A Guide to Sharing Your Sexual Fantasies for the Cripplingly Anxious
Ever since watching a particularly steamy anime porn clip in high school, I've had the same recurring sexual fantasy. Without getting too graphic, this particular fantasy involves a stage, a schoolgirl outfit, a tall and stern professor, and an audience of academics murmuring in Japanese.
Until sitting down to write this article, it's a fantasy I've tried, somewhat guiltily, to cram deep into the dirty recesses of my mind. If my go-to erotic fancy involves exhibitionism and public disciplining and unintelligible Japanese, what does it betray about my personality and history? That I need to be the center of attention? That I'm guilty about something I've done and need to be punished for it? That I don't know Japanese?
Sexual fantasies: an overview
According to 2021 research published in Human Sexuality: Function, Dysfunction, Paraphilias, and Relationships, more than 95 percent of men and women have frequent sexual fantasies—defined as conscious, deliberate mental images that are sexually arousing—but most people don't discuss them.
"We tend to be taught that sex is this very narrowly defined thing, which makes it very easy for us to feel as though our fantasies are unusual or strange if what we're turned on by doesn't fit that definition," said Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., an Indiana-based research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and a scientific advisor to Lovehoney.
Lehmiller ought to know. He wrote the book on sexual fantasies, "Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life," after spending two years studying the sex fantasies of 4,175 Americans in what remains the largest-ever survey on the subject.
In the book, Lehmiller pointed out that political, religious and medical authorities in the United States have hammered into us a very limited definition of what's acceptable to want in bed—that is, putting penises into vaginas in the confines of a heterosexual, monogamous relationship.
'We tend to be taught that sex is this very narrowly defined thing, which makes it very easy for us to feel as though our fantasies are unusual or strange.'
Even mental health professionals have contributed to our legacy of sex shame, Lehmiller argued. According to him, the widespread distortion of what constitutes a "normal" sexual desire is not only arbitrary and unscientific but harmful.
"When we think our fantasies are uncommon, we tend to feel more guilt, shame and embarrassment about them," he said.
Agonizing that our sexual fantasies are off-putting or shameful makes sharing them prohibitively daunting, even—or perhaps particularly—with someone we're close to, like a partner.
"There's this fear of judgment and rejection, especially from people you care about, like your sexual partner," said Tyomi Morgan, a Chicago-based sex coach. "No one wants to bring something they're really excited about only to be judged negatively by someone they like."
How to share your sexual fantasies
"In my research, the vast majority of people who reported sharing their fantasies reported positive experiences," Lehmiller said, adding they feel more sexually satisfied, reported fewer sexual problems and had the happiest relationships.
"Bringing your partner into your fantasies emotionally and physically can turn sex into an erotic dance between our imagination, emotions and bodies," said Gigi Engle, a London-based certified sex coach, sex educator and the author of the book "All the F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life."
Of course, it's all very well and good to acknowledge that we might be better off embracing and sharing our kinkiest daydreams with our partners. But—especially if you tend to be shy, anxious and Catholic-raised, like I was—explaining XXX-rated anime-inspired fantasies to your partner is easier said than done. Of course, there is a way to overcome the debilitating anxiousness and articulate your sexual fantasies like an eloquent vixen.
Don't worry—you're probably normal
In Lehmiller's study of more than 4,000 participants, he found nearly everyone had experienced the same three kinds of fantasies. They are, in order: multi-partner sex (including threesomes, orgies and gangbangs), BDSM activities (like power, control and forced sex), and novelty, adventure and variety (such as sex in unexpected, unique settings, role-playing and pegging).
In addition to these three virtually universal fantasies, Lehmiller's survey identified four other common fantasies among Americans: taboo and forbidden sex (like voyeurism, exhibitionism and fetishes); passion, romance and intimacy; non-monogamy and partner-sharing; and erotic flexibility and gender-bending (basically, activities that challenge the boundaries of your sexual orientation or gender role).
Bottom line: Science assures us we're pretty similar in the things that arouse us, so there's a good chance the fantasies you disclose to your partner will titillate them, too.
Lay the foundation
As with any kind of sexual interaction, you should get consent before unloading any hot and heavy imagery on your partner.
"A lot of times, people do get thrown off by the conversation if it comes out of the blue without being prefaced by consent," Morgan said.
She suggested language like, "I've been having some interesting fantasies lately and I wanted to share them with you. Is that OK?"
If you're uncertain of how a fantasy will be received, Engle recommended gauging your partner's reaction by describing it as something you saw in a movie or read in a book. For example: "I saw this movie where the actors were (pegging, fisting, penetrated by multiple tentacles simultaneously, etc.). Would you ever do something like that?"
Share the same courtesy
When you are on the receiving end of sexual fantasy reveals, Morgan said to not take things personally. Instead, try to be an "inquisitive observer."
"If something arises that you don't understand or you find off-putting," she said, "ask questions like, 'Why does this turn you on?' or 'That's interesting, why would you want to experience this?' Coming at it from a place of non-judgment and remaining curious will make it easier for your partner to express what's on their mind, while removing any pressure on yourself to feel like you need to act on or accommodate their desires."
Remember, you don't need to act on them
Lehmiller's data revealed that for a majority of people, sharing their fantasies is more beneficial than actually acting on them.
"Acting on fantasies is a whole other beast with a lot of variables to account for," he said.
Similarly, Lehmiller, Morgan and Engle agreed you don't necessarily have to share all your sexual fantasies with your partner.
"Sometimes you may want to keep a fantasy just for yourself, something you like to enjoy in secret," Engle said. "That's perfectly OK and many of us do this on purpose." Ultimately, what's important is that we ditch the shame and stigma surrounding our fantasies.
"Fantasies are actually completely normal," Engle said. "In our imagination, we are liberated from responsibility and constraint and we have an outlet for the many parts of ourselves that cannot be safely expressed in real life."