New research reveals common; uncommon sexual fantasies

May change clinical perspective on sexual conditions.

Sexual deviance may not be that deviant after all, new research suggests.

A novel study on which types of sexual fantasies are most common among the general population was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine on Oct. 31 by researchers from the Université du Quebec à Trois-Rivières. It is the first study to statistically define how common certain sexual fantasies are across a wide demographic range. It found that far fewer sexual fantasies are atypical than traditionally believed, and that some fantasies are surprisingly common among both men and women. The study’s findings may redefine the role of sexual fantasies in diagnosing sexual pathologies or illnesses.

 The study used data from a survey which asked participants to rank 55 sexual fantasies on a scale of zero to seven, zero being no identification with a sexual fantasy and seven being total. Over 1500 participants were surveyed, ranging from 18 to 77 years old. Over half of the participants were women. Each survey also included one qualitative question, where participants could describe a strong sexual fantasy not listed. Of those surveyed, 85.1 per cent of participants identified as heterosexual, 3.6 per cent as homosexual, and 11.3 per cent as bisexual.

Only two sexual fantasies were found to be rare, being held by 2.3 per cent or less of the population, and were represented equally in all genders and sexualities: pedophilia and bestiality. The study’s authors said that previously used definitions of deviant or rare sexual fantasies covered many more than just these two.

Nine sexual fantasies were unusual, or held by 15.9 per cent or less of the population. Two of these were shared by men and women: urinating on a partner and being urinated on. Women exclusively had five unusual fantasies: cross dressing, forcing someone else to have sex, abusing a drunk or unconscious partner, having sex with a prostitute, or sex with a woman with small breasts. Men exclusively had two unusual fantasies: having sex with other men and having sex with more than three men.

Twenty-three sexual fantasies were common in men, or held by 50 per cent of the population, and 11 per cent in women. For example, half of women fantasized about having sex with two or more men, and half of men fantasized about having sex with a much younger partner. The number of common fantasies was greater than the authors originally hypothesized.

Sexual domination or submission was another important common fantasy, as it was a significant predictor of both number and intensity of other fantasies. Submissive fantasies were higher in women, but higher in men than previously predicted, with 53.3 per cent of men reporting submissive fantasies. Submissive fantasies correlated equally with dominating fantasies in both men and women, going against previous clinical beliefs that women would identify more with submission and men more with domination.

 The authors said that half of the women who reported submissive fantasies would not act on it in real life, and that this was an example of how sexual fantasies could be clinically distinguished from sexual wishes or needs.

  Five sexual fantasies were typical, or held by 84.1 per cent or more of the population. Four were common to both men and women: romantic emotions in a sexual relationship, fantasies where the atmosphere or location is important, having sex in an unusual location, such as a bathroom or office, or receiving oral sex. One typical fantasy was exclusive to men: having sex with two women. These typical fantasies contradict the authors’ hypothesis that men and women would share few sexual fantasies.

According to the study, an unexpected finding was that rates of homosexual fantasies exceed participants’ rates of homosexuality or bisexuality. One third of women reported some kind of homosexual fantasy, while only 12.6 per cent and 6 per cent identified as bisexual or homosexual, respectively. About 25 per cent of men fantasized about giving fellatio, but 89.5 per cent of men identified as heterosexual.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a widely used reference in psychological fields, uses sexual fantasies diagnostically, but based on statistically weak research or subjective definitions. This study is the first to empirically define deviance from sexual fantasy norms. Its authors were clear that their findings do not define psychological abnormality or pathology, but could aid in their future understanding.

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