Gender, Sex Ed

The 7 Most Common Sex Fantasies–And How Many People Have Ever Had Them

March 13, 2019 by Justin Lehmiller

Which sexual fantasies have you had? I surveyed 4,175 Americans about the content of their sex fantasies for my book Tell Me What You Want and found seven major themes that emerged. These themes were:

1. Multipartner sex (think threesomes, orgies, and gangbangs)

2. Bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism (or BDSM for short)

3. Novelty, adventure, and variety (i.e., doing something that’s new and different for you, such as sex in a new position or setting)

4. Taboo sex acts (i.e., doing something that is socially or culturally forbidden)

5. Passion, romance, and intimacy (i.e., emotionally connecting with a partner or feeling loved, appreciated, or desired)

6. Being in a nonmonogamous relationship (e.g., swinging, polyamory, cuckolding, or having an open relationship)

7. Gender-bending and homoeroticism (i.e., pushing the boundaries of your gender identity/role/expression and/or your sexual orientation)

So how many people reported having ever had each of these fantasies? I’ve compiled that information in the chart below separately for self-identified men and women.


As you can see, most people reported having had several different types of fantasies. In other words, it’s normal to fantasize about more than one thing!

A few notes about the data in the table above:

  • For the novelty/adventure/variety category, I based this only on whether people reported fantasies about sex in a new setting (e.g., sex on a beach, in nature, in public, etc.). If you add in trying other new sexual activities (e.g., using food during sex, role playing, etc.), the numbers are even closer to 100%.
  • For the taboo category, I focused on the activities listed as “paraphilic” in the DSM other than BDSM, given that BDSM was considered separately (e.g., exhibitionism, voyeurism, frotteurism, fetishism, pedophilia).
  • For the passion/romance/intimacy category, I looked at fantasies about romance, feeling loved or appreciated, feeling desired, pleasing a partner, and emotionally connecting with a partner.
  • I separated the gender-bending and homoeroticism fantasies here because there was an important (but different) gender difference in each of these types of fantasy. Also, note that the numbers for all categories were based on the full sample, except for the homoeroticism category, which only involved participants who identified as exclusively heterosexual.

A couple of caveats to the numbers presented above: 1.) While these numbers reflect how many people said they’d ever had each type of fantasy, the number who fantasied about each theme often or reported that it was their favorite fantasy is lower. In other words, for some people, these fantasies are just a one-time thing, whereas for others, they fantasize about these things frequently. 2.) While the data here came from a large and diverse sample (4000+ adults aged 18-87 from all 50 states), it is not representative of the U.S. population. Participants were largely recruited through social media, which means that their demographics more closely match the average social media user than the average American.

With all of that said, if you want to learn more about sexual fantasies, check out my book Tell Me What You Want, which offers a deep dive into the psychology behind our sexual wants and turn-ons. This book explores where our sexual fantasies come from, what they say about us, and why different people have different sex fantasies. It also offers insight into how to talk to your partner about your fantasies and what you need to know if you’re thinking about making the jump from fantasy to reality.

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Image Source: Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

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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.

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