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What Do Your Sexual Fantasies Mean?

Woman in fancy dress sitting on balcony rail

Believe it or not, almost everyone has some secret desire, fantasy, or fetish that turns them on in the bedroom (or elsewhere). Some of us choose to keep our fantasies to ourselves and think about them when alone. They consider this part of their sexuality not necessary to share. Others have a strong urge to share their fantasy or fetish, desiring to act it out with sexual partners. Finally, there are those of us who have trouble swallowing the content of their desires, are confused or unsure about its meaning, and feel conflicted about their fantasies and fetishes.

Reflecting childhood

Feelings of guilt, shame, and confusion about our fantasies and what turns us on is common in our society. We want to know, “Why do I feel this way? And where does this come from?” The short answer is that our sexual fantasies are likely a reflection of the stimuli we were exposed to during our sexual awakening, much like classical conditioning. For example, the boy who experiences his first erection in the bathtub may then pair arousal with water and bathing. He might have fantasies involving water. The girl who has a domineering mother or who feels ostracized by her peers may have fantasies in her adulthood about being dominated (Dixit, 2010, p. 47).

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What is often difficult for people to understand is that sexual awakening happens when we are children. Although childhood sexuality is a completely natural part of development, it is often ignored in our culture, shunned or brushed under the rug as wrong. The child is made to feel ashamed or guilty for having sexual thoughts and desires. No explanations are given and nothing is talked about. By remembering that sexual curiosity and the desire to feel pleasure is a normal part of a child’s development, we can eradicate much of the shame and guilt we have about our early sexual experiences. It is this shame and guilt that may lead to our current state of confusion regarding our desires.

Reflecting anxieties

Sexual fantasies may also be a reflection of our daily anxieties. For example, the individual who worries about having too many responsibilities in their daily life may fantasize about being completely dominated and controlled in bed. The woman who feels small and unattractive may fantasize about being a sexual dominatrix. The key is to remember that we are creatures of balance. What we present to the world and feel on a daily basis often needs to be countered by its polar opposite, which could be manifesting in our sexual fantasies and fetishes. In other words, if an individual fantasizes about being sexually dominated in bed, it does not mean that they are weak and helpless in real life. Frequently, the opposite is true.

Sexual fantasies are often representations of parts of our lives, whether past or present. When we break them down and take a closer look, we will see that they are normal reactions to our life experiences.

Dixit, Jay. Psychology Today, April 2010, p. 47.

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© Copyright 2010 by Moushumi Ghose, MFT, therapist in New York, New York. All Rights Reserved.

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  • KT April 13th, 2010 at 8:44 PM #1

    You are right when you say that childhood sexuality is seen as something wrong and something unnatural in most societies today. When I was growing up,my dad sat down with me and answered questions about sex whenever I had any…he did not just brush them aside…this was fine with me. But then i found out that not all parents do that and that the lack of such clearing from the parents’ side often leads the child into looking for answers from his peers or the internet or other sources and this can often be dangerous!

  • yolanda April 14th, 2010 at 3:15 AM #2

    I’m gonna really have to give this one some thought. Don’t know that I really have any fantasies or if I did how they would relate to growing up.

  • GREG April 14th, 2010 at 11:27 AM #3

    I do not quite like talking about my sexual fantasies with other people but after reading this article here,I think there really is a relation between the kind of sexual fantasies we have and our life…there is clearly a pattern and I’m pretty sure it is the same with most other people.

  • Mou Wilson May 10th, 2010 at 6:15 PM #4

    Childhood sexuality is often hard to address and talk about. There is a lot of fear around the subject of childhood sexual abuse which is the coercion of sex with a child by an adult or by someone of a significant age difference. We should recognize that sexual play between children of mutual age (and also same sex) is common, natural and expected, and should not be punished or chastised. Shutting down children’s sexuality by shaming, shunning and/or making them feel guilty can lead to many other sexually related dysfunctions later on. A great book about childhood sexuality is “Sex, Therapy and Kids,” By Sharon Lamb.

  • Neil July 22nd, 2010 at 8:24 PM #5

    I agree entirely with your final comment that our sexual fantasies are often times a representation of something in our life. I have a wonderful relationship with my wife, including an excellent sex life. But I sometimes feel inadquate and “unworthy”. Consequently, when I do fantasize (usually during masturbation) I can never visualise myself as a participant, relying on mental images of my wife with other male partners to arouse me. Do you think this linked to my insecurities and feelings of inadequacy? Is this a common phenomenon?

  • Jane July 21st, 2011 at 4:45 PM #6

    I am a straight(?) female but have always fantasized about big breasts with big nipples. Is this because I did not receive enought nurturing from my mother? Does it mean I am gay? I love men and do not desire a relationship with a woman. I do not want to be with women sexually, only men. Am I normal? Is this type of fantasy a common one? I have been tortured by shame and guilt about this all my life.

  • tammy September 16th, 2011 at 4:07 AM #7

    Contrary to what others think, sexual fantasies do not always have to be naughty nor indecent, as long as they are controlled and provided that their sexual partners agree to what they want.

  • Kalika June 28th, 2012 at 5:30 PM #8

    Well written, but I’m not sure if it’s true for everyone. Since age 9 and 2 months I have fantasised about BDSM, torture, pants peeing/pooping, forced cross-dressing/sissification and forced diapering of boys and drew and wrote many stories and comics about this. At 17 girls featured in these fantasies also. I also fantasised of prostitution/selling virginity. I can’t see how any of this correlates to my life at age 9 in an educated, fairly conservative but equality-oriented family. I’m also polyamorous and love SM – I’m a switch (ie I like spanking/torturing guys but also like them to do it to me.)

  • Christina August 14th, 2012 at 2:18 PM #9

    Even though there was the 1960s sexual revolution of which my parents missed and sex and porn are easy to access from the media it seems that has nothing to do with reality. Sexual fantasies make life more interesting but I can’t share them with anyone, most all my husband who learned about sex from porn and messing around with high school girlfriend. His parents are the most asexual people I’ve ever met. I’m not sure how they conceived my husband and his sister!I can’t believe the repression that still goes on so much so indulge in fantasies as they make things bearable

  • Moushumi Ghose August 14th, 2012 at 7:09 PM #10

    Thanks for all your comments!

  • Lillian G. October 10th, 2012 at 2:07 PM #11

    Hi, I am about get marry in few months, but recently my boyfriend open with me about his sexual fantasy, he said that sometimes while we have sex he wants fantasize with other girls, because it will give him more pleasure, he says could be my best friend or even my sister…. I said him is OK since is only a “fantasy” but he feel better when I allow him to do it, he even asked me to show him my sexy friends and sister pictures so he can turn on… He also admitted me that he masturbate thinking about my sister… This really bother I am not that much open mind, and I am about get marry, I don´t want this become a problem for us after marriage, ah he also told me he is ok if I think about others guys during sex only to get more please.

    I really need a good advice.

  • Moushumi Ghose October 12th, 2012 at 9:57 AM #12

    I feel like with all this stuff going on in and you’re about to get married, getting some premarital counseling couldn’t hurt to help define long term and short term goals and make sure you and your boyfriend have the same expectations going forward. It will be a much bigger mess to clean up later, it’s always good to get a head start and solve problems before they happen by coming up with some agreements.
    Moushumi Ghose

  • Snow White August 28th, 2014 at 12:40 AM #13

    Hi there

    I hope I’m not too late to tell you
    This guy is what we call ‘Jerk’

    I will open the front door nice and wide and ask him to walk through it and have a nice life being alone.

  • christopher September 29th, 2014 at 10:41 PM #14

    I have an ironic fantasy which sometimes terrifies the living daylights out of me. Sometimes I can just keep it under control and sometimes I,m a gibbering wreck. I feel like my heart is exploding can anyone tell me if its wrong to assume acceptance of transexuall fantasies . After spending most of my early life hiding in the closet , I recognised in my freinds and aquaintenses that my disasterous fantasies were being compassionately interragated . After taking far to many years to pluck the courage to explore these fantasies . I was suddenly delighted to find that I looked absolutely stunning in a mini skirt, huh heels and a bra, and even more than exhilerated to have the attention of men and women, This would soon turn to feelings of terror. Now years on I have decided to safely salvage these feteshes. By refraining. But I sure did have one miraculous moment . But now I have to make another impossible transformation back into a man . I regret to say ! That for me the entire experiance, though glorious and invigerating was insanely dangerous and I,m thankfull that it,s over

  • Moushumi G. October 2nd, 2014 at 12:39 PM #15

    Hi Christopher, Thanks for sharing. Transformations are never easy, and too often our biology is incongruent with how we feel. You are not alone in feeling this way. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any more insights!


  • Julie A. December 5th, 2014 at 6:29 AM #16

    I need help I’m married but I been fantasizing about my neighbor very intense fantasies where they feel like they have actually happened and I have never spoke to him these thought have taken over my life I can’t stop I actually have lost all sexual feels for my partner because of it it doesn’t help I have never had an orgasm with anyone even myself idk if I can even have one what do I do

  • Moushumi Ghose December 8th, 2014 at 4:40 AM #17

    I would say that your obsession with your neighbor has more to do with your own needs which are not being met by your partner and in your current relationship than it has to do with your neighbor. It might be a good idea to figure out what you need and want, and then to talk to your partner about it, but if you feel otherwise that maybe your current partner cannot or will not meet those needs for you, or maybe you do not even want him to then maybe you may have a bigger decision to make.

  • Common sense December 26th, 2014 at 10:58 AM #18

    I think you missed a huge part of her statement. She hasn’t had one even with herself! You should consult a physician before you make any life changing decisions based solely on sex.

  • William December 29th, 2014 at 6:36 AM #19

    My wife wants to watch me have sex with another woman. What causes such a fantasy?

  • Alexa January 4th, 2015 at 8:56 AM #20

    I’m an 18 year old & for months now I have been having sexual fantasies about my female dance teacher, she’s in her early twenties & really pretty. She’s nice & this is my third I’m in her class but this is the first year that I have ever felt any kind of attraction to her, before that I didn’t, she was just my dance teacher. I haven’t ever had a bf or even my first kiss & I was just wondering if that has something to do with it? I haven’t ever been with it either so could it be that maybe my mind is just wandering & just getting curious if what’s it’s like to be with a female? I’m pretty sure I’m straight, just curious because I’m attracted to guys emotionally & physically whereas women I’m only attracted to sexually & not emotionally. For example, I could only see myself marrying a man, falling in love with a man, cuddling & doing cute romantic things with a man, as well as sexual but I can’t at all see myself ever marrying a woman or falling in love or anything romantic or cute. So is it that my mind is just wandering, I’m just curious? I often fantasize about experimenting with my dance teacher & I often catch myself looking at her body but I get nervous cause I don’t want her to catch me or know that I’m having these thoughts for her. Part of my mind sometimes just really really wants to experiment with her & feel her body & her feel my body but I feel like if the opportunity ever actually presented itself (there is like close to no chance of that happening though) I wonder if I still would want to, I probably would but I would be really shy & awkward & very very nervous, my mind is so confused. Sorry this was so long but any helpful input would be appreciated! Thanks! :)

  • Moushumi Ghose January 5th, 2015 at 1:06 PM #21

    Alexa, Your fantasies are totally normal. I believe sexuality ebbs and flows, and sometimes our fantasies are there to balance out what is going on in our daily lives. Maybe you are desiring some feminine energy in your life, and maybe right now you aren’t ready for a deep emotional commitment with a man. Maybe having some simple sexual experiences is perfect for you. Being attracted to a woman does not say anything about your sexuality, except that you are human, and have normal human desires. Hope this helps.

  • Moushumi Ghose January 5th, 2015 at 1:09 PM #22

    In much the same way that I have answered the others, a fantasy like you mention may have something to do with what is going on with your wife. Sometimes seeing our partners sexual with others can act as a great reminder, seeing what others see in our partners can make us more appreciative, aroused, excited to be with our partners again, especially in long term relationships. I think this is why a lot of partners seek open relationships after being together after many years, the excitement that new people bring can enhance the older relationship. Hope this helps.

  • Alexa January 6th, 2015 at 4:02 PM #23

    Thanks for replying! What do you mean balance things out though? I do want a bf & I can only see myself dating a guy & marrying one. I can’t see myself dating or marrying a girl at all but I’m attracted to my dance teacher & fantasize about her a lot, I sometimes feel bad about it though like it’s wrong? I’ve told my close friend & she said that it’s not wrong at all, everybody has fantasies & there’s nothing wrong with having fantasies about her. Thanks for replying though, I appreciate it.

  • C.C February 3rd, 2015 at 12:12 AM #24

    My fiancé has recent told me that when we have sex, he wants me to pretend I am a 15yr old virgin and that he’s my step dad. Should I be concerned? What could this meen?

  • Moushumi Ghose February 3rd, 2015 at 3:35 PM #25

    C.C- Sexual fantasies are often things which seem really exciting, but that we would never really want to do in real life, hence them being a “fantasy.” When acted out, something often referred to as “role play” in a safe setting with a consensual partner, it gives partners an opportunity to act out an otherwise “taboo” sexual act in an acceptable manner. It probably just means that your fiancé’ wants to be more exploratory. I encourage you to embrace his sexual fantasies and fetishes – and not to shame him which could have negative consequences- and have a conversation about it being purely fantasy role play, if you are concerned about anything else, just to clarify your concerns.

  • Tannah February 5th, 2015 at 5:56 PM #26

    My boyfriend has recently brought up the fantasies of being stabbed and shot in the shoulder during intercourse. Is this a common/normal fantasy or should I really be as worried as I am?

  • christy February 10th, 2015 at 12:40 AM #27

    i have been with my bf for 3 years he is having recently a fantasy about my mother he’s always horny he admires everything I don’t have in my body kind of the opposite is that normal

  • Moushumi Ghose February 10th, 2015 at 5:49 AM #28

    I think the first step would be to talk to your boyfriend about it. Get more details and insight as to what this fantasy means to him, and what it is about. Fantasies often have an underlying theme, and while it is quite common to have fantasies about being threatened (I.E a gun or knife to the throat) death-fetishes, necro-philias while they exist tend to be less common. As long as he does not intend to harm himself or others are generally fine, but again, I would talk to him further, to make sure he has no desires to truly act on them.

  • tan February 12th, 2015 at 12:09 PM #29

    Hi i’m 18 years old boy , i have fantasies of being dominated by a women , i hate my fantasies and i want to change it , don’t tell i should not be ashamed , i just want to change it if possible ; please !

  • Sheran February 23rd, 2015 at 4:53 PM #30

    *sigh* Yeah, this article is so absolutely true. I see very clearly where my fantasies come from.

    Generally my fantasies circle around rape or being taken roughly and forcefully. And although I’ve thankfully never been sexually abused I grew up with a father who far too rarely cared about my wishes but demanded that I obey.

    Another reccuring theme is youth and virginity. When I was 13 I had a big crush on a young man who didn’t want to be together with me because I was “too young”. I also didn’t have any luck in love later. I am really sad that I can’t go back in time and/or halt my aging until I find somebody to start a relationship with. -.-°

  • gage February 25th, 2015 at 6:58 PM #31

    I think about being dominated by a sexy beautiful woman

  • Me March 7th, 2015 at 8:41 PM #32

    I recently caught my bby daddy/boyfriend texting someone other then my about sexual fantasies and even sharing photos it that normal?

  • Tay March 12th, 2015 at 9:47 PM #33

    There is absolutely NO reason why you should feel ashamed of your sexual desires or what gets you in the mood. It is completely normal and you should never worry about something like that. A lot of girls or women like it that way too. Trust me, you are fine just the way you are.

  • patience March 23rd, 2015 at 1:38 PM #34

    Hi i am 26yrs old and i have been with my husband 10yrs together and 7yrs married. We have been experiencing with psychedelics recently for the past 2yrs now and it has helped us to be more open to eachother about everything. And recently he has confessed to me that he had sex with his mothers younger sister when he was 17/18yrs old and she was 15/16yrs old at the time. He had also confessed to fantasies about his only sister who is only 19yrs old now. He admits it is wrong and he would like for it to stop. What do u advice? I respect my husband and i love him dearly and i dont think i should judge him especially when he is being open to me about his guilty thoughts. I want to help him. What should we do? What should i do?

  • Moushumi Ghose March 26th, 2015 at 7:18 AM #35

    Hi Patience, Thanks for your comment. I do recommend seeking out professional help, to better understand how to support your husband. While it might not be a good idea to judge others, it is also just as important to know what your own values are, and what you are comfortable with within a relationship. Past history may or may not determine future behavior of otherwise but you may wish to clarify your own boundaries .

  • Eric S April 16th, 2015 at 10:01 PM #36

    Hi, I was reading your concern and it was fascinating to read. I’m no psychologist, or expert of sex, BUT I too have recently had an issue identical to yours come up in my life. Seeing how you two have bin experimenting with psychedelics and have grown closer together you can fix his issue, with COMPLETE TRUST. Now all you would have to do is satisfy his urge, for suppression of emotions will cause a blow out and that can be a catastrophe. Set aside a weekend to get away from work. You must find a woman that’s good enough for a lookalike of his sister and together have your way with her, and with a little help of some psychedelics and a lot of trust you will get rid of his mixed emotions and possibly create an even stronger bond then ever before. Just remember to be confident in him that he’s not going to try and leave you for her and you both shall enjoy it, I’m almost positive.

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