What was the subject of your last sexual fantasy? I ask because I know that you’ve had one if you’re normal.
Okay yes, “normal” is a really relative term. What I mean to convey is this: If you’re a typical human being like the majority of us functioning folks walking the planet, you’ve likely engaged in a healthy sexual fantasy or two or one hundred just like the rest of us common folks. And, that’s okay. You’re not alone. You’re in good company, and you’re doing just fine.
Normal and Healthy
You don’t need to be ashamed. Believe it or not, even our wildest, most outlandish fantasies¹ are likely common. The most significant reason most people are afraid to share their innermost private thoughts is that they fear being judged as abnormal or weird. This sort of anxiety is not conducive to fulfilling sexual interludes, so I encourage you to read on.
Engaging in intimate fantasies in order to heighten our sexual desires is very common; only, no one wants to admit to it, not even to their closest friends. Large and numerous research studies have concluded that roughly nine out of ten people engage in sexual fantasies while “daydreaming,” masturbating, and/or during sexual encounters. And when they’re frank, professionals admit they think that the “tenth” person is simply too afraid to admit to it for one reason or another because studies have found that incidences of sexual fantasies are practically universal. Almost the entire agglomeration of research about sexual fantasies is only collected because researchers guarantee complete anonymity for its subjects. Thank God for anonymity! The findings of all of this research can be very comforting to the people who find it. Knowing that when you’re fantasizing you’re engaging in common, usual behavior can help ease misplaced feelings of shame. But how many people are brave enough to search out the findings?
Topics of Fantasy
Specific fantasy differences are most often based on gender, sexual orientation, cultural conditioning, and age. However in general, the most common fantasies (for most genders and orientations) are: reliving a past exciting sexual experience (with or without their current partner), imagining sex with a current partner, and imagining sex with a different partner. The next most common fantasies involve giving or receiving oral sex, sex in a more desirable location, and relinquishing of or gaining of sexual power². The specific subjects of our sexual fantasies are extraordinarily varied. That said, the majority of erotic themes can be tidily placed under less than a handful of labels: exploratory, intimate, impersonal, and dominance/submission and sadomasochism.
Exploratory themes are just that; they explore people or places or things never before engaged in by the person fantasizing. They may include threesomes, foursomes or moresomes. More often than not, exploratory fantasies involve situations that the person would not actually want to act on in real life.
Intimate themes involve known partners, whether past or present lovers or someone they know socially but have never been with sexually. Fantasizing about a known person other than your spouse or partner does not necessarily indicate that, given the opportunity, you would actually take it.
Impersonal themes center around sex with strangers. Most report this as relating to imagined interludes with famous people, anonymous people, group sex or orgies and voyeuristic fantasies of watching or being watched while having sex, masturbating, etc.
D/s S&M themes involve scenarios of power exchange (dominance or submission) and/or sadomasochism (giving or receiving pain for pleasure). Includes ravishment fantasies for both men and women.² The most frequently cited hypothesis for why women indulge in ravishment fantasies is that the fantasy avoids socially induced guilt—the woman does not have to admit responsibility for her sexual desires and behavior. As for men, they report indulging in ravishment fantasies as receivers as a way to escape the burdens of having to often “be in control” in daily life, and as givers as a form of exhibiting sexual prowess and power.
Why We Should Fantasize
You’ve likely heard it said that our brain is our most important sex organ. And, it is! Aside from our skin, it is our second largest sex organ, too. So why not use it to it’s full advantage to pique our more provocative nature?
Fantasizing Outside of Coupled Sex
The advantages to using sexual fantasy apart from during sexual interludes have proven numerous:
- Facilitate Erotic Intellegence
- Boost self-esteem
- Boost sex-esteem
- Can reduce stress/anxiety
- Augment self-exploration
- Improve mood
- Preserve pleasant memories
- Allow us to safely engage in activities we are curious about and/or wouldn’t normally engage in
- Provide outlet for healthy escape (granted it doesn’t become compulsive)
- Allows us to consider/compare possible erotic scenarious
- Can prepare our minds and bodies for pending sexual interludes
- Is always readily available
And, of course, allowing your erotic and intimate fantasies to influence your sex life with your partner can be a very powerful aphrodisiac that can make the sex outside of your imagination more fulfilling and satisfying.
Fantasizing During Sex
You may have also heard it said that while women are like slow cookers in the bedroom, men are like microwaves. You’re likely nodding your head as you read, but let me throw you a curve ball. Men are not faster to climax than women. Wait, what? You read that correctly. When women masturbate, it takes them, on average, the same amount of time to orgasm as it takes men to have an orgasm during intercourse. There are numerous reasons, then, for the disparity of orgasms between men and women during penetrative sex; and while outlining them all would take another article or two altogether, I’m here to hopefully help you bridge that arousal gap via, you guess it, fantasy.
Studies have shown that women’s fantasies are extremely rich and incredibly strong. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about whether or not this is because women tend to have more detailed and elaborate fantasies; however, according to Professor Beverly Whipple, some women are capable of having an orgasm from their fantasies alone — that is, without touching themselves. Delicious.
So, what is the benefit of fantasizing during sex? Women live inside their heads. If your grocery list or to-do list tends to pop into your head when you’re having intercourse, it can be helpful to think about a proven stimulating fantasy in your mind to get your mind back on the love making at hand. Of course, being fully engaged in the actual love making is even better! But, thinking about the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink is not conducive to arousal! Placing yourself are your lover on a beautiful tropical island beach inside your head may improve your libido.
I strongly recommend that when you do choose to play around with fantasy, you get in the habit of always making your fantasy lover your real time lover…
Sharing Our Fantasies
The sharing of your fantasies is a delicate topic, one that can have both arousing benefits and lousy drawbacks. Which ones should we share? The ones we’ve explored or evaluated enough to know that we’d actually like to bring them from our fantasy world into our real world with our partner. Obviously, some fantasies are better left unshared, especially if that fantasy involves an ex-lover. Do not share those fantasies with your partner. The effects on your relationship could be devastating. In fact, I strongly recommend that when you do choose to play around with fantasy, you get in the habit of always making your fantasy lover your real time lover because there are proven benefits to fantasizing about our real life partners in and out of the bedroom.
According to three recent studies, fantasizing about your spouse or significant other actually changes your relationship perception and may even alter your behavior — influencing you to be kinder to your lover. These types of fantasies can even strengthen your relationship by strengthening your commitment and bond with them.
Sharing your fantasies with your lover can be incredibly arousing for you; just make sure you are prepared to discover that your lover may not be so keen on certain ideas. If they aren’t, that’s okay. Here is your opening to discussing other fantastic things the two of you would like to explore together. Enjoy!
¹ For the purpose of clarity, I discuss actual erotic fantasy that is being actively imagined and not unbidden thoughts of a sexual nature that bubble to the surface. for example, when you see an attractive person.
² Because the majority of my readership is female, and because the word “rape” carries extreme emotional weight and can be a trigger for many women, I prefer to use the word “ravishment” which, while having the same literal meaning, can more readily denote power, dominance, or coercion without threat of physical or emotional violence or abuse. It is extremely important to note that women who engage in ravishment fantasies do not want to be criminally violated or harmed, as evidenced by the fact that these women are ravished by the person that they desire and are very rarely physically or emotionally injured in the fantasy. It is also important to note that the women creating these fantasies are by definition consenting and are in complete control of the scenario [of who, what, when, where, why, and the duration] which is not the case for criminal, injurious sex. Non-consensual sex is a crime.
Links to articles used in researching this topic:
What men and women fantasize about has more in common than you think by Jessica Orwig and Mike Nudelman/ Business Insider article based on research by Christian C. Joyal et al. found here in an article published by The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Sexual Fantasies: What are Their Hidden Meanings? by Daniel Goleman
9 Reasons Sex Fantasies Are Good For You by Wendy Maltz, Suzie Boss
The Power of Fantasy in Relationships by Elizabeth Berstein
Sexual Fantasies: A Way of Having Sex with Everyone by Fredric Neuman M.D.
For books used in researching fantasy, see Resources.