email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
Between 2003 and 2006, Brett Kahr administered some 24,000 surveys (approx.) to British and American subjects, to collect and study their sexual fantasies. Who's been sleeping in your head? reports on the results of these surveys and presents Kahr's psychological analysis. The main data collection was done through computer and internet sites in successive stages, beginning with an initial pilot survey, followed by a primary survey of British subjects and then a smaller survey (approximately one sixth of total) of American subjects. In addition, the computerized surveys were supplemented by in-depth interviews, each lasting five hours, with 132 British subjects. This provided Kahr with a body of about 20,000 fantasies with which to work. In addition to sexual fantasy content, considerable data on sexual history, family history and current living conditions were collected as well. A large portion of the book is taken up with directly reporting a selection of the fantasies as recorded, by simply listing them with little analysis. Some fantasies taken from the interviews, however, were subjected to close and detailed analysis.
Kahr divides his material into four parts. Following a description of the survey's methodology and a brief historical review of the psychology of sexuality in the first part, the second part provides a categorization of the various fantasies by their salient content. This range of categories is more or less what you might expect: fantasies of threesomes, of sex with celebrities and persons other than one's current partner, of homosexual encounters (by heterosexuals) and heterosexual encounters (by homosexuals), of violent sex, of sex with minors, of incestuous sex, of exhibitionism, and of humiliation and degradation in a sexual context. It is in this part that the lists of fantasies are mainly found.
The third part of the book is where Kahr presents his analysis of the phenomena of sexual fantasy and comes to some conclusions about the origins and psychological function of sexual fantasy. Taking a lead from the sadistic and masochistic content of many fantasies, Kahr probes his interview subjects for details of their personal histories that might account for this content. This leads him in virtually every case examined to some childhood trauma, often of a sexual nature but sometimes not. This would have to be his overall conclusion, though he lists a number of other possibilities: sexual fantasies, he suggests, might serve as wish-fulfillment, rehearsal for action, defense against intimacy, avoidance of painful realities and several more. But apart from a brief nod to wish-fulfillment, the focus of his analysis is almost exclusively on trauma. Indeed, the final chapter of this part is sub-titled "Can fantasies be trauma-free?"
In the fourth part, Kahr addresses some questions about the 'real world' effects of sexual fantasy and gives his more general conclusions on the nature of sexual fantasy: what is normal, what purpose they serve, whether they are a prelude to action, what unusual or ordinary fantasies say about us as persons. Based on his interviews, Kahr pays special attention to what one might conclude about the questions of whether fantasies might undermine our relationships and what should be regarded as perversion.
Neither too technical nor overly formal, Kahr's book makes an approachable read, open to virtually any audience. Given the popular level at which it is pitched, it is unlikely to serve well as a text book, or more generally, in an academic context, but Kahr has no doubt published his results more formally elsewhere. Overall, the lay-reader should find this an informative read.
That said, however, Who's Been Sleeping in Your Head? does not really distinguish itself beyond modest success as a work of popular psychology. While it may be true that sexual fantasy is an under-studied subject in psychology, the present book does not break any new ground or reveal any original truths about fantasy, and indeed, seems somewhat dated in its theoretical approach. Though neither of these concerns is particularly damning, the latter is of greater importance to the study's worth as a contribution to psychology, while the former limits the book's interest as a revelation of the nature of sexuality.
Despite occasionally implying that some of the content will shock the reader, Kahr does not present anything that has not already appeared in commonly available media, such as the television program "Kink" or a sex column like Dan Savage's "Savage Love". Never mind furtive fantasists – in such places, one is introduced to people happily (and unhappily) acting out stronger content than found in Kahr's book. Laura Kipnis's Against Love provides a much more probing examination of the problems sexuality causes in our relationships than Kahr's reflections in the fourth part of his book. The Sexual Life of Catherine M., by Catherine Millet, is a far more intense psychological study, albeit introspective and idiosyncratic, than any of Kahr's analyses. Next to the sort of thing that is available to virtually everyone on the internet, the book is pretty bland fare.
Of course, this is a pretty trivial complaint. (Perhaps I have simply got what I deserve for choosing review books by their titillation value.) Fair enough, but Kahr is writing for a popular audience, and he should be aware what such an audience is likely to expect.
More significant is our second complaint. Early in the book, Kahr professes an admiration for Freud, and proceeds to employ a psychoanalytic framework (augmented by later psychoanalysts) to analyze the fantasies of his interview subjects. While briefly noting the recent misfortunes of Freudian psychology, he nevertheless plows on to apply the framework almost exclusively. Hence the principal thing we learn here is that sexual fantasy is not about sex at all, but rather the working out of fundamental childhood conflicts, especially of a traumatic nature. Otherwise, fantasy is a form of wish-fulfillment, though, strangely, the wishes being fulfilled seem to be only coincidently sexual. Although he gives a list of fourteen functions sexual fantasy might fill, none but these two play any role in his analyses. In case after case, he works out essentially the same logic and arrives at the same diagnosis. Freud may be one of the most important contributors to the psychology of sexuality as Kahr says, but the predictable results leave one wondering if we couldn't just do something else now.
© 2008 George Williamson
George Williamson, University of Saskatchewan