How Men Fantasize About Sex vs. Women, According to a New Study

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The news: We know that men like to be visually stimulated while women tend to prefer an emotional connection, but are there other significant differences between how men and women fantasize about sex? A new study says that they vary not just in what they fantasize about, but their desire for those fantasies to become a reality.

The study, published Friday in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, asked 1,517 Canadians to detail their sexual fantasies. Researchers found that women tended to fantasize about being dominated by their romantic partner, while men generally fantasized about cheating.

And men's sexual fantasies were far more varied and complex. Male participants were generally able to describe their fantasies in a more detailed and vivid manner than their female counterparts "One of the most intriguing findings has to do with the significant number of unique male fantasies, for example, regarding [trans women], anal sex among heterosexuals, and the idea of watching their partner have sex with another man," lead author Christian Joyal said in a statement. "Evolutionary biological theories cannot explain these fantasies, which, among males, are typically desires."

But the biggest difference is that women are far less likely to want these sexual fantasies to become a reality — a distinction that may often lead to misconceptions between men and women about the sexual desires of their partner.

The difference between fantasy and desire: A significant number of female participants — 30 to 60 percent — reported fantasizing about being in a submissive situation, such as being spanked or tied up by a partner. Men, on the other hand, were much more likely to fantasize about having extramarital relations with other partners.

"Overall, these findings allow us to shed light on certain social phenomena, such as the popularity of the book Fifty Shades of Grey with women," Joyal said. "We are currently conducting statistical analyses with the same data to demonstrate the existence of homogeneous subgroups of individuals based on combinations of fantasies. For example, people who have submission fantasies also often report domination fantasies. These two themes are therefore not exclusive, quite the contrary. They also seem associated with a higher level of satisfaction."

But this doesn't mean that all women secretly wanted to be dominated: Many women who express more extreme fantasies of submission (e.g., domination by a stranger) specify that "they never want these fantasies to come true," Joyal notes. In contrast, a majority of male participants said they wanted their fantasies of threesomes or extramarital affairs to actually happen in real life.

So while a lot of women may flock to the theaters to check out Fifty Shades of Grey, that doesn't necessarily mean they want to experiment with BDSM in real life — but if a guy says he's into it, he's more likely to actually go through with it.

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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