My lover says he likes the idea of me having sex with other men, but that he thinks it means he doesn’t truly love me and that we should stay in a casual relationship rather than a committed one. Even though logically I know his desires are normal, and that many people have these kinds of fantasies, it bothers me, too. My emotional brain says he doesn’t care enough to want me to himself. Are we doomed to remain fuck-buddies?
Firstly, let me assure you (and him) that you are correct: his fantasy of you having sex with other men is perfectly normal. In fact ‘cuckolding’ (the term used when men fantasise about their female partners having sex with other men) is one of the most common male fantasies.
There are many theories about why cuckold fantasies are so prevalent. Some argue it is about humiliation: the desire to see a partner with someone who offers something they cannot. Others theorise it taps into aspects of male bonding, emphasises a woman’s desire for sex (not just sex with her partner), and is a way to transform anxieties about infidelity into something the fantasiser can control. The most well researched hypothesis is that cuckold fantasies have an evolutionary purpose, as they appear to stimulate sperm production.
It is also quite common for people to feel conflicted about the themes of their fantasies. They may fantasise about cheating, having sex with inappropriate partners, engaging in power play or humiliation, or any number of erotic themes that run counter to their ‘logical’ brains and ’emotional’ desires. And not everyone wants to act on his or her fantasies. An example of this would be someone having a rape fantasy who does not want to be raped in real life.
Part of the conflict for someone who has a cuckold fantasy is that it runs counter to our hetero-normative sexual scripts, where heterosexual men are encouraged to feel dominant and able to satisfy a partner. We also place great stock in fidelity and monogamy, and in many cultures, punish women for engaging in sex outside the confines of a relationship.
That your lover’s fantasies tap into insecurities and questions about commitment (rather than questions of his role as a hetero-normative male) may simply reflect our monogamy-centric culture. It can be difficult to uncouple the learned connection between monogamy and our relationship worth when we grow up saturated with messages that if our partner truly values us they won’t be attracted to someone else. Similarly we absorb that acting on an outside attraction is a relationship-extinction-level event, so when a partner tells us they like the idea of us having sex with someone else, it is naturally going to hurt. It runs counter to everything we have learned about romantic love and relationship commitment.
The good news is, it is possible to stand back and examine
a) the themes of your fantasies, and
b) what monogamy means to you both.
Accepting and incorporating your core erotic themes into your sex life (whether in real life or as fantasy) can be extremely liberating. Exploring what monogamy means to you and scrutinizing the source of your jealousies and insecurities is something I think everyone should do. If the idea of non-monogamy is raising insecurities, this is the perfect prompt to examine your self-esteem, as you are likely to experience the same feelings in a monogamous relationship.
So are you doomed to remain fuck-buddies? Let me ask you this: if you take away this fantasy and the problems that appear to arise from it, would you be asking the same question?
If the answer is no, then you both have some work to do. Is this a fantasy that you want to incorporate into your sex life? Is it something you want to act on or keep as a fantasy? Do you need to establish boundaries around it? Do you have underlying insecurities to work through individually and as a team to make sure you each feel secure? Are you sexually compatible?
If the answer were yes, without this fantasy-non-monogamy challenge, you probably wouldn’t be in a relationship, then consider whether a fuck-buddy is what you want right now, or if it is better to cut and run.
Best of luck,