Screen Your Hearing By Telephone. Free for AARP Members for a limited time. Learn More

Fantasy Land

Our survey shows you still fantasize about sex.

En español │As kids, we had fantasies about being an astronaut who explores new planets or being the first female president of the United States. As hormonal teens, our fantasies were a tad sexier, either when we swooned over Fabian or Elizabeth Taylor or some pinup star who made our pulses pound harder, wondering what it would be like to be "with" them. But now that we're all adults (we are, aren't we?), it seems that these latter fantasies haven't subsided … and that's a good thing!

NAKED: Fantasies

— Barnaby Hall

In the recent AARP Sex, Romance, and Relationships survey, we found out that 25 percent of you have sexy thoughts or erotic dreams at least once a day, with 16 percent having them more than once a day. Men are more than five times as likely as women to say they have such thoughts. For example, 45 percent of men and just 8 percent of women say they have erotic thoughts once or more each day. Many sex researchers have noted the fantasy gap and wondered why it exists.

Some experts feel that women's sexual imaginations have been so effectively criticized as "unnatural" that many women edit themselves by not allowing fantasies at all. Other researchers have noted that girls are much less likely to masturbate than boys and so they are less likely to create fantasies that help build and sustain arousal to orgasm. Personally, I think if society were to give women free rein—which approximates what we are doing now—the fantasy gap would largely disappear. Anyone who has read Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden, the classic book on female sexual fantasies, has a different picture of what varied and imaginative sexual fantasies that women are capable of having.

These fantasies decrease as we get older, though. Of those surveyed, more than half the men in their 50s say they are thinking sexy thoughts more than once a day, compared to 12 percent of women. When men reach their 60s, the frequent fantasies drop to about 42 percent; and in their 70s, to 27 percent. Only about 1 percent of women in their 70s think about sex that often.

Still, what's interesting is what everyone is fantasizing about. You might think it's sex with a mega-hot celeb—one like Angelina Jolie or George Clooney. Guess again.

Nearly 38 percent of all fantasies or thoughts are about sex with a stranger and sex with more than one person at a time (which comes in at a distant second place at 21 percent). Men report having fantasies about sex with a stranger (44 percent), compared to 28 percent of female respondents, and men are three times as likely to think about sex with more than one person at a time (30 percent, compared to 10 percent of women). Men and women were more alike about celebrity fantasies (20 percent, compared with 17 percent), and a similar number of men and women (9 percent and 8 percent) imagined having sex with someone of the same sex.

Most people don't want to act on all of their fantasies. That's why we call them "fantasies"! But sometimes, it's delicious to have an adventure without risk, to be a different person from who we really are, to have a person taking sexual care of us in a way that's unlikely to happen, or to explore a sexual world that we probably wouldn't enjoy in real life but can enter for a while—even if it's only in our head.

There are many pleasures, and often peak arousal, in having a fantasy—all without actualization nor consequences. Something like imagining what it would be like having sex in public is harmless and erotic to think about. You might not want to try this and risk getting a police citation for public indecency, but there's no doubt it could carry an erotic charge—in fact, it was the next highest fantasy, with 9 percent of our sample.

Interestingly, most people don't keep these thoughts private, as we might have thought. Nearly one in three of those who say they have sexual thoughts and fantasies had discussed them with someone, the most common confidant being their spouse or partner, followed by a friend. Women are a little less likely than men to discuss their fantasies with anyone. Only 1 percent of females say they had discussed their fantasies with a stranger.

It's curious and a little disappointing that 60 percent of men and 68 percent of women have never discussed their fantasies with anyone. Only 28 percent of the men and 19 percent of the women have even discussed their erotic thoughts with their spouses. It seems that these thoughts are too intimate to share, even with your life partner. It's curious to ponder how a man or woman could have sex every week for years and years and not share what they are thinking.

I think it's wonderful when people in a relationship are close enough and accepting enough to share sexual fantasies. On the other hand, it's certainly not required—and many people love the freedom of having a secret world that is all their own. You don't want to edit your fantasies in order to share them with your partner.

Is there any reason to worry about fantasies? Maybe about one that is common—fantasizing about someone you know or are friends with can create a very real erotic tension when you're talking in person. If you are married or committed to someone else, it's a bit dangerous to keep a physical relationship going with someone else—even if it is only a fantasy. But in general, the vast majority of fantasy is just adult play.

So, excuse me. I'm late for a bedtime fantasy date with George Clooney!

Join the Discussion

0 | Add Yours

Please leave your comment below.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

Next Article

Read This