What the actual fuck is an 'unusual' sexual fantasy? And why is society so obsessed with shoving their ideas of normalcy down our throats? Turns out there's a lot of proof out there that NONE of us are normal, so by default, that makes us ALL normal. So here's a big FUCK YOU to society and it's sense of 'normal'.

WTF Is an ‘Unusual’ Sexual Fantasy?

People spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not they’re ‘normal’. Society puts a lot of pressure on people to conform - socialization, as I have said before, is essentially a form of brainwashing - and as a result, it’s the first thing a lot of us consider when we start having our sexual awakenings during adolescence.

Teenagers aren’t the only people who fantasize, though. Most of us have a few sexual fantasies we return to time and again, and the majority of people daydream about particular things we’d like to have happen to us - whether we admit it when asked or not. Many people worry about how ‘normal’ those fantasies are - which is why I found it so interesting to find a paper on the subject published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, which is the industry standard for peer-reviewed studies in the realm of sexual health.

When a psychiatrist is attempting to determine how they feel a patient should be diagnosed they often ask about their sexual habits, proclivities, and fantasies. The way this information is interpreted is highly subjective, however, and is unavoidably colored by the personal feelings and experiences of the doctor in question. The abstract of the paper in question explains that “although several theories and treatment plans use unusual sexual fantasies as a way to identify deviancy, they seldom describe how the fantasies referred to were determined to be unusual” - and as a result, the paper’s authors set out to discover just what an ‘unusual sexual fantasy’ really was.

 

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So what did they find out?

More than one and a half thousand adults were surveyed, and the authors then labelled the fantasies in question as being either ‘rare’ (experienced by 2.3% or less of the people surveyed), ‘unusual’ (15.9% or less), ‘common’ (found in over half of all respondents), or ‘typical’ (present in more than 84.1% of the sample). They were looking at a huge range of options - there were fifty-five fantasies on the list, but participants also had an opportunity to include options of their own that were lacking.

The paper’s conclusion is undeniably heartening for those of us who have ever been told that our sexual fantasies and practices are in some way ‘deviant’:

“Care should be taken before labeling a sexual fantasy as unusual, let alone deviant. It suggested that the focus should be on the effect of a sexual fantasy rather than its content.”

The paper’s findings were, in fact, startling in their ability to tell us what we already knew. The truth is, folks, that practically everybody fantasies about practically everything, practically all of the time. Only two fantasies counted as ‘rare’, and only five as ‘typical’; everything else fell into the middle, and that middle had a huge span.

You can stop worrying so much now, guys. We’re all normal.

The Gender Divide

The study divided its results into two categories: fantasies recorded by those who identify as ‘male’, and those reported by respondents who chose ‘female’. While gender is of course, a bit more complicated than that, it’s still interesting to see what the differences were - and, indeed, the similarities.

The single most common fantasy element (sexual encounters involving “romantic emotions”) was the same for both men and women, and indeed the results are reasonably similar right the way down. The biggest gaps are those that can be explained by sexual orientation (more on which later), though there are a few that caught my eye as I went through the results.

“Having sex with an unknown person” was listed by 72.5% of men but only 48.9% of women - which means that, while it’s a very likely fantasy for anyone to have, it’s one of the widest gender gulfs in a gender-neutral fantasy. It feels to me like it could be the result of patriarchal socialization - men are often taught that women can be thought of as sexual objects without much of an identity, while the same isn’t usually true in reverse - but I also wonder if women’s reticence to enjoy the idea of sex with a total stranger might not come from the fact that to do so would be extremely high-risk, in a way that isn’t half as prescient for most men. There are similar gulfs in the stats for all the various fantasies involving an anonymous partner.

Probably the biggest gap, though, is for “having sex (legally) with someone much younger than me” - something fantasized about by 57% of men and just 18.1% of women. It seems clear to me that this must stem from society’s insistence that, for women, beauty is paramount and can only come from youth - men, on the other hand, have plenty of other options for being attractive and in general being youthful isn’t one of them.

A Question of Kink

The story we’re told goes something like this: fantasies related to dominance and submission aren’t that uncommon, but they’re not exactly “normal”. Most people are either doms or subs, and - while it’s not universal - most of the former are men while the latter are almost exclusively female. This narrative exists both inside and outside the BDSM community, and indeed seems to be backed up by the dynamics those of us inside the community see in our social groups.

But is it actually true? These researchers think not. In fact, they tell us, submitting to someone sexually is a fantasy common to 64.6% of women and 53.3% of men - while dominating someone sexually follows only a little while after at 46.7% of women and 59.6% of men. The researchers mention that there’s a high correlation between these two fantasies, meaning that someone who has one of them is extremely likely to have the other. They also tell us that people who have submissive fantasies are likely to have a wider range of other fantasies than other respondents. The stats on bondage are similar, and while impact play is less popular (more like a third of all respondents than half) there’s a similar gender split amongst those who do fantasize about it.

BDSM isn’t weird. Kink isn’t a specialized taste. An actual majority of people have some kind of interest in D/s, however, secretive they are about it.

What Makes An Orientation?

The other thing that caught my eye is that people’s fantasy lives don’t seem to match up that well with their self-identified sexual orientations. Questions that specify a partner’s gender are the ones with the largest gaps between the two numbers, of course; it seems obvious that any randomly-selected slice of the general population would have more men who fantasize about having sex with two women at once than it did women with the same fantasy and more women who dream of an encounter with someone with an unusually large penis. This is the case - but not so much as you might imagine.

  • 85.1% of people surveyed described themselves as ‘heterosexual’ and 3.6% as ‘homosexual’, while 11.3% identified as neither sexuality - making me wish they’d bothered to at least put ‘bisexual’ on the list. All the same, this is interesting:
  • 36.9% of women and 20.6% of men ticked the box for “having homosexual sex” - a jump away from the 14.9% who described themselves as being something other than heterosexual, especially amongst women.
  • 26.8% of men have fantasies of giving someone fellatio.
  • 42.4% of women reported fantasies of “watching two women make love” and 36.9% of “having sex with two women”.
  • 30.9% of women and 45.2% of men said they fantasized about “having sex with two men”, which compared to the first entry on this list makes me wonder what 24.6% of men think counts as ‘homosexual sex’.


The male/female divide here is probably down to socialization. Society is so keen to tell us all that the female body is a sexual object (and the yardstick for attraction) that it’s understandable for women to pick up on that subliminal message as well as the men it’s mostly aimed at.

People often have sexual fantasies they don’t want to come true, of course. Fantasies about non-consensual sex (which, incidentally, the study found to be common to around a third of all people in both listed genders - which is interesting, as you usually only hear about such fantasies in the case of women) are the classic example of this - occasionally having a rape fantasy does not mean that any part of you is hoping anything so atrocious might actually happen, as well we all know.

Still, though, this does all play into my “sexuality is fluid and often constrained by society” theory. What we get up to inside our own heads apparently doesn’t always closely match what we choose to do with our external bodies.

But if there’s one thing we can learn from this paper, it’s that whatever we’re thinking about is probably something we share with a large number of our friends, colleagues, and neighbors.

 

Have your own 'unusual sexual fantasy' you want to share? Or questions for Abi? Leave a comment below or send Abi a message AskAbi@fuck.com


Abi Brown is a freelance writer and general pen-for-hire devoted to sexual deviancy, far-left politics and wearing too much jewelry. Find her at her website or on Twitter @see_abi_write.


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