July 23, 2018

Q&A: Why do I like sex play while I pretend to be asleep?

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Dreams come so easy, and leave me wondering.

Question: I was wondering if there is a term for me; a woman who likes being on the receiving end of the “Sleeping Beauty” fetish?  I am most turned on by my husband “doing things to me” while I pretend to be asleep. Is there a name for this? Is it common? Or is it just a way I give myself permission to enjoy sexual acts I feel like I can’t ask for out loud? Thanks for your thoughts.

Congratulations! It sounds like you’ve cracked the code for hot, erotic sex: you can identify what turns you on, there seems to be a high level of trust between you and your partner, and the outcome is pleasurable.

Fantasies that involve relinquishing control and being the object of lustful desire are, in fact, quite common. A 2014 study from the University of Montreal found that, out of their 1515 participants, 65% of women and 53% of men fantasized about sexual submission.

With regard to descriptive terms for your sexual interest, “responsive desire” is a concept that may resonate. It is perfectly normal for some people to only experience sexual interest once erotic activities are in progress. An online survey of 35,132 heterosexual individuals (in Belgium) suggests that about 30% of women and 5% of men have predominantly responsive desire. Emily Nagoski, Ph.D,  an American sex educator, has written a fantastic book—Come As You Are— that addresses this subject in greater detail and draws upon research across cultures.

Although your sex life sounds mutually satisfying, you question whether it provides an opportunity to enjoy “sexual acts I feel like I can’t ask for out loud.” It is unclear whether you wish to develop skills to communicate your desires more consciously, or if you are content with the status quo. There are resources available that can help with assertive sexual communication, if desired—including Getting the Sex You Want by Tammy Nelson and the sex blog GoodinBed.com.

It is awesome that your intimate life features several key elements that nurture and sustain eroticism—-most notably fantasy, novelty, and surprise. However, it might be worth considering whether you have any hard limits— sexual acts that are absolute “nos”— and communicating those to your partner. This ensures that sexy times remain consensual. Provided that everything happening during (pretend) “sleep” is pleasurable and fun then enjoy those sweet dreams!

Kimberly Jackson, MS, LICSW is an AASECT certified sex therapist practicing in Providence, RI, where she sees individuals and couples of diverse cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations, as well as relationships that are open or polyamorous. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Peru ’11-’13), an avid runner, and a non-practicing musician. 

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