During a late-November seminar at a high school in a small Ontario town, Sue Johanson, a Toronto-based broadcaster and sex counsellor, talked with senior students about their sexual fantasies. Most of the boys were reasonably frank, she said, but many of the girls were “so embarrassed they could die.” Women who responded to the annual Maclean s/Decima poll were also much less likely than men to say that they imagined sexual encounters (question 52 in the poll text, page 32). And although poll results showed that younger women think about sex more than older women do, Johanson said that many females still have the attitude that “nice girls do not fantasize about intercourse. They are supposed to fantasize about a box of chocolates, a dozen roses and a guy saying, ‘I love you, I need you, I’ll never leave you.’ ”
Poll respondents were asked if they ever imagined having sex with a stranger, a co-worker, a close friend, someone of a different race, more than one person, or in a public place; videotaping sex; or having a homosexual affair. Fully 71 per cent of men acknowledged thinking about at least one of those situations, as did 43 per cent of women. But men and women did generally agree on which of those sexual fantasies they found most, and least, arousing. The most popular, acknowledged by about a third of respondents, were sex with a close friend, with someone of a different race and with a stranger. Least popular were videotaping sex (chosen by just one out of 10) and a homosexual affair (one out of 20).
Only 31 per cent of those polled said that they had none of the fantasies. They included two-thirds of respondents over 65. Another 12 per cent declined to respond, leaving 57 per cent overall who acknowledged imagining at least one of the sexual scenarios. That number rose to almost three-quarters in the 18-to-39 age bracket. It was also significantly higher than average among those with higher incomes and among residents of Quebec.
Men who said that they had one or more of the fantasies outnumbered women in every
age-group, but the gap narrows among younger people. Three-quarters of women and 9 out of 10 men between 18 and 24 said that they had at least one, compared with 26 per cent of women and 58 per cent of men aged 40 or above. The biggest disparity was among Canadians 60 and older. In that group, only 15 per cent of women said that they had any of the
fantasies, compared with almost half of men. But Sandra Byers, a psychology professor at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, said that those results may simply reflect older women’s reluctance to talk about the subject. She added that while “men are expected to think about sex all the time, that is not in the sexual script for women.”
But according to Coreen Stocker, a poll respondent who lives in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, those stereotypes are changing. Women “talk more about sex and they see it
more often in movies and things,” said the 26year-old hairstylist. “It is more a part of life now.” Thinking about sex is a harmless mental exercise, she said, adding that she preferred not to discuss her specific daydreams. “I do not necessarily want to do what I am fantasizing about,” she said. “It is just a fantasy, after all.” Responses differed significantly among re-
gions. Offsetting the high acknowledgments in Quebec, only 50 per cent of respondents in Atlantic Canada said that they had even one of the imagined encounters. At the other extreme, nearly 30 per cent of those polled in Toronto and 27 per cent in Quebec said that they had at least four and as many as all eight of them. Sociologist Robert Gemme, chairman of Canada’s only university sexology department, at the University of Quebec in Montreal, said that the province’s liberal sex attitudes are a result of the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. It not only removed Quebec politics from the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, but also produced an attitude that sex “was not the church’s business,” Gemme said.
The poll results also confirmed that young people enthusiastically embrace sexual fantasies. Indeed, 83 per cent of respondents between 18 and 24 said that they enjoyed at least one of the flights of fancy, and 40 per cent said that they had four to eight of them. Poll respondent Jason Gault, 19, a student and part-time restaurant cook from Barrie, Ont., north of Toronto, said that he and his friends do not talk about sexual fantasizing, but “everyone does it.” According to Johanson, younger Canadians are more comfortable with imag-
ined sex because, unlike their parents, they had sex education in schools. As well, she said, many have seen graphic sex depicted in movies and magazines. Added Johanson: “Compared to pornography, their own private fantasies are quite innocuous, quite safe, so they know it is okay to fantasize.” Concerns about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases may have inhibited many young people’s casual sex, but it has clearly not stifled their imaginations.
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