What sex fantasies reveal about the human mind

By Hanan Parvez

Our fantasies reveal our deepest desires, unbridled by the various codes of conduct that the society may have imposed upon us. Therefore, our fantasies can provide a window into the truest and the most accurate propensities of our minds.

This is true for sexual fantasies as well. What men and women fantasize about when it comes to sex reveal how their minds have been shaped by evolution. Though their sexual fantasies may sometimes overlap, men and women mostly fantasize about different things.

Sexual fantasies of men

Men fantasize about sex more frequently than women. They have roughly twice as many sexual fantasies as women and, when asleep, are more likely to dream about sexual events. This is consistent with the fact that men have a stronger sex drive than women.

Since men produce millions of sperm in their lifetime and are not burdened with the responsibility of bearing and rearing children, their best strategy for reproductive success is to spread their seed far and wide.

This is why numbers and novelty are key features of men’s sexual fantasies. Men imagine sexual encounters with many different women and can even change partners in the middle of a fantasy episode.

Also, sex in men’s fantasies is sheer lust and physical gratification, devoid of any encumbering relationships, emotional elaboration, complicated plot lines, and extended foreplay (they get to business as quickly as they can).

The traits that heterosexual men find attractive in a woman are beauty, youth, fertility, and femininity. It’s not surprising then that men’s top sexual fantasies revolve around women possessing these traits.

For instance, ‘the schoolgirl’ is a common and popular fantasy among men. A school girl is a perfect combination of youth and fertility. Compared to a woman in her 20’s or 30’s a fertile schoolgirl can bear and rear more children simply because she’s younger and has a long time before she hits menopause. 

Therefore, she’s a prospect of greater reproductive success for men. Of course, men are not conscious of this underlying biological reason and rate ‘the schoolgirl’ as their top fantasy without knowing why.

Another common and popular fantasy of men is ‘the nurse’. Men are attracted to femininity, the key features of which are submissive and nurturing behaviors. Thus, besides being physically attractive, a feminine nurse who's nurturing is a huge turn on for men.

Men satisfy their sexual fantasies mainly via pornography. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the entire industry exists to satiate the sexual fantasies of men who’re visually stimulated and like to get down to action fast without bothering to know or care about the other person.

Women in pornography are depicted as if they have the same sex drive as men, always ready and willing to engage in sex at the drop of a hat. Women who feature in porn are actually how men want women to be. But, as you’re about to learn, women aren’t turned on by the same things as men.

Sexual fantasies of women

Women’s fantasies are less frequent and less dominated by visual images than men’s. Unlike men, they emphasize more on touching, feelings, partner response, their own physical and emotional responses, and emotional states, such as mood and ambiance.

Also, women are more likely to fantasize about someone they are, or have been, involved with. They focus not on the physical features but the personal and emotional characteristics of their imagined partner. It’s the emotional connection in a fantasy that turns women on.    

Women are attracted to men who’re dominant, brave, and masculine and men of high status. This is why ‘the firefighter’ and ‘the boss’ is a common fantasy among women. A firefighter symbolizes bravery and a boss is a person of high status who has employed you.

In role-play, women are more likely to take up submissive roles than men and allow men to dominate them. Sadomasochism is just an extreme version of this dynamic. No wonder millions of women have gone gaga over novels like Fifty Shades of Grey.

Romance novels are basically women’s porn. In these novels, men are depicted how women want them to be.

woman reading 50 shades of grey
The book has sold over 125 million copies worldwide with 70% and 80% of the readers being women in the UK and the US respectively.

What’s particularly fascinating about women’s sexual fantasies is how they change as a woman approaches the ovulation stage of her menstrual cycle during which she’s most likely to conceive.

During this period women’s sexual fantasies tend to increase and they’re more likely to fantasize about multiple partners. Also, behaviors reducing intrasexual competition (such as dressing more provocatively than other women) have been observed to peak during this time.

These behaviors indicate a psychology adapted to maximize the chances of conception and promote sperm competition i.e. allowing the ejaculates of multiple men fight it out in her reproductive tract so as to let the most competent sperm win.

This way her offspring, if it turns out to be a male, will be reproductively more successful because of inheriting competitive sperm.


Ellis, B. J., & Symons, D. (1990). Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach. Journal of Sex Research27(4), 527-555.

Nummi, P., & Pellikka, J. (2012, April). Do female sex fantasies reflect adaptations for sperm competition?. In Annales Zoologici Fennici (Vol. 49, No. 1-2, pp. 93-102).

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