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5 Bizarre Ways the Brain Links Sex With Shame

How shameful is your sex life? More or less than you're comfortable with? What about your fantasy life? As is patently obvious, I have severe sexual dysfunctions that amuse me to no end, so recently I thought to wrap up some of you, my readers, in my own depravity by way of a sex survey and see if there's anything we can learn about sex, fantasy, and shame together in a friendly yet uncomfortable way. Does everyone feel the same way about their sexuality and sexual past? Surely not, but there must be some interesting similarities men and women share among their fantasies and reactions to them. If not, this'll be a way short article, and maybe all the ensuing paragraphs are just rants I wrote about the shoddy state of modern snack foods. When is someone going to invent a beer-filled Hot Pocket, for God's sake?

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Looks like someone ate the insides once already!

Toward the end of 2012, a curious article was published online, in various media outlets, about how sexual arousal suppresses disgust. Just hearing the words "arousal" and "disgust" was more than enough to get my attention, and the article was pretty fascinating, and also, if we're being honest with ourselves, oddly obvious. You will do things and say things in the heat of the moment that you probably are not cool with when you're riding on a city bus, or attending Mass.

The gist of the article was that, statistically speaking, there is a correlation between arousal and your willingness to do things you would otherwise deem gross. Sexually gross. Regular gross was statistically irrelevant, but sexually gross was a big deal. This no doubt explains why Gene Simmons has a sex life at all.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty

Imagine looking at this while you're naked and aroused.

So what does that mean, anyway? In the test, it meant women who were sexually aroused were more willing to put their hands in a bucket of used condoms than women who were not aroused, and, speaking as a currently not-aroused man, that's pretty gross and disturbingly creative. Good job, scientists! But obviously, for the purposes of my article, I couldn't very well carry a bucket of used jimmy hats around to see if any of you wanted a feel. Instead, I wrote a little survey, and about 90 people replied, which is a pretty decent number, I suppose. The survey asked your opinion on a number of different sexual fantasies ranging from what I felt was pretty commonplace to what was pretty insane. (Fact: Almost none of you are into bestiality. Or at least very few of you admitted it. The ASPCA thanks you.) And then I asked you about shame. Have you ever had a sexual experience you were ashamed of? What was it, and why? Let's learn some stuff together.

Women's Fantasies

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In the survey I wrote, I asked participants to rank 13 fantasies on a scale of 1 to 5. I was very vague on purpose, and just gave a one- or two-word description of the fantasy and let people have at it. Of the fantasies listed, the clear-cut winner for the nearly 50 women who answered was being dominated. About a quarter of ladies chose that as their No. 1 fantasy. On the opposite end of the spectrum? Bestiality! Man, no one likes the idea of humping a dog, with just about half of women ranking that as the least arousing. In fairness, that number should be higher, but for any survey in which people ranked more than one thing as least arousing, I chose the one they mentioned first. Is that scientific? Hell if I know.

Men's Fantasies

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The results for men were surprisingly similar to those for women. The No. 1 man fantasy was a threesome. At this point, you're probably saying, "Felix, let me bake you a nice quiche," to which I say thank you. But then you may also say, "Of course poor, predictable men want a threesome. Silly, obvious men." To that I say "Ha!" As it happens, women had threesomes ranked as No. 2, just behind domination and ranking as the top fantasy for about one-fifth of surveys, whereas it was top for one-fourth of men. And also, dog humping ranked at the bottom. This instills in me a sense of wellness, because I'd be weirded out if I had too many dog humpers as readers. I have a few, don't get me wrong, I just feel better knowing it's a minority. And that's not me being judgmental, I just feel like maybe you'd all team up and there could be some kind of Felix Clay zoophile club out there and it'd ruin my chances of running for mayor one day.

Womanly Shame

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So now we know what turns women on. What would cause them shame? If you think this article is heading toward a curious expose of dog sex, I can let you know that's not the case. As it happens, there's a very weird link between shame and fantasy, but not the one you think. While the majority of women picked domination as an arousing fantasy, the majority of shameful experiences that were shared with me also involved a degree of domination and coercion from their partner. This ranged from guys they weren't really into begging until they gave in to their partners paying or forcing them (in a more emotional rather than physical way) into doing things they didn't really want to do. Over half of the shameful experiences women told me about could be categorized that way, even though within those confines they ranged from "having sex with a guy in exchange for drugs" to "my boyfriend telling me I didn't really love him if I didn't participate in a threesome with another girl." So the common trend in most of these shameful experiences is that the dude was a dick.

Women, it seems, like the idea of being controlled, but the reality of it is never on par with the fantasy, likely because in reality you have to deal with the quirks and stupid decisions of a guy who is apparently a dick. Thus we meet the problem of reconciling fantasy with reality, because a fantasy always has you being in control, especially when the fantasy is giving up control. The reality is a whole new ballgame and probably only works with someone you really trust and have hashed this out with ahead of time.

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Felix Clay

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