Gender, Sex Ed

Most People Have Fantasized About Being In An Open Relationship

November 15, 2019 by Justin Lehmiller

 

Have you ever fantasized about what it would be like to be in a sexually open relationship? If so, you’re not the only one. It turns out that being involved in a consensually non-monogamous relationship is among the most popular sexual fantasies.

At a recent meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, I presented the results of a study looking at how many people have consensual non-monogamy fantasies—as well as how many people have acted on them and what their experiences were like. I surveyed 2,982 adults ranging in age from 18-87, and here’s what I found:

  • When looking at people’s favorite sex fantasy of all time, 30% indicated that being in a consensually non-monogamous relationship was part of that fantasy. Men (41%) were more likely to report this fantasy than were women (21%) by about a 2 to 1 margin.
  • Looking beyond people’s favorite fantasy, 81% of participants reported having fantasized about being in some type of consensually non-monogamous relationship at least once before.
  • Most people had fantasized about being in an open relationship (68%), practicing polyamory (60%), and swinging (55%); however, men were more likely than women to report all of these fantasies.
  • Nearly half (49%) of participants reported having fantasized about infidelity. Thus, while fantasies about non-consensual non-monogamy were certainly common, they weren’t as common as fantasies about consensual non-monogamy.
  • Of those who said being in a consensually non-monogamous relationship was part of their favorite sex fantasy of all time, 84% said they want to act on that fantasy, meaning it represents a sexual desire for them.
  • Most people who said that consensual non-monogamy was part of their favorite fantasy had shared this fantasy with a partner before (61%). Of those who had, most (70%) reported that their partner had a positive response.
  • Just 20% of persons who said consensual non-monogamy was part of their favorite sex fantasy reported having acted on it before. However, among those who had, 95% reported that the experience either met or exceeded expectations. In addition, 61% said that acting on the fantasy improved their relationship.
  • The people who reported the best experiences acting on their consensual non-monogamy fantasies tended to be higher in the personality trait of extraversion (meaning they’re outgoing and sociable), they tended to have an unrestricted sociosexual orientation (meaning they see sex and emotion as separable), and they tended to be sensation seekers (meaning they have a preference for thrilling sexual encounters).

What all of this tells us is that being involved in a consensually non-monogamous relationship seems to be both a common sexual fantasy and a common sexual desire. Indeed, this theme appears to be pervasive in our sexual fantasies, as I discuss in my book Tell Me What You Want. However, despite the fact that so many people say they’re interested in consensual non-monogamy, relatively few have tried it.

These findings are also consistent with those of other studies finding that about 1 in 5 adults say they’ve been in a sexually open relationship before, as well as studies finding that certain types of people seem to be better suited to consensual non-monogamy than others.

Want to learn more about Sex and Psychology? Click here for previous articles or follow the blog on Facebook (facebook.com/psychologyofsex), Twitter (@JustinLehmiller), or Reddit (reddit.com/r/psychologyofsex) to receive updates. You can also follow Dr. Lehmiller on YouTube and Instagram.

Reference: Lehmiller, J.J. (2019, November). Consensual nonmonogamous relationships: Fantasy versus reality. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Denver, CO.

Image Source: 123RF/Teresa Ponomareva

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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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