Your Sexual Fantasies Decoded

Does getting off on the thought of sex with your 
friend’s husband make you a bad person? What about S&M? Rebecca Reid does some digging...

I’ve always hated the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’. A penchant for ABBA, a love of French cheese or skipping a night out to sit on the couch and watch Netflix: as long as you’re not hurting anyone, you shouldn’t feel guilty about something that makes you feel good, right?

Only, here’s the thing. Women are encouraged to feel guilty about everything. Whether it’s eating cake or going back to work after having a baby, we’re bombarded with the message that we’re screwing up – and our sexual preferences are no exception. Little surprise then that, according to a study by Psychology Today, 25 per cent of us feel ashamed about what turns us on. That’s in comparison to eight per cent of men.

It’s thought that approximately 
95 per cent of us have sexual fantasies – that means your best friend, your colleague, your mum and your nan (sorry). To get more specific, 60 per cent of women have fantasised about being dominated, and a third of the heterosexuals among us have fantasised about other women. According to research by Ann Summers, women are more likely to have graphic, hard-core fantasies than men. In fact, while men often replay previous sexual encounters to get themselves off, women tend to use their imagination – often creating something more risqué in the process. The divide has been attributed to the fact that men are (generally) more visual – and find nudity an adequate trigger alone.

But while we all have fantasies, we never seem to discuss them. One-night stands, STIs, penises – with girl talk, it’s all on the table. However, when it comes to what turns you on, I’m willing to bet you’ve kept your innermost desires a secret. I write about sex full-time, but I’ve never revealed what turns me on (a threesome with two men, by the way). And maybe that’s the real reason we feel so bad about the good stuff. After all, experts believe that shame stems from feeling like we’re flawed in some way. If you open up about your fantasies and find common ground with those you care about, those perceived ‘flaws’ should lose all of their negativity.

‘I like calling my boyfriend “Daddy” during sex,’ says Emily, 29. ‘It started out as playful, but it really turned us on. I’ve always had a thing about it in bed, but when I’m not turned on, it makes me feel weird and guilty, like I’m fantasising about being abused. I’ve never told anyone other than my boyfriend and I probably didn’t introduce it in the best way – I just randomly said it. It was a bit of 
an accident, and I was scared that he’d judge me, but I think introducing it during sex itself rather than out of context probably made him more open to it. Thankfully he just smiled and went along with it, and things developed from there. I reckon my friends would think it’s weird though, so I don’t talk about it.’
But sexual wellbeing expert Sarah Berry explains Emily’s paternal predilections aren’t cause for concern. ‘This sort of fantasy can often be misinterpreted, but it’s just two consenting adults enjoying a role play.’ In short, using the word ‘Daddy’ with your boyfriend doesn’t mean you actually want to sleep with your dad.

The success of a certain book (hint: it starts with ‘50’ and ends with ‘grey’) proves many of us like a bit of kink. But as it turns out, even if the fantasy is famous, doesn’t mean it’s guilt-free.

‘I’ve always known that I was submissive,’ says Caitlin, 27. ‘As a kid,
 I was even asking to be tied up with skipping ropes in the playground. And I’ve always felt bad about it. I’m 
a feminist, so why do I want to be made to crawl on the floor and call 
my boyfriend sir? It doesn’t just 
make me feel like a bad feminist, 
it makes me feel like a bad person.’
The combination of craving control and being independent can be confusing, but what you think about when you’re touching yourself has no bearing on who you are as a person, explains Berry. ‘I’ve worked with people who are dominant in their life and submissive at play, and also those who are introverted but enjoy a more domineering role. It doesn’t reflect your beliefs,’ she says.

Another guilt-inducing fantasy is thinking about someone who isn’t your partner. Whether it’s Poldark or a friend’s husband, dreaming about sex with someone who isn’t your significant other is very common. In fact, recent research claims 45 per cent of us fantasise about someone else during sex or masturbation. ‘When I masturbate, I never think about my boyfriend,’ says Liza, 23. ‘Usually it’s not about anyone specific, but sometimes I think about the sex I’ve had with exes, which makes me feel terrible, as I love my boyfriend.’

Reassuringly, thinking of someone else doesn’t mean that you would 
ever cheat on your partner, it just means that your sexual fantasies aren’t governed by the same rational part of your brain that decides who you want to date.
‘Fantasising provides an escape route which helps climax,’ explains sex specialist Dr Pam Spurr, adding that your imagination is there to distract you from rent payments and washing-up, letting you enjoy the moment. ‘It’s completely normal to fantasise about someone else during sex, because the human mind is incredibly creative.’
But is there a limit to what we should be imagining in pursuit 
of orgasm? Recent research claims up to 40 per cent of women fantasise about being raped – even though statistics suggest every single one of us knows somebody who’s had direct experience of sexual abuse.

‘I have friends whose lives have been torn apart by sexual assault,’ says Farah, 31. ‘I’ve seen first-hand how devastating it is. But I can’t help it – rape fantasies do get me off. When I’m not in the moment, the idea of it makes me feel sick. But when I’m having sex it just pops in to my head – and it really works for me.’
‘Rape fantasies are often about being ravished by someone who is overcome with desire for you,’ explains Berry. ‘They may seem violent, but you’re consenting to the fantasy or the role play, whereas in real life, rape signifies a lack of consent or control. So they’re not the same thing, and shouldn’t be confused.’

Of course any kind of dependency can be detrimental to your sex life, whether it’s a fantasy, a sex toy or a favourite position. But experts are keen to iterate that what turns you on shouldn’t be a worry, unless it’s causing you personal grief. ‘If you find yourself wishing to act out something that could be dangerous or illegal, then of course I would be concerned,’ says Berry. ‘But as long 
as your sexual fantasy isn’t taking over your life – and doesn’t involve another, non-consensual person – then there’s nothing to feel bad about.’

That’s not to say that you’re stuck with them for good. If you want to wean yourself off what’s turning you on, reading erotica or watching a new kind of porn can be great ways to expand your horizons. Similarly, talking to a sex therapist can help you analyse the root of your preferences, and talking to your partner about your internal sexual monologue could open you up to new experiences.

In essence, sexual fantasies are no different from any other kind of make-believe: they’re fun to think about, but not worth taking seriously. ‘Just like your sexuality, your fantasies have little bearing on your personality,’ says Berry. ‘If anything, the fact that they’re so alien from your real, external self might be what makes them so exciting in the first place.’

Ever wondered what people think about in bed? Here are five secret fantasies revealed…

1. ‘I know this might seem gross, but 
I have this fantasy about having a gang bang in a lay-by with a whole load of bikers. It’s kind of dirty and wrong, 
but that’s why I like it.’

2. ‘I’ve always fantasised about having really romantic sex, like with silk sheets and candles and flowers. I feel a bit pathetic and really vanilla for wanting it but just think it would be so luxurious.’

3. ‘I’m straight, but I have this long-term fantasy about having sex with a woman. Not even in a threesome, just the two of us. I don’t really know why – I don’t actually fancy women. Maybe it’s just about experimenting.’

4.‘Yes it’s a cliché but I’ve always wanted to wear a school uniform and get spanked by my partner. Not that I’ve ever admitted it 
to him. I just love it when he’s strict and firm!’

5.‘I always fantasise about getting all dressed up and then getting really messy, like ice cream in my hair, 
cupcakes pushed in my face… I like 
the sense of destruction about it.’

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