Question: I’m a 21-year old woman. Until recently, I had never had a sex dream. Then I had my first one, but it was about a woman. I have a boyfriend who I’ve been with for over a year, and I have never had any sexual encounters with another woman. Since this dream, I’ve begun to question my sexuality. Could such dreams mean that I’m lesbian?
Dreams don’t necessarily reflect your waking life. People have all kinds of dreams – even all kinds of sexy dreams! Sometimes dreams may reflect something a person wants to do in their waking life – like have sex with a certain person of the same or other gender, kiss someone, try S&M, have oral sex, experiment with sex toys, have an affair, or get married. Other times, dreams don’t reflect a person’s desires at all.
We can’t control our dreams, and they don’t necessarily reflect what you want or feel in a literal sense. Maybe it just means that you want closeness with your friend, or you enjoy spending time with her, or maybe it has nothing to do with her at all. It could be that your body was feeling aroused at the time – men and women both show genital arousal about every 90 minutes during sleep; men may have erections during this time and women often lubricate. Maybe it was just coincidence that as your body was peaking sexually during the night, the image that it latched on to was your friend.
As for your dreams and questioning your sexual orientation, I can certainly understand your curiosity but would urge you to consider how you feel. Are you sexually attracted to women in waking life? Can you imagine dating a woman, or creating a romantic partnership with a woman? If yes to any of these, perhaps you are indeed “into” women in some way and may one day identify as bisexual or lesbian. If you want to explore that possibility, check out www.indiana.edu/~glbt for various resources. This is not to say that you need a “label” – many people just take what attractions and interests come their way, without identifying themselves one way or the other. And research frequently finds that people’s sexual attractions, behaviors, and identities don’t always line up neatly.
If you’re not interested in women in waking life, then perhaps you’re a straight woman who sometimes dreams about women. Many women dream about women, and many men dream about men, even though they identify as heterosexual. In addition, many people who identify as gay dream about people of another gender.
Dreams don’t have to change who you are and what kind of partner you want while you’re awake. It’s something we don’t talk much about, probably because our culture tiptoes around talking about sex, in spite of all the media images about sex – but many people have sexual dreams about people they don’t want to have sex with in waking life. Similarly, sometimes you might have a dream about having sex with a man – maybe a professor, someone you work with, a guy in one of your classes, even a family member. It doesn’t mean you want to have sex with that person either. Dreams are just dreams.
If you’re interested in learning more about dreams, a great (academic) book is “Working with Dreams in Psychotherapy” by Clara Hill. She’s a professor of psychology and takes the perspective that dreams may have personal meanings for us, but that the dreamer him/herself best understands them – and what you see in your dreams isn’t necessarily a literal translation of your wishes. Even though the book sounds like it’s only meant for psychologists, it’s a good read for lay people too!
Originally published 04/03. Reviewed and updated terminology and research on April 30, 2017.