Why Do We Have Sex Fantasies? It's About More Than Pleasure
Our sex fantasies serve a wide range of psychological functions.
Posted Aug 02, 2018
Why do we have sexual fantasies? For many readers, the first thought that comes to mind is to enhance sexual arousal, or to experience pleasure. As it turns out, however, those are among many varied reasons why someone might fantasize about sex. Below, we will consider the most commonly reported reasons for having a sexual fantasy, according to a survey of 4,175 Americans. 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.
In order from most to least common, here are the most popular reasons people reported having fantasies about sex:
- To experience sexual arousal (reported by 79.5% of participants)
- Because you’re curious about different sexual experiences and sensations (reported by 69.8%)
- To meet unfulfilled sexual needs (reported by 59.7%)
- To temporarily escape reality (reported by 59.4%)
- To express or fulfill a socially taboo sexual desire (reported by 58.4%)
- To plan out a future sexual encounter (reported by 55.7%)
- To relax or reduce anxiety (reported by 43.6%)
- Because you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do (reported by 40.0%)
- To feel more sexually confident (reported by 32.5%)
- To meet unfulfilled emotional needs (reported by 29.8%)
- To block out distractions during sex (reported by 19.8%)
- To compensate for an unattractive or undesirable partner (reported by 11.8%)
A small number of participants (6.8%) reported reasons for fantasizing other than those listed above. These 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.”
As you can see, our sexual fantasies are about far more than simply experiencing pleasure or increasing arousal. It turns out that they also serve a wide range of psychological functions. Notably, these include helping us to meet unfulfilled needs, offering a handy source of comfort and distraction on command, and allowing us to mentally work through sexual scenarios before acting.
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Lehmiller, J. J. (2018). Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Boston, MA: Da Capo.