Everyone fantasizes about other people during sex, but it can become a problem
Late at night, you and your lover are under the covers. Things heat up, and you excitedly realize: you're going to get it on.
But in the midst of the action, your mind starts to wander. Fantasies float into your thoughts, involving exes, close friends, porn stars, or co-workers, and the erotic novelty carries you to climax.
Roaming sex reveries are a nearly universal human tendency. They can produce unprecedented levels of pleasure and improve entire sexual experiences. Yet there’s a continual guilt associated with committing thought adultery. Shouldn’t your attention be centered on the person in front of you? To address this shameful confusion, we asked some local sex therapists: is it wrong to think about other people during sex?
“If we always thought about our one partner, that would be wonderfully faithful… but not realistic,” Dr. Skyler tells us. She concedes that having an erotic imagination is only human, but in excess it can become problematic.
Thinking about someone else during sex can come dangerously close to wanting to have sex with someone else.
“My clients will pretty often fess up to fantasizing about someone else because it’s their only way to get aroused or have an orgasm,” Dr. Skyler says. This confession, she asserts, is an issue because it indicates that person prefers the fantasy over their partner.
When this is the case, thinking about someone else during sex can come dangerously close to wanting to have sex with someone else. A survey of 1,300 people conducted by Lovehoney, UK’s largest online sex toy brand, found that 42 percent of men and 46 percent of women admitted to thinking about someone else during sex. The survey also found that a significant proportion of respondents, 30 percent of women and 25 percent of men, went on to sleep with the people they’d been fantasizing about.
People most often fantasized about real-life relationships, specifically with close friends, colleagues, bosses, and exes.
According to Galeano, fantasies can be far less problematic if you’re picturing a fictional partner. “Some clients will create generic amalgamations of qualities they find attractive,” Galeano says. If your imaginary mate is just a concoction of sexy characteristics, the illusion is generally innocuous.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned study found that people most often fantasized about real-life relationships, specifically with close friends, colleagues, bosses, and exes. “When a client is fixated on one particular person, it begs the question, is there an emotional affair or even a physical affair with someone else? When it begins bordering on obsession, then it becomes a dilemma,” Galeano says.
“If you’re so engaged in the fantasy, why are you having sex with your partner? What’s in it for you?”
However, imagining other partners while doing the deed does not always end in infidelity. For those who want to focus more on one another mid-intercourse, our therapists are armed with two possible solutions: concentrate on connecting with yourself, or concentrate on connecting with the person in front of you.
Connecting with yourself can be both a psychological and a physical feat. According to Galeano, the mental aspect involves asking yourself, “If you’re so engaged in the fantasy, why are you having sex with your partner? What’s in it for you?”
According to Dr. Skyler, the physical aspect of sexual self-awareness means getting in tune with your body by focusing on your own sensations. For some, this can be more complicated than it seems.
For those with deep-rooted anxieties about sex, the only escape is their own head.
“Some people are stuck on the idea that sex is a scary place, perhaps because of family members treating sex as an extreme taboo, traumatic childhood experiences, or sexual repression of a religious upbringing,” Dr. Skyler says.
For those with deep-rooted anxieties about sex, the only escape is their own head. In these cases, solving the answer to the question, ‘why are they escaping?’, also offers an answer to their intimacy challenges. “We need to air out that dirty laundry to promote growth and healing,” Dr. Skyler insists.
But if your bedroom obstacle isn’t an inability to connect with yourself, it’s time to acknowledge the alternative — that you’re not connecting with the person in front of you.
At that point, it might be time break up and go pursue that other partner you can’t stop imagining bent over the bed.
In these cases, the complications are more clear-cut. “Clients will usually have an idea of what the problem is. They’ll admit, ‘I’m not into my partner,’ or ‘I’m having an affair,’” Dr. Skyler says. At that point, it might be time break up and go pursue that other partner you can’t stop imagining bent over the bed.
But the bottom line is that thinking about others during sex is entirely normal, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s doesn’t need to create a disconnect. Quite the contrary, allowing your mind to wander can sometimes improve your partner’s experience.
If it keeps you hard/wet/horny and isn’t perceptible, your partner benefits from your erotic imagination.
“If [fantasizing] is increasing your arousal and it’s not causing you to shut down from your partner, then it can be an extremely effective tool for sexual engagement,” Galeano says. Essentially, if it keeps you hard/wet/horny and isn’t perceptible, your partner benefits from your erotic imagination.
So don’t beat yourself up about it, dirty dreamer. Your sexual fantasies may make reality all the better.