What Do Our Sex Dreams Mean?
on Oct 11, 2022
With 77% of participants saying they experience sex dreams, it’s time to reveal what they actually mean.
Sex dreams are a completely normal part of life. So if you’re one of the 77% who have woken up one morning to find their unconscious mind went on an erotic adventure in the land of nod, there’s no need to be concerned.
From getting steamy with your boss to exploring a sexually-charged encounter with a same-sex partner, the scenarios we dream about can be wildly different to the types of sex we typically engage in when we’re awake - and this can leave us feeling a little confused when the blare of the morning alarm snaps us out of the fantasy. So what can the content of these dreams tell us about our wants and desires for the waking world, and just how common are they?
We surveyed more than 2,000 adults to find out how common sex dreams really are, and what these dreams tend to involve. We also spoke to Dr Justin Lehmiller, social psychologist and research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, to understand what the different dreams might mean and dispel any concerns you may have about how normal sex dreams truly are.
How many people experience sex dreams?
Our survey found that more than three quarters of adults (77%) have had a sex dream before, and although it’s a more common experience for men than women, the gap is relatively small. 85% of the men we surveyed to told us they’d experienced an erotic dream before, compared with 75% of women who said the same.
However, we also discovered that sex dreams are most commonly experienced by bisexual people with 87% of respondents who identify as bisexual saying they’ve previously had a sex dream. This was closely followed by people who are intersex (80%) and pansexual (79%).
Star signs most likely to experience sex dreams
While not everyone decides to believe what they read in their star sign, it seems that your zodiac has something to do with whether or not you experience sex dreams. We found that Cancers, are the most likely to have sex dreams (82%), followed closely by Leos (80%) and Scorpios (79%).
On the other hand, Sagittarians are the least likely to experience sex dreams, with only 69% of respondents with this zodiac saying they’ve had a sex dream in the past.
How often do we have sex dreams?
Despite a similar proportion of men and women revealing that they’re well versed in the art of sex dreams, men appear to have them much more frequently than women.
We asked respondents who had previously experienced a sex dream how often they tend to have them, and overall the most common answer was 2-3 times a week, with 12% responding with this.
It was revealed that 15% of the men in this group also said 2-3 days a week, while 12% of women said they weren’t sure, which suggests an erotic dream might be a less memorable experience for the women in our survey group.
What are the most common sex dreams?
With it being uncovered that so many of our heads are often filled with erotic visions while we sleep, we were naturally curious to know what the scenarios of these raunchy dreams are. Are we fantastizing about bondage or are we dreaming about involving anal toys or vibrators into our sex lives?
It turns out that the most common sex dream involves having an intense orgasm, with 38% of our entire survey group having experienced this scenario as well as 43% of women. However 4 in 10 men have dreamed about sleeping with a friend, making this the most common scenario for those identifying as male.
Interestingly, sex dreams that veer more into the realm of the taboo seem to be much more common among men than women. For example, 24% of men have dreamed about sleeping with a colleague compared with just 10% of women, and 19% of men have dreamed about having sex with a teacher, while just 7% of women have experienced the same.
Sex expert Dr Justin Lehmiller explains the different factors that can influence the type of scenario we dream about, based on the survey of 4,175 adults that he conducted for his book Tell Me What You Want.
Having an intense orgasm
“In my research, more than 97% of men and women say that their sexual fantasies involve them having an orgasm. Of course, in real life, you don’t necessarily have to have an orgasm in order to have good or even great sex; however, orgasms tend to be seen as the peak of pleasure, so it makes sense that they would make up an integral part of our fantasies. Not all orgasms feel the same though - some feel better than others. And what we often do in our fantasies is to recreate or reexperience our more pleasurable sexual experiences, which often center around those in which we had the best or most intense orgasms.
“That said, having an intense orgasm might also be part of a fantasy about something new - something that you really, really want or desire. Thus the intense orgasm in a fantasy might also be the byproduct of the newness or novelty of the people, places, or things you’re fantasizing about.”
Having sex with a friend
“It’s not uncommon to fantasize about a friend. In my research I find that more than one-third of women and more than half of men say they’ve fantasized about a friend before. It’s not surprising that people fantasize about their friends when you consider the emotional and intimate connection that exists between them. For many people, intimacy is a precursor to sexual attraction and desire; feeling safe and connected can make someone more attractive.
“Of course, we sometimes also cultivate friendships with people we’re already attracted to, but we don’t always pursue them because a relationship might not be in the cards (e.g., one or both of you may already be spoken for).”
Having sex with an ex-partner
“Fantasies about exes are common. In my own research, I see that more than 60% of women and more than 80% of men say they’ve fantasized about an ex before. Among singles, one reason for this may be a longing for something familiar. In fact, I find that single people report fantasizing about their exes more than anyone else. Some people in relationships fantasize about their exes as well. In some cases, this may be because they had better sex with their ex or perhaps are thinking about rekindling a past relationship, but it might also simply be about wanting to relive a particularly hot experience.
“Why do men fantasize about exes more than women? On average, men tend to have more favorable views of their exes than women, so that might be part of the story here: if men view their exes more favorably, it stands to reason that they’d be more inclined to fantasize about them.”
Normalising sex dreams
Our survey has uncovered just how common sex dreams are as well as the different types of X-rated scenarios our sleeping minds fantasize about. But if as many as almost 8 in 10 of us are having them, why is there such a stigma surrounding the topic?
To help combat this and prove that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional sexy dream, we asked Dr. Lehmiller for some insight into why we might wake up to feelings of shame or embarrassment following one.
“Most of us grew up learning very narrow definitions of sex, such as the idea that penis-in-vagina intercourse in the context of a heterosexual, monogamous marriage is the only thing that “counts” as sex. When this becomes one’s reference point, it makes it easy to feel as though fantasies or desires for almost anything else are unusual - and, subsequently, to begin to feel a sense of shame, guilt, embarrassment, or anxiety about them.
“When we start to get these emotional hangups about our fantasies, this can have a very negative impact on our sex lives and relationships. For one thing, it can inhibit communication about what you want. It can also lead to distraction and anxiety during sex, which can interfere with sexual performance. Normalizing diversity in sexual fantasies allows us to set our minds at ease, to feel more confident exploring and communicating about our sexuality, and to experience more pleasure.”
Data was taken from a survey we conducted in September 2022 of 2,016 adults over the age of 18.
Dr Justin Lehmiller - social psychologist and research fellow at the Kinsey Institute.