You may not always understand why you have certain sexual fantasies, but you can rest assured that — no matter what shape or form they take — it’s perfectly healthy and normal to have them. In fact, according to recent research by Dr. Justin Lehmiller of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, it’s actually more unusual not to have sexual fantasies.
As part of Dr. Lehmiller’s research for his latest book, Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life, he surveyed over 4,000 Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, religions, and ages about their personalities, sexual histories, and fantasies. According to his survey, a whopping 97% of Americans revealed that they had had sexual fantasies — meaning almost all of us know what it’s like to harbor a secret (or not-so-secret) sexual desire.
“Sexual fantasies offer a space for us to play, learn and grow as well as an opportunity to process complex emotions or a way of making sense of the world around us,” says NYC-based sex and relationship therapist and coach Cyndi Darnell. “They are deeply personal and not to be judged nor scrutinized with anything other than empathy and curiosity. One of the great things about sexual fantasies is that they are yours and yours alone, only to be shared how, when and if you want to.”
The bottom line? You should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about your sexual fantasies, so long as you’re exploring them in a safe, healthy, consensual way. But if there’s one common misconception about sexual fantasies that needs to be debunked, it’s this: just because you have a fantasy does not necessarily mean you want to act on it IRL. Sometimes a fantasy is just that — a fantasy — and fantasizing about something isn’t the same as having a kink or fetish for it.
One of the great things about sexual fantasies is that they are yours and yours alone, only to be shared how, when and if you want to.
“Sexual fantasies needn’t be elaborate nor extensive,” Darnell says. “They can be a brief encounter, or a longing for a specific act, object or interpersonal dynamic. They can come in the form of images, sounds, emotions or sensations, but what makes them compelling is the fact they arouse our senses and demand our attention.”
If you’re curious about how your own fantasies compare to the most popular sexual fantasies, here are the top five fantasy categories as revealed by Dr. Lehmiller’s research.
That old saying “two is company but three’s a crowd” need not apply in the bedroom: the most common kind of fantasy involves group or multi-partner sex — aka threesomes, orgies, and the like. And when you consider that more people means more potential for pleasure, it totally makes sense why this fantasy is so popular.
We’ve come a long way since the days of 50 Shades of Grey, but clearly it’s had a lasting impact on our collective sexual psyche. The “control and rough sex” fantasy category encompasses everything from light bondage to exploring sexual power dynamics through BDSM — but whether you like it a little or a lot rough, you’re certainly not alone.
If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, you’ll know all too well what it’s like to feel like your sex life has become routine (or even boring). That might explain why the idea of novelty or adventurous sex is such a turn-on for folks: the survey found that switching things up in bed — by trying a new sex position or toy, for example — was the third largest fantasy category.
Although non-monogamous relationships have become more accepted in recent years, this fantasy category isn’t about the desire to be in one. According to the survey, one of the most popular fantasies for those in monogamous relationships is having sex with someone outside the relationship — aka cheating. It might sound bad, but this is just one perfect example of a kind of fantasy that’s completely acceptable... as long as it’s not acted on without permission from your partner.