The XX Factor

My Made-Up Lover: Marshall, the Hydro-Geologist

Welcome to the “Desire Lab.” The blog is designed to be one part personal confession, one part scientific research. It will be moderated by Daniel Bergner, who wrote this fabulous New York Times Magazine story, “What Do Women Want ?,” which he is now turning into a book.

Daniel, the author of three award-winning books of journalism, will regularly ask a question inspired by the current explorations of sex researchers and by your contributions. We invite you to send him candid, thorough answers to . The identities of everyone who writes in will be kept secret. Consider the blog a place to safely explore passions and lusts, longings, and ideas.


This is one of many responses to his initial question: What role does sexual fantasy play in your life? Some researchers say that erotic fantasy does not play a major part in women’s lives. Little is truly known. How often-and when-do you fantasize about sex? What are the fantasies? How long do they last? We at DoubleX hope you will get deeply into the details. Understanding lies in such depth.


To see his follow-up question click here .

Sexual fantasy plays a central role in my life, since I’m not sexually active. Much to my chagrin and frustration, my husband of six years, who was never all that horny to begin with, has lost all his desire for intimate physical relations. I therefore have to satisfy myself, but since I share a bed every night with someone who is not available as a partner, and I work all day either at the office or caring for my young kids, there is no opportunity for me to act on my desires-not even by myself. So I think about them instead.

I fantasize about sex daily. If sexual desire builds up long enough, I will have dreams at night that at least allow me to achieve orgasm, even if I’m not fully conscious for it.

I sometimes think about sex when I’m sitting alone in my cubicle with not enough to do. Sometimes in the car during my commute. But usually it’s when I’m lying in bed, just before falling asleep or just as I’m waking up.

My fantasies are sometimes fleeting sexual thoughts: masturbatory devices I’ve seen and am curious about; pornographic scenes I wish I could watch. But sometimes they’re more intense and long-lived. Once I had a three-month affair where I experienced all the sensations of giddy infatuation with a completely made-up character. He had the face of an actor I saw in an in-flight movie while on a business trip … I imagined him to be another guest at my Vietnamese four-star hotel. It sounds so pedestrian when I describe it, but at the time it was wildly romantic and engrossing: His name was Marshall, and he was a divorced hydro-geologist for Bechtel, bidding on infrastructure development for HCMC ports. Boring, right? But I fell in love with him! We ate together, stayed up late talking and drinking Hennessey from the business lounge bar, then accidentally-on-purpose falling into bed together, after which we got up the nerve to take a weekend trip to Hue which was pure heaven. After we both returned to the States, he surprised me by showing up for a visit and we-illicitly, guiltily-continued our affair in my home town for another couple of weeks. After which we broke up and moved on. Hey, it gave me something to think about, something to look forward to, someone (even a make-believe friend) to dress well for when I left the house each day.

I can generalize and say that my sexual fantasies most often involve a man who desires me. That’s the single biggest, most irresistibly sexy turn-on I can imagine … that hot, lingering stare from a man who thinks I am magnificent, and who can’t wait to get his hands on my naked body. If it’s not a months-long affair with Marshall, it’s a weeklong storyline starring a TV show character, or Mr. Darcy, or a casual acquaintance from a rec league sports team. The unifying theme among the objects of my sexual fantasies is that I am THEIR object of desire.