What Is A Sexual Fantasy? 8 Ways To Differentiate Between It And What You Want In Bed

Everyone has sexual fantasies now and again. And, as they say, no matter what you imagine, someone else has thought about it at least once. But transitioning from a place of imagination to actually following through on your desires can be tricky. That's where sex experts come in, with some tricks for pursuing sexual fantasies that might clear the air as you figure out what you want in bed.

First and foremost, there's nothing wrong with your fantasy being something that you either can't, or don't want to, act out on. "Fantasy is free space. It doesn't always make sense and it doesn't have to," sexologist and relationship expert Dr. Nikki Goldstein tells Bustle. Of course, if you have sexual fantasies that include anything particularly dangerous or illegal, it's likely best to speak about it with a professional. But if your fantasy is simply creative or mildly taboo, then there's a chance it might actually be something worth pursuing with someone who is willing to explore it as well.

With society being so sex-negative sometimes, there can be a bit of a gray area around whether it's you who doesn't want this idea to come to fruition, or whether you're just nervous. So it's important to break it down a bit. Once you do, you can know whether something is a fantasy, or a full-blown desire. "Desire is something you long to do. A fantasy is just a thought," Goldstein says. And if it's really more than just a thought, you deserve to know.

Here are eight ways to differentiate between a fantasy and something you really want in bed, according to experts.

1Put The Fantasy In A Real-Life Context

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The most important step is simply bringing your fantasy into context. "Think about actually doing it in every day life," Goldstein says. "Does it still seem appealing and exciting?"

Whether it be pure logistics, or the fact that your fantasy involves non-monogamy when you're in a committed relationship, sometimes a fantasy just doesn't make it past this step. "A fantasy might have elements of supernatural or fictional characters," Dr. Laura Deitsch, Vibrant's resident sexologist, tells Bustle. "It might involve time travel or superhuman strength. It might just be something that comfortably lives in a person's psyche and they have no desire to feel on or in their body. A desire speaks more to picturing this thing really happening, and it's realistic, at least to an extent, and the conjurer is comfortable with any outcomes." If you can easily say that your fantasy sounds good in a real-life context, then you're probably a step closer to making it happen.

2Figure Out Whether The Fantasy Has Any IRL Implications

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This step basically involves asking yourself one question: do you have more to lose, or to gain, if you follow through on this? "Think about the implications of living out that fantasy," Goldstein says. "Does it involve other people? How would a partner react? Would it jeopardize the relationship?" Each part of this bigger answer will give you added clues to whether this fantasy belongs in your sex life.

On the other hand, if you feel like you have something to lose by not following through on this, that's a big sign too. "If you have a fantasy that is a constant source of erotic energy and heat and it would crush you not to enjoy it, hold off and try to figure out how, at the very least, to optimize the experiment," Carol Queen PhD, Staff Sexologist at Good Vibrations, tells Bustle. Even if it seems a bit nerve-wracking, if you can't handle keeping this in your head any longer (and it's safe, consensual, and legal), it's probably just time to go for it.

3Set A Date And See How You Feel

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If your nerves are still bothering you, there's a way around that, Dr. Deitsch suggests.

Just set a date for the fantasy scenario, and then see how you feel as the date approaches. "If you are excited, eager, and smiling, it's probably something you want to do in bed. If there is trepidation, if you postpone, if you experience dread or panic, it's likely a fantasy that should stay that way," Dr. Deitsch says. This way, you'll be able to avoid getting too close to something that you didn't actually want to do, and learn more about yourself for the future.

4Talk To Someone About It

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It may be nerve-wracking, but it is OK to talk about sex with others. Plus, more and more people are getting comfortable with the subject, too, so you likely won't be the first person you know to get open about the subject.

Just bringing up the subject around a friend might open up some thoughts or feelings you were previously unable to uncover. And if your conversation with friends doesn't help enough, you can always seek other forms of help, too. "If a person is really confused then talk to a counselor about it," Dr. Dawn Michael, Certified Clinical Sexologist & Sexuality Counselor, tells Bustle. "Many people come to me to work out what is a fantasy that should stay just as a fantasy and what may be possible to explore." No matter who you end up opening up to, it'll likely be a good step towards understanding your sexuality on a deeper level.

5Consider Whether Your Partner (Or Potential Partner) Is Also Going To Want This

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If your fantasy isn't a solo act, then you're going to need to consider the other person (or people) involved. "For most people this presents the greatest issue," Dr. Michael says.

Luckily, if you're single or non-monogamous, access to the Internet and different apps means you're more likely than ever to find someone into the same things as you. And if you have one partner, sometimes just talking about the idea can be sexy in itself.

It's important to also note that a fantasy can actually be an indicator that you might need a change in your sex life. "Sometimes ... this [step] means pursuing the fantasy and leaving your past life to do so," Dr. Queen says. "If someone constantly fantasizes about people of a different gender than they usually partner with, that may mean they're trying to come out as gay or bisexual, for instance." Listening to your fantasies could actually mean a major step in your life.

6Ask Yourself "Does This Fantasy Ever Go Away?"

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Again, the persistence of a fantasy might mean more than you think. If you depend on the fantasy for pleasure, or if it's a "companion" not a "visitor" in your arousal, Dr. Queen says, it might be sending you a message about who you really are.

Dr. Queen lists dominant and submissive or other sexual or kinky roles, sexual orientation-linked fantasies, and fantasies with a strong emotional charge as major indicators. "With all fantasies, you send yourself some kind of message (what's hot, what you find exciting, what you find compelling), so try to learn what you can from them," Dr. Queen adds. You deserve bringing your imagined desires to life if they're a major part of who you are sexually.

8Try The Lite Version

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Even if all signs point to "go" on your fantasy, you still might want to start with something a little more gentle to begin with. You'll never know how things feel until you try it, after all. So if your fantasy involves full-blown submission, for example, start with some light bondage or spanking, instead of a ball gag on the first try.

This easy-going first step can be really fun. "A person might figure out a new trick is really fun and adds to their sexual repertoire, or they might learn they hate it. Either way, data is gathered and hopefully no one got hurt in the making of said fantasy," Dr. Deitsch says. So don't get too bummed out about taking things slow.

And no matter whether your fantasy actually becomes something you want to pursue or not, there's no reason to stop imagining. "The reality is, there is not only one way to enjoy sexual fantasies," Kristin Marie Bennion, licensed mental health therapist and certified sex therapist, tells Bustle. "Some people seek out experiencing the scenarios in their fantasies, others act out only certain aspects, while there are many who are fulfilled by keeping their fantasies solely in their imagination." And through the process of exploring your fantasy, you'll figure out what works for you.