Fantasies are totally normal
Let’s start by saying everyone has sexual fantasies. Yep, the entire human race has a mind that drifts to the gutter at least some times.
Many folks feel ashamed of their turn-ons and inner erotic thoughts, but “no matter what the fantasy is, it’s completely normal!” according to certified sex coach Gigi Engle, author of “All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life.”
“The more we talk sexual fantasy and normalize the conversation, the less we’ll beat ourselves up for having twisty, sexual, steamy [thoughts],” she says. That’s why we put together this fantasizing crib sheet.
Keep reading to learn what we’re all dirty dreaming about — plus how to act them out IRL, if you want to.
Although the possibilities are endless, there are 7 main categories
Turns out your sexual fantasy is less unique than you probably thought.
After conducting a 4,000+ person, 350 question survey in 2018, internationally recognized sex educator Justin Lehmiller, PhD, concluded that there are 7 main fantasy themes.
While the possibilities are endless, chances are you’ll find your steamy wish explored below. And if not — well let’s just say you’re more creative than most. Wink.
Eyes glued to the screen during that Game of Thrones scene (yes, the one where Theon Greyjoy gets naked with two drop-dead queens)? Hand travel between your legs at the thought of a multi-person orgy?
You’re not alone. Group sex is the most common arousal material for Americans.
Why can group sex be so hot? Engle explains: “In most folks’ multi-partner sex fantasies, you’re the star of the show. The idea of multiple people wanting to have sex with you is part of the turn on.”
Threesomes, orgies, and the like also create sensory overload. Think about it: There’s simply more bits, smells, tastes, holes, poles, and sounds than in a two-some or solo session.
What to do about it
Every fantasy falls into 1 of 3 categories, according to Engle. “Those we keep to ourselves, those we share with our partners to up the steaminess during sex, and those we’d want to try in real life.”
If this is simply a fantasy for you, don’t overthink it.
If you want to share with your partner — but not necessarily enact this fantasy — start by asking for consent to incorporate this kind of lingo in bed.
For example, “I’ve been thinking it might be hot to talk through a fantasy of another woman going down on you in bed. What do you think?”
Actually want group sex IRL? Good news. “Group sex is also a pretty accessible fantasy — you might not be able to have sex with your favorite celebrity, but you can probably find someone who is down for a threesome,” according to sex educator Cassandra Corrado with O.school.
If you’re in a couple, talk about whether you want it to be a one-time or ongoing encounter, and whether you’d prefer a stranger or friend. Establish boundaries for those interactions.
Power, control, or rough sex
Cue S&M by Rihanna because whips and chains excite millions of Americans.
Sadism and masochism (S&M) and bondage, discipline, dominance, and submission (BDSM) make up the second most popular fantasy.
BDSM is basically about the consensual exchange of power in a sexual or nonsexual situation.
“The idea of being sexually submissive can be arousing to people who are always in control outside of the bedroom,” says Engle. “And the idea of being in control can be hot due to the taboo nature of rough sex and [a] sense of authority.”
Daddy/step-daughter, professor/student, boss/employee roleplay falls into this category. So does “forced sex” (which Dr. Lehmiller calls “mock rape”).
S&M is about giving or receiving pain through things like spanking, whipping, humiliation, and more.
Corrado says, “Really, this kind of play is about radical trust because it’s a vulnerable type of play. And that vulnerability has arousal potential.”
What to do about it
From spanking and blind folding, to electroplay or needle play, BDSM contains a wide range of sexual activities.
So the first step to enacting this fantasy IRL is to ensure it’s safe, sane, and consensual (SSC), then figuring out what the fantasy is, exactly, and then talking to your partner about it.
“Whatever the fantasy, there should be a plan in place around what will happen in that sexual scene,” says Daniel Sayant, founder of NSFW, a club hosting sex-positive events and workshops.
“That way you can eliminate the risk of unwanted, or nonconsensual, acts — even in the face of control play,” he adds.
How to define the scene:
- Agree on a safe word.
- Talk through what the roles are.
- Establish boundaries.
- Take it slow.
- Check in continuously.
Novelty, adventure, and variety
Sex on a beach or mountaintop. Boning in an airplane bathroom or while wearing a butt plug. Getting it on in a park.
Fantasies that center around novelty (incorporating a new sexual activity like anal or oral) or adventure (having sex in a new location) are common.
“The feeling of facing the unknown [and] trying something for the first time can give you a thrilling adrenaline kick, and for some people, arousal is connected to that feeling of adrenaline,” says Corrado.
In long-term relationships in particular, keeping novelty alive is paramount for fighting bedroom boredom and maintaining an active sex life, says Engle. “Trying something new reignites the passion you had at the beginning of the relationship.”
What to do about it
What’s novel or new for one person may not be for another. So the what and where between folks’ fantasies will vary.
Whether you want to explore anal play, non-missionary penetrative sex, 69-ing, or bringing food into the bedroom, the first step is to talk about the addition of the act.
Avoid making your partner feel inadequate by framing this convo about what you can add to your sexual play.
Try “I love when you’re inside me, how would you feel about exploring doggy style next time we have sex?” or “I love the way you look between my legs, would you want to taste me the next time we have sex?”
What if you want to do the same ‘ole thing in the same ‘ole way… but outside the bedroom? Again, ask your partner if it’s something they’d be down for.
Keep in mind: In the United States, having public sex is illegal. Charges of public indecency, indecent exposure, lewdness, and obscene displays are all possible risks.
Open relationships, polyamory, and swinging are becoming increasingly acknowledged as a (healthy and happy!) relationship structure — and it’s common masturbation fodder for folks in monogamous relationships.
For the most part, someone’s fantasies are about consensual non-monogamy. Meaning, one partner has provided their blessing for the others extramarital play. Some fantasize about their own non-monogamy.
Others fantasize about their partner sleeping with others. Cuckolding is the specific fantasy of letting your partner have sex with someone else, but only if you get to watch or hear about it (in detail) after the fact.
Less than 0.5 percent of folks said cheating, being unfaithful, or committing adultery was arousing to them.
What to do about it
First, establish whether this is something you want IRL, says Engle, “because that is a different animal than simply having the fantasy.”
If you want to change your relationship structure, “start by exploring what that means to you,” says Corrado.
Some people clearly know that they want one romantic partner but want to be sexually explorative with other people. Other people want deep, romantic relationships with more than one person at a time.
Once you can articulate those desires, talk to your partner.
“Not everyone will be comfortable with changing their relationship structure, but if you do decide to move forward together, you’ll need to practice this kind of open communication,” she says.
If you’re having cheating fantasies, Corrado offers the following advice: “Identify why you’re having this fantasy. Are you unsatisfied in your relationship? Are you craving an adrenaline rush? Is there some other internal conflict going on?”
What are your feelings in the fantasy? Exploring your emotions may give you clues to your unmet needs.
Next, solve for your W-H-Y. Go to couples therapy or break up with your partner if that’s right for you. Go skydiving or deal with the underlying issue.
Or, live out your fantasy. But understand that nonethical non-monogamy is violating the rules or boundaries of your relationship and there may be consequences such as feelings of guilt, or your partner leaving you if they find out.
“In and out of the bedroom, we want what we can’t have. It’s the way our brain works,” says Engle. “Any sexual relationship or act that could get us into trouble or be seen as weird or forbidden or gross in real life, can be a turn on.”
Common taboos include licking feet or armpits and worshipping leather or lycra.
Voyeurism (watching people engage sexually without their knowledge or consent) and exhibitionism (exposing one’s genitals while others look on — sometimes with, sometimes without their consent) are the most common iterations of forbidden sex.
What to do about it
Nonconsensual exhibitionism and voyeurism is illegal, because the people getting exposed to your genitals or being watched aren’t willing participants. While this may be hot to fantasize about, these shouldn’t be practiced in real life.
Placing a mirror in front of your bed so you can watch yourself, going to a sex club or party, or consensually role-playing Voyeur or Exhibitionist with your partner(s) may help you explore a similar sensation.
Other sexual desires can be communicated with your partner(s) — and depending on their likes or dislikes, enacted.
Turns out, long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners, and eye contact during love making aren’t just romantic hyperbole. They’re all part of the fantasy of being desired, intimate, and romantic.
“Many people want to be treated like royalty,” says Corrado. “Romantic gestures show a large amount of time, effort, and maybe even money being put in, and can make us feel significant to that person.”
What to do about it
If you find yourself fantasizing about this, it might be because you don’t feel appreciated in real life.
If you’re in a relationship, you and your partner may need to spend more time together, learn each others’ love languages, or have sex in positions that allow you to sustain eye contact.
If you’re single, Sayant says you might explore doing a massage chain with a friend, taking yourself out to a nice dinner, or making love to yourself in the candlelight.
There are two main categories here:
- Gender bending fantasies — in which someone explores their own gender presentation and dress, or has a partner who does
- Sexual fluidity fantasies — in which the featured acts or characters are seemingly inconsistent with how one identifies sexually
What makes these so appealing? “Getting to explore and play different roles and personas can be really fun, creative, and freeing,” says Corrado. “It allows us to tap into a part of ourselves that doesn’t get out often.”
According to Dr. Lehmiller, bending gender roles and orientation also allows folks to inject something new, different, and exciting into your sex life, while simultaneously subverting cultural expectations of what you’re “supposed” to be or do.
And as Corrado says, “being able to do or be what and who you’re not supposed to do or be with your partner creates a layer of safety and vulnerability that further connects us with our partner.”
What to do about it
In some cases, these fantasies may be rooted in a desire to explore your sexuality or gender identity and presentation. However, experts say in most cases it stems from a desire to be comfortable in your skin with a partner.
Communication, as always, is key to learning if your gender bending or sexual fluidity fantasies mesh with the likes of your partner.
While you might learn a thing or two about what you want in real life from your dirty thoughts, there are many other reasons people have sexual fantasies.
Why we fantasize, from the most to least common reasons:
- to experience arousal
- because we’re curious about different sexual sensations
- to meet unfulfilled needs
- to escape reality
- to explore a sexually taboo desire
- to plot out a future sexual encounter
- to relax or reduce anxiety
- to feel more sexually confident
- because we’re bored
Across all gender identities, there’s a lot of commonality in what folks fantasize about. The main difference is the frequency with which they have a certain fantasy.
For instance, men are more likely than other genders to have multi-partner or taboo fantasies. Women are most likely to have BDSM or romance fantasies, and have them more frequently than other genders.
How can you bring your fantasies up to your partner?
Whether you bring it up or not boils down to whether or not you want to (and it’s legal to) enact the fantasy for real.
Survey results reveal that while 77 percent of Americans want to incorporate their fantasies into their actual sex lives, less than 20 percent have broached the topic with a partner.
If it’s clear that activity is consensual, legal, and safe, and you’re ready to bring your partner(s) into the fantasy, the following steps can help:
- Communicate in detail before hand. Then, communicate during and after.
- Establish a safe word (no matter what fantasy you’re trying out!)
- Do some research on best practices for safety and mutual satisfaction.
- Continue implementing safer sex practices.
- Go slow. There’s no rush!
- Communicate and stay calm if things don’t go according to plan.
The bottom line
Sexual fantasies are a normal part of life. Some may be hot only as a fantasy. Others might be things you want to test out in real life.
If you’re frequently having sexual fantasies about things that aren’t legal and want to explore these for real, consider meeting with a sex therapist to unpack the urges.
Otherwise, take a deep breath and talk to your partner. Odds are they’ll have a sexual fantasy or two of their own that they’d like to try in IRL, too.
The 7 Most Common Sexual Fantasies