What those sex dreams mean

There is nothing wrong with it
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When she was in high school, Annie* had sex on a picnic table in view of families enjoying their chicken and chips. She also did it with her friend’s dad, her Geography teacher, her doctor, her hairdresser and a bank robber who’d escaped from prison. 

If you’re wondering how she found time to go to school or shower, you’ll be relieved to know that all this sex happened while she lived her ordinary teenage life, because it happened only in her mind. “I was a fantasy machine,” she says now. “Pretty much everyone I spoke to or saw on telly ended up naked in my mind. I used to worry I was a sex addict, but then I figured you had to have actual sex to be one of those and since I was only thinking about it, I was fine.”

While you may not fantasise as regularly or with such variety as Annie, chances are you’re no stranger to the idea. According to a survey of over 20,000 people, 90% of us fantasise (that is, consciously think about sexual images or scenarios that turn us on). But even though brain bonking is super common, it’s also common for individuals to worry that there’s something wrong with them for doing it.
Sometimes it’s another person making them feel that way. When Rubi, 19, shared with her boyfriend her fantasy about getting it on with another woman, he got upset and accused her of being a lesbian. “He said fantasies reflect what you really want to do and so I must really want to be with a girl instead of him.” 

Not true, according to Jenny Walsh, Coordinator of Sexuality Education programs at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. “Your fantasy life does not define your whole sexuality: it does not necessarily mean you are a gay if you keep thinking about being with women… The stuff we imagine is not always the stuff we want to do, but is exciting for us to think about.”

Karyn Fulcher, PhD candidate at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society and educator at, agrees. “While your fantasies can give you some indication of what you might like, they’re only one piece of the puzzle.”

Karyn says that finding yourself attracted to real-life girls, rather than only to figments of your imagination, may be an indication that you’re gay or bisexual, but even then, “Sexual orientation isn’t something that we can figure out in a day: it’s about seeing who we’re attracted to over time.”

It’s also worth noting that whether Rubi’s fantasising about girls, boys or scarecrows it says nothing about how she feels about her boyfriend. “Fantasising about someone else is very normal,” says Karyn. “It doesn’t mean you’re less attracted to your partner or that you don’t like them anymore, it just means you’re human.”

It’s not only reactions from a partner that can cause people to worry about their fantasies, however.  Mia, 21, feels “heavy guilt” over her fantasy of being forced to have sex. “I know girls who’ve been raped and I know how much it traumatised them,” she says. “Of course I don’t actually want it to happen, but thinking about it is really exciting and I worry that this means I’m psychologically damaged.”

Not at all, says Karyn. “Fantasising about rape or violence isn’t really that unusual, and is often about the appeal of giving up control.” She points out that there’s a huge difference between a fantasy and a real assault. “For the victim, rape is not consensual, it’s not something they want and it’s absolutely not about sex.” A fantasy, on the other hand is entirely in your control, even if what you’re controlling is the idea of having none.

So, OK, we get that fantasies don’t necessarily reflect our real world desires, but… what if yours maybe does? What if you reckon the thing that’s blissful in your mind would be just as awesome in the flesh?

Like with anything to do with sex, communication is key. That’s true if the fantasy is your partner’s, too. “No two people are exactly alike in any way, including their sexuality, and so it’s totally OK not to share a partner’s fantasy,” says Karyn. “Don’t feel like you have to go along with it just because they’re your partner or because they’ve participated in acting out a fantasy of yours in the past; no-one’s keeping score and you don’t ever owe any partner anything.”
If you do decide to go ahead, “Make sure you talk about it beforehand and agree that either one of you can ask to stop at any point, and that the other person will respect that request,” Karyn advises.

Remember, too, that there’s no expiration date on sexual experimentation. Why rush into something you’re not 100 per cent sure about when you can instead continue in your imagination without risk? After all, sex that happens only in your brain is the safest sex there is and the only kind where your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Before you do anything about turning fantasy into reality, Jenny recommends asking yourself the following questions: 

– Is it safe? Physically during the act and in terms of protection against pregnancy and STIs.
– Is it legal? The age of consent is 16, and 17 in SA and Tas. The website can help with other advice too. 
– Does the other person want to do it (if “it” involves another person)?
– Can I/we change our minds at anytime?

Send your questions to: GF Sex Advice, GPO Box 7801, Sydney NSW 2001
OR email with the subject line “Sex Advice”.
All questions are answered by Dr Sally Cockburn, GF’s resident doctor.

Words Emily Maguire | Photography Getty Images | Research British Sexual Fantasy Research Project 

* Names have been changed

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