Have you ever had a sexual fantasy?
It’s a valid… albeit uncomfortable… question.
Have you ever had a sexual fantasy?
I know I have.
And I admit that at times I’ve wondered the meaning behind some of those fantasies.
So you can imagine how encouraging I find it that Christian author Shannon Ethridge has courageously dug into this topic — a topic the church has often skirted around at best and outright ignored at worst.
“The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts“ is Ethridge’s latest book, and she was kind enough to respond to my request for a copy so I could read first hand her take on this topic.
There is a lot to like about this book.
Ethridge, an acclaimed Christian author and speaker, wrote the book on the heels of the sexually-charged secular book “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But rather than dumping endless energy into vilifying “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Ethridge wisely pours herself instead into taking us to better depths.
In “The Fantasy Fallacy,” Ethridge offers a solid mix of psychology and spirituality to reveal that the two are not mutually exclusive.
What goes on in our mind — even our most baffling, frightening or arousing sexual fantasies — often has roots in past pain that only the steadfast love and hope of Jesus Christ can heal.
Honestly, that’s what this book is about. It’s about not being paralyzed in the shame and fear of skewed sexual thoughts and actions, but rather bringing them out in the light to loosen their grip on our hearts and souls.
“But regardless of how many times we’ve gotten it wrong in the past, we can allow our sexuality to be fully sanctified by our spirituality. We can develop such an overwhelming appetite for healthy fruit that forbidden fruit loses its appeal altogether.” (pg. 191)
I have no doubt that Ethridge will receive a fair amount of criticism for this book.
After all, sexual fantasy and the fallout that often goes with it is a difficult — even treacherous — reality to explore.
My optimistic hope is that Ethridge will stay the course in the face of such criticism.
She has a good track record of being brave in speaking humbly yet directly on topics where the church and society as a whole have been crippled sexually. I like that kind of courage. I like that kind of voice.
We need not look far to see that many people, including many Christians, have followed their fantasies into sexual depravity and devastation.
And even if they haven’t, they still have allowed their fantasies to take up residence in such a way that authentic God-honoring sexual intimacy is hindered and sabotaged at every turn.
With the credentials and counseling and coaching experience to back up her words, Ethridge clearly shows that our sexual thought life does not have to define us.
But more so than her professional accomplishments, I most appreciate about Ethridge her willingness to vulnerably share about her own past struggles with sexual fantasies and temptations that would have destroyed her and her marriage — had she fueled them instead of confronted them.
I absolutely love that kind of realness.
She also gives us real-life examples from many of her coaching and counseling clients (with names changed to protect their anonymity).
“So will you pay attention and watch and listen to your life’s movies? Will you accept the invitation to expose the deeper meaning behind your sexual thoughts and let them heal you rather than hurt you?” (pg 51)
She also reminds each of us that we individually hold the keys to walking in the direction of healthy sexuality.
“Fully understanding a fantasy or a particular bent toward specific images can only be accomplished by the one doing the fantasizing. A book can’t interpret your fantasies for you, but you can. You know more about yourself and your own sexual thoughts than anyone else ever will, so again, my prayer is that this book equips you with the tools you need to connect the dots, reveal the bigger picture of why you fantasize the way you do, and successfully move your mind toward the high road of recovery.” (pg. 80)
“Our painful feelings must be processed. Swept under the rug, unresolved pain multiplies exponentially, giving birth to even more overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing, depression, anger, and bitterness, which drive us toward more self-numbing activities. However, brought out into the light where it can be carefully examined and understood, emotional pain can reveal what still needs to be ‘made right’ in our minds. Embracing this healing journey can be scary at first but will eventually elicit feelings of acceptance, wholeness, gratitude, victory and even great joy.” (pg. 81)
In my opinion, there is not another book on the market right now that better delves into this matter than Ethridge’s “The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts.”
Thank you Shannon for tackling this topic with grace, courage and humble authenticity.
Let’s spread this post around, people!
Let’s be about giving voice to saving marriages, helping individuals heal deep pain, and better equipping one another to nurture healthy sexual intimacy.
Copyright 2013. Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
30 thoughts on “What You Need to Know About Your Sexual Fantasies”
Oftentimes we’re afraid to address the issue because of mental and emotional baggage that has not be reconciled; theology that is not biblically correct which advocates legalism in its approach regarding the subject; fear of embarrassment or shunning of our peers; and aversion to all matters sexual due to the societal influence that we’re all exposed to. In all the opinions and suppositions that are put forth, God’s Word still remains true. Although sex was meant to be sacrosanct, its goodness cannot be readily ignored. It’s time that we’ve gained the courage and conviction to embrace our God given design.
We are simply afraid to discuss anything sexual! Most of the time the church just tries to ignore anything to do with sex….hoping it will go away. The church world in general tends to be somewhat ignorant on the topic of sex!
I think some of it has to do with being afraid to discuss anything sexual…except for of course judging those people who we deem are doing sex “wrong.”
As with anything God created, Satan has twisted sex and everything about it into perversion. We don’t want to admit that we are sexual beings because then others will identify us with perversion and the image we think we have to portray gets tarnished.
Sexual fantasies are what we consider as “secrets”. No one else is inside your brain, so you can go wherever you want to. As a Christian, some of those thoughts might be perceived bad especially if you are thinking about someone other than your spouse. There is a fine line that needs to be drawn….it’s finding that line is the problem.
Satan often does a number on us and tries to convince us to hide in darkness. Christians are often afraid to talk about anything related to sexuality, let alone something potentially damaging and detrimental like revealing our deepest, darkest sexual fantasies. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about how these fantasies are often connected to pain and a shameful past. I know so many women who carry around sexual baggage and are afraid to really know and understand themselves sexually and what they were meant for as God designed us to be. It’s time for the Church and more people like Ethridge to take a stand and plunge into these so-called “no-no” topics to open up healthy discussion, to bring about healing, and to promote better understanding about sexuality in God’s light.
Because so often christians are afraid to talk about anything that has to do with sex. I think that pretty much all I’ve heard my whole life about the topic of sex from the church, and my family, (and I’ve gone to a baptist church my whole life, 23 years) is “don’t do it until you’re married.”
Fantasies more often than not are of Satan (porn, adultery etc). As Christians, we are afraid that taking a good look at where they come from and what is behind them, will open the door a bit wider for more evil to enter our lives. Alternatively, other Christians may be afraid to let go of a sin they enjoy too much or increasing their feelings of guilt. They want to hang on to their fantasies, no matter the cost (so they don’t want to know the cost).
Sexual addiction. A taboo subject with ruinous results when not dealt with. A man’s sexual addictions (pornography, etc) often gets the spotlight while women are left to the secrets in their minds. We read books that cross the line into straight out erotica (pictures in our head instead of on the computer screen), books that generate feeling of discontent as we fantasize about a better husband and imaginary worlds created from our own longings. All of these will erode a healthy marriage. I am so thankful for Shannon writing this book. It is so needed.
I guess my fantasy of actually having sex more than 4 times a year doesn’t count.
I think part of the reason we do not speak about anything relating to sex, especially our fantasies because we as a society are afraid of what others think about us, and so we refuse to leave ourselves vulnerable to others.
I don’t think we are really afraid as Christians of understanding what’s behind our sexual fantasies, rather we have been made to feel that it’s shameful to have thoughts that may be out of what the church deems “normal.” I feel like it’s more of a guilt thing that has been preached on all of the wrongs, rather than talked about openly. I like that she bravely tackled this topic. I can’t wait to read this book.
The teaching in the church was to not talk about sex. Mere thoughts of sex were off limits much less fantasies. Being instructed in this way, who would want to admit to fantasies much less find out the reasons behind them. “Guilt and shame” cause a lot of problems.
We are often afraid because we may be confronted with a painful truth and have to deal with it, or worse ignore it. When you boil it down, we are afraid of being ashamed, or feeling guilty and condemned by the enemy, and not walking in the trust of our Gods faithfulness to not only set free, but also to heal in love and gentlness.
we are afraid because bringing it to light seems hard. By not dealing with the root of our fantasy we pretend it doesn’t exist. in some cases not wanting to remove or change things.
We’re afraid because of what they can tell us about ourselves (sinful thoughts/attitudes), but I think they can also reflect our deep-seated longing to be genuinely loved, accepted, and desired.
This must indeed be a very interesting book; I assume it’s mostly addressing the conscious part of our mind and thoughts–something we have control over and responsibility for–as opposed to our unconscious dreams (little, if any, control).
Great post. I think our fantasies can be a reflection of the state of our relationship. If I’m fantasizing about someone other than my husband, it should be a wake up call that I need to work on my relationship!
Sexual fantasies tell me about my thoughts and attitudes. I do bring them to the Lord and most of the time share them with my spouse.
I think many times we are afraid of the unknown. Maybe these fantasies reveal a deep hurt or abuse that we have long buried in our minds, a repressed memory. Coming face to face with the past is something many of us have tried to flee especially after becoming a Christian. We would hate for our new Christian world to know our past. Likewise if we share healthy fantasy with our spouse (who should be our best friend and trusted lover) we fear their rejection and ridicule; possibly a break down of an already fragile sex life.
Very interesting. Need to read and give much thought.
Discussing sexuality, especially in church, makes people squirm. I don’t have a good answer for this, just that it’s always felt like a private matter. I personally still struggle with it and hope to grow in that area 🙂
Wow. This passage just opened up a whole new understanding of one of my own fantasies: “What goes on in our mind — even our most baffling, frightening or arousing sexual fantasies — often has roots in past pain that only the steadfast love and hope of Jesus Christ can heal.” It simply never occurred to me to ask myself *why* I had that fantasy–so thank you.
For me, not wanting to understand my fantasies as a Christian has been less about what I would discover but more about what the process of understanding would entail. How would I even go about trying to understand this fantasy (one that looks nothing like Christian marriage)? How could I even ask someone about it without becoming vulnerable to that person’s judgment about me as a Christian? And how can I try to understand the fantasy without actually thinking about it–and isn’t thinking about something sinful, on purpose, wrong? Shouldn’t I just be trying to set aside bad thoughts and try to have pure ones? But just now, reading your post, I didn’t even have to think about it intentionally. A fantasy popped into my head immediately, but this time, it was followed by questions about why and what was broken/needed healing in me–and I could see that the root issue to this fantasy is the same as something I’ve been recognizing in other parts of my life.
I already know that I fall short of what God wants me to be for Him. Intentionally looking in the mirror to see just how deeply that is true takes more courage than many of us, even Christians, have.
Great question. I suppose it just an embarrassing subject – people didn’t want to create images in others heads. I think (hope) it’s getting more into the open nowadays due to people talking more openly (esp over internet) and more research on it. Thank you for this opportunity! 🙂
Because the church for the most part has done a very good job at vilifying anything sexual without giving any clues about what is “acceptable.” You bloggers are a Godsend!!!
Marriage Bed linked to this article and I just want to say thank you. As soon as I read this I immediately bought this book on Kindle. My fiance was heavily addicted to porn in high school and college and we have been working together (and he with a therapist) to move beyond this roadblock in our relationship. I bought this book and we are reading it together as another resource for us to analyze how we are approaching our coming wedding, wedding night and life together.
Thank you for not being afraid to promote this book. These are real issues in the world and it is difficult to get Christian perspectives on it.
I’m confused. Are you saying that all fantasies are wrong and destructive or only those that involve sinful acts? Say I have a fantasy about making love with my husband on a tropical beach in the moonlight. Would the book say that was bad? Or is it just talking about fantasies that involve threesomes, or Ryan Gosling, or something of that ilk? 🙂
@Anonymous… thanks for the comment… No, the book does not say all fantasies are bad. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with fantasizing about your husband on a beach… great fantasy! The book does a good job of equipping people to understand their sexual thoughts, not only the God-honoring ones, but also the ones that we would consider sinful or skewed sexuality. It helps people see that they do not have to be paralyzed in shame about sinful fantasies, but rather recognize that more often than not, those fantasies are rooted in pain of the past that only the love of Christ can truly heal.
I definitely think it’s a well-rounded book.
I, too, have been concerned over our fantasies with our spouses. My desire is for my wife alone, and that includes detailed fantasies that spark and sustain interest and sexual desire.
At our senior age, it seems to be of critical importance, esp for the male (initiator).
I just read your cmt above; not sure I follow your mention of “shameful and sinful fantasies” involving our wives??
Fairly new book on the market called “God loves sex” a new commentary on the Song of Solomon.
More follow-up would be helpful on proper use of our imaginations and fantasies in marriage directed toward our spouses.