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Sexual Fantasies

Sexual fantasies are common. The content of our fantasies revolves around situations, items, or characteristics we find arousing, and can inspire scenarios ranging from the mundane to the bizarre.

Not everyone understands their own sexual needs and desires, and may be surprised or even repulsed by their own fantasies, especially if they have been taught to believe that fantasising is unhealthy or wrong. However, we do not get to choose our sexual needs, and fantasies that may not align with our moral compass do not predict similar real-life behaviour.

Fantasy or fetish?

Words related, directly and indirectly, to sexual fantasies are used liberally and interchangeably in popular culture—and often inaccurately. This may be due in part to the taboos surrounding these subjects, which discourages us from educating ourselves on the proper terms.

  • A sexual fantasy is a flight of the imagination that involves arousing elements. Fantasies can be fleeting or recurring, spontaneous or controlled.
  • A kink is an object, situation, or characteristic one consistently finds erotic. The word is also used to describe (sometimes unconventional) sexual activities, preferences, and orientations.
  • A fetish is an object, situation, or characteristic a person not only finds consistently erotic, but also necessary for sexual gratification—people with fetishes are unable to feel sexually satisfied without the involvement of their fetish.
  • Paraphilia is intense sexual arousal in response to objects/situations/characteristics that aren’t typically associated with sex, e.g. a lamp, or the sound of construction.

People can have very different feelings about their preferences and desires, especially desires that are unusual or controversial. Some hide or suppress them all their lives, others choose to embrace and enjoy them, often seeking out like-minded people, even entire communities that share the same kinks.

Although too free-spirited for some, many of these communities are discreet and respectful, and able to provide advice and support in journeys of self-discovery to people who wouldn’t find it elsewhere. Even so, caution is advised—there are people out there that seek to exploit the trusting and vulnerable.


Common themes

There are a number of themes that are common to the sexual fantasies of many people. This suggests that there must be some aspects of human biology and social evolution that consistently produce certain specific sexual needs. Many fantasies are linked to one another and may overlap—other erotic ideas are very specific, and some are impossible to fulfill in real life.

The following list gives some of the most typical themes found in the imaginations of millions of people all over the world (and is by no means exhaustive).

Experimental fantasies involve the new and exciting, perhaps something one is afraid to try in real life or something you typically don’t do in the bedroom. This may include thoughts of experimenting with people other than their partner, a.k.a. non-monogamous fantasies, which differ from cheating fantasies in that there is agreement and consent from all involved parties.

Same-sex fantasies feature intimacy with someone of the same sex. This can be, but isn’t necessarily indicative of sexual orientation. Women especially tend to blur that line and are often more comfortable showing affection towards other women. Same-sex fantasies may spring from curiosity or a desire to explore one’s own sexuality without having to consider genitalia or sexual functions that are different from their own.

Fantasies involving cross-dressing or androgyny may signify a sense of detachment from one's social role, or a desire to either distance oneself from or embrace a different version of oneself, or both.

The off-limits or unattainable fantasy features the excitement that comes from doing something you’re not supposed to do, or would be shamed for doing. The risk of getting caught, or simply doing something in secrecy, can be thrilling. Some raise the stakes with elements of danger to facilitate a greater sense of risk or adventure.

Dominance or control fantasies have to do with being in charge, often of another person or several people. This may allow some people to experience control they’re lacking in their lives, or simply enjoy the thought of someone doing their bidding, dictating events or sensations, and generally feeling powerful and dominant.

Submission or lack of control is a common fantasy for both men and women. Those expected to be dominant may feel insecure about wanting to be submissive. Those expected to be submissive may feel guilty or ashamed about experiencing spontaneous desire as opposed to responding to the desire of someone else. These negative feelings can be bypassed by redirecting the source of all sexual elements to circumstances out of one’s control. This may explain why submissive fantasies commonly involve bondage and rape.


Having fantasies about rape does not imply a desire to be raped in real life.

Humiliation or degradation fantasies can be linked to feeling ashamed of experiencing arousal or certain desires. Being humiliated while these experiences are happening may be a way to justify them. Humiliation fantasies may even offer psychotherapeutic effect for people who normally have trouble expressing emotion. Fantasizing about being compelled to break down or pushed to catharsis channels strong feelings. Working through such an experience can potentially be liberating and empowering.

Pain and torture are also turn-ons for some, either inflicted on someone else (sadism), oneself (masochism), or both (sadomasochism). Different people are comfortable with different levels of pain, which can range from playful spanking to being beaten hard enough to leave visible marks. Fantasies let people experience the process without causing any real bodily harm. Torture doesn’t have to be physical, though—for example, plenty of people enjoy being brought to the brink of orgasm only to be denied release.

Role-play fantasies involve stepping out of one’s usual inhibitions, and quite possibly stepping into new ones, depending on the rules of the fantasy. Some of the more popular scenarios include characters from different historical eras, fictional worlds, and even popular books, movies, or TV serials. Part of the appeal of role-play is that it provides an opportunity to imagine oneself as a person who is unafraid of self-expression, even the most kinky kind.

Animals or imaginary creatures are also the subject of many a sexual fantasy. Some people find plain old humans a bit boring sometimes, and desire to experience certain sensations associated with fur or scales, horns, wings, or tentacles. Others use fantasy as an expression of emotional connection to a particular creature.


Beings that are unable to fully understand sex and sexual advances are unable to give valid consent. These include children, some adults with debilitating conditions, and animals.

Items of clothing such as shoes, panties and stockings are often considered appealing for their association with certain parts of the body or the visual effect they provide. Some items, especially undergarments, are found especially erotic since they are usually only revealed under intimate circumstances. In the past, people felt this way about women’s ankles.

(Please understand that these are abstract observations and do not apply to all people. Sexual fantasies are a private affair and the meanings behind an individual’s indulgences are not up for public debate.)


Am I normal?

Many people worry that their fantasies imply harmful intent or a lack of morals. For the overwhelming majority, this is not the case. Anything can pop into your mind, but you choose which thoughts you identify with. While people who do commit immoral sexual acts tend to fantasize about them as well, simply fantasizing about something does not make someone willing or capable of enacting it.

Fantasies can be compared to dreams in that they are often metaphors for emotions and events we don’t really know how to process, and often fall in the realm of the weird and unconventional—it's just that people tend not to advertise their own odd personal metaphors. In a sense, it’s normal to be abnormal.

Fantasies and (real, live) sex

Sexual fantasies can be used to spark desire in the bedroom, but bringing them up with your partner isn’t easy, especially if you’ve never talked about sexual fantasies before. You might lead into the conversation by asking your partner if they’ve ever wanted to try something in particular—they will likely respond in turn. You might even have complementary kinks. If your partner shares their fantasies with you, recognise that this is an exercise in trust, and treat them as you would like to be treated in the same scenario. Of course, there is always a chance that they just aren’t into your “thing” (or vice versa), whereas it is probably best to respectfully move on and focus on the activities you mutually enjoy.

If both parties are willing to explore, be mindful that this is new territory, and don’t rush. Start by implementing small aspects of your fantasies and gradually build up to enacting an entire scenario (if you so wish). It’s important to discuss everything, and to do a good amount of research beforehand, especially if your fantasies involve potentially dangerous activities, such as bondage, rough play, or pain—you wouldn’t want things to go wrong. Choose a distinct safe-word, and make sure both of you are comfortable with all aspects of what you plan to do. It probably won’t go as smoothly as you imagine at first, but don’t despair. As with any other skill, practice makes perfect.

Good luck, and have fun!

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https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/fighting-fear/201404/sexual-fantasies
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-06/udg-asc062707.php
https://thenookybox.com/blog/whats-difference-kink-vs-fetishes/
https://www.jstor.org/stable/20620397?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents