If the idea of sharing your sexual fantasies makes you want to crawl out of your skin, welcome to the club. Talking about sex with a partner is a vulnerable act anyway. Voicing your sexual fantasies can leave you feeling extra-exposed, especially if you think those fantasies are embarrassing or taboo. You might worry your thoughts and desires won’t line up with your partner’s or that they might judge what you’re into. You might even fear what your fantasy says about you or your relationship. As a professional sex coach and educator, I’m intimately familiar with how scary it can feel to admit your sexual fantasies to yourself, much less say them out loud to someone who could, in the worst-case scenario, reject you. But it’s important to talk about your fantasies with your partner – and to give them space to feel they can talk about their fantasies with you too.
Here are some steps for approaching the topic of sexual fantasies with your partner.
You’re not weird for having fantasies
Fantasies aren’t inherently smutty. They’re a natural part of being a sexual person. “The brain is the most erogenous zone in the body,” says licensed professional counsellor and certified sex therapist Kimberly Atwood. “Sex generally begins with the mind and our attitude toward sex, often fantasies.” The fantasies you’re having don’t mean there’s something wrong with you – they don’t necessarily have to mean anything about you at all. There are no limits to the unspoken desires people have. (FYI: some of the most common fantasies I hear from clients and in my research happen to revolve around group sex and “Think of [fantasies] as ways to express your [unconscious needs or desires] that you can’t control, just like dreams,” says board-certified sex therapist Dr Kristie Overstreet.
What’s your goal?
Thinking about certain sexual situations doesn’t mean you necessarily want them to happen. Perhaps you daydream about having a threesome but you know that if you watched your partner being intimate with another person, you’d freak out. Or you might get off on watching intense bondage porn‚ but the idea of being tied up in real life gets a hard no from you. This is why it can be helpful to think about your goal in sharing your fantasy with your partner before bringing it up. Do you want your partner to know you on a more intimate level? Are you more interested in figuring out if they’d be down to watch porn about your fantasy as foreplay or centre their dirty talk around it? Or do you want to play out the fantasy with them? You don’t need to have this all figured out before bringing it up. Telling your partner that you don’t know what you want to do with fantasy helps. Talking about these questions together can be enlightening and can foster intimacy. But thinking about these questions beforehand can help you know yourself and your desires better, at the very least. Obviously, if you decide to enact any of your fantasies together, you and your partner will need to have additional conversations about how to go about that in a way that suits you both.
There’s no pressure to act on your fantasy
OK, so you’re ready to tell your partner you’ve been thinking about something that turns you on, and you want to share it with them. Go for it! When you do, emphasise that even if you’re interested in trying out this fantasy, there’s no pressure to act it out right now, or ever, if it’s not their thing. Otherwise, your partner may feel you’re asking them to role-play on the spot. Then, ask how they feel about what you shared, but also let them know they can sit with it for a while. It’s fine if they aren’t ready to react or if they have a different reaction later than the one they had when you told them. You may find out your fantasy is one your partner has too, in which case, jackpot! It can also be a great time to ask if there’s a fantasy they’d like to share with you. Being vulnerable might encourage your partner to do the same.
Be prepared for a positive or negative reaction, or both
Speaking of vulnerability, it’s a large part of talking honestly about your fantasies. Your partner could have any number of reactions to the ideas knocking around inside your head. They might be neutral about your fantasy, down to try it, uninterested, or even disgusted by it. (Which doesn’t automatically mean they think you’re disgusting.) You have a right to think about whatever you want during sex or masturbation, but your partner doesn’t have any obligation to fulfil or be open to a fantasy with which they’re not comfortable. Try to prepare yourself for any reaction that might come your way. And here’s some advice if they react negatively to your fantasy since that can be the toughest to deal with: try asking something like, “Why do you feel that way?” There are some times when the fantasy you’re sharing is an NBD thing you’d love to try one day and other times when it might be a VBD thing you feel you need to be satisfied. If you shared a fantasy that falls into the latter category, but your partner’s not interested, that might call for a larger conversation about sexual compatibility and what you’re both looking for.
What if your sexual fantasy is dark?
The definition of a dark fantasy, or one that feels taboo or wrong, can differ from person to person. For some people, the thought of double penetration or face slapping counts as dark. For others, it’s the thought of harming someone or being harmed (either with or without consent). No matter your specific fantasy, if it feels dark or strange to you, you might feel conflicted or upset about where your mind is taking you – and whether or not you want to share this with your partner. After all, most of the sexual and erotic stuff we encounter in mainstream pop culture tends to be vanilla, which means feeling turned on by anything outside that can make you wonder if you’re maybe abnormal. To give you an example of how complex these more taboo fantasies can be, I want to discuss rape fantasies for a minute. For many people, seeing those words next to each other is jarring. But rape fantasies are more common than many people realise. The first thing to know about rape fantasies is that they usually aren’t about nonconsensual sex. “Most people who have these fantasies are imagining a scenario in which someone is pretending to resist sex but truly wants to have it, which is why some refer to these fantasies as [depicting] ‘consensual nonconsent,’” says Dr Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute in the US and author of the book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life (R385, loot.co.za). There are all sorts of reasons someone might have this type of fantasy. It can come from a desire to give up or take control, not necessarily to harm someone without their consent or vice versa. One person may have rape fantasies because they need to relinquish all responsibility,” says Mal Harrison, a sexologist and director of the Center for Erotic Intelligence. Mal points out the person who fantasises about being sexually coercive could be the type of person who’s always putting others’ needs first, so fantasising about having sex without tending to someone else’s pleasure may give them a moment of feeling carefree and irresponsible. But the human mind is complicated, so there’s no one personality profile that leads to or results in one kind of fantasy. Of course, you should never act on anything without the consent of everyone involved and you should make sure anyone you’re engaging in a sexual fantasy with is fully on board and understands your fantasy and the scope of how you want things to play out.
This article was originally published in Glamour’s May 2022 Wellness Issue. Grab your digital copy here.