A partiall dressed person sitting up in bed and looking at the ceiling.

Fantasies are thoughts, images, daydreams or scenarios that often lead to an increased sexual arousal.1 Fantasies are completely normal, and they are nothing to be ashamed of. These imagined situations enable an individual to rehearse different sexual scenarios in a nonthreatening setting. The content of fantasies vary from person to person; they can range from thinking about romantic images, recalling past activities, and experimenting with potential future sexual situations. A study conducted by Leitenberg and Henning revealed that the most frequently reported heterosexual male fantasies included seeing women nude, having sex with a new partner, having sex with multiple partners at the same time, and having the power to drive women wild.1 This same study discovered that the most prevalent female fantasies were having sex with a new male partner, having sex with a celebrity, seducing a younger man or boy, and having sex with an older man.1 The fantasies of homosexual males and females are similar to those of heterosexual males and females, but differ in the gender of the imagined partner.2 A sexual fantasy can serve as an experimental run-through of a sexual scenario, without requiring the individual to go out of their comfort zone.

From Fantasy to Reality

Two people lying in bed together.

If someone is comfortable sharing their fantasies, discussing them with their partner can have a variety of benefits. For example, talking about a fantasy with a partner can be an aspect of foreplay. By creating an imaginary scenario together, the partners can build sexual tension. For individuals in long distance relationships, discussing fantasies can be an important aspect in communicating passion and desire for their partner when far apart. Sexting, phone sex and love letters are all ways in which sexual fantasies can be communicated with partners. Sharing fantasies can be a first step in potentially trying something new and exciting. It is important that the partners are communicating what they are both comfortable with before trying any of the fantasies.

Although experiencing a fantasy with a partner can be an intimate and positive experience, it is important to keep in mind that recreating a fantasy in its entirety can be impossible. Fantasies can be very unrealistic in nature, which adds to the allure of imaging them. Porn stars, television stars and models are retouched and digitally altered to have exaggerated features that are nearly impossible to possess naturally. However, these features are often the sources of new sexual curiosities or fantasies. By focusing on the physical and mental traits of their partner, people can avoid feelings of guilt about unrealistic fantasies.

Rape Fantasies

A person on top of another person in bed.

A sexual fantasy serves as a safe mean for men and women to engage in activities that they may never actually want to participate in. Many people assume that fantasies are subconscious wishes, but fantasies do not always reflect an individual’s sexual desires.3 For example, one of the most common fantasies reported by men and women is having sex with someone other than their sexual partner. This fantasy is not correlated with the desire to see other people.2 Fantasies are not something that a person should never feel ashamed of, nor should a person feel obligated to recreate them.

In a survey from 2009 of female undergraduates at the University of North Texas, 62% reported experiencing rape fantasies.2 Men have also reported imagining rape scenarios, although it was only ten percent of respondents.1 Rape fantasies are not harmful as long as the individual can distinguish fantasy from reality. Just because a man or woman experiences rape fantasies, does not imply that they want to be raped. Fantasizing about rape is different from being physically raped. When a person is fantasizing about a rape scenario, they possess total control over the situation, and they can stop it at anytime. The same cannot be said during rape. In some cases, rape fantasies can evoke forgotten abuse memories that have not been mentally processed.4 Any individual who is troubled by their fantasies should seek professional help in order to identify what is causing the distress and how the distress might be resolved.

A person laying in bed.

Many researchers have studied the reason why men and women fantasize about something as serious and violent as rape. Questions from surveys of heterosexual women have illustrated that the majority of the women polled fantasized about “sexually erotic” rape scenarios rather than violent and unpleasant situations.2 In these rape fantasies, the imagined rapist is typically reported as an attractive man, and often times is someone that the fantasizer already knew.2 Some researchers hypothesize that rape fantasies stem from an individual’s desire to be so desirable that the rapist simply cannot resist.1 Another theory hypothesizes that women imagine rape fantasies because they want to be sexually promiscuous, but they do not want the negative connotations that often come along with that association. By fantasizing rape, they can put the sexual accountability on the man.1 An additional theory is that a man or woman might enjoy rape fantasies because they take pleasure in experimenting with dominating sex positions and scenarios. These are all merely theories, but of course, fantasies do not require any explanation as they are thoughts in one’s own imagination. Fantasies involving scenarios that a particular individual would never endorse or choose to do in reality do not imply any type of psychological disturbance. In fact, many studies have indicated that women who have rape fantasies also tend to have more positive attitudes toward sex, higher self esteem, and more frequent consensual sexual fantasies.5

Fantasies are not considered a danger unless they disrupt your daily life or lead to law breaking behaviors. When fantasies become realities that involve harming or taking advantage of people (including the fantasizer), this is a cause for concern and possibly legal consequences. If fantasizing about deviant sexual behaviors is required for an individual to become aroused, these aberrant and illegal behaviors might be acted upon later in life, leading to legal punishment. Before a fantasizer acts upon a fantasy, they should talk to their partner beforehand and ask for consent before beginning.

A person hugging another person with one arm.

Fantasies can be paired with masturbation techniques, sexual situations with a partner, or they may be enjoyed in the privacy of one’s own imagination. Fantasies are a healthy way to expand one’s sexual thoughts and decide what you might enjoy or definitely do not want to try. With that being said, not everybody experiences sexual fantasies. People experience varying degrees of sexual thoughts at different times in their lives and there is no “correct” amount. As long as an individual is happy and healthy and their fantasies, or lack thereof, do not interrupt in their lives, then there is nothing to be concerned about.


  1. Greenberg, Jerrold S., Clint E. Bruess, and Debra Haffner. Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality. 5th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2000. 506-10. Print.
  2. LeVay, Simon, Janice I. Baldwin, and John D. Baldwin. Discovering Human Sexuality. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2009. Print.
  3.  Castleman, Michael. “Why Do Women Have Rape Fantasies?” Psychology Today. N.p., 1 Aug. 2015. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.
  4.  “Trauma Transference Syndrome (TTS).” Trauma Transference Syndrome (TTS). N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.
  5. Persaud, Raj. “Women’s Sexual Fantasies – the Latest Scientific Research.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 16 July 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Last Updated 09 November 2016.