AROUSAL by Michael J. Bader


The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies
Email this review


An insider's look at what goes on behind the scenes of our desires.

Drawing on more than 20 years' experience as a psychoanalyst and therapist, Bader attempts to provide a useful guide for both the layperson and clinician regarding the meaning and purpose of our erotic daydreams and sexual fantasies, the “theatrical” setting for arousal. Noting the high number of Americans who purport to be dissatisfied in the bedroom and citing his patients' case histories, he contends that despite the relative permissiveness and hedonism of our culture, guilt and worry still hold sway. The cornerstone of Bader's theory is his contention that the primary concern of our unconscious minds is our physical and psychological safety. In this context, one's fantasy life becomes a sort of “canary in the mine” indicating either a healthy or oppressive atmosphere. Sexual fantasies, which he equates with sexual preferences, set and maintain these safe conditions, thereby permitting arousal. The real source of problems both in and out of the bedroom, as Bader sees it, are the pathogenic beliefs we hold and act upon. (“Sex begins in the mind and then travels downward,” he declares.) These beliefs comprise our views of reality as seen through the distorting lens of childhood shame, rejection, and helplessness, which lead to sexual inhibitions and a whole array of self-defeating behavior. Approached in this manner, bondage, group sex, voyeurism, fetishism, gang rape, asphyxiation, and the many other consensual “roles” Bader touches on, become the imaginary means to a pleasurable end. Sexual fantasy becomes “a sign of health, a way to solve problems,” so-called “kinky” scenarios simply implying a more convoluted route to safety.

Calling such strategies “logical” may be overstating his case, but Bader's treatise does cast light on the murky and largely unexamined question of why sexual fantasies turn us on.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26933-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2001


by Ogi Ogas