We know so much about the sexual fantasies of American men. Gentleman dirtbag writers like Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller have spent thousands of words describing what they consider a good fuck. Movies also spare no expense to document male directors’ and screenwriters’ fantasies in graphic detail — how else would we know Quentin Tarantino has a foot fetish? You can even follow what men like in and out of bed in real time thanks to respectable male journalists on Twitter.
Meanwhile, a woman’s erotic imagination gets so rarely celebrated in our culture that the women who publicly own their sexuality often become symbolic, wild outliers –– Cardi B and Rihanna come to mind. (Rare is the Kim K who can parlay a sex tape into a family empire.) But by either exoticizing or ignoring female fantasies, we don’t just limit women’s sex lives, we limit women’s whole lives. Not to mention, once men begin to understand how varied, frequent and sometimes dark, female fantasies are, they might be able to finally respect them as true sexual partners. At the very least, we should be curious whenever a woman dares to share what makes her secretly say, “Yes, oh god, yes!”
And so, for this candid conversation, I spoke with five women from across the country, and one from across the pond. They shared their perverse cravings, deepest longings, most shameful desires and explained how all of these combine to impact not just their self-pleasure but their IRL sex life. The women…
- Lacey*, 34, bisexual, mixed (Caucasian and Asian), single, Nashville
- Emily, 29, heterosexual, white, in a monogamous long-term relationship, rural area outside Pittsburgh, PA
- Lovie*, 31, bisexual, Lebanese-American, dating two to three boyfriends, North San Diego
- Gwen, 32, straight, white, single, New York City
- Shaunte, 31, people lover, indigenous, “it’s complicated,” Miami
- Clara, 38, straight, white British, long-term partner, London
And what they had to say…
When you fantasize, does it focus on your partner, or perhaps is it with men/women you know? Maybe celebrities, fictional partners from books, TV, movies, myths?
Lovie: I fantasize about women and have crazy fantasy dreams. Sometimes they involve people I know (males) and made-up females that are a specific type I prefer.
Emily: If it’s the morning after a particularly good sexual encounter, I’ll fantasize about the night before. Also, when I socialize without my significant other and compare the current “meat market,” I’m thankful for my man and not having to be out there. I will fantasize about hot guys in public, but only if they’re really hot. There’s a client at my work we call “hot dad,” and everyone knows him as that behind his back. My fantasies usually involve a fictional character or celebrity. Jack from This Is Us is an all-time fave, and, um, Robert Redford. There was a thread on Twitter the other day featuring the hottest guys of the 1970s, and damn, that had the mind wandering.
Gwen: I fantasize about people I know. And people I make up. I’m good at that. I like big buff guys with red hair.
Clara: Not people I know, unless it’s someone I may have had a particularly memorable previous sexual encounter with. Celebrities, occasionally, male and female. Generally, when it’s female, it’s more a generic female based on particular physical attributes or a certain “type” as opposed to a particular person. If it’s male, it’s more often than not Idris Elba.
Lacey: I hook up with guys, but somehow I’ve only ever had relationships with women. That said, most of my fantasies focus on hooking up with imaginary men or dudes I’ve hooked up with or dudes I wanna hook up with. If I’m actively dating or crushing on a woman and she’s fresh on my mind, then I will fantasize about that 24/7, to a point where I can’t get work done.
Shaunte: I think about different things and different moments to get me there. For example, some days, thinking about being completely under someone else’s control gets me there, and other days, thinking about a person being my sex slave gets me there. Scientifically speaking, orgasms happen in the mind. So the mind should be properly stimulated. That’s why the best sex comes from a connection with a person. Trust brings walls down in the mind, and allows you to fully let go.
How often do you include masturbation?
Lacey: I almost always have to end with masturbating and climaxing. Otherwise I can’t focus on anything else.
Emily: Probably never. Being so visual, I need porn to masturbate.
Lovie: One to four times a day, or more, if I can get away with it.
Shaunte: I believe masturbation is a form of self love, and also a way to explore your limitations — you can’t train a partner for pleasure if you haven’t explored yourself. I masturbate once or twice a month, if I’m not with a partner. But if I’m in a relationship, my sex drive increases so I do it more often.
Clara: Most of my fantasies include masturbation, but often when I masturbate, I don’t fantasize; it’s more about having a blank state of mind. I find it difficult to concentrate on following a fantasy.
Gwen: I masturbate every time. I read Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels book, and there’s this scene where Neal Cassady’s ex-wife is getting banged by like 10 or 15 of the Hell’s Angels. I read that, and I couldn’t get through it. The Hell’s Angels are these heavy… I mean, these men will do anything. There was this thing they’d do when a woman would be on her period — they’d roll into the bar and they’d take off her pad and start eating her out. It’s like they wanted her blood. These are some psycho, intense men. I was at a bar one time, and this bar owner did that to me. He needed it. He pinned me down and he started eating me out, and my period was really heavy. But he needed it. He was, like, into it.
If I watch actual porn, which isn’t that often, I will watch Ariel Adore videos. Or I will watch videos of women getting facially-abused or double penetrated. I like the fullness of it. I like the way that the woman is just subjugating herself, and the men need it. It’s all so visceral. It needs to happen. That’s what I like.
When you fantasize specifically for erotic release, does it include set storylines, or favorite scenarios or locations? What about specific physical sensations? Are there sensations you dream of or fantasize about that you’d never desire in real life?
Lovie: I have many different fantasies, but I often fantasize about going to a hotel room and getting drunk with someone while I’m dressed up as a hooker. They please me orally, and with biting and spanking. My fantasies usually become real, and I fulfill them in real life, although not so much the hotel part.
Emily: If there’s ever a storyline I fantasize about, it involves an encounter with a particular ex-boyfriend — it was my most volatile relationship, but also my most sexually gratifying. That said, the flirtation/anticipation aspect of a fantasy encounter is more satisfying than imagining actual sex. There are perpetually unresolved issues between me and this person. So it’s the taboo of him being particularly bad for me that makes it even more attractive. Being in a relationship with this person is DEFINITELY not something I want in my real life.
Lacey: Almost never complex storylines, I’m so ADHD. Seventy-five percent of my fantasies include casual sex with a dude, usually pretty athletic penetrative sex. Very physical. Fantasies about spanking and anal are in there. Threesomes. I stick to stuff I’ve done or am into. When I fantasize about women — again only when I’m dating a girl or crushing on one — I almost always fantasize about exactly what we do or are gonna do: Making out, laying on each other naked, biting each other and sucking on her nipples, going down on each other, fingering, fucking in public, strap-on sex. Location is a big factor in all my fantasies: Hotels, motels, traveling, public locations. Going down on a guy in public, finger-fucking a girl under a table at a fancy restaurant. But it’s shit I do in real life. I’m big on comfort and vibe. Oh also, this is a byproduct of the society we live in, but the idea of being on vacation and not having to wake up early or be on a schedule is an aspect of every fantasy. I can’t enjoy sex if I’m preoccupied.
Shaunte: My fantasies don’t include story lines, but since I’m a sapiosexual, it’s safe to say I had crushes on all of my teachers. I mean learning is fundamental, right?
Clara: There’s a recurring storyline/theme around getting caught masturbating, and around people feeling an uncontrollable desire for me physically. There’s a point my brain kicks in and tells me I should be thinking about certain things. Often about the sensation of a woman joining in, and by sensations, I mean the feeling of long hair, a level of tenderness and lightness of grip.
Gwen: I’m in communities, like raves and Burning Man shit, where I could make these things happen — especially my gangbang fantasy. It wouldn’t be difficult to get that at all. But I feel like I’m newly divorced — my fiancé of five years and I broke up a month ago — and there’s a need to explore in more than just my mind. But I’m scared to do it — mainly about diseases and someone raping me. I wouldn’t have been as scared to do it in the past. So maybe it is just a fantasy.
Do your fantasies ever motivate your IRL desires?
Gwen: I’m actively out there looking for a guy who will give me the kind of sex I want.
Lacey: Yes, absolutely, and the other way around. I don’t know if I’m very “creative.” I’ve tried most of the stuff I fantasize about — anal, spanking, threesomes, group sex, public sex, rough sex. Also, scissoring is fun to fantasize about even if it doesn’t work.
Shaunte: It’s not a question of do my fantasies motivate me in real life, because my fantasies are real life. Kinda like millionaires know they’re millionaires even when they have no money.
Lovie: They do encourage my real-life desires, but they also challenge my relationships. If I start dating someone who is vanilla and who wouldn’t even fit in a fantasy I have, I usually end things and find someone who is as sexually comfortable as I am.
Emily: I don’t think my fantasies are sexually explicit enough to influence my actual desires. The sex I’m having is raunchy enough I’m not left unsatisfied.
Does it ever feel like there’s an invisible wall separating you from your fantasies, and if so, do you like when those fantasies remain untouchable?
Lacey: I’m very comfortable being a cis woman and do not wish to appropriate the trans or genderqueer experience, but I do fantasize about having an actual dick and fucking a girl senseless with it. It would be incredible to have that level of intimacy and mutual satisfaction with another woman — to be able to feel a girl cum on my actual non-existent dick. That’s one of my favorite fantasies that’s never gonna happen because I’m very, VERY comfortable with the body I’m born with and love having a vagina. Unless they invent a sex toy that replicates it, and in that case, I’m buying it.
How comfortable do you feel discussing your fantasies with your partner(s)?
Clara: Not too comfortable, though some parts have been discussed. The not-being-in-control side of it, not so much.
Lacey: Very comfortable, but some partners are weird about any fantasy that doesn’t include them. Some are super kinky and open, and I can be more honest.
Emily: I’m very open about what I want and what turns me on, so I’ve rarely had to rely on imagination. But I have an insecurity that there’s some sort of fantasy or preference my significant other has but he hasn’t/won’t tell me.
Lovie: Always comfortable, and I use it as a level to push someone away if they don’t open up, too.
Gwen: Pretty comfortable. My last partner was shy about expressing his fantasies; we were shy with each other about that. I like talking about past experiences — it turns me on. And I write erotica. Stories turn me on. He was threatened by mine. He was intimidated. He was nervous about giving me something I wanted, and he didn’t like my number of experiences. He hadn’t had as many experiences. But it wasn’t even that. I’ve been with guys who have been with the same amount of past partners as he had been with, and they weren’t nervous. It’s not about how many partners a guy has been with. I thought it was, but it’s not.
How dark do your fantasies run? Do they include danger, violence, expressions of power/dominance, pain, revenge, crime?
Lovie: Sometimes violence, always dominance and pain.
Lacey: Not very dark, occasional spanking and that’s about it.
Emily: My only even adjacent-to-dark fantasy involves the same ex mentioned earlier. There was an ex-girlfriend of his that he would go back-and-forth to, and I sometimes daydream about helping him cheat on her. Once again, it’s an emotional fantasy rather than a sexual one for me!
Clara: Power/dominance, some level of force and a lack of control. There’s a dark element there that I often stop short of exploring fully.
Gwen: Dark. They include things like me getting pretty violently raped. Last night, I was in this rave and I met this chick, and she wanted to have sex with me. But I didn’t because she was with this big, scary, drug-dealer dude. And I was scared to go fuck him. I could have, but I came home, and I rubbed one out like five times imagining what would’ve gone down if I went back home with them and fucked that girl and her great big ketamine dealer. He wouldn’t say a word. We would just be lying there — me and this girl, serving this guy. Anything he wanted. He wouldn’t be like holding a gun — or maybe he would — but it’s more like he just wants it, and you have to give it to him. We have to give it to him because he’s getting what he wants.
Do you ever feel ashamed of your fantasies?
Lovie: Never embarrassed.
Lacey: Telling lesbians that I mainly fantasize about men is awkward. Especially since I’d love nothing more than to have hot gay sex all day. It’s just hard for my brain to fantasize about women. I don’t know why.
Emily: My fantasies having to do with that one ex are definitely embarrassing; as retrospect has demonstrated, he ain’t nuthin special. I’m definitely ashamed to still compare him to my current relationship, but we were more sexually compatible. As for my other tastes, I feel like raunchier sex is becoming more mainstream so stuff like anal and voyeurism isn’t as weird.
Shaunte: I mostly fantasize about past encounters with my partner. The mood, the sensations, how hard we came, the sounds that were made, I guess it’s an ego trip.
Clara: Not ashamed as such, but there’s that little voice that’s not so comfortable admitting, “I consider myself a feminist, but I fantasize about people lusting after me so much they cannot control their desires.” It’s hard to settle in my mind that I think about something I find so wrong IRL, and that in actuality would horrify me.
Gwen: I actually know many women who’ve done these things — gangbangs, group sex… Women who want that, they need a certain kind of guy sexually. If I went to a sex party and got gangbanged by a bunch of guys, I’d probably have sex with some of them again. Good men are hard to find.
I’ve been to a couple sex parties; I’ve had sex with anonymous men. I actually went on Saturday, and it was a little depressing. I had sex with some guy in his 40s. He was really patient, kinda quiet, but he didn’t really live up to it — the sex, not the fantasy. The best I had recently was a guy who seemed to understand a woman’s psychological needs. He wasn’t remotely alpha. But he understands the male-female dynamic. I felt like he could take care of me. I just want a deep, connected sex life with someone who’s willing to give me a lot of what I want — like I fantasize about being cut and the guy licking up my blood. But most guys don’t have the balls for that. I know guys who would do it, but they wouldn’t pull it off. You have to pull that off.
How has #MeToo affected fantasies where consent is questionable and you’re fantasizing about violence? Has it affected your IRL fantasy play? One imagines men are way less down to cosplay a rape scenario.
Gwen: The kind of guys who will do what I want, they’re kind of fucked-up. I used to meet guys who could fuck a woman the way she needs it, the way I need it. But now, guys are afraid to fuck women these days. I picked up a guy at a bar a couple weeks ago, and he said, “Oh, are you gonna #MeToo me?” I was like, “Why the fuck would I #MeToo you?” He just said, “I feel like I’m gonna get #MeToo’d.”
They’re all afraid they’re gonna get #MeToo’d. People are really afraid now. Men and women. It’s sad. I wonder if things are better for 22-year-olds; I wonder if they’re getting it the way I got it. Everyone needs that experience. Especially before you’re in a marriage, that’s when a woman has to sexually respect the man, and the man has to accept her sexuality. There were issues for my ex and I on both those fronts. I need someone who gets me, and I respect what he brings to the bedroom. And so, we didn’t connect that deeply sexually. I think sex gets damaged when women don’t respect what the man does in bed and when men judge women for our needs. Men aren’t filling our needs. That’s a big problem for everyone.
Are fantasies better than reality?
Lacey: When fucking men, fantasies are usually better. When fucking women, literally nothing compares to being in bed with a girl that you’re into who just wants to fuck you for hours. It’s like a high with no hangover. I can’t visualize or fantasize anything as good as actual hot lesbian sex. It honestly surpasses the hype.
Lovie: No, I try to live out my fantasies. Example: I had a fantasy of sleeping with someone in an abandoned and/or empty house. I had a friend who bought a house and started remodeling it so I leapt at the opportunity and ended up pressuring him to hook up. Then I took it to the extreme, and we went into all the different rooms to make it intense and memorable, to de-virgin his house. Yolo!
Clara: I don’t think so. I’m sure for many they are, but I never get to the climax point, as it were. My mind wanders, I feel silly or my conscience kicks in.
Emily: For me, no, due to the fact that they’re usually tied to fictional characters (like, currently, being manhandled by an ancient Saxon).
Shaunte: It depends on your imagination.
Gwen: Maybe other women don’t want to get eaten out on their period, get cut by a guy or gangbanged, but all women have a need to be desired. That’s what women mean when they say, “You gotta be a man.” Sometimes it’s dumb women who just say, “I need a man, I need a real man!” But they’re right, they’re fucking right. Like, “Jesus Christ, be a man!” Women discuss this. Desire is verrrrry sexy. When you have that need for us. But I’m not vampiric. When I say cuts and blood, I mean that hunger.
I didn’t used to fantasize, but I guess I always fantasized about being loved and saved. For a long time I was ashamed of my fantasies, my thoughts, my actions. I thought my actions would destroy me, so I kept myself closed off for years. I felt guilty. I couldn’t orgasm for a long time. Last year, at a sex party I did, with this guy I’d just met. I thought it would be someone who I loved who would bring me back. But it wasn’t. For me to orgasm, I had to be receptive. I had to allow it.
* Name obscured upon request.