What Are My Sexual Fantasies, Anyway? How To Figure Out What Turns You On

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist based in San Francisco, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to tips@bustle.com. Now, onto this week’s topic: how to discover your sexual fantasies.

Q: My boyfriend is always bugging me to tell him what my sexual fantasies are. He says he’s down to try anything in bed, and just wants to know what turns me on. I like the sex that we have just fine, and I can’t think of things I’d rather be doing in the moment. I don't think I'm into any of the kinky stuff either. No one has ever asked me about my fantasies before, and now I’m feeling stupid for not having any. I don’t want to lie, but I also can’t think of what to tell him!

A: Thanks for your question! I think that the rise of interest in kink (thanks 50 Shades Of Grey) has made a lot of people feel like fantasies need to be really wild and out there. But not all fantasies are kink-related, and not all fantasies are intense.

Let’s back up a step and first get clear on what a sexual fantasy is. Simply put, fantasies are the things that you find arousing when you think about them. The main categories of sexual fantasies are:

  • Role-playing. This is where you pretend to be certain characters. For example, you might take on the role of a student and your boyfriend might be your teacher.
  • Specific sexual behaviors. This category includes things like threesomes, oral sex, playing with sex toys, being spanked and so on. Most of the kinky stuff would fall into this category, but there are plenty of behaviors that are wonderfully vanilla (i.e. tame).
  • Power dynamics. You might be into the idea of letting one person be completely in control, and the other person completely submissive.
  • Partners. Did you grow up up fantasizing about Justin Timberlake? That would be a partner-specific fantasy.
  • Stories. You may have always dreamed of having sex in the middle of an abandoned beach, or losing your virginity to a mysterious stranger.
  • Feelings. This is a category that not a lot of people think about, but many of us actually experience. You might fantasize about feeling swept off your feet during an intimate encounter. Or you might dream about feeling confident and uninhibited.

Now, let’s get into the four main ways you can begin to identify what your fantasies are.   

1. Remember that fantasies are just fantasies. 

The most important thing to know about your fantasies is that they’re rooted in your mind, not in reality. Plenty of people have fantasies that they would never want to act out in real life.

Think about non-sexual fantasies for a moment. You may have dreamed about strangling your horrible boss at work. Maybe you even imagined the scene in vivid detail. But you would never, ever actually kill your boss, right? Having the fantasy doesn’t mean you want to or would do that act in real life.

Sexual fantasies operate in the same way. A rape fantasy is the perfect example. A huge percentage of women are aroused by the idea of being forced into having sex, but virtually none of those women actually want to be raped in real life.

If you think you might be scared of your own fantasies, see if you can allow yourself to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality. If you tell yourself, “it’s OK to have a fantasy and never act on it,” does that help you start identifying your fantasies? Or you can try asking yourself, “what’s something that I would never do in real life, but feels kind of hot to think about?”

2. Try not to worry about being judged.

In a similar vein, you may have a hard time acknowledging your fantasies to yourself or to others because you’re afraid of what your fantasies might say about you. You might worry that your voyeuristic fantasies make you seem “perverted,” or that your anal play fantasies come off as “gross.”

Lots of women who identify as feminists believe that they shouldn’t have fantasies about acts that are degrading to women. We’re talking things like being called a “slut,” dressing up in a cheerleader outfit, or having a male partner orgasm on your face or breasts. You may find these acts to be really sexy in theory, but you might worry that makes you “messed up,” or “unfeminist.”

The key here is to recognize that fantasies are the adult version of play. Fantasies allow us to explore other aspects of our personalities and try on completely different roles, without commitment. They don’t need to “mean” anything or say anything about you. You can be a proud, card-carrying feminist, and enjoy getting naughty facials.

3. Try to find your fantasies.

Sometimes fantasies just appear out of nowhere. But sometimes, they need to be coaxed out. If you’re interested in trying to uncover your fantasies, here are some sources of inspiration:

  • Think back to the first memories you have about sex. What did you think sex was? What felt appealing about it? Was there anything that confused you, or scared you a little about it? Maybe you had a fantasy about an older kid in your school “showing you the ropes.”

  • Your actual experiences with sex might also contain clues about what turns you on. What are your top five sexual experiences? Is there anything that most of them have in common? Or is there anything that really stands out? Perhaps you had an insanely hot one-night stand with a guy who let you be in complete control.

  • What do you think about when you masturbate? Maybe you always think about what it would be like to be caught.

  • Think back to really good sex scenes you read in books, or saw in movies or TV shows. What did you like about those scenarios? Maybe you saw a really hot strip club scene in a movie.

  • Consider some of the most popular fantasies. Six of the most common sexual fantasies my clients have talked about include being raped or forced into sex, role-playing teacher and student, having sex with a stranger, having a threesome, watching someone else having sex, and being watched. Try ranking those in order of least to most appealing.

  • Try writing your own erotica, or even just daydreaming about sex. If you give yourself lots of space to be creative, what themes emerge for you?

4. Take the pressure off yourself. 

Hopefully I’ve helped convince you that “fantasy” can be a broader category than you may have originally been thinking. That being said, not everyone has fantasies! Plenty of people are happily satisfied having sex without a fantasy element. Or you may have fantasies that are simple and straightforward, and not very intense (for example, you might occasionally daydream about having sex in Reverse Cowgirl, but not feel that passionately about it). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you if you don’t find yourself fantasizing about sex on a regular basis.

The world of fantasy is rich with possibility. Keep an open mind, and give yourself the freedom to open up to your desires. Have fun!

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Images: SilentMind8/Flickr; Giphy

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