Are Your Sexual Fantasies Normal?

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Flickr/Micio Duemilatredini

Do ropes excite you?

We all have at least one and most of us have many: Sexual fantasies. In fact, it’s normal, and even healthy, to have sexual fantasies.

What might not be normal is the type of sexual fantasy you’re daydreaming over. A new study is helping shed light on what sexual fantasies are prevalent, and which are unusual and rare.

Until recently, scientists had limited data on what constituted a normal sexual fantasy versus an unusual one, and most surveys that had explored this sensitive territory had only surveyed university students. But a big new data set has changed that.

To find out once and for all what the general population think about, a team of scientists at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada straight up asked 1,516 adults residing in Quebec about their sexual fantasies. They published their telling findings on Oct. 31 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

“Clinically, we know what pathological sexual fantasies are: they involve non-consenting partners, they include pain, or they are absolutely necessary in deriving satisfaction,” said lead author Christian Joyal in a statement released by the university. “But apart from that, what exactly are abnormal or atypical fantasies?”

The team conducted an internet survey with 799 men and 718 women, where the mean age of the subjects was 30 years. Of the entire sample, 85.1% stated they were heterosexual, 3.6% were definitely homosexual, and the rest were in between.

The survey involved 55 statements that probed the nature and intensity of the subject’s sexual fantasies. The subjects rated each statement on a scale of 1 to 7, one meaning they strongly disagreed with the statement and seven meaning they strongly agreed. Here are some examples of the statements they read:

I have fantasized about having sex with an unknown person.
I have fantasized about petting with a total stranger in a public place (e.g., metro).
I have fantasized about being forced to have sex.
I have fantasized about having sex with an animal.
I have fantasized about having anal sex.

The full 55 are at the end of this post, along with their frequency.

The team also asked the volunteers to describe, in detail, their favorite sexual fantasy if it was not included in the survey.

After what must have been some very interesting reading, the team found that the men had more fantasies and described their favorite fantasy more vividly than women. Also, men expressed a stronger desire to make their fantasies a reality than women.

If the subjects responded with a 3 or above for any of the statements in the survey, then the scientists noted that statement as a sexual fantasy for that person. Below is the percentage (indicated on the vertical axis) of men and women who reported a few of these sexual fantasies:

sexual fantasies chart

University of Montreal

Percentage of men versus women who fantasized about one of the following. This chart was made by BI using data taken directly from the paper.

As you can see, more women fantasized about having sex in a specific location while far more men fantasized about receiving oral sex. Inters tingly, both sexes were about equal when it came to participating in group sex, although more men reported wanting to have an active versus passive role during group sex.

When it came to who the subjects thought about, men reported fantasizing more about people they were not currently involved with than women. What was particularly interesting to the researchers was the high number of fantasies that were mostly unique to men, for example, fantasizing about anal sex and watching their partner have sex with another man.

“Evolutionary biological theories cannot explain these fantasies,” Joyal said in a release issued by the university.

After analyzing the data set as a whole, the team created a glossary defining certain “rare”, “unusual”, and “typical” sex fantasies.

Rare meant that 2.3% or less of individuals reported this fantasy. Unusual meant 15.9% or less reported having them. Common fantasies meant they were shared by between 50 and 84.1% of individuals, and typical fantasies are common amongst more than 84.1% of the surveyed population.

Here are a few examples of what they found in each of these categories:

  • Rare: sex with a child or animal
  • Unusual: “golden showers”, cross-dressing, sex with a prostitute, abusing an intoxicated person
  • Typical: sex in a romantic location, receiving oral sex, sex with two women (primarily a male fantasy)

The team isn’t done with their precious dataset, however. They are now analyzing subgroups of fantasies to see which types of fantasies are common among the same people. For example, people who reported submission fantasies also described domination fantasies, which indicates that these two themes are connected.

Here’s the full table of the researchers findings. Where do your fantasies fit in?

sexual fantasies

University of Montreal

Survey taken from the paper “What exactly is an unusual sexual fantasy?” Some of the information in the chart has been removed for clarity.


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