Science

The science of sex: how normal are your sexual fantasies?

If you’ve dreamed about sex with a celebrity, or perhaps about golden showers, you have sexual fantasies. But are these thoughts normal, or do you have deviant dreams that few others share? Researchers at the University of Montreal were struck by how often they encountered studies about unusual sexual fantasies without anyone defining them. They wanted to distinguish these atypical fantasies from pathological ones: those that are compulsive or cause distress. So they set off to classify the fantasies of Quebecois adults. “Our main objective was to specify norms in sexual fantasies, an essential step in defining pathologies”, said Christian Joyal, who led the research. “And as we suspected, there are a lot more common fantasies than atypical fantasies”. They found that some fantasies often considered atypical, like voyeurism in men and submission in women, are not particularly unusual at all. In fact, of the 55 fantasies they asked their respondents about, only two were rare, while nine more were unusual.

They also found associations between fantasies, some of them often considered opposites. People with submission fantasies, for example, are likely to also have domination fantasies, while men and women who fantasise about being dominated are likely to have more intense fantasies. Some fantasies are gender-associated, according to the study. Men are more likely to fantasise about straight anal sex and ‘swinging’ with another couple than women, while women generally make a clearer distinction than men between complete fantasies and actual sexual desires.

Of course, the people who took part volunteered for a study about sex, so are more open to discussions about sex than the general population. The researchers also collected their results using an internet survey, so there could be some bias and dishonesty included in the data. “Overall, these findings allow us to shed light on certain sexual phenomena, such as the popularity of the book Fifty Shades of Grey with women”, Joyal said. “The subject is fascinating”.

11/11/2014

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