Dear Dr Schwartz,
I am a devoted husband and father in my late-30s. My sexual fantasies have always been mostly 'vanilla' in content, but from the age of 7 or 8, I also had dark ones involving women being beheaded. It was never the pain aspect of it, and in the fantasies it was sometimes almost 'consensual' - it was the 'apprehension' and 'peril' of the situation for the woman that aroused me. I know that doesn't make sense, but it was, after all, a fantasy.
In real life, I am a gentle, sensitive person and the thought of hurting or dominating anybody at all in real life horrifies me. That makes this fantasy even more bewildering. In my youth my dark fantasy never worried me as it had always been a small part of me, and I always knew that I had never - and would never want to - hurt anybody or anything. That is not why I am contacting you.
I am contacting you because of the huge guilt and anxiety that I now feel about ever having those fantasies. I viewed porn in my late-20s and early-30s. It was mostly regular stuff - but I also explored this dark fantasy. I never joined or paid for anything, but looked at free images, like on extreme BDSM sites acted by models, photo-manipulations, stills from movies. I was still sometimes viewing this after I had met my wife - nothing too obsessive, but there were occasions when I could have been at home with her instead. I have not viewed porn (vanilla or otherwise) for years now, and as I have got older the dark fantasies rarely surface any more. But I am now haunted with guilt and shame that I ever thought them, and that I viewed porn to aid those fantasies - or indeed any porn for that matter - whilst in the early years of my relationship.
There has been much in the media in recent years about violent fantasies and porn, and it is this that has made me to wake-up to how inappropriate I have been. I have read a bit about the psychology of fantasies, and am partly reassured that some psychotherapists report that many well-balanced people have dark fantasies - some experiencing anxiety about them - but I never know if they mean fantasies as dark as mine. I mean, seriously? Other commentators say that people with dark fantasies are sick and evil. But I didn't get to choose what arouses me (did they get to choose?).
One other thing to mention is that I often experience mild OCD-type symptoms, that seem to peak around times of stress. Starting at the age of about 8 (around the time of my parents' divorce), I have felt compelled to do things in even numbers, blink excessively, and I now over-check things. I don't know if it is actually OCD, and am not suggesting that it is responsible for my dark fantasies (as I thought about them voluntarily), but it may be contributing to why I constantly 'mentally beat myself up' over my situation.
Am I sick and evil? Does my wife deserve to know about all my fantasies (dark or otherwise), and my past porn use so that she can make up her own mind? I even feel guilty that I am contacting you for advice without her knowledge, and feel that I have 'stained' our marriage. I would love to be able to open up to her and share with her about the anxiety that I am feeling, but I fear her rejection. Is that fair to her? I have considered talking to a professional about why I have sometimes been so anxious in my life (and wonder if CBT would help), but would not really want to discuss my innermost fantasies, especially if you think there is not an issue.
I would appreciate any clarity you could give to my situation as I am just too anxious about it all. I just want to get back to enjoying life with my lovely wife and kids.
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