“Welcome,” the woman says. “We’re delighted you’ve decided to join us. How was your journey?”
“Fine,” I say, “a bit tiring.”
“I can imagine, London’s a world away from us! Let me show you to your room.”
She leads me upstairs and into a loft room that’s a melange of old beams, antiques and tapestries. Sunlight streams through stained glass windows, forming painterly puddles on the bedspread. In the corner is a carved oak desk, simply adorned with a jug of bluebells and a decanter of red wine.
“It’s perfect,” I say.
As she shuts the door behind her, I throw open the windows and look out over the grounds. It’s a beautiful day – warm and green and floral. I can hear birds singing and, faintly, the sound of women having sex somewhere in the wildflowers. I smile. Time to explore.
Before anyone gets excited (or traumatised), no I have not taken to frequenting sex retreats in the hope of finding my future girlfriend squatting naked behind a mulberry bush. This is a fantasy of mine, one of several in fact given that it combines expensive hotels, sunshine, wildflowers, sex, nicely designed furniture and complimentary drinks.
I mention this because recently a friend shared an ethical quandary with me. She’s bisexual, married to a man and has a lifelong love of steamy novels – particularly those of the vampire persuasion in which you’re never sure if someone’s going to eat you, or, well, eat you.
“I still love them,” she said, “but I feel bad reading the lesbian ones.”
“Because I’m married to a man it doesn’t feel right somehow. If a hot man comes on the telly and I go all droolly he’ll say, ‘Look, I’m right here!’ but if it’s a woman he doesn’t say anything.”
“Do you think it bothers him?”
“No, not really. I don’t know why I feel so weird about it.”
I used to find the prospect of my partners having fantasies threatening. Where were they going and why couldn’t I come – in all senses of the word? I wanted to be the centre of their sexual universe, the sun around which all their needs and desires revolved.
I’ve since realised that what makes fantasies exciting is precisely what makes them so unachievable in real life. This is made to measure pleasure, carefully edited and artfully draped to conceal all the awkward, ugly bits.
No one accidentally jabs you in the boob or goes down on you as you’re furiously controlling a fart. There are no leg cramps or miss kisses or missed orgasms. You can fast forward or rewind or replay bits over and over as often as you like and the actors making a cameo appearance – whether ladies or gentlemen – are nothing more than hazy apparitions flickering in and out of shot.
Fantasies are nothing more than a production or an illusion, a bit of fun that bears no reference or relevance to our real sex lives. So fill yer boots, I say. Let your imagination run riot and then come home to the centre of your real-life sexual universe. Because one thing I will say about fantasies is that no matter how stunning the locales or how varied the sexual partners, none of it can ever compare to the real deal – even when it accidentally jabs you in the boob.