~ August 2021 ~ People fantasize about lots of things: an incredible vacation, for instance, or landing a huge, life-changing job. And who knows? You might manifest those dreams into a reality one day. When it comes to sexual fantasies, though, not every scenario should be fulfilled in the real world.
While thinking about a taboo sexual act or situation can be intensely erotic, “we may not actually want to do them,” says Cyndi Darnell, a clinical sexologist based in New York City. “Instead, these fantasies can offer a portal into aspects of our non-sexual emotions that we’re trying to reconcile in our day-to-day lives.”
It’s perfectly healthy to role play or try new things in bed; it can be a great way for couples to spice up their sex life. But certain fantasies may be more difficult to talk to your partner about than others, such as ones that involve group sex, or getting busy with someone else. It’s also important to know that imagining yourself enjoying oral sex with that friendly barista doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re looking to cheat or in you’re in the throes of an emotional affair.
“What makes a fantasy powerful is the fact that it is just that: a fantasy!” says Darnell. “Its purpose is to help you process things, and is not a reflection of any latent erotic desire.”
Wondering what your sexual fantasies might mean, regardless of whether you’re actually going to give them a try? Here are 8 of the most popular sexual fantasies, and some experts’ thoughts on why they’re so common.
Looking for a Christian Grey to your Anastasia Steele? Nearly 65 percent of women fantasize about being dominated sexually, according to a survey of more than 1,000 people that was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. “There’s a reason 50 Shades of Grey made such an impact!” says Channa Bromley, a relationship and dating coach. “BDSM is alluring because one partner relinquishes all sense of control. They’re submissive to the person touching them, but subconsciously give themselves permission to be wild, to be orgasmic in response—she doesn’t need to hold back.”
Fantasizing about being dominated doesn’t imply that you’re weak or that your partner is superior to you, though. “Fantasies involving power play may speak to a desire to gain or relinquish control regarding our private lives, work lives, or role in society,” says Darnell. “Power dynamics in an erotic context create such sensorial arousal.”
Having a threesome
89 percent of the 4,175 Americans surveyed by social psychologist Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., for his book Tell Me What You Want admitted to fantasizing about having a threesome with other people (those in relationships did say that one of those people would ideally be their partner).
“Fantasies of being the center of attention and desired by large groups of people may be about a longing to be seen and valued as a person of worth or importance, or part of something much larger than the individual self,” says Darnell. That could be why around 57 percent of women actually fantasize about having sex with more than three people at a time, according to the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Having sex with other women
Lehmiller’s study also found that 59 percent of women fantasized about sex with other women. But if you’ve always identified as straight, a sexy dream about a woman doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suddenly not into men. “Female on female sex focuses on oral and clitoral stimulation, and this is how many women orgasm,” says Bromley. “A fantasy about another woman could be about the desire to be pleasured in a way that women understand best.”
Not for nothing, it’s only relatively recently that women have been able to express more freedom and choice around sex, thus learning to ask for what they want in bed. So dreaming of a little same-sex action may be more about that liberation than sexual orientation—or it could be about both. “Gender fantasies might suggest longing to break free of the social obligations placed upon us by gendered restrictions,” explains Darnell.
Enjoying a romp in public
If you’ve ever had sex as a guest in someone’s house, you know that the thrill of getting caught can make your romp seem even hotter. And 57 percent of women fantasize about taking things even further by having sex in a public place, according to the research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
“There’s a sense of liberation and empowerment in fantasizing about having an audience and the idea that you sexually excite others with your performance and arousal,” says Bromley.
Just because you like the idea of being naked in front others doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got an exhibitionist streak. Remember, “fantasies permit us to engage in imaginary scenarios without real-world complications—like jealousy, hurt feelings, offending others, or even risking arrest,” says David A. Levy, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles..
Having sex with total strangers
Ever had a sexy stranger show up in your dreams? Nearly 50 percent of women reported that they fantasize about having sex with an unknown person, according to the survey in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found. “The anonymous ‘stranger’ fantasy permits people to avoid issues like attachment, intimacy, or jealousy,” Levy says.
The more impersonal nature of a stranger fantasy may also indicate you’re trying to detach yourself from something that has nothing to do with your relationships. “Fantasies about sex with strangers may give expression to a desire to be free of pressure, duty, and responsibility to others in our day-to-day lives,” says Darnell. “Often times, such fantasies are about what that person represents rather than who they are.”
Or, doing it with someone you know that’s not your spouse
66 percent of women fantasize about having sex with acquaintances, reports the Journal of Sexual Medicine. But if your boss, your friend’s husband, or your smokin’ neighbor suddenly makes an appearance in one of your fantasies, don’t freak out.
“One of the greatest enemies of sexual desire and satisfaction is boredom,” says Levy, “especially in longer-term relationships.” Fantasizing about someone you know is partly due to the fact that they regularly show up in your real life, and also because “novelty, mystery, curiosity, and imagination are all hallmarks of desire,” Bromley explains.
P.S. If you’re fantasizing about someone you despise, it’s not just for the hate sex: “Fantasies about a person we actively dislike may be a way of coming to terms with the dynamic and taking control of the situation in your mind to make peace with it in the real world,” says Darnell.
Mixing pain with pleasure
Going back to those 50 Shades fantasies…65 percent of people fantasize about receiving pain, whether in the form of spanking, biting, or dripping hot wax, Lehmiller found in his research. “S&M is about relinquishing control—it’s a way people forget themselves,” says Bromley. “The pain brings you into your physical being and into the present moment. Also, physiologically, the pain inflicted wakes up the body, making it more sensitive to pleasure.”
Making love in a romantic location
Nearly 85 percent of women fantasize about getting down in a sultry locale, like on a deserted beach, the survey in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found. It’s not just because we’ve been conditioned by romance novel covers, although that does play a part—“for women, emotional and contextual factors are more prominent in fantasies,” says Levy, and a romantic setting can help get you revved up.
Somewhere romantic like “a deserted beach is far away from chores, deadlines, or any responsibilities,” says Bromley. “It’s a place where a woman can just be in the present moment. There isn’t anything waiting for her to do, she can just relax into the bliss.” And what’s sexier than that?