Are My Sexual Fantasies Normal?

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Reader’s Question

My question is regarding my sexual fantasies — I really want to understand why I have them. I am a 24-year-old gay man. Sexually what I fantasize about/what turns me on the most includes: real brothers having sex (also father/son, mother/daughter), fantasies about my own male cousins and uncles, fantasies about joining a girlfriend and boyfriend, or husband and wife, starting with the female and she insists I give her guy oral sex and I do and he enjoys it more than how she ever did it and secretly we hookup together without the girlfriend/wife. Of course across all these scenarios the males are youthful and attractive. It seems that what turns me on are things which are socially unacceptable or taboo. The naughtier the more it does it for me. I love fantasizing more than the actual deed. Is this normal?

Psychologist’s Reply

The tricky thing about sexual fantasies is that people rarely talk openly about their own. So, most of us are left wondering just how far off the beaten path our fantasies lie. The issue of why people hold the fantasies that they do, and why people vary in what they find most arousing, remains unanswered. Surveys asking people about their fantasies simply document a tremendous amount of diversity. And the fact that there are so many niche types of pornography readily available online tells us that there must be groups of people who find just about any possible stimulus sexually arousing, no matter how “crazy” or “disgusting” others may find those stimuli.

All of that said, I don’t think your fantasies are inexplicable. As you noted, one theme underlying them is that they are taboo pairings of partners. Socially forbidden sexual behaviors can be especially arousing because of the extra anxiety and sense of transgression they engender. In other words, in addition to their sexual nature, taboo sex acts are especially emotionally charged, thereby adding to the sense of arousal. Physiological arousal is the same, regardless of the source. What differs is how we label it based on the circumstances. When our hearts race because someone is threatening us, we label the arousal “fear.” When our hearts race in a sexual encounter, we label the arousal being “turned on.” So, if particular taboo scenarios encourage physiological arousal due to their socially unacceptable nature, that boosts the arousal we then label as sexual.

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The taboo nature of these fantasies rests on the notion that the pairs of sexual partners in each scenario are not supposed to engage in sexual activity together (again, according to societal rules). Presumably, though, in these scenarios the participants are so overtaken with lust and attraction to each other that they act on their sexual urges despite the social taboo. That idea, that two people are highly sexual, can itself be part of what makes these fantasized scenarios so arousing.

You pointed out another important aspect of sexual fantasies: having them does not automatically translate into wanting to act them out. Perhaps it’s the assumption that fantasies say something about desired behavior that leads some people to feel guilty about their sexual fantasies. However, by definition, fantasies are safe (no one is actually hurt in real life) and they can end the way the fantasizer desires. Conversely, attempts to act out fantasies frequently result in less than desirable experiences. So, as long as your fantasies remain just that, you can give yourself permission to enjoy that aspect of your sexuality without guilt or concern about normality.

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