For Hannah, that realization is very liberating.
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Had it been brewing in you for a while? I thought it would be interesting to delve into different episodes in her life and focus on them in terms of her relationships with the opposite sex or her ideas about the opposite sex. All the episodes are linked by that. I could probably have written a novel only about, say, Hannah and her mother, who is not a major character in the book, but the particular focus I chose was this search for love, which is incredibly mentally consuming for a lot of women, starting when they are teenage girls and then continuing long into adulthood.
I think a lot of people expend a lot of energy on it. It was interesting how different their lives were but also how they would so easily fall into fights centered around that fact.
How important was that relationship as you were conceptualizing the book? CS: Hannah is often observing the world around her and trying to figure out, What is a healthy relationship between a man and a woman? And about her parents, she thinks, Oh, my God, I would rather never kiss a man than be in their relationship.
So Hannah is often analyzing other couples.
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In other words, is Hannah as different from everyone else as she thinks she is? CS: Actually, I feel like a lot of writers accost you with their neuroses. Does she keep this aspect of herself too buried for others to see? Fig is outrageous and sexy and rude, and Hannah is mousy and grumpy and accommodating. People have told me that they laughed out loud at parts. I actually think Hannah is this sweet, quiet person who occasionally says something that is very harsh. I think that Lee, in Prep, is a more complicated, negative person.
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I have this theory that the likeability question comes up so much more with female characters created by female authors than it does with male characters and male authors. Is he sympathetic? And as a reader, I hate that. KB: Hannah presents herself as someone not all that attractive, or at least as someone who has little confidence in her looks. Is she more attractive than she thinks she is? CS: The answer to the second question is yes. She frets about her weight, as so many women do.
Is she pretty or not pretty? Am I heavy or not heavy? I feel like that puts the reader almost too much at ease.
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And it puts Hannah too much at ease. Maybe I wanted to mimic the way people have that question in real life. Either you resolve it at some point, or it remains an ongoing issue for you. I can understand how for a reader, my choice might be frustrating, but it actually is intentional to not give too much away. KB: When you were working on Prep and The Man of My Dreams , was it confusing at all to be switching back and forth between two neurotic young female protagonists?
CS: No. I did write parts of this before Prep , but I feel like everything that I wrote before was a big mess, and then I straightened it out and became much more focused once Prep was behind me. But to me, of course, Lee and Hannah are incredibly nuanced and distinct. I would never mistake one for the other. But there are definitely similarities. Has that question had any influence on your work since Prep?
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CS: I have to be prepared for that question. These fantasies decrease as we get older, though. Of those surveyed, more than half the men in their 50s say they are thinking sexy thoughts more than once a day, compared to 12 percent of women. When men reach their 60s, the frequent fantasies drop to about 42 percent; and in their 70s, to 27 percent.
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Only about 1 percent of women in their 70s think about sex that often. Still, what's interesting is what everyone is fantasizing about. You might think it's sex with a mega-hot celeb—one like Angelina Jolie or George Clooney. Guess again. Nearly 38 percent of all fantasies or thoughts are about sex with a stranger and sex with more than one person at a time which comes in at a distant second place at 21 percent.
Men report having fantasies about sex with a stranger 44 percent , compared to 28 percent of female respondents, and men are three times as likely to think about sex with more than one person at a time 30 percent, compared to 10 percent of women. Men and women were more alike about celebrity fantasies 20 percent, compared with 17 percent , and a similar number of men and women 9 percent and 8 percent imagined having sex with someone of the same sex. Most people don't want to act on all of their fantasies.
That's why we call them "fantasies"! But sometimes, it's delicious to have an adventure without risk, to be a different person from who we really are, to have a person taking sexual care of us in a way that's unlikely to happen, or to explore a sexual world that we probably wouldn't enjoy in real life but can enter for a while—even if it's only in our head.
There are many pleasures, and often peak arousal, in having a fantasy—all without actualization nor consequences. Something like imagining what it would be like having sex in public is harmless and erotic to think about. You might not want to try this and risk getting a police citation for public indecency, but there's no doubt it could carry an erotic charge—in fact, it was the next highest fantasy, with 9 percent of our sample.
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Interestingly, most people don't keep these thoughts private, as we might have thought. Nearly one in three of those who say they have sexual thoughts and fantasies had discussed them with someone, the most common confidant being their spouse or partner, followed by a friend. Women are a little less likely than men to discuss their fantasies with anyone.
Only 1 percent of females say they had discussed their fantasies with a stranger. It's curious and a little disappointing that 60 percent of men and 68 percent of women have never discussed their fantasies with anyone. Only 28 percent of the men and 19 percent of the women have even discussed their erotic thoughts with their spouses. It seems that these thoughts are too intimate to share, even with your life partner.
It's curious to ponder how a man or woman could have sex every week for years and years and not share what they are thinking. I think it's wonderful when people in a relationship are close enough and accepting enough to share sexual fantasies. On the other hand, it's certainly not required—and many people love the freedom of having a secret world that is all their own. You don't want to edit your fantasies in order to share them with your partner.
Is there any reason to worry about fantasies? Maybe about one that is common—fantasizing about someone you know or are friends with can create a very real erotic tension when you're talking in person. If you are married or committed to someone else, it's a bit dangerous to keep a physical relationship going with someone else—even if it is only a fantasy.
But in general, the vast majority of fantasy is just adult play.
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