Just about everyone has sexual fantasies – and there are lots of reasons why.
What happens in our heads is completely private.
If no-one can see or hear what we’re thinking, there are no rules – we’re free to be totally honest. No-one can condemn us for being slutty, immoral, ‘dirty’, depraved, degenerate, or horribly (delightedly) politically incorrect.
Except, of course, ourselves.
Analysing fantasies is a bit like dream analysis: it’s more about the individual interpretation than generalised concepts. Dreaming of performing on stage is a positive dream for some; for others it would qualify as an anxiety dream. But there are some common themes that tend to apply.
If you’re worried about what your fantasies say about you – or just plain curious – here’s some theories. As always, let your instinct guide you on what rings true and what doesn’t.
Being forced to have sex
The ‘safe rape’ fantasy can also hark back to the ‘good-girl’ hang up: if someone overpowers us, we can relax and submit because we have no choice. Some people, ridiculously, try to use it as ‘proof’ women secretly want to be raped. That’s a bit like saying if you like watching horror films, you secretly want to be a killer or be killed. Fantasy rape isn’t painful, violent or frightening. We’re in complete control of it – which is the complete opposite to rape in real life.
Even the most modest people wish to be desirable – it’s a universal need to want people to find you attractive. But what if you were so attractive, people really couldn’t help themselves? What if they were literally falling at your feet, begging you to let them kiss you, touch you, have sex with you?
If you’re female, you’re well aware beauty is a prime commodity and to be worshipped for it, makes us very valuable indeed. Being adored also rather handily removes responsibility for what follows: you’re being seduced by people who are desperate to possess you, how could you possibly resist?
Sometimes, recurring fantasies of being irresistible mean there’s an unconscious fear that in reality the opposite is true. In this case, it can reflect low self-esteem and fears of sexual inadequacy. In most, it’s just enjoyable: we go to bed as ourselves and wake up in our dreams as a supermodel.
No prizes for guessing this one is about power. One person has it, the other doesn’t and we’re attracted to both for different reasons. Stripped of it, we are completely at the mercy of someone else, absolving us of responsibility. This means we’re ‘forced’ to enjoy whatever the other person does to us. If you’re a people-pleaser and usually the ‘giver’, this makes it impossible to reciprocate. If we’re the ones in control, we’re given permission to be completely selfish.
A woman dominating men or using them as sex slaves
A classic control fantasy which is all about rebelling against having to be a ‘nice girl’. They’re particularly popular with women who are shy and undemanding in real life. The desire to be the boss and be in control isn’t exclusive to men but being sexually aggressive is seen as male trait.
Some women still worry they won’t be seen as feminine if they act dominant during sex but our imagination (thank God) sets us free of silly restrictions. We might choose to ‘behave’ during waking hours but in our dreams and our fantasies, our forceful, domineering sides are given freedom. We don’t wait to be given ‘permission’ but take what we want, when we want it, without apology. The goal isn’t to humiliate our lover, it’s to give us a total sense of control.
It’s often a replay of what actually happened with a particularly desirable ex (we tend to marry for love not sex); or, if someone new, the grass-is-greener philosophy at play. The more forbidden the person (our partner’s best friend, someone’s father, the boss), the more powerful the fantasy. The ‘we want what we can’t have’ syndrome is especially potent in sex.
Our lover watching us have sex with another person
You’re insatiable – your partner alone can’t satisfy you. The person who craves sex more is seen as more sexually powerful, so this is a power fantasy as well. It also hints at the urge to show off: we can only see so much when we’re having sex with someone because you’re necessarily physically close. Watching from a distance, they get to see how good you really look.
Joining the Mile High Club
Having sex in the loo on a plane is a common fantasy – and one plenty of people take through to reality. There’s a strong element of exhibitionism in this fantasy even though you’re essentially having sex in private. Just like having sex in a tent, you’re getting up to all sorts with the general public a mere hair’s breath away. Unlike a tent, the chance of being caught in this fantasy is high, which means the sex has to be fast and no frills. This is an excuse to indulge in sex which is lust driven rather than emotion driven, which is why we’ll often do it with strangers.
Receiving or giving oral sex
Oral sex is seen as more intimate than intercourse simply because it involves licking our most private bits. Worshipping them in fantasies therefore represents true sexual acceptance. Then there’s the fact that both sexes have frequent and intense orgasms from oral sex. Being good at it can be a power dream; receiving it from someone who can’t get enough makes us impossibly ravishing.
No real surprises with this one: these fantasies are had by women who are more motivated by love than sex and tend to be sexually conservative. Even if we can’t do it in reality, most of us can separate sex and love in our imaginations. Women who only have romantic fantasies tend not to be able to.
Same sex fantasies
“It’s as common for women to have sexual fantasies about other women as it is rare for men to have fantasies about other men,” says Nancy Friday, the author who was one of the first to expose women’s fantasies as just as filthy as mens. Women are far less haunted by the social taboo of being gay, probably because society is far less homophobic about gay women than it is gay men. Most women who fantasise about other women, aren’t gay or bi-sexual. Simply thinking about something does not mean you’re gay. A few bi-curious encounters, are, as the name suggests, more about sexual curiosity than anything else.
Seducing a virgin
The first person we have sex with is guaranteed to always be remembered, so high achievers and those who enjoy being the centre of attention may enjoy this fantasy. If someone’s never done something before, we not only get to teach them everything we know – putting us in a superior sexual position – they probably won’t criticise our technique. So it may mean you feel sexually inadequate. Corrupting innocence is also a strong theme here: it’s forbidden, so highly appealing.
Sex in public or semi-public
This one’s about people admiring us – usually, onlookers are so impressed by our sexual skills, they’d cut off a limb to swap places with the person we’re having sex with. It’s also illegal so can mean you’re quite rebellious.
Sex with a stranger
If you don’t know them and never will, you can let loose without fear of being judged. If they don’t know you, you can become someone else. It’s sex stripped of all emotion, purely physical. Often the stranger will be faceless (it all happens in the dark where we can’t make out their features or they come up from behind us). Eye contact means intimacy, avoiding it is another way to ensure it satisfies the raw, primitive side of us we may mask in real life.
Sex with someone much younger or older
Plumped skin, high energy, bodies at their prime and minds unburdened by the scars of life: youth has always been appealing. Having sex with someone much younger than us is an ego-boost: we’ve still ‘got it’ to be able to attract them. Sex with someone older works on the same principle. We see older people as wiser, richer, more intelligent, worldly and sophisticated. Then there are Daddy issues. Women who consistently fantasise about older men or date them in real life, can sometimes be working through issues with their own father. Ditto for men who haven’t separated properly from their mother. We try to fix what’s happened in the past by recreating it, with a different ending, in the present.
Mildly sadomasochistic, spanking is a common fantasy with biological undertones. Aggression is common in the animal world: some female animals only ovulate if the male bites them and humans have also long linked pain and pleasure. Arousal is all about increased blood flow and spanking increases blood flow to erogenous zones like the buttocks and genitals. Wanting to be spanked can also originate from guilt: we need to be punished for liking something we shouldn’t (sex).
Stripping is a particularly popular female fantasy because it involves exposing ourselves provocatively and teasing – which is something women do consciously or unconsciously a lot anyway! A low cut top, a slit skirt – we’re used to flashing parts of our flesh and getting admiring glances for doing so.
Narcissism and exhibitionism are a basic part of life: we need to be ‘seen’ by other people in order to feel important. ‘The looking glass effect’ is seeing ourselves reflected in other people’s eyes: the more adoring they look at us, the more adorable we feel. Strippers involve the audience in their own narcissism – they want to be looked at (or try to do a good job of pretending this).
Happily, plenty of people are more than willing to oblige. Most of the men who frequent strip clubs are voyeurs: all they want to do is look rather than touch. Neither the stripper or audience necessarily want sex with the other, simply performing or watching the performance is enough. Flaunting gives us a sense of power – and power is always sexy.
Exposing our naked body to cheers and applause in our fantasies also helps calm our fear of our body not being good enough in real life. In reality, we might be short, stocky and rather rounded, in our fantasies we have legs which stretch from here to heaven, breasts so pert they practically point upwards and a tummy so flat, it’s concave. Some therapists claim ‘show-off’ fantasies hint at an Oedipal complex: as a little girl we learnt being a tease in childhood got us Daddy’s attention, stealing it from Mum. I say in most cases, that’s a load of rubbish.
Threesomes, swinging, group sex
One of the most common fantasies for both sexes, in female fantasies women tend to be the undisputed star of any group sex session and nearly always on the receiving end. For men, it’s more about being able to satisfy more than one woman. A heady blend of exhibitionism, voyeurism, bi-curiosity (if there’s the same sex involved) and a human longing for excess (if one person feels good, more must feel better).
Trying something you haven’t
Most of us are far more daring in our heads than in our beds – particularly women. It’s all to do with being judged or seen as ‘slutty’. If we’re planning on trying something new out in reality, fantasising about it is a great way of rehearsing. It’s a mental practise session.
Watching others have sex
Countless surveys have shown women are as turned on by erotic images as men are so it makes sense that we’re also just as voyeuristic. Women are far more ‘porn-friendly’ – enjoy watching it solo or with partners – than society would have you believe.
Watching people have sex in real life is even more fascinating because it makes for more realistic comparisons. We all love to think we’re great in bed and watching other people means we can see how we rate on the ‘best lover’ chart. It also hints at sexual confidence: you could teach people a thing or two! There’s a narcissistic thread as well: we can’t see ourselves having sex, so by watching others we imagine how we might look in the same scenario.