What are Core Erotic Themes anyway?

The vast majority of people experience sexual fantasy; indeed, to have fantasies is to be human. This rich world of sexual fantasy offers a window into the inner world and one’s psychological needs and has even been described as a Rosetta Stone to one’s psychological life. Identifying Core Erotic Themes (CETs) through sexual fantasy provides a window into your psyche. Core Erotic Themes can be broadly defined as the feelings a person wants to feel during sex.

Core Erotic Themes can be exceptionally varied. Some examples include: taken, merged, at peace, in control, surrender, humiliated, dissolved, accepted, transcendent, celebrated, impressive, adventurous and much more. In fact, virtually any emotion can promote or negate arousal.

So, what are some of the benefits of knowing your own Core Erotic Themes?

1. Knowing your Core Erotic Themes can empower you in your sex life

Once you know what your CETs are, you can recreate them! You can discover your Core Erotic Themes through participating in a guided visualisation, thinking about a go-to sexual fantasy or revisiting a previous peak erotic experience. Figuring out what emotions you want to feel can help you create experiences where those emotions can be re-created. And you can learn to ask your sexual partner(s) for situations that elicit those feelings.

Some other ways that CETs can empower your sex life is through improving your relationship with your body, awakening your desires, facilitating orgasm and strengthening your sexual identity.

2. You can experience psychological healing when your Core Erotic Themes are met

Core Erotic Themes are truly an erotic blueprint and are specific to each person. The foundation of one’s CETs is created in childhood. Inner child wounds form in reaction to one’s relationship with family or parents or early social/romantic experiences. Jack Morin, the sex researcher who first discovered Core Erotic Themes, summarizes it simply: “the purpose of your CET is to use old wounds and conflicts as aphrodisiacs.”

Sexual fantasy is the mind’s way of building resilience, protecting the self and going to a place of healing that may be otherwise inaccessible. The theory behind Core Erotic Themes is ultimately strengths-based. These desires and sexual fantasies are the brain’s way to respond to unmet needs and create emotional resilience.

3. You can shift unhealthy sexual and relationship patterns once you know your Core Erotic Themes

When your Core Erotic Themes are met, it can lead to peak erotic experiences, where your psychological needs are fully met. The two main pathways to nourishing one’s CETs include repetition with agency or reparation.

Repetition with agency is choosing to experience the painful emotion within an empowering context of choice and safety. Reparation is creating the opposite experience of the wounding in a reparative way.

A third pathway that touches CETs in a less healing way is repetition without agency. This is the unconscious choice to repeat the painful emotion and something that Jack Morin talks about as a “troublesome turn-on.” A prime example of this is feeling attracted towards someone who is indifferent or detached. Someone who swings between affection and detachment.

These feelings of longing are addictive and people recreate patterns of chasing this feeling in their lives. As Jack Morin says: “When low self-esteem fuses with high arousal, the results are the most destructive of all turn-ons.” This is not because it is inherently wrong to feel aroused when one’s self-esteem is lowered. However, people may create patterns in their life where they seek abusive or unreliable partners to nourish these CETs. Once you become aware that you are unconsciously trying to feed your CETs by chasing unhealthy relationships, you move into a place of choice. You can move towards a more conscious and healthy way of relating to others and nourishing your own CETs.

4. Knowing your Core Erotic Themes can reduce internalised shame

Unfortunately, the cultural focus on what people should desire can lead to greater internalised shame. This could look like a suppression of desire or people closing themselves off from their authentic sexual identity. Turning towards, as opposed to away from, sexual fantasy can offer great insight into your sexual identity. This leads to a greater acceptance of yourself, and in turn, may lead to better sex and solutions for sexual dysfunction.

Your Core Erotic Themes have arisen to heal developmental wounds and nourish unmet psychological needs. This is one pathway to reducing internalised shame, promoting emotional/sexual healing and increasing feelings of self-worth. This way of looking at it can transform shame into empowerment and embodiment.

5. You can deepen your sense of identity through exploring your Core Erotic Themes

Delving into your personal world of sexual fantasy is an opportunity for self-discovery and to deepen your understanding of yourself. You can ask yourself:

  • Where does this desire stem from?
  • How does it nourish myself and my identity?
  • How does my fantasy stem from my place in society?
  • How does the taboo influence my desires?
  • How do my desires work well (or not) in my relationship?
  • In which ways do my desires support my intra- and interpersonal growth?

All these questions facilitate self-discovery and deepen your sense of identity. Fantasies combine our personal history within the context of the collective cultural imagination. Understanding your Core Erotic Themes in this context leads to self-discovery.

Getting to a place of understanding yourself, whether you are in a relationship or not, can lead to grounding in the self. Producing pleasure for the self is a beautiful opportunity for self-definition and can even go as far as to verify your existence: “I experience pleasure; hence, I exist.”


By Becky Makous
Sex and Relationship Coach


Cover Photo credit We-Vibe-Toys