So much of what I write shouldn't need to be said. One of the hardest parts of writing these posts without being a direct response to someone who's said something stupid is that I have to work out what people actually can't be relied upon to understand already. This is one that I run across constantly.
Very young children are able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. They can play make believe and recognize full well that their games aren't the same thing as whatever game they're playing really happening. You pretend to cut your little brother down with an invisible sword, and he falls over, but both of you know that he isn't really dead, and there was never any sword.
One of the core abilities that makes us the dominant species on this planet is our ability to imagine the unreal in great detail. That ability is at the root of our ability to plan for the future, work out the best course of action by imagining all the alternatives before actually committing to one. Imagination is a wonderful tool that doesn't get nearly enough credit. Our ability to deliberately adapt this powerful tool to use creating worlds and scenarios for our own amusement is one of the best parts of being a human being.
And yet there are a surprisingly large number of people who don't understand how fantasy works. They see the ability to plan out a move and think fantasy stops there. You hear about it every day, when people call shooter video games murder simulators, and wring their hands at the sex and violence in the media. The people who are most afraid of imagination are the ones who don't understand how to separate a fantasy from a plan.
I will unashamedly admit to numerous horrible, antisocial fantasies I deliberately indulge in on a regular basis. When someone slights me, I employ my imagination to hear the sound of their skull cracking open and feel the skin scraped off my knuckles from delivering the beating that did it. When I'm feeling horny I'll use it to touch and taste and feel the motions of a dozen scenarios with imaginary partners, consenting or otherwise, both based on real people and made up whole cloth.
I'm unashamed to admit this, because I know the difference between fantasy and reality. I can indulge in fantasy all I like, and there will be no consequences aside from a possible lack of physical activity if you overdo it. The real world has consequences that can't be dismissed with a thought, that aren't under the control of my will, and that often impact other people's lives in addition to my own.
Now, there are fantasies of mine that blur the line between a mere imagination for my own amusement, and an actual plan. I sometimes indulge myself by imagining that I'm living in a world where children are treated as people, where no means no and yes means yes, and where I can announce my sexual orientation and have it result in people helping me find a date instead of contacting the police. Every person I reach brings me one step closer to living that one, even if I don't expect I'll get there in my lifetime.