Sex Ed

Why Do We Fantasize About Sex? There Are More Reasons Than You Think

July 11, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller

Why do we have sexual fantasies? For many of you, the first thought that probably comes to mind is to enhance sexual arousal or to experience pleasure. However, that’s just one of many potential reasons we might fantasize about sex. In this post, we’ll consider the most commonly reported reasons for having a sexual fantasy according to a survey of 4,175 Americans (note that this survey formed the basis for my latest book, Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life).

Going from most to least common, here are the main reasons people reported having had sexual fantasies:

1.) To experience sexual arousal (reported by 79.5% of participants)

2.) Because you’re curious about different sexual experiences and sensations (reported by 69.8% of participants)

3.) To meet unfulfilled sexual needs (reported by 59.7% of participants)

4.) To temporarily escape reality (reported by 59.4% of participants)

5.) To express or fulfill a socially taboo sexual desire (reported by 58.4% of participants)

6.) To plan out a future sexual encounter (reported by 55.7% of participants)

7.) To relax or reduce anxiety (reported by 43.6% of participants)

8.) Because you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do (reported by 40.0% of participants)

9.) To feel more sexually confident (reported by 32.5% of participants)

10.) To meet unfulfilled emotional needs (reported by 29.8% of participants)

11.) To block out distractions during sex (reported by 19.8% of participants)

12.) To compensate for an unattractive or undesirable partner (reported by 11.8% of participants)

A small number of participants (6.8%) reported reasons for fantasizing other than the ones listed above. These reasons included: “it just happened/I can’t help it,” “because they are fun/I enjoy them,” “to express creativity,” “to help me fall asleep,” “to write erotic fiction,” “to relive past experiences,” “I don’t know,” and “BECAUSE I WANT TO EXPERIENCE EVERYTHING.”

Exclusive offer for readers of the blog: If you order Tell Me What You Want, you will receive a bonus package that includes an extra chapter (which focuses on the psychology behind some of the less common sex fantasies), some fun fantasy-related infographics, and more. Click here for complete details on this offer.

Want to learn more about Sex and Psychology? Click here for previous articles or follow the blog on Facebook (, Twitter (@JustinLehmiller), or Reddit ( to receive updates.

Image Source: 123RF/microstockasia

Post Featured Image
Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

Read full bio >