Updated: Oct 8, 2022
“If we can’t tell our partners what it is that we actually want, it makes it a lot less likely that we are going to get what we want when it comes to sex, and as a result, we may be less sexually satisfied, and we might also develop trouble, conflict, and difficulties in our relationship.” -Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Dr. Justin Lehmiller conducted the most comprehensive survey about people’s fantasies: what their fantasies are, how they are connected to their personalities and sexual histories, and how many times and with whom they have shared them. They asked people to write down their favorite sexual fantasy in narrative form, sum it in one word, and then answered a bunch of follow-up questions (a total of 369 questions!). A total of 4,175 ages 18 and up participated in this survey. Out of this, name, extracted seven themes that accounted for the vast majority of all fantasies respondents submitted. These were as follows, from most to least common:
1. Multipartner Sex
Under this category, you’ll threesomes, orgies, gangbangs… Even if this wasn’t their favorite fantasy, most participants responded they have at least fantasized about it once; only 5% of men and 13% of women had never had such fantasy.
2. Power, Control, and Rough Sex
Sexual desires that involve power, control, and/or rough sex. Most people had fantasized about BDSM, only 4% of women and 7% of men reported never having fantasized about a BDSM act before.
3. Novelty, Adventure, and Variety
Although many, if not all, of the fantasies, may involve the aspect of being something new, adventurous, or varied (which can have different definitions for different people), the desires that were classified under other categories had different psychological origins and motives that go beyond the novelty aspect, points the author. Fantasies in these categories were varied in settings, locations, and other types of experimentations (such as tools, foods, etcetera).
4. Taboo and Forbidden Sex
The author distinguishes taboo fantasies from those associated with novelty because they have 3 aspects that may be involved: they are likely to be considered disgusting when not aroused, some involve activities that may be illegal if acting upon (such as voyeurism and exhibitionism), and almost all have been formally classified as paraphilias by the mental health community. The most common taboo Americans fantasized about, according to the survey’s results, is voyeurism. Other desires included here are body parts that aren’t typically a focus of sexual desire, the most common are feet.
5. Swinging, Partner Sharing, and Polyamory
The difference between this category and multi-partner sex is that these nonmonogamy fantasies do not typically involve group sex, rather, partners agree to have sexual activity outside of their relationship. Most people fantasized about being in an open relationship, the second most fantasized form of consensual nonmonogamy was polyamory (where partners have multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously, maintaining intimate, committed relationships). Swingers agree to have sex with other people as long as they can watch it, or at least hear about it.
6. Intimacy, Romance, and Passion
Besides the sexual desires we want to be fulfilled in our fantasies, -most- humans have a fundamental yearning for social connection. Under this category, fantasies varied from those that were looking for an intense sexual connection (passion, desire, lust) to those that were looking for an intimate emotional connection (feeling loved, desired, and reassured).
7. Homoeroticism and Gender-Bending
Lastly, the theme of desiring flexibility with respect to one’s gender or sexuality are fantasies in which individuals reject the binary notions of male/female or rigid notions about sexual orientation. There are two broad categories under this one: gender-bending fantasies (cross-dressing, changing genders, having sex with a cross-dressing or transgender partner) and sexual flexibility (desires seemingly inconsistent with one’s sexual orientation, such as a gay man wanting to have sex with a partner with a vulva or a heterosexual woman wanting to be with another woman).
So, what do you like to fantasize about? Try writing about it in narrative form, sum it in a word, and see which categories are overlapping in your own fantasy. Note that not all that we fantasize about are things we might want to enact, some fantasies only work in our heads. A great guideline when it comes to sex is Dr. Holly Richmond’s motto, which I have taken to heart since the moment I heard it:
“All sex is good sex as long as it is consensual and pleasurable.”.
Lehmiller, J. (2018) Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Da Capo Lifelong Books. Thaina Cordero is a Certified Sexologist and Care Coordinator at Cypress Wellness Center. She has an MS in Educational Psychology, is a trauma-informed yoga teacher, and doctoral student of Clinical Sexology at Modern Sex Therapy Institute. She has completed Levels 1 and 2 of Clinical Foundations in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. She helps individuals and couples explore their sexual expression, needs, fantasies, preferences, curiosities, and difficulties as they create more pleasurable, satisfying, and fulfilling sex life and relationships. Click here to request an appointment.