Do you ever wonder about your sexual fantasies, and what they say about you? If so, one of two worries likely comes to mind: "Am I really this conventional and boring?" or "Does the fact I'm having these thoughts mean I'm abnormal?"
Newly published research suggests you can relax. It finds humans indulge in a wide range of erotic fantasies, only a handful of which fall on either extreme (that is, almost everyone has experienced them, or almost no one has).
"There are very few statistically unusual sexual fantasies," reports a research team led by Canadian psychologist Christian Joyal. Its paper is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Joyal and his colleagues conducted a detailed online survey of 1,516 adults. (While that's a large sample, the researchers concede that people willing to share their sexual fantasies aren't necessarily representative of the general population.)
Only three sexual fantasies were statistically typical for both men and women (endorsed by more than 84.1 percent of participants): feeling romantic emotions during a sexual relationship, fantasies in which atmosphere and location are important, and fantasies involving a romantic location.
Participants were presented with a list of 55 sexual fantasies. They were asked to rate each on a one-to-seven scale, one being it doesn't excite them at all, and seven representing a very strong response.
They were also asked to write down their favorite sexual fantasy if it was not included among the 55. Three hundred and seventy-two people did so.
Of the 55 fantasies, only two were found to be "statistically rare" (that is, endorsed by 2.3 percent or less of participants): Having sex with a child under age 12, and having sex with an animal. Another nine were "statistically unusual" (endorsed by 15.9 percent or less of participants); "urinating on partner" fell into this category.
At the other end of the spectrum, only three sexual fantasies were statistically typical for both men and women (endorsed by more than 84.1 percent of participants): feeling romantic emotions during a sexual relationship, fantasies in which atmosphere and location are important, and fantasies involving a romantic location.
Two additional fantasies were typical for males only: "Receiving oral sex, and having sexual intercourse with two women."
"The proportion of women acknowledging submissive fantasies is not negligible," the researchers write. "Being sexually dominated (64.6 percent), being tied up for sexual pleasure (52.1 percent), being spanked or whipped (36.3 percent), and being forced to have sex (28.9 percent) were all reported by significant proportions of women."
"Interestingly, the same sexual fantasies were also reported by significant proportions of men (53.2, 46.2 and 3.7 percent respectively)," they add. "The fantasy of being dominated was significantly greater for women than for men, on average, whereas the fantasy of dominating was statistically stronger for men than for women, on average."
Overall, "reports of submission fantasies were significantly associated with reports of domination fantasies," they add, "indicating that these fantasy themes are not separate or in opposition."
While these results explain the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, it doesn't mean men should assume prospective partners are looking to get spanked.
"Approximately half of women with descriptions of submissive fantasies specified that they would not want their fantasy to materialize in real life," the researchers write. "This result confirms the important distinction between sexual fantasies and sexual wishes, which is usually stronger among women than among men."
One additional intriguing finding: "The percentages of women and men fantasizing about homosexual activities significantly exceeded the percentages of declared bisexuality or homosexuality."
Hmm. Even in this era of gay marriage, could it be that a stigma still surrounds homosexuality, leading some to fantasize about such activity, but refrain from defining themselves as gay?