Have You Ever Fantasized About Someone You Hate?

December 8, 2021 by Justin Lehmiller

When you fantasize about sex, who do you usually think about? I’ve previously written about the various characters who appear in our fantasies and, most commonly, people mention current partners, exes, and close friends.

It’s also common for people to have fantasized about non-specific individuals (vague, unidentifiable people) and their celebrity crushes, but by and large, when specific people appear in our fantasies, we usually imagine others we like or feel positively about. So what about people we dislike, even hate? How often are they the subject of our sexual thoughts?

In the survey of 4,175 Americans, which I conducted for my book Tell Me What You Want, I inquired about this, and here’s what I found:

Overall, 31% of adults said they’d had a sexual fantasy before about someone they hate, with 3% saying this is something they fantasize about often. So it’s not uncommon for people to have ever had this fantasy, but it appears to be rare for a hated individual to be a recurring character in one’s sexual fantasies.

Whether people had fantasized about a hated person depended on both their gender and sexuality to some degree:

  • 18% of heterosexual women had fantasized about this before, with 1% fantasizing about it often
  • 31% of heterosexual men had fantasized about this before, with 4% fantasizing about it often
  • 35% of lesbian and bisexual women had fantasized about this before, with 4% fantasizing about it often
  • 35% of gay and bisexual men had fantasized about this before, with 3% fantasizing about it often
  • 31% of trans and non-binary persons had fantasized about this before, with 4% fantasizing about it often

As you can see, fantasizing about someone you hate is more common among men and gender-diverse persons than it is among women, and it’s also more common among non-heterosexual compared to heterosexual persons.

So why do people sometimes fantasize about someone they hate? Who’s most likely to do this? I looked to see how these fantasies are connected to other types of fantasies and personality traits, and here’s what I discovered:

  • These fantasies were linked to having more BDSM fantasies in general, but particularly fantasies about dominance and sadism. Thus, some people may find the idea of a hated fantasy partner arousing because, in that scenario, they have some degree of power or control over the hated individual or can inflict pain on them. At the same time, however, these fantasies were also linked to more masochism fantasies, suggesting that sex with a hated person may sometimes be a way that some people inflict pain on themselves.
  • Related to what I said about masochism, these fantasies were also linked to having lower self-esteem. Again, this suggests that for some folks, fantasizing about a hated partner may be a form of self-punishment. Some may feel as though they don’t deserve a partner who loves or respects them.
  • These fantasies were linked to being lower on the personality trait of agreeableness, which refers to having less care and concern for the well-being of others. By contrast, those who are highly agreeable had more fantasies about current partners and people they like.
  • Persons higher in attachment avoidance (meaning those who are less comfortable with emotional intimacy) had more fantasies about people they hate. These folks had less emotional content in their fantasies in general, which may open the door to fantasizing about a wider range of partners, including disliked persons or individuals they don’t personally feel close to. Related to this, those with an unrestricted sociosexual orientation (that is, those who see sex and love as separable) fantasied more about people they hate.
  • Persons with more sensation-seeking tendencies had more fantasies about people they hate. For these individuals, fantasizing about a hated person might add a certain thrill because it’s something they’re not “supposed” to do.
  • Those with overactive imaginations in general also had more fantasies about people they hate. This makes sense because these individuals fantasized more about almost everyone and everything!

What all of this tells us is that, while we’re far more likely to fantasize about partners we love or like than those we hate, it’s not uncommon for someone disliked or even despised to appear in a sexual fantasy.

However, different people seem to have these kinds of fantasies for very different reasons. As with pretty much every other type of sexual fantasy, diverse psychological roots exist. It may sometimes reveal something about how someone feels about themselves—but it can also be about a desire to mix pleasure and pain, to add an element of thrill, or simply because you don’t see love and sex as necessarily going together. Yet other times, these fantasies can just be the product of a wandering mind.

So if you’ve ever fantasized about someone you hate, you’re definitely not alone—and there are any number of possible reasons the thought might have crossed your mind, so avoid the temptation to overinterpret it.

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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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