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Women Probably Have More Wet Dreams Than You Do

There might not be an incriminating wet spot when we wake up, but plenty of women experience ‘nocturnal emissions,’ too

It’s a hot summer night in New York City, and Amanda, a 27-year-old writer, is having steamy, passionate sex with a man old enough to be her father. Mads Mikkelsen, a 55-year-old Danish actor best known for his role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the Hannibal TV series, is naked and thrusting into her, and he feels so “big and warm.” 

Amanda is lost in pleasure, thinking about how Mikkelsen’s dick looks exactly the same as it does in his Polar nude scene, when she’s interrupted by an intrusive thought: “What about your wife?” she asks Mikkelsen from beneath him. “She’s fine with it,” he grunts. 

When Amanda awakes, she’s surprised to find herself wet and sexually frustrated, all alone in her bed. It isn’t the first time she’s dreamed of a steamy celebrity hookup — she’s had similar “wet” dreams about Rami Malek, Daniel Sharman, Eva Green, Cillian Murphy and even Hamish Linklater. “My wet dreams always feature celebrities, never actually people I know,” she tells me.

She’s not the only woman who experiences wet dreams either (and probably not the only woman who’s fantasized about Mads Mikkelsen). In fact, according to an older study from 1986, 33 percent of women experience a so-called “nocturnal emission” (sleep orgasm) at least once in their lives. 

Hannah, a 26-year-old photographer from Indiana, is no exception. Though she doesn’t usually remember her wet dreams in detail, the orgasms rouse her from her slumber. She describes them as “orgasm-lite,” because despite lasting the same amount of time as her waking orgasms and “definitely still [involving] lots of wetness,” she feels “almost drunk” while having them. “After I wake up, I sometimes will use my fingers and have another orgasm to feel more satisfied,” she says. 

But just like sex isn’t all about the orgasms, neither are wet dreams, so it’s hard to know just how many women truly experience them — especially when you take into consideration the fact that many of us have trouble remembering our dreams to begin with.  

Women also don’t typically ejaculate in the same way men do, so it’s not always obvious when a dream is “wet” (squirting is a whole different story). And because women lubricate internally, they may not wake up and immediately recall the wild dream orgy they had with the entire cast of Sex Education. It’s possible a woman may head to the bathroom in the morning and notice that her pussy is a bit wetter than usual, but because women’s genitals naturally lubricate to keep healthy, the “nocturnal emission” from last night’s dreamy rendezvous may go undetected. 

“For folks with vulvas, ‘wet dreams’ may be a bit of a misnomer,” explains Jess O’Reilly, host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast. “This is because [vaginal] orgasms can be wet or dry. The same is true for penises, but dry orgasms are far more rare [for penis-havers].” 

This may be why most people tend to associate wet dreams with men, or people with penises — thanks to the external process of ejaculation, if they had a wet dream, they’d probably know about it. There’s also the fact that most of us have seen men (or realistically, teenage boys) have wet dreams on TV — there’s that one episode of Degrassi where J.T. York has a wet dream and it becomes the talk of the school. There’s also the 2008 bro comedy Sex Drive, which starts with the lead character closing his laptop and proceeding to have an intense wet dream about the girl he was chatting with online (the dream involves the lead character getting a blow job while doing chin-ups from bed, every teen boy’s fantasy). 

Thuva, a 27-year-old supervisor of a crystal shop in Montreal, doesn’t dream about sexy chin-ups, but she does tend to dream about oral sex instead of penetration. “I haven’t had [penetrative] sex in my dreams where I orgasm,” she explains. “It’s normally oral, and I normally wake up before the actual intercourse.”

This checks out because Thuva says she’s more likely to orgasm during oral in her waking sexual encounters as well, but Hannah’s wet dreams are the complete opposite. “In real life, I don’t have orgasms from penetrative sex, [I] always use my finger or a vibe during,” she explains. However, in Hannah’s dreams, she tends to orgasm mid-penetrative sex. 

O’Reilly says that sex dreams don’t always reflect our real desires, which explains why Thuva and Hannah’s dreams represent their sex lives differently. It may also explain why you had a weirdly arousing sex dream about your frumpy middle school science teacher at some point, or why Thuva has sexual dreams about women sometimes despite not having real-life experiences with them. 

We know that wet dreams typically happen during REM sleep for both men and women, according to Achilleas Pavlou, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Nicosia Medical School whose PhD thesis investigated lucid dreaming. We also know that wet dreams are more common during puberty due to hormonal changes. But we don’t truly know why anyone — regardless of gender — has wet dreams at all. “One theory as to why we have sleep orgasms suggests that it’s a way to release sexual tension,” says O’Reilly. “Others suggest that they’re tied to dreams or arise in response to repressed desires.”

While you probably can’t train yourself (or your partner) to have wet dreams about super hot celebrities like Amanda does, Pavlou knows quite a few people in the tech space who are working on (or have at least patented) wearables designed to track and/or assist your body in producing nocturnal emissions. Unfortunately, he doesn’t recommend any of the devices that are currently out there, so you’re better off just whispering sweet nothings into your partner’s ear before she dozes off to sleep. And if she wakes up aroused, be ready to tag yourself in. 

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