Speaking the unspeakable (redux)

Three and a half years ago, I wrote this, after attending a bar mitzvah. It was, by far, the most controversial post I’ve ever written.

Recently, I attended another bar mitzvah, and at this one, found myself confronting differently transgressive, but no less complicated, fantasies.

Among the guests at this event was a young woman – an adult, legally. But also, the daughter of a man I’ve known since I was seven. A woman I held in my arms less than 24 hours after her birth.

It makes me feel icky to try to describe her, because the only way I know how would read like a paean, and I can’t possibly allow myself to write a paean to this woman. Suffice it to say, her physical appearance – and in particular, the black choker around her neck – presented a monumental challenge to my concentration.

If I could control my thoughts, I would not have fantasies about this woman. But they’re not. And I did.

It’s all further complicated by the fact that her father and I are no longer the friends we once were, that I feel a complicated admixture of anger, hurt, and sadness at the state of our relationship, and that even as I contend with my sexual fantasies about his daughter, I must simultaneously contend with the context in which they arise. And, most painfully, with the fact that once upon our time, even such a transgressive thought would have been precisely the sort of thing he and I could discuss easily.

No more.

It makes me sad.


  1. It is those complicated, transgressive fantasies and the dwindling company to share them with that plagues me at times. As my friend’s children reach an age that becomes legally appropriate, and yet still reprehensible, I struggle.

  2. For me, transgressive fantasies can help with complicated relationships. I have a practice of imagining sex with the non-family adults with whom I interact regularly and in interesting or unusual ways. Sometimes, of course, it’s a simple hot fantasy of attraction. I like those! They are easy to do. More often, I do it just to prove to myself that I can, once, even if I would never actually want to fuck the person, even in my mind. It helps me process the relationship, or takes away some of the power of ‘what if’ or ‘what are they thinking.’ Rarely, there’s someone I can’t bring myself to do it with. Those scare me because it’s not about the sex being unappealing; it’s usually because of some personal-emotional or relational complexity and tends to occur when the sex could indeed be sexy. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the practice, although I’m sure some people would disagree. Recently it has been helping me with some longstanding anger-love stuff with a close friend who used to fall solidly into that third category. Like in the instance you write about, the person is not a blood relative but we are close in ways almost like family and the person is very much not available to me sexually in real life. It felt super transgressive at first, but I got over it. It helped to realize nothing bad would occur just because of my thoughts. It was interesting to read your post (although I’m sorry that you were sad); I’m glad you are trying to talk about this stuff. Thank you.

    1. That’s so interesting to me. One thing that’s particularly interesting? The idea of a “practice” of imagining sex. It makes it seem so deliberate, so intentional. For me, “imagining sex,” or, as I conceive of it, “fantasizing,” is rarely a deliberate act. Rather, it’s like a meteorological event. But practice sounds nice, too. Thank YOU!

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