Myth: Most People Don’t Fantasize

So we’re going to talk about a sexual myth, about fantasy. And we’re going to ask the question about fantasy, and whether most people fantasize. Because a lot of people believe that most people don’t fantasize, and in fact, it’s not true. And I’m going to show you that it’s not true. So – are having sexual fantasies normal, and do most people fantasize, and in fact, how many people fantasize? Now, I want you to remember that whenever I talk about “normal” I always mean statistically average. I’m never talking about whether it’s healthy or not, or whether it’s moral or not, or whether it’s good or not, or whether it’s OK or not. I’m always talking about – when I say “normal” – I mean whether it’s average because that’s what normal means to a scientist.

One study talked to 178 men and women and they were from 18 to 83 years old, but the mean age, that is, the average age, of the people was 27. And 84% of them reported that they had fantasized during intercourse at least some of the time. So that’s a pretty large percentage. Now this research separated out, as another aspect of the research, the most guilty for fantasizing and the least guilty for fantasizing, and they compared them one to the other, to see what the differences might be. Now, when the guilty ones were compared to the ones that had very low guilt, or no guilt, here’s what they found out. The guilty ones had fewer sexual fantasies in general, and they had higher levels of sexual dissatisfaction. That is, they were more unhappy with their sex lives. They had higher levels of sexual dysfunction; that is, they had more problems in their sex lives. And they had other problems too. They believed that sexual fantasies during intercourse were more abnormal – surprise surprise – more immoral, more uncommon, that is, they thought it was unusual that they had sexual fantasies during intercourse. In addition, the high guilt research subjects believed that their fantasizing during intercourse reflected much more negatively on their sexual behavior and their general character than the low guilt subjects. The researchers concluded that guilt reactions and having sexual fantasies during intercourse were related to the belief that such fantasies were deviant and harmful, and that such guilt reactions led to sexual dissatisfaction and sexual dysfunction.

Now in another study, 72% of women and 71% of men reported that they fantasized during sexual activity with their partners. So you can see that just about ¾ in that study were fantasizing while they were having sex with a partner. So again, very average, very normal to be having sexual fantasies, not just as a part of your masturbatory life, but as a part of your sexual life with a partner.

In the third study, of university women who ranged in age from 19 to 45 years of age, the study revealed that 99% of these women engaged in sexual fantasies at least occasionally. In a fourth study, when women with satisfying sex lives were compared with women who went to a sexual dysfunction clinic because they were having problems with their sexuality, and particularly were complaining of low sexual desire – which by the way is the major reason that people go to sex therapists these days – it was found that the women with low sexual desire also fantasized less during foreplay, during intercourse, during masturbation, and general daydreaming about sexuality. So they had lower fantasy in all those situations. The content of their fantasizing, in both groups, was very similar – but the women with low sexual desire fantasized less often. So, fantasy is good.

In a fifth study that had 193 college students – and remember college students are always the most popular subjects, because they’re right there, and they’re easy to ask, and of course most of this research is done by professors, so they’re the easiest subjects to use, and they’re usually willing to participate because they’re in courses where they get credit, so they participate. And also they’re at a time of life when they’re more open to this kind of thing. But these 193 college students revealed that low sexual activity and low levels of sexual fantasy go together. Now that’s really interesting, because people used to believe that sexual fantasy was a kind of replacement for sexual activity – and that people who fantasized were people who weren’t getting any. That is, people who weren’t having sexual activity fantasized instead. But what we’re learning is that in fact, people with more experience fantasize more, and people with more experience have a wider range of sexual fantasy. So in other words, more fantasy goes with more activity, and more experience. And these researchers concluded that fantasy cannot be viewed as compensation for lack of sexual experience or opportunity, as I said has been suggested in the past. A good fantasy life appears to be the result of an active, real sex life.

Now, what do people do in their fantasy lives? What are people’s fantasy lives like? Well, research has told us that some people repeat the same dependable fantasy over and over again – that’s what they like to do. They have a good one, and so they use it, and it works for them. Other people like to change their fantasies regularly because the novelty wears off, so that once a fantasy has worked for them for a while, they try it again, it kind of gets old, and it doesn’t work. It gets worn out with repetition. Both of those are different and they work for different people. Different strokes for different folks, as Sly Stone used to say. And so whatever works for you is fine. Fantasy is yours – it’s what you make up. You’re the director, you’re the producer, you’ll hear me say that again, you can turn it on, you can turn it off – whatever works for you, works – and it’s good for you. Don’t listen to what anybody tells you about it, whatever you’ve heard about in the past, as long as it works for you, it’s in your mind, it’s not hurtful, if it makes your sex life better and more exciting, that’s its job.

Another interesting topic is sexual dreams. People were asked the question “have you ever had a sexual dream?” Almost 100% of men said that they had, at some time in their life, had a sexual dream. So boy, that’s more than average – that’s everybody. That’s a rare thing when everybody says that. It’s a little bit like masturbation in men. Almost all men have masturbated at least sometime in their life – it’s close to 98%. And 70% of women said that they had had sexual dreams. So that’s very high – perhaps it’s even higher these days, but at that time it was at least 70% admitted to having a sexual dream. How about having an orgasm in your sleep? That’s an interesting one. Most men said yes, they had had an orgasm in their sleep at sometime. And interestingly enough, that gets less frequent as they get older. Interestingly, 40% of women said that they had had an orgasm in their sleep. So that’s less – but it gets more common as women get older. So I guess if you asked older and older women, that number would go up. So that’s an interesting sex difference.

So, let me conclude this myth a month by saying once again that as a result of our reticence as a culture in America, and maybe in the West in general, but maybe in America more than most, to talk about our sexuality, particularly our personal sexuality and our personal lives, and the terrible lack – which is getting worse these days – of comprehensive sex education in the schools – our general sense that sex is bad, unhealthy, and morally suspect and should be secretive, many of us have grown up to believe that perfectly natural and average behavior, that is, fantasizing about sexual behavior, is somehow not good and not good for us. And we’ve worried about it because of that, we’ve had anxieties about it because of that, we’ve tried to stop ourselves – many of us – from fantasizing about sex. Even if we’ve allowed ourselves to do it when we were alone or when we were masturbating we felt somehow guilty or that it’ll hurt our partner or hurt our sex lives if we do it when we’re actually having sex with a partner, instead of enjoying it and letting it enhance our pleasure and happiness in our lives, which is what it’s meant to do. So at least I, here at Love and Health, are giving you permission to have your sexual fantasies and to enjoy them.

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