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The 7 Most Popular Sexual Fantasies

Which one do YOU have?

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typography of the word fantasies
Mel Cerri
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It’s time to spill the tea on our deepest, most personal fantasies.

Translation: Let’s talk about sex.

Justin Lehmiller, social psychologist and Kinsey Institute research fellow, released the paperback edition of his book Tell Me What You Want in July, and it’s filled with details about America’s sexual fantasies. We spoke with him for a Q&A about everything from how to make your sexual fantasies come true to the most common fantasies right now. (It’s not face-mask sex, if you were wondering.)

Whose sexual fantasies did you study in your book?

Most of the research has focused on college-student samples, but college students might not necessarily be the most representative group when it comes to what it is that turns people on. I recruited a very large and diverse sample of 4,175 Americans from all 50 states ranging in age from 18 to 87.

What are the most popular fantasies?

There are seven: The most common fantasies included sex with multiple partners at the same time; BDSM fantasies; novel and adventure fantasies (thrill seeking); taboo fantasies (people are doing something socially or culturally forbidden); passion and romance fantasies (filling a deep emotional need); nonmonogomy fantasies (polyamory or swinging); and pushing the boundaries of gender role or sexual orientation through cross-dressing or other techniques.

How common are fantasies?

Almost everyone — 90 percent of people — has had fantasies about sex with multiple partners, some aspect of BDSM or being in some type of thrill-seeking behavior. It was surprising at how much commonality there was — we have a tendency to think that men’s and women’s fantasies are drastically different, but we actually have a lot in common when it comes to the sexual thoughts that cross our mind.

How do our fantasies change as we age?

People’s fantasies become more adventurous when they get older. People in their 40s and 50s were reporting the most diverse and adventuresome fantasies: more multiple partner and nonmonogamy fantasies, more novel and taboo fantasies. We tend to think that it’s younger people who have the kinkiest fantasies, but it doesn’t seem to be supported by the data.

What can we do with this knowledge about fantasies?

A lot of people feel shame, guilt and embarrassment about our fantasies because they think they’re the only ones. It can help relieve their anxiety and help to normalize discussions about sex. One of the other important things I found was that the people who shared and acted on their sexual fantasies were in the happiest relationships and were the most sexually satisfied.

How do we make these fantasies happen?

It’s important for people to recognize that there are potential risks and potential rewards when it comes to sharing and acting on sexual fantasies, so you need to approach this with caution. It starts with normalizing conversations about sex in your relationship, and slowly introducing fantasies with your partner. Start low and go slow, and don’t get your most adventurous fantasy out there right away. Your partner may not be into it, or they may be judgmental or shaming. That’s why it’s important to go slow and build up trust and intimacy first.

What if you’re embarrassed about your fantasy?

Try to come to self-acceptance with your fantasy — your fantasies probably aren’t weird or unusual. Get more comfortable talking to your partner about sex in general, and build up intimacy and trust in the relationship. Sharing fantasies is deeply personal, and you need to have that sense of security before having those vital conversations. Most people said that their partner responded positively, and most people said that acting on their fantasies met or exceeded their expectations. It brought them closer to their partner. Sharing and acting on fantasies is this powerful way that could bring couples closer together and also enhance sexual excitement at the same time.

What are the origins of our fantasies?

Our fantasies have complex routes, but they say a lot about our personalities and our sexual histories and just where we are in our lives right now. I find that many personality traits predict the types of fantasies people have. People who are more extraverted have more nonmonogamous fantasies. Our fantasies also relate to how our current relationship is going and where we are in life. If you’re in a long-term relationship, many people get bored with their sexual routines, so their fantasies compensate with novelty. We have a need for novelty when it comes to sex.