees, embraced fantasy as part of their own sexuality and, in the case of women, part of their overall identity.
Fast forward a few decades and ladies’ undergarments the world over are sopping with the arrival of E.L. James’ trilogy of erotic novels: Fifty Shades of Grey. A study on self-perceived effects of internet pornography use perceptively noted the dynamic effect that the books had on the way that society thinks about fantasy:
“Parallel to the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, light BDSM has become closer to mainstream pornography for women. The books attracted readers with and without previous knowledge of erotica and/or BDSM and gave women permission to explore new things sexually, besides the fantasy of giving up control. In the same way that rape fantasies were common in the erotic literature of the 1980s, light BDSM has become a source of both romantic and sexual fantasies in the female audience during the last decade.”
The emergence of this brand of erotica wasn’t exactly a novelty, rather it was the license to fantasize that it afforded its consumers that contributed to a massive cultural shift, which was new at the time.
But why these fantasies? How does a sultry daydream sequence of any kind–rape, romance, BDSM, etc.–come to resonate with someone?
What leads to sexual fantasies?
There’s a school of thought that emerged from research in the 60s that proposed that a person’s preferred sexual fantasies may depend on how they’re conditioned, wherein the mundane events of their lives that are arousing are repeatedly paired with orgasms through masturbation and other sexual activity.
Under this theory, anything associated with an arousing experience is fair game. If you were to see an erotic scene in a bedroom, the pillow on the bed, the painting framed above the headboard, the antique dresser in the background, or the actual erotica itself would all, in theory, be equally-likely sources of spank bank fodder in future fantasies. Though this may be the case for a select few, however, most fantasizers, to my knowledge, don’t keep a secret stash of IKEA magazines in their shoe box to get themselves in the mood.
The theory thus underwent further development into the early 70s. Essentially, theorists posited that each time we fantasize, our fantasies become progressively more concentrated on the specific things that turn us on the most so that when the initial scene or event is revisited, we discard the extraneous junk and amplify the most arousing elements.
Once a fantasizer has a base in place, composed of whatever does it for them, new elements can be incorporated if they lead to arousal, and what was once just a replay of a somewhat exciting event becomes an extremely provocative mutation that falls into a completely different genre than the original.
This is useful in understanding how fantasies come about, but doesn’t really explain why our fantasies are unique to us. For that, we need to understand the distinctions in major fantasy themes for both men and women.
What Makes Our Sexual Fantasies Unique?
A 1985 multi-dimensional study established two sets of four commonly occurring sex fantasy themes for males and females. Each of these themes was further broken down into specific fantasies, which respondents for the gender to which they applied were able to assess on the basis of whether they had ever experienced them.
Among females, the four major fantasy themes were romance, variety, suffering, and dominance. Romantic themes present women as glamorous and men as admirers, while variety themes play a lot on voyeurism and include elements of watching, being watched, risk and, in some cases, tentative homosexuality. Fantasies characterized by suffering in this study are typical of what many term ‘BDSM.’ They include bondage, pain, and punishment. Finally, dominance themes all make use of dominant-submissive relations, the majority of which feature the female respondent as the dominant.
Among males, the four major themes were force, same sex, unpopular, and macho. Force themes involved spanking and binding. Same sex themes are relatively straightforward: guys doing sex stuff in the presence of–though not necessarily with–other guys. Unpopular themes were a bit of a wildcard, as they were characterized by bipolar traits of urination on one end of the spectrum and admiration of the female physique on the other. Finally, macho themes encompass an air of irresistibility, with the man presented as sexually stimulating to the woman.
From here, each of the factor themes was looked at individually as well as in relation to other themes using a catalog of other analytic devices. Among these were a Temperament Survey, measuring traits in respondents such as pace of activity, impulsivity, dominance, and emotional stability; a Sibling Incest Aversion Scale, measuring the severity of the Oedipus conflict in male and female respondents; Sexual Fantasy Questionnaires, in which respondents were asked to indicate the frequency with which they had experienced a given fantasy over the span of a year; and Sexual Behavior Questionnaires, where respondents were asked to indicate the frequency of orgasms with partners, orgasms from masturbation, and overall sexual satisfaction over the previous year.
Using all of this information, the study’s architects were able to paint personality portraits of participants based on their responses to the surveys and how their responses correlated to the major fantasy themes.
Women that fantasize about scenarios involving dominance, for example, are also pretty likely to have fantasies with voyeuristic or romantic undertones. What’s more, women aroused by dominance generally experience multiple orgasms during masturbation and a high-level of satisfaction with their sex lives. They also tend to be anxious, moody, reflective, and self-centered…so there’s that.
Those that find ‘romantic’ or ‘variety’ themes arousing are connected by the common psychological thread of impulsivity. That’s about all they share. Women with romantically-charged fantasies tend to be significantly more meditative, while their voyeuristic counterparts report higher orgasm frequency with partners and through masturbation as well as low incest aversion.
Suffer fantasizers, too, aren’t all that incest-averse, though they, unlike fantasizers of any other theme, tend to be very submissive. It’s because of that submissiveness, some have argued, that some suffer fantasies may actually constitute a form of compensation for a lack of dominance: i.e. ordering boys to strip and then spanking them.
This compensation theory also holds for women with dominance-themed fantasies. As they’re characterized by a slow pace of activity, capturing men and forcing them to have sex would represent a departure from their temperament and thus a means of making up for a perceived deficiency.
As a whole, the study concluded, women that report fantasizing frequently tend to be more creative, aggressive, exhibitionist, impulsive, autonomous, dominant, and self-centered than those that don’t. What’s more, they’re usually more sexually active with partners, masturbate more frequently, and generally report greater satisfaction with their sex lives.
In the case of male participants, the study found that those turned on by force were also those likely to be aroused by themes of machismo. Interestingly enough, despite its unmistakable qualities (spanking, bondage, punishment, etc.), the force theme had no defining personality traits among respondents with which it could be associated. This, for the 50 Shades fangirls–and boys–among us, explains why Christian Grey’s personality was so hard for Anastasia to pin down.
The same could not be said for macho fantasizers. These individuals were characterized by high impulsivity and activity level–they felt the need to do things quickly–and also reported frequent orgasms during sex and from masturbation.
Also characterized by impulsivity were men that scored high on themes involving same-sex scenarios. These respondents also reported frequent masturbation and scored higher than men in other themes with respect to introspection.
Finally, the ‘Unpopular’–those largely involving urine–fantasies, aptly named for the low ‘never have I ever’ incidence of men that had experienced them, bore nothing in common in terms of characteristic traits of fantasizers of other themes. Those that did acknowledge arousal from such fantasies reported low orgasm incidence in sex and masturbation, low general activity, and low-incest aversion.
In general, the study found that men that fantasized frequently masturbated a lot, were very impulsive, and demonstrated low emotional stability–prone to moodiness and anxiety.
Y ou’ll notice a couple of things when looking collectively at male and female groups that report fantasizing frequently. For one, they masturbate a lot and tend to be a little bit unstable emotionally. Another thing you may have picked up on, though, is that the female fantasizers are much more diverse with respect to connections between personality and type of fantasy than are male respondents. Even with the significant overlap that exists within many of the female themes, there are a number of traits unique to only one fantasy–a thing, which can’t necessarily be said for male fantasies.
It’s because of this diversity that the study’s researchers proposed that there is less dependence among male sexual activity, fantasy, and personality traits than there is for females. Put another way, a woman’s sex fantasies are much more representative of who she is as a person than are a man’s fantasies.
Context changes everything. Let’s revisit those Ludacris lyrics. Even if, as the aforementioned theory claims, male personality is only loosely connected to fantasy, you can still get a decent idea of where 22-year-old Ludacris was in regards to personality and emotion, as well as what–if any–sorts of bedroom behavior he was into.
Looking merely at the verse that started this piece off, you’ll find:
7 Cases of the Variety
- “I wanna get you in the back seat, windows up” danger of being caught
- “In the garden, all in the dirt” danger of being caught
- “In the sun or up in the shade” danger of being caught
- “On the top of my Escalade” danger of being caught
- “On the ocean or in the boat” danger of being caught
- “Factories or on hundred spokes” danger of being caught
- “How about up in the candy store?” danger of being caught, also likely others watching
4 Cases of Force
- “Rip the pants and rip the shirt, rough sex make it hurt” forcing a woman to have sex/ suffer theme for women
- “Whips and chains, handcuffs, smack a little booty up with my belt” spanking a woman
- “Scream HELP, play my game” forcing a woman to have sex/ illusion of force
- “Horseback and I’ll get my reins” reins= restraining device
3 Cases of Macho
- “Maybe your girl and my friend can trade” two women exciting one man sexually
- “School teacher let me get my brains” woman forcing her intentions on me
- “Ah ah, you make it so good, I don’t want to leave!” woman screams with pleasure
1 Case of “Unpopular”
- “I wanna li li li lick you from your head to your toes” kissing a woman’s breasts (still not sure why that’s unpopular)
That’s to say nothing of the other two verses, which are loaded with innuendos that address many of the same themes as the lines from this verse.
So what does this tell us about Ludacris? Well, though it occurs most frequently, variety is a theme that was linked to women in the study rather than men. As such, any purported characteristics or practices can’t really be applied here. It is, however, curious that the next two most frequent themes found in the verse (and likely in the song) would be Force and Macho.
You’ll recall that the multi-dimensional study found that among men, the strongest correlation between themes was that found between force and macho. The same is true here as the two occur at almost the same frequency.
The force theme, you might remember, wasn’t particularly helpful in identifying specific personality traits associated with the fantasizer. The Macho theme, however, does link strongly to impulsivity, high activity level, and frequent orgasms in any and all sexual activity.
If we’re to take anything away from this, using the lyrics as an indicator, 22-year-old Ludacris was a man of the moment. If he had an urge, he’d satisfy it instantly and certainly had no qualms about getting his in the bedroom.
Circling back to the broader question: What do our fantasies tell us about our personalities? In some cases a lot, and in others, not so much. On a general level, many of the differences in fantasies are accounted for by gender, with men imaging doing things to their partners and women imagining having things done to them.
What’s more, men tend to use explicit and visual images for arousal, while women make use of emotional and romantic imagery. Further still, submission tends to be a fantasy that’s more common among women, while dominance is more unique to male fantasizers. Interestingly though, both of these types of force fantasies may indirectly be serving the same purpose: affirming sexual power (macho) in the case of men, and irresistibility (romance) in the case of women.
If we narrow things down, a fantasy can tell us a lot about what its creator is like. From self-esteem and creativity to impulsiveness and emotional stability, you can find out a lot about who your mate is as a person and what a relationship or sex with them might be like by simply looking into what turns them on. Shame we don’t start off more first date conversations with “What’s your fantasy?”