Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fantasy analysis

Another paper for my sociology of sexuality class. This time the assignment was to analyze a fantasy of ours.


When I was in my teens – particularly my early teens – there was one fantasy in particular that I enjoyed. Not only did it persist longer than most of my fantasies, but it also changed subtly over time as my sexual tastes evolved and (theoretically) matured.

This fantasy is very much a fantasy – that is, it fits into the sci-fi or fantasy genres. In it, the world is not run by humans; instead, large cat-like creatures are the dominant species. Sometimes this was the result of an alien invasion, and sometimes it just always has been that way in this world – it doesn’t really matter which. Either way, the end result is that humans are the pets, while cats (or cat-like aliens, anyway) are the owners.

Naturally, the aliens want to breed their pets. In the fantasy, I am owned by a human breeder, along with several other females. Part of the fantasy is simply living the pet life – we sleep in cat beds on the floor, eat out of dishes, run around in outdoor pens, receive pats from our “masters,” and play on human-sized cat structures. Interestingly, I don’t recall any explicitly sexual fantasies involving the other females. Also, even when our ownership is the result of an alien invasion, there is never any talk or attempt of escape.

The other part of the fantasy is, of course, the actual breeding. The decision of whom I breed with is made without my input or consent; all I’m aware of is being leashed by my owner and led into a room, where I’m locked in with a strange male. He usually looks striking similar to my now-boyfriend, sans facial hair: about my height or a bit taller, wiry, with a small amount of body hair. He is usually white, though not always.

At first he and I are incredibly awkward; we have never even seen each other, except perhaps in passing, but we know that our owners are expecting us to have sex, and we will probably get rewarded if we do (and possibly punished if we don’t). We start talking, and eventually bond because of our shared awkward situation. That inevitably leads to sex.

When I first started having this fantasy, I imagined sex almost exclusively in man-on-top missionary position. However, as I got older, I started getting more imaginative and started incorporating more variety of positions, particularly “doggie-style” and other “from-behind” positions. The furnishings of the room that we were in also changed as I aged. At first, the room had very stereotypical decorations – a large four-poster bed with a canopy, candles, and tapestries on the walls. I was often “forced” to wear sexy lingerie that was inspired by the Victoria’s Secret catalogues I looked at. This was presumably because the alien breeders wanted to replicate humans’ “natural” mating environment as closely as possible. There was also no obvious sign that they were watching the man and I. As I got older, however, I largely dispensed of such trappings until it was just the man and I, completely naked except for collars around our necks, in a bare enclosure with our owners blatantly watching us the entire time.

From a feminist perspective, I think the reason that I conjured up this fantasy was because it gave me an excuse to be sexual. Hegemonic gender roles say that good women – particularly young teens, like I was when I first started having this fantasy – are not supposed to be sexual. I was very invested in being a “good girl.” I didn’t rebel against adults, I got good grades in school, and I did not outwardly express my sexuality. By setting up a situation in which I was forced to be sexual, I therefore was alleviated of any responsibility or guilt and was able to enjoy my fantasy worry-free. Conversely, as I was able to free myself from the dichotomy of “good girl = asexual/evil girl = sexual,” I no longer needed to come up with excuses for myself, and hence this fantasy eventually fell by the wayside, for the most part.

Similarly, the furnishings of my early versions of this fantasy were informed by the dominant social script regarding what is “sexy.” This script, which I learned from TV shows, movies, and aforementioned Victoria’s Secret catalogues, told me that to set the scene for enjoyable, “ideal” sex there needed to be 1) candles, 2) a large bed with plush pillows and silk sheets, preferably a four-poster bed with a canopy and curtains, 3) lacy, feminine lingerie on the woman – the man could just wear normal clothes, and 4) only man-on-top missionary position. As I got older, however, I realized this script didn’t really appeal to me, and I wasn’t actually beholden to it, either. So I discarded the environment and actions that I didn’t like and replaced it with an environment and actions that I did like, namely one that was very minimalist, even harsh, with elements of voyeurism/exhibitionism.

But I didn’t completely buck my socialization. This is evidenced first in that I never moved beyond heterosexual encounters, even though I can be attracted to women and, as mentioned before, there was certainly a possibility to incorporate a lesbian encounter into my fantasy. Secondly, the fact that I am a pet in this fantasy still fits into the dominant (i.e. sexist) romantic script in an odd way. The ideal woman in this paradigm is ultimately reduced to an object of adoration; she receives gifts, attention, and a comfortable way of life from a man in return for expressing unequivocal adoration of him. In other words, she becomes his human pet. My fantasy takes this implicit idea and made it incredibly explicit.

However, in the fantasy I have sex with another pet – a fellow object – who just happens to be male. My actual owner is an asexual presence, and is female as often as male (when their gender is specified at all). In this way my fantasy deviates from the dominant script. A feminist analysis might say this is because I want to meet someone (a man) who understands and empathizes with my experiences of discrimination and sexism; that I want to be intimate with someone on equal terms even in the face of patriarchal oppression. If we follow this line of interpretation, however, this raises the question of why I never try to escape this oppressive state. Is it because I know/think I can’t, or is it because I don’t want to?

This brings us back to the idea that this fantasy absolves me of responsibility for my sexuality. In a way, I’ve got it made in this fantasy – I get to lounge around all day, have all my food prepared for me, and get to have hot sex with various hot men. True, the point of said hot sex is to get me pregnant, which would be very unpleasant for me, but my fantasy never actually addresses that part. Thus I’m essentially having consequence-free casual sex with a stranger, which is the opposite kind of sex women are supposed to have.

I think that is why I later on included an audience in my fantasy. Despite being apparently oppressed, I’m actually flaunting many of the strictures placed on my sexuality by hegemonic society, and I want to show it off – to rub it in society’s face, as it were. My fantasy allows me to safely be deviant, using elements of the fantastical to make the scenario less intimidating in the same way “fantasy violence” is usually less frightening than depictions of actual violence. I am able to take my reality – I am a woman living in a patriarchal society, with a sexist social script thrust upon me – and twist it upon itself until I create something manageable, even empowering.

As for the cat thing… well, I’ve lived with cats since the day I was born. I just really like cats.

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