Are Your Sexual Fantasies Normal? Our Talk with Renowned Psychologist Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D.

The V. Club Article on the Justin Lehmiller Presentation on Sexual Fantasies and Types of Relationships

Everyone has sexual fantasies, and for most people, they are a source of guilt, shame, and repression. Why? Because we naturally assume that our sexual fantasies are not normal, that few people, if anyone else, shares them, and that our partners will ostracize us if we reveal our deep desires. In heterosexual relationships, the partners can feel additional shame and guilt by assuming that there is a big difference between men and women’s sexual fantasies, and so there is little chance your partner can relate to your fantasy.

Last week, we had the pleasure of exploring this topic with renowned psychologist, educator and sex science researcher Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D. when we hosted him for a very special talk. It was an intimate discussion of his research findings and most recent book, Tell Me What You Want, about what is normal when it comes to sexual fantasies and how to communicate them to our partners.

As part of the talk, we were given notecards and invited to jot down on our one of our biggest sexual fantasies along with any questions we might have regarding sex and relationships. Dr. Lehmiller then shuffled through our fantasies and read a few aloud. So what did we learn from this activity beyond the fact that more than 2 of us fantasize about sex on the beach?

Well, in fact, we learned that we weren’t too special! Most of our fantasies fell into one of three consistent themes that Dr. Lehmiller has identified in his research on the subject:

1) BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism)
2) Threesomes and Group Sex
3) Novelty (Doing something different outside of the sexual routine like a different position, activity or location.)

Indeed, Dr. Lehmiller’s research findings suggest that many of us fantasize about very similar things. Moreover,
Men’s and women’s sexual fantasies do not differ as much as one would think. So yes, your sexual fantasies are most likely very normal and shared by many people around you (including your partner).

We also discussed the best way to reveal our sexual fantasies to our sexual partners. It’s one of the most vulnerable disclosures you could make, and requires taking a calculated risk and understanding the possible consequences. For example, it’s possible that once you open up about your fantasies, your partner will feel emboldened to open up about theirs, which could potentially upset you should your partner express a fantasy that makes you uncomfortable or jealous in some way (such as if they fantasize about being with someone else).

Dr. Lehmiller advised starting small and with those fantasies that you think your partner may also be interested in. Now how do you actually open up to your partner? Dr. Lehmiller asked for audience participation on this and a few ideas from attendees included introducing your fantasy as a dream you had or saying that you got this sexual fantasy from an article that you read. Whatever cheeky story you choose, make sure to couch it as an idea to try something slightly different with your partner that will make your already great sex life with them even better.

The final portion of this fascinating conversation was a Q&A where Dr. Lehmiller answered our question using science-based evidence on topics ranging from the phenomenon of female squirting and the challenges of female orgasms to asking why some men send unsolicited dick pics, which happens to be the subject of Dr. Lehmiller’s latest research project. (We can’t wait for the results of that one!)

I’d like to applaud Dr. Lehmiller’s brave research on this historically taboo topic and for gathering scientific evidence that most of us are not sexual deviants but in fact completely and utterly human. I’d also like to acknowledge the women and men who took a risk and showed up to this talk to learn more on this vulnerable topic, not to mention the people who participated in Dr. Lehmiller’s study. Without you, we couldn’t have this kind of conversation that usually gets shooshed.

I hope this article helps you realize that having sexual fantasies is normal, and your sexual fantasies are probably more normal than you think. If you want to get a better understanding of your sexual fantasies, how your fantasies compare to others, what some of the best ways are to communicate your fantasies to your partner, and which fantasies might be best left as fantasies rather than be fulfilled, pick up a copy of Tell Me What You Want.