Perversion or Evolution: What is a Sexual Fantasy
According to modern genetics, non-monogamy and the diversity of sexual preferences have been embedded in human genes for the last 200,000 years of our species’ existence. When it comes to sexual health, countless theories exist as to why various types of sexuality — all predetermined by nature — coexist.
Today, let’s look at the scientific role that kinks and fantasies play in each person’s individual sexuality.
Perversion vs. norm: what are kinks?
The science of sexology emerged in the early 1900s. From the very beginning, some sexologists noticed that the arousal of observed individuals was triggered not only by a certain person and their genitals, but also by the erotic context of events, individual body parts or objects. These observations have developed into the various opinions that sex therapists hold about kinks.
One of the doctrines — the “Freudian”, authored by Alfred Binet — relies upon the idea that all cases of kinky excitement (i.e. arousal induced by something other than partners’ genitals) result from childhood traumas, and defines kink as a substitution for genital images and sexual intercourse.
This idea, however, has been cast into doubt by sexologists’ current research. This research was advanced at the Altsex NYC conference, in the reports “Kink is Good: BDSM in the Context of New Models of Sex and Gender Variance” by Margaret Nichols, Ph.D., and “The Kink-Poly Confluence: Community Intersections and Clinical Approaches” by Dulcinea Pitagora, Ph.D. In their given presentations, the speakers debunked the myth that a kink is just a consequence of childhood traumas and proposed the idea that fantasies comprise a stage of sexuality development; in fact, they’re a crucial element of one’s natural growth.
These ideas appear to have much in common with the “theory of intermedial sexual stages (Zwischenstufentheorie)” (1920), developed by sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. The theory treats sexual desire as something referring not to people in general but resulting from the unique interaction between a situation and one’s individual, specific traits. Hirschfeld found individual sexual interests to be a norm that is inherent to all human beings. Ninety years later, the idea has found its place in modern sexology.
Genetic non-monogamy of Homo sapiens
Contemporary scientific thought dictates that our sexual behavior is driven by evolutionary instincts, which were triggered by the environmental conditions that primitive forms of humanity lived under. After the dawn of agriculture, the onset of the private property era (10,000 years ago) forced humans to begin fighting over resources, which restrained women’s abilities to take care of themselves. This is where the “sex in exchange for food” strategy of sexual conduct stems from.
However, some scientists, like Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, speak out against what others consider groundbreaking information. They have developed these views in their book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality and enunciated them in their TED reports. Their criticism stems from their analysis of the pre-agricultural period, a 200,000-year timespan when the “sex in exchange for food” strategy was inappropriate: people were living in groups of 100-150 members, making the survival of a group more important than that of a single individual. This harmony of interests implied the distribution of food and resources among all group members — they were all taking care of each other. Therefore, if we consider the history of mankind before the 10,000-year milestone, we might find that generosity and egalitarianism have been forming our genes much longer than private property.
A similar type of relationship can be observed in Нomo sapiens’ close “relatives” — bonobos. By having sex with those they are sexually attracted to, these primates set a complex system of interrelations within the group. This form of group interplay has resulted in the absence of aggression as well as intra-clan or inter-clan wars between bonobos. Meanwhile, historians have confirmed that the wars within our own species, similar to conflicts between the sexes, have emerged only after the advent of private property.
There’s another secret that the “sex in exchange for food” theory doesn’t explain: why would manifold and complex sexuality need to exist in the pre-agricultural period, when gatherers were already sharing food with all group members, regardless of sexual activity? This irrationality gives scientists the right to advance new assumptions and search for variants of sexuality development within the general framework of man evolving into a creative, mindful and happy individual.
Modernity allows a woman to be sustainably self-sufficient and independent, no longer reliant on men to harvest her crops. Yet evolution is a complex and lengthy process, and recent decades of advancement in gender equality have not yet managed to affect human genes. Many people still internalize the belief that loving their partners and simultaneously desiring others is abnormal at best and outright wrong at worst — this assumption destroys relationships between loving couples.
Today, people have countless opportunities to abandon the conventionalities that have been locked into human existence for millennia. Isn’t it at least a little questionable — if not strange — to adhere to rigid morality systems that date back to the Middle Ages: to follow desire with shame and fret about whether your behavior pleases your spouse/neighbors/religion/overlord? Taking a woman as property, banning her from fulfilling her desires and regulating her sexual behavior seems questionable as well, yet people continue to do so.
Dozens and dozens of generations have lived and died since the Middle Ages. And now, as people who are finally learning to refute a resource-like attitude to sex and sexuality, we can establish a new approach to sexual behavior, one that considers sex a gateway to experiencing new states.
Which sexual fantasies are considered a disorder?
As of today, the only true authority on the question of disorder vs. norm is the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO, arousal from recalling or observing one’s favorite kink, sexual fantasy or fetish is a norm that can be classified as a disorder only if the fulfillment of said fantasy causes pain and suffering to the self or associates, or if it becomes the only possible way to attain sexual discharge. In those instances, it is no longer a kink but a perversion, carried out not by a kinkster but by a pervert. Learn more about fantasies & kinks in the article List of Kinks and Their Definition: Real Stories Analysis.
Causing moral or physical pain or harm to people around you is a sign of perversion. The WHO’s description implies an absence of mutual consent. This lack of consent is why voyeurism and exhibitionism have been classified as perversions: it is not being caught naked that delights the exhibitionist, but disgusting and shocking an audience.
Psychology and sexology also consider it unhealthy for a person to be fixated on a single kink, causing their sexuality to become uniform and stagnant. Humans are evolving creatures. As such, our needs should develop and change during our lifetimes. Our sexual displays should become more complex and sophisticated, layered with aesthetics as well as pleasure.