Q&A: Sexual Fantasies – Are They Normal?

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QUESTION: I’ve been having sexual fantasies about acts I would never consider doing in real life. Is there something wrong with me?

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Let’s make a distinction, right from the outset, about fantasies that rest in the very personal spaces of our minds and memories, and a destructive delusion where the lines are blurred between fantasy and real life.  When we talk about sexual fantasies here, we’re talking about the type of sexual thoughts and dreams that most of us experience from time to time either because these thoughts just come to us or because we seek them out, as a means of sexual pleasure or arousal.

Having Sexual Fantasies Is Common

For most women and men, having sexual fantasies is common and does not necessarily mean that anything is wrong or different about you nor does it mean that you are likely to act out your fantasies in a real life situation.  Even in the 1940’s and 50’s, 89% of males and 69% of women interviewed by Alfred Kinsey and his research team reported having erotic sexual fantasies.

Contemporary sex researchers continue to find that most women and men have or enjoy sexual fantasies. These fantasies, and the whole experience of getting into a sexual frame of mind, can even help women and men to experience pleasure or achieve orgasm.

Where Do Sexual Fantasies Come From?

We don’t fully understand where our sexual fantasies spring from.  People construct many stories and situations, including having sex in public, watching others have sex, bondage, or kissing a high school sweetheart. Men and women are sometimes particularly worried about fantasies that are against the rules of their relationship (such as sex with a co-worker, friend or stranger) or thoughts about illegal acts, violent acts or acts that go against one’s personal values.

Ironically, the more that we try to suppress thoughts or fantasies, the more likely they are to return. If you feel bothered by your thoughts or fantasies, rather than getting anxious about them, consider mentally labeling them for what they are – for example, “there’s my stranger-on-the-bus fantasy again”) and then moving on – either to let yourself enjoy the fantasy or to shrug your shoulders and marvel at the mysteries of the mind.

Talk To Friends Or Professionals

That said, the lines between fantasy and reality do get blurred for some people.   Don’t hesitate to seek help from a medical professional or counselor if these thoughts become overwhelming or persistent, if they distress you or if you are worried that you will act on them. Or consider talking with someone you trust about them. Chances are, your friends can relate with a few stories of fantasies or thoughts of their own.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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