Curious about what others are fantasizing about? Wondering if others are having the same sexual fantasies as you? Keep reading to find out when, where and how people fantasize about sex.

Whether you see your sexual fantasy on the list or not, you should know that having fantasies is very common. It’s also important to remember that whether or not you’re in a sexual relationship, fantasies can play a major role in spicing up your sex life. Maybe you use a fantasy as a way to get off when you masturbate, or you can trade fantasies with a partner. Elaborate on them and perhaps develop a new fantasy that combines both of your desires. Your fantasies may be about scenarios you share when you talk dirty in the heat of the moment. Or you may want to live out your sexual fantasies when you dress up in sexy roleplaying outfits. Conversely, there may be fantasies you keep to yourself and use for your own personal arousal.

According to a major study about sexual fantasies of 4,175 people by Justin J. Lehmiller of The Kinsey Institute, there were seven most common sexual fantasy types that emerged, published in book form in Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. We want to emphasize that a sexual fantasy may mean that there’s something you want to try in real life. Your fantasies could also be something you simply enjoy thinking about and getting aroused by. Your feelings about whether a fantasy fits into one category or the other may change over time. According to Lehmiller’s research, 79% said that they want to act on their favorite fantasy of all time in the future. However, only 23.4% of people had actually lived out their fantasy. You don’t have to know immediately whether your fantasy is simply mental fodder or something you want to bring into real life.

Further, the research in Tell Me What You Want found that people fantasize for a range of reasons. Not surprisingly, the most common reason for sexual fantasies was to experience sexual arousal. Other reasons included: being curious about different sexual experiences, escaping reality, planning a future sexual encounter, reducing anxiety, feeling more sexually confident, and blocking out distractions during sex. As to when and where people experience sexual fantasies, responses ran the gamut. Some people have fantasies during masturbation and sex with a partner, while others have them at other times. This includes while watching TV and movies, at work, while talking to someone, at bars, clubs and parties, at school and at the gym.

Below are the seven most common sexual fantasies (by category), according to Lehmiller’s research.

Multi-partner sex

This means sex between more than two people. Threesomes were commonly mentioned as a popular sexual fantasy, but so were acts with more than three people, like orgies. The research found that for fantasies of sex with multiple partners, “what they were doing in this fantasy was more important than who and where.” If you’ve ever been curious about sex with more than one partner, this may be something you want to explore during your private fantasy time, or to bring up with a partner. If, for instance, you and your partner are both interested in a threesome, you can go on hookup apps or apps geared toward open relationships and look for partners. If you’re going to pursue having a threesome, it’s important that everyone knows each other’s boundaries ahead of time.

Power, control, and rough sex

This next set of fantasies can comprise many different elements of BDSM. Giving up power and control, or seizing power and control, can be very arousing to many people. Whether you fantasize about power play as part of a BDSM scene or want to live the kinky lifestyle 24/7, there are many ways these fantasies can play out. Some people in the study fantasized about forced sex, which in the context of fantasy, means that the person being “forced” is still ultimately in total control. This could also include bondage, where the person being bound with handcuffs, rope, restraints or other kinky items, loses control of some range of motion or their ability to see, in the case of a blindfold. For some people, fantasies about BDSM were mingled with fantasies about multi-partner sex. This category of BDSM fantasies was so popular that only 7% of men and 4% of women had never fantasized about it, meaning the vast majority had incorporated BDSM into their sexual fantasies.

Novelty, adventure, and variety

This set of sexual fantasies is wide-ranging, and includes everything from trying new sexual activities to sex in unique settings, incorporating food into sex, such as whipped cream or even ice cubes, experimenting with technology, using sex toys, as well as pegging (strap-on sex, usually involving a female partner penetrating a male partner). This set of fantasies makes perfect sense, especially for those in long-term relationships, as well as those who may simply like to experiment. Who hasn’t dreamed of mixing things up between the sheets (or elsewhere) now and then?  

Taboo and forbidden sex

This set of fantasies covers everything from voyeurism (being watched), to exhibitionism (being exposed), to furries (dressing up as animals) and other taboo topics, some of which may be illegal or considered off-putting in mainstream society. Due to the forbidden nature of these fantasies, people may be less likely to speak about them with others, but having fantasies about the taboo or forbidden is very common. If your fantasies veer toward the dark side, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Passion, romance, and intimacy

Yes, even romantics have sexual fantasies! Lehmiller found that this category of sexual fantasies was largely about emotional fulfillment, rather than strictly about the physical aspects of sex. This could include feeling desired and wanted, and these fantasies were often about a specific person or people. So rather than an abstract fantasy about wanting to be tied up, for instance, those with sexual fantasies about romance and intimacy might only fantasize about engaging in BDSM with an established partner they feel safe with and trust.

Nonmonogamy and partner sharing

These sexual fantasies involve various forms of nonmonogamy, meaning not being tied to one partner. There are numerous ways nonmonogamy can take shape, including open relationships, polyamory, swinging and cuckolding, in which one partner has outside partners. In the case of cuckolding, men were “more likely to fantasize about watching [their] partner have sex with someone else,” whereas for women, it was the opposite—they were more likely to fantasize about being watched. Interestingly, people who fantasized about nonmonogamy or partner sharing were mainly already in relationships, and consensual nonmonogamy was a more common sexual fantasy than ones about cheating on a partner. This also has some overlap with multipartner sex fantasies mentioned above.

Erotic flexibility and gender-bending

This category of sexual fantasies involves gender swapping and “pushing the boundaries of one’s sexual orientation and/or gender role.” For instance, a straight man may fantasize about a first-time gay sexual experience with another man. According to Lehmiller, this also includes a “rejection of binary notions of gender and sexuality” and may overlap with novelty and taboo fantasy themes.

As with all sexual fantasies, just because you have a one-time, occasional or frequent fantasy about something, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to try it out in real life. If you do want to pursue it, you can discuss it with a partner (or potential partner) or seek out others who share your interests. Many sexual fantasies may have websites or online forums where you can discuss your fantasies anonymously.

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