Q: Am I normal?
A: We often get this question or some form of it at our phone switchboard.
Unfortunately, “normal” is a term that is so subjective as to be pretty much useless. So, let’s look at a couple of other ways of phrasing the question.
If you mean, “Do other people fantasize about (or engage in) what you do?”, the answer is almost assuredly yes. The odds are really good that other people have already done whatever it is you’re thinking about doing — no matter what it is you’re thinking about!
If you mean, “Is this a common practice?” or “Does most of the population do this or fantasize about doing this,” that’s a harder question. It’s hard to get reliable information about what sexual behavior, and even harder to find out about fantasies. Yes, sex researchers conduct surveys, but sex is a very personal matter and people are not completely forthcoming about their sexual behavior and fantasies. In general, a lot of fantasies and practices are more common than you might guess.
However, we at SFSI believe that worrying about what’s normal or commonplace isn’t useful or productive. Instead of worrying about what things other people do or don’t fantasize about or engage in, we suggest concentrating on what you and/or your partner enjoy. This is especially true for fantasies. So long as the fantasy remains in your head, it’s strictly your business. If it turns you on to think about it, great!
A side note: if you want to move out of the realm of fantasy and start thinking about making your fantasies real, you need to look at something very important: consent. If the sex practices you want to engage in involve other people, you need to get their consent before you engage in them. For example, let’s say you’ve been fantasizing about having anal sex with your partner. Before trying it, first talk to your partner and find out if he or she is also interested.
For more information…
The following books discuss some of the many things that men and women fantasize about (and do):
- My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday (Simon & Schuster, 1973).
- Men in Love by Nancy Friday (Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1980).
- The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin (Harper, 1995).
- The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex by June Reinisch (St. Martin’s Press, 1990)
Q: What is the age of consent?
A: From a legal point of view, it varies from country to country, and in the United States even from state to state. It can even vary based the biological sex of the people involved (male-male contact versus male-female contact). There is an excellent on-line guide at AgeOfConsent.com which we sometimes use for reference. Disclaimer: we are NOT lawyers, and neither are the webmasters of that site. If you have questions about laws in your area, consult a lawyer familiar with your local laws.
From an ethical point of view, it’s tougher to establish exactly what the age of consent is because it’s tough to establish how to demonstrate that someone is able to give consent. SFSI has a policy of supporting all lifestyles that are consensual. And children do in fact, have their own sexuality. There’s even evidence of babies masturbating in the womb.
One might therefore think that we’d support your possible sex with your friend, as long as there’s no coercion. But consent isn’t as simple as the absence of coercion. Consent involves making decisions based on the ability to understand the present meanings and future consequences of our actions.
Obviously, young children are incapable of doing this, and are therefore incapable of giving consent. And very often there’s a power differential between adults and children. If, for instance, an adult who wants to be sexual with a child also controls the child’s access to food, housing, medical care and education, then wouldn’t that contaminate any consent given?
But about your particular friend? Is he/she mature enough to give consent? And if not, at what age will he/she be? Indeed, a quick look at the world reveals plenty of forty year olds who aren’t terribly good at making wise personal decisions.
We as a culture have decided that at a certain point, we’re just going to cut a person loose and and say, hey, you’re old enough to be responsible. In the state that SFSI is (California, USA), that age is eighteen, but that could change. As a society, we pick an age, and live with an imperfect solution.
In your case, what should you do? Well, as the older person in the situation (and perhaps the only adult in the situation?), you may have added responsibility to consider and understand the long term consequences for you both. For instance, if you know that what you’re considering is a felony, you’d both have to put a lot of energy into keeping it a secret. How would that change your life and her life?
More to the point, how could it affect his/her necessary growth into a healthy adult? What if you’re found out? Yes, you’d end up in court, if not in prison.
If he/she is below the age of consent, the authorities are unlikely to allow your partner to define her situation and find her own coping mechanism. Many cultures are guaranteed to jump in and non-consensually define her as a victim, whether he/she feels this is so or not, and try to force him/her into the same belief system. How would this effect his/her life?
You may also consider that if someone verbally giving consent may not be considered consent to that person’s family, that person’s church, that person’s community. And 5 years or 10 years from now, even that same person might change their mind about their own ability to give consent right now!
Then there are the things you may have considered already: what about safer sex? Birth control? The possibility of physical damage if her body’s not mature enough?
It’s fine to be attracted to anybody. In fact, our clothing and perfume advertisements actively promote pedophillic fantasy (although they hire platoons of Public Relations people to deny it), but as you can see from what I’ve said, I think we need to look at how our actions could effect our lives. Everything we do builds a world; what kind of world do we want to create?
If we wanted to create a culture in which being sexual with children was healthy, we’d have to start by creating a culture in which children’s feelings are respected, supported and validated. And clearly we’re not ready to do that.
It would be great to everyone take a long look at our beliefs surrounding children and sex. Unfortunately, there’s far too much hysteria to have a meaningful conversation with many people on the subject right now. But for those of us who can talk about it, we can work to build an environment in which children have the love and support to define their sexuality for themselves.
As for your current situation, you will have to make the decision yourself based on your understanding of all the issues involved, all the risk involved, all the ethical issues involved, your understanding of your responsibilities, and your partner’s understanding of all these issues.
For more information: