Sexual fantasy is a vital, exciting, and natural part of our sexuality. Almost everyone fantasizes about sex, which means that the human brain can be legitimately considered a sexual organ in its own right.

We fantasize about sex pretty much any time: when we masturbate; when we have partner sex; or as we go about our daily business (what we call sexual daydreaming). Contrary to popular belief, both men and women think about sex regularly (though in men’s case, not as often as we believe). In a 2012 study of college students, both men and women reported thinking about sex on a daily basis: men, 34.2 times a day on average and women, 18.6 times a day on average. It’s important to note that women who were concerned about societal perceptions and judgment reported lower frequency of sexual daydreams, implying the possibility that female participants underreported how often they think about sex due to societal pressures. .

Not only do men and women fantasize about sex; according to research, some sexual fantasies are equally common in both genders. Some of the most popular fantasy themes include reliving an exciting sexual experience; sex with a current partner; sex with a stranger; multiple partners at the same time; and fantasies of domination and submission.

In a 2014 study at the University of Montreal, thirty sexual fantasies were found to be common for both men and women. Some of the findings were surprising, considering the popular notions of what men and women supposedly fantasize about. For example, 56.5% of women fantasized about having sex with more than 3 people at a time (both men and women), while only 16% of men reported similar fantasies. 65% of women fantasized about being sexually submissive (not surprising, considering the overwhelming popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey series), but so did 53% of men. And while 60% of men fantasized about being sexually dominant, so did 46% of women. To the surprise of no one, 82% of men fantasized about watching two women have sex – but so did 42% of women. And while 31% of women reported fantasies of having sex with two men, so did 45% of the men in the study. At this point you may be wondering about the sexual orientation of the people in the study. Only 3.6% of participants identified as homosexual, and another 12% identified as neither heterosexual nor homosexual, meaning that the great majority of the study participants were heterosexual. This study highlighted just how common it may be for heterosexual people to have fantasies about sex with people of their own gender.

These studies offer us only a small window into the rich world of human sexual fantasy. But they do challenge the notion of “normal” fantasy, suggesting that there is no such thing. Rather, there exists a rich and varied spectrum of fantasy in which some scenarios are more or less common, but all are valid expressions of human sexuality.

By their very nature, fantasies are a lot more graphic and bold than reality. When dealing with sexual fantasy, it’s important to remember that just because you fantasize about something doesn’t mean that you want to experience it in real life. For example, if you’re a woman fantasizing about being forced to have sex, it doesn’t mean you want to experience rape in real life; and if you’re a man fantasizing about sex with other men, it doesn’t automatically follow that you’d like to have real-life sex with them. Rather than taking fantasy literally, or trying to to analyze what it means about you as a person, think of it as a fuel for your sexuality; a way to heighten and add pleasure to your sexual experiences.

Sexual fantasies are unique because they offer us the best of both worlds: the absolute freedom to create our own sexual scenarios, no matter how daring; and the safety of being completely in control of everything that happens in the fantasy. Your mind becomes a secure playground where you can act out your innermost desires openly and freely. Each and every one of us has a right to our own “secret garden” - a private corner in our minds where we can indulge in sexual fantasy without fear of judgment. Others can’t simply demand access; it should be shared willingly.

Sharing our fantasies with our partners can make us feel very vulnerable and fearful of rejection. If you want to share your sexual fantasies with your partner, or want your partner to share his or her fantasies with you, the best thing you can do is to nurture open and non-judgmental communication in your relationship. Remind yourself and your partner that fantasy does not necessarily equal reality; don’t put pressure on them to act out your desires; and avoid passing judgment on each other based on your sexual fantasies.

The upside to being mutually open-minded is that you may discover sexual scenarios that excite you both. Enacting your sexual fantasies with a consenting and enthusiastic partner can take your sexual relationship to a whole new level; in fact, it’s a great way to revitalize a long-term relationship that has begun to feel routine. Another benefit is increased intimacy and trust; after all, few things are as attractive to us as the gift of being understood and accepted just as we are. Either way, fantasy is a natural expression of our sexuality, and a powerful tool for sexual exploration and pleasure.

Author's Bio: 

Valeria Chuba, PhD, MS, ACS is a board certified clinical sexologist and sex & relationship expert and coach . Dr. Valeria is a member of The American College of Sexologists (ACS); the World Association of Sex Coaches; and The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS). She offers coaching, online workshops, and live events for women, men, and couples. Dr. Valeria's approach is focused on sex-positivity, empowerment, and real tools and solutions to help people create sexual pleasure and fulfillment in their lives and relationships. Dr. Valeria is the Official Guide to Sexuality for SelfGrowth.com and the host of the Get Sex-Smart podcast.