You won’t often find sexual fantasies being discussed as part of a standard public health curriculum. Yet fantasizing is shown to be both a normal and health part of sexuality. Now, researchers out of Canada have discovered just how normal certain fantasies are.
Spoiler alert: if you’ve wanked to it, someone else probably has too.
The study looked at data from over 1,500 adults. Notably, the numbers were nearly evenly split between men and women, a characteristic which lends credibility and generalizability to the results. With regards to the fantasies themselves, the majority of fantasies were classified as either “common” or “typical,” meaning that more than half of participants reported having them. Only 11 of the fantasies were statistically “rare” or “unusual”—that is, reported by less than 3% and 16% of the participants respectively. Rare fantasies included bestiality and pedophilia, while unusual ones included cross-dressing and urinating on one’s partner. It is important here to again highlight that the study focused only on the sexual scenarios that participants fantasized about, not acted on.
Notable results include:
- Wanting to feel romantic emotions during sex was typical for both men and women. So much for those stereotypes about men being unfeeling horndogs.
- Though fantasies related to submission (e.g. being tied up, spanked, etc.) were common for both genders, most women reported not wanting to act on those fantasies in real life.
- Significantly more people fantasized about same-sex sex acts than identified as gay or not heterosexual.
- People fantasized about having sex with their friends about as often as they fantasized about doing it with strangers.
- Everyone fantasized about oral sex.
- Many more women than men fantasized about having sex with more than three people at once.
The study also supported some commonly held perceptions for both genders. For example, many men fantasize about anal sex, ejaculating on their partner, and having a threesome with two women. Women, on the other hand, like to fantasize about sex with a celebrity, and were more apt to fantasize about sex with someone of the same gender.
Unsurprisingly, men reported having sexual fantasies more often than women, were more likely than women to want to realize their fantasies, and gave more vividly detailed descriptions of their favorite fantasies. This may be related to observed tendency of men to be less sexually inhibited than women. Women may fantasize less due to guilt and negative attitudes about thinking sexual thoughts; however, they may have under-reported their fantasies to conform with what they believed to be acceptable. Likewise, men might have over-reported their fantasies so they would seem more sexually experienced and open. Most likely, the discrepancy in frequency of fantasies incorporates all of these explanations to some extent.
This research is important on a multitude of levels. For individuals, it normalizes both the experience of fantasizing and the fantasies themselves. In other words, they’re normal. For mental health providers, it supports the idea that certain fantasies alone, such as domination and submission, may not actually be a paraphilic disorder but a natural and healthy part of patient’s sex life. Lastly, it supports the argument that there is so much more to sex than reproduction. As the researchers themselves said about the fantasies unique to men, including anal sex and watching their partner have sex with someone else, “Evolutionary biological theories cannot explain these fantasies.”
The researchers intend on doing additional analyses to make further connections among personal characteristics and specific fantasies.
For a graph showing the full list of fantasies and their frequency by gender click here.
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