Does my boyfriend fantasize during sex?

Dear Alice,

In archived Alice answer Attracted to another, a man wrote in saying that he fantasizes about other women during sex, and you wrote back saying that this was normal and most men do. I am a woman who has great sex with her boyfriend, but I'm now paranoid that my boyfriend may be normal and fantasize about other women. I'm afraid to ask him because I'm afraid that may give him the idea to start. I've never fantasized about other men while I'm with my boyfriend. I'm perfectly content to be with my boyfriend. I still think that it's strange that this could be normal behavior. If someone is content sexually with their lover, why would they fantasize about someone else?


Dear Paranoid,

Don't be paranoid... Normal doesn't mean that "everybody's doing it"; it means that if you are, it's nothing to worry about. Many questions about sexual normalcy have to do with fantasies. A sexual fantasy is a mental representation of any kind of sexual activity. Some fantasies are like movies, telling a story from beginning to end, while others are more like fleeting thoughts or glimpses of pleasurable situations.

Some people's fantasies are mainly positive and others are negative. Some people spend a lot more time with their fantasies than others, and usually their fantasies are more elaborate. Some people are willing to fantasize about things that others aren't. They may find it pleasurable to fantasize about sex with their partners, other people's partners, animals, all sorts of combinations. Other people think it's wrong to fantasize about sex at all, about certain kinds of sex, or about sex with certain people.

Men are much more likely to fantasize, or to admit to fantasizing, than women, which is what one would expect in a society that encourages male sexuality, but only recently has begun to accept female sexuality. There is enormous variation in the amount of fantasizing that individual men do. Some men have sexual fantasies many times each day, while others can go for weeks without one. Often men who prioritize sex in their lives have more sexual thoughts and fantasies. Remember in thinking about your boyfriend, that if he does fantasize sexually, it in no way means that he is following through on his fantasies or that he loves you any less. It means that he is using his imagination, combined with real life sexual stimulations, to turn himself on.

Whether or not you discuss sexual fantasy with your boyfriend is your decision. Beginning a discussion will not "put the idea into his head," the same way that making condoms available to teens does not cause them to be sexually active. If you do decide to share fantasies with each other, the potential benefits include adding some new positions and actions to your sex life, becoming closer through the sharing of intimate thoughts, and increased excitement and arousal during sex. Potential deterrents include the risk of upsetting your partner, jealousy, rejection, and hurt feelings. In your case, it seems like it would not be a good idea to broach the subject with your boyfriend unless it was a moment when you were feeling very secure. In the meantime, if your boyfriend is having fantasies, it doesn't mean he loves you any less; in fact, it could be one of the sparks behind your great sex life!

Last updated May 28, 2015
Originally published Apr 27, 1995

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