Are Your Sexual Fantasies Normal?

You’re not weird. Experts share why it’s common to think about having sex in different ways—and that includes taboos, too.

Reddit, a popular online destination for strangers to discuss topics like cryptocurrency and weddings, also happens to be a place people go to discuss spicier topics—like their sexual fantasies. After sifting through countless threads, I realized thinking about something that’s considered taboo is common. Like, wildly so.

Sex educator Dr. Justin Lehmiller came to the same conclusion. Through research he conducted for his 2018 book Tell Me What You Want, he found about 97 percent of people have had some kind of sexual fantasy. And when he asked over 4,000 people to share their favourite ones, he found seven common themes: multi-partner sex (i.e. threesomes, orgies, gangbangs); power, control and rough sex (i.e. bondage, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism); novelty, adventure and variety (i.e. trying sex in a new position or place); passion, romance and intimacy (i.e. connecting through emotional needs); being in a non-monogamous relationship (i.e. swinging, polyamory, cuckolding); gender-bending and homoeroticism (i.e. cross-dressing and same-sex fantasizing); and taboo activities (i.e. anything you’re not “supposed” to do, which can include any of the above).

(Related: You Know Your Love Language—How About Your Sex Language?)

The reason many Reddit users are inclined to share their sexual fantasies appears to be, judging by some comments, because they feel a sense of shame around them. According to Theresa L. Thomas, a Vancouver-based clinical psychologist and sex therapist, it’s common to feel this way because some fantasies aren’t socially acceptable—which can therefore make us feel abnormal. But in reality, what turns us on isn’t always a reflection of our wants.

Thomas says fantasy and desire are two different things. Fantasizing about a sexual act is not necessarily the same as desiring it in real life. “We always assume that if something is in our brain that it’s actionable,” says Thomas. “Thoughts can remain thoughts.” For example, a 2009 study by the Journal of Sexual Medicine found 62 percent of participants had a fantasy about rape, which they actually found to be equally arousing and off-putting.

The goal of a fantasy is to become aroused by envisioning it and not necessarily acting on it, explains Sandra Byers, a human sexuality and psychology professor at the University of New Brunswick. “A lot of our fantasies are based on prior experiences we’ve had or seen on a TV series or the internet,” she says.

It’s common to be aroused by taboos. “Doing something that’s taboo gets our heart racing and our blood pressure up,” says Byers, which is exactly what happens during sex. “So there’s a physiological connection between the reaction to the taboo and the reaction to being pleasured—one can facilitate the other.”

So cut yourself some slack. And use your wildest fantasies to your advantage.

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Originally Published in Best Health Canada