It was just over three years ago that I met one of Sasha’s best friend, Alexandra. We got on well, just as I have with all of Sasha’s friends, but this has also turned into a professional relationship as she has provided the core content of the book, Alexandra, a collection of women’s erotic fantasies.
Like Sasha, Alexandra is a photographic model, but this is not her main profession. In her normal working day, she is a psychologist. I am fascinated talking to psychologists as the working of the mind attracts me, but Alexandra was particularly interesting because of her speciality.
Alexandra is an expert in female erotic and sensual fantasies. The collaboration was born.
As we talked, I asked if we could turn her case studies into a book and, of course, the answer was an emphatic, no. Like all medical professionals, there is a strict ethical code around clinical confidentiality.
I remember as she said ‘however’. My interest perked. ‘However, there may be a way.’ she said.
We came to an arrangement that meant that Alexandra was going to take all her cases, mix in her own experiences, consolidate some, change locations, anonymise everything, and then I could take them, to turn into a book. And that was how I bought the raw outlines of a book, ready to edit.
There was a lot of work to do. I decided that it would read far better with just a single, central character and of course it had to be Alexandra, herself. It gives the book a narrative trail and makes for a far easier read. It was also one more mask to preserve the worrisome confidentialities.
The editing task was not as easy as I thought it would be. This was a book about women and there was a great deal of debate between myself, Alexandra, and Sasha. I would write one of what turned into 58 short stories and send it off only for it to be returned with corrections. This normally meant removing any male prejudices I had written in.
But we got there and Alexandra is now published.
Of course, I am telling you all this to titillate and hope that you will be interested to buy and read it. Let me direct you to the website www.AlexasFantasies.com
However, there is a wider motive in today’s piece.
Writers of fiction and I now class myself as one, live in a world of fantasy and according to President Trump with his cries of fake news, so does every journalist. When I write all that I do is describe what is in my mind. I can see the action unfolding and just wish my typing fingers could keep up with the action. I am just chronicling the fantasy.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t daydream part of their life away. On another day I described how I imagine and envision upcoming meetings as part of a planning and rehearsal process. I close my eyes and, stretching the definition of the word, fantasise an outcome.
Similarly, there were many headlines I could have chosen. This one was from The New York Times in 2014: Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training. Imagining is at the core of elite athlete training. This is again no more than fantasising.
But, there is a dark side. These last few months have seen a storm of sex scandals across a range of industries from film producers, actors, and lately the charity and voluntary sector. At the heart of all of those are men, in the majority, who have turned fantasies into a warped reality. Well, that is the presumption. We will never know if they sat in their offices with these fantasies or acted on impulse.
While working on Alexandra I researched how important fantasies are to us. For once I am not going to bore you with a history from Freud to postmodern psychological interpretations but ask the simple question: are fantasies best left to be enjoyed as a daydream or are they the spur to achieve and be fulfilled?
Alexandra is equivocal, and rightly so.
We were sitting in a quiet café in Kiev when we chatted just a couple of weeks ago. She pointed me to the awful global stories of sexual harassment. ‘Those men require help,’ she said. ‘And then there are those who are delusional and have deep psychosis. You could say the schizophrenic has fantasies. These people need treatment and not encouragement to fulfil their fantasies.’
Let me make one point very clear immediately. I am an avid supporter of the #MeToo movement proving we must be careful what stays in the fantasy world and what crosses over into the real.
‘But,’ she added, ‘For Mr and Mrs Normal, people like you and Sasha, people like me, there can be great benefit from living out some fantasies. So long as they are bound within safe limits and don’t draw in other reluctant people, they can be good.
‘Sensual fantasies are best when they are shared with your partner. They encourage communication in the relationship and that is always good.’
On the Alexandra website, we have launched a survey of sensual fantasies (sorry to all my male readers it is only for women although you can see the results). Of course, it is a pre-selected group but 90% of women say that they sometimes, mostly, or always share their fantasies with their partner.
Gender stereotyping had me believing that the world of erotic fantasy was predominately a male preserve. Not so. An evening spent with Sasha and Alexandra quickly taught me otherwise. Reading the stories Alexandra sent, convinced.
‘Women have been repressed in their sexuality, but it has changed,’ Alexandra said. ‘They now feel empowered to say what they want and one of the problems is that not all men recognise it. That is one of the tensions in a relationship.’
Fantasies are not a subject we discuss. In a recent survey, 61% of respondents said that even though they talk about their fantasies, they feel there’s a public stigma.
I don’t want to draw far-reaching conclusions. I can happily leave that to you. The book, Alexandra, is nothing more than a good, late night read for both men and women but behind it are some deeper thoughts about our society and relationships.
I was just the editor and I will leave the last words to its author.
‘If I was going to offer any advice to you and Sasha,’ she said, ‘I would tell you to explore all the sensual and erotic fantasies you have. Talk about them. Communicate. Decide where the limits are and work to those limits. Plan carefully and talk, talk, talk. It will bring you closer. It will build your relationship.’