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Who are you fantasizing about during sex?
May 12th, 2011
08:01 AM ET

Who are you fantasizing about during sex?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

Tell the truth (or rather, think the truth): have you ever fantasized during sex about someone other than the person you’re actually having sex with? Perhaps there’s a particular celebrity that turns you on, or a former flame, or even (heaven forbid) a brother or sister-in-law?

Do taboo thoughts make their way into your most intimate real-life moments? If so, take a deep breath and relax. You’re not alone, in fact you’re probably in the majority. In one study published by The Journal of Sex Research, 98% of partnered men and 80% of partnered women said that they had fantasized about someone other than their partner during sex in the previous two months. Whew!

CNNHealth's sex expert blogger Ian Kerner stops by to talk about the rise in women using porn on HLN's The Joy Behar Show, Thursday, 9 p.m. ET

The truth is, a healthy fantasy life is one of the keys to a great sex life - even when your partner might not always play the leading role. Most people find that they are most sexually satisfied when they are intimate with one person with whom they feel completely comfortable.

Along with this intimacy comes the freedom to let go and explore, including fantasizing about other people, places, and situations. In one study on sexual fantasy by noted expert Dr. Harold Leitenberg it was concluded that sexual fantasies occur most often in people with the highest sexual satisfaction and the healthiest sex lives. So your fantasies aren’t an indication that something is wrong, but rather that something is right.

Fantasies play a valuable role in our sex-lives. First off, they fuel arousal: “Thoughts can create real physical changes in your body, and you can use this to your advantage,” writes sex educator Emily Nagoski in the Good in Bed Guide to Female Orgasms. “This is why people fantasize even while they’re having sex - the added juice of the fantasy heightens arousal when the physical sensations aren’t enough to get us where we want to go.”

Fantasies also free the brain to explore secret, extraordinary realms without the obligations of everyday life. Kaye Wellings, a respected British biologist, puts it best in her book, "First Love, First Sex:"

“Fantasies perform a valuable function. Most of us, most of the time, behave conservatively, sexually and otherwise. Our erotic experiences represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of possibilities. Many possibilities only see the light of day through fantasies or dreams, seldom as reality.”

And says Good in Bed expert Ann Potter, “I like to imagine that fantasizing is like putting training wheels on my desires - those desires that are maybe a little too 'out there' for me or my partner to get on board with acting out right away, or ever.”

And when it comes to fantasies, adults do just fine with a permanent set of training wheels, and needn’t bother with graduating to a two-wheeler. The brain is the biggest sex organ and a little fantasizing goes a long way.

So rather than resist your fantasies, let yourself enjoy them. Trying to suppress fantasies may end up doing more harm than good. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Daniel Wegner at the University of Virginia studied the menchanics of thought-suppression in an experiment known as the “white bear study.” Wegner sat people in a room with a tape recorder and told them to say whatever came to mind,  with one exception: Don’t think about a white bear. No surprise, people mentioned the bear constantly. The more they tried not to think about it, the more they mentioned it.

By suppressing a forbidden thought the brain never gets a chance to fully process that thought, and what could just be an innocent fantasy suddenly becomes a guilt-laden white bear that won’t go away.  Most of the time it’s not our fantasies that are the problem, but rather our reactions to our fantasies - the feelings of shame and guilt, as well as our anxieties and fears about what those fantasies might really mean.

But fantasies are meant to be enjoyed and if they weren’t taboo, well then they wouldn’t be fantasies to begin with.


soundoff (377 Responses)
  1. Manicfantasy

    Amen & Thank You for posting this article!!!
    for years I've thought I was the only one who thought about someone else while I was doing the nasty with the only woman I truly love!

    May 12, 2011 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Manicfantasy

    Oh, and for those of you that think passionate love is a slow thing...try grinding it out one time, fantasy style! if you don't break a sweat then you're not doing it right! 🙂

    May 12, 2011 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. The Captain

    Kaylee Frye (That one chick from Firefly)

    May 13, 2011 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Heann

    I think of someone's EQ2 avatar from the EQ2Flames forum. She got a hot little cartoon butt

    May 13, 2011 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bubba

    Guess what I'm thinking about?

    May 13, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Another Bubba J

      Does it involve left turns or uhhhh beer?

      May 13, 2011 at 11:01 | Report abuse |
    • Bubba's Sister

      Awww Bubba yer too sweet.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      You are both wrong.

      May 13, 2011 at 13:06 | Report abuse |
  6. Bubba

    You were all thinking about my wife last night, weren't you?

    May 13, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Brad Pitt

    Nobody ever fantasizes about me anymore.

    May 13, 2011 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Angelina Jolie

      I must say I'm disappointed that no one mentioned me. Brad, even I don't fantasize about you anymore.

      May 13, 2011 at 09:50 | Report abuse |
    • Abe Vigoda

      Yeah, they even mentioned me, but not Angelina. Go figure.

      May 13, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer Aniston

      Oh Brad, I still do!!!

      May 13, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
    • Ed Norton

      I do, babe.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
    • Scarlett Johanson

      I think about Bubba when I close my eyes.

      May 13, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
    • Stewie Griffin

      Ahh...so millions of gay guys are "nobody" now huh Mr. Pitt?

      May 13, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
  8. Meh

    Trinity Loren

    May 13, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. NothingNewUnderTheSun

    Ladies, you know your men watch p @ rn, you've checked their browser history and on the occasions when he forgets to clear it you've learned what he's into. Get over yourselves and start giving it up and this fantasy thing will be a non-issue. It's not what's between your legs that counts...it's what you're willing to do with what's inbetween your legs that counts.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Valerie

      That works BOTH ways............so don't toot your horn honey...........................

      May 13, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      Right on, bro, so many women who let themselves get uptight, frumpy and cold want to get by on "but you're supposed to accept me for me" and set themselves up for a rude awakening when their man says "enough of this lame cr@p." and makes like a tree. Ladies, if you just want a teddy bear, go to a toy store. That thang we got ain't meant to be a washcloth holder...

      May 13, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
    • Joyce

      My bf has a fetish for inflated women (he has tons of pictures of naked women inflated, like that girl from the Willy Wonka film; not her, duh, but similar girls) yet he claims he's not into fat chicks (his last girlfriend was chubby, though, and the girl before that ex girlfriend; they all dumped him). I'm far from being fat, though. I'm watching my food now more than ever to make sure I don't end up like them because he loves white starch (I can't stand them; I'm all about whole grains) and lots of red meat (I prefer pork and chicken). Thank heavens for the George Foreman grill; that really cuts tons of fat and calories. But still, I watch what I eat with his big guy!

      May 23, 2011 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
    • Amer99

      100% right brother

      June 18, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
  10. LuvAR

    Alan Rickman....

    May 13, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MrsFizzy

      Yaaaay!! Someone with taste! "Voice like s e x wrapped in chocolate"!! ❤

      May 13, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
  11. Jorge

    Vida Guerra, Scarlett Johanssen and Lela Rochon, the three of them slightly drunk, together in my pool at 2:00 am...OOOOOHHHH, YEAAAAAAA.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Bill Clinton

    Oh, Monica!

    May 13, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stewie Griffin

      You might have to c hange it up now that she's lost weight.

      May 13, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse |
  13. Elvis

    The girls used to scream for me, but not any more. At least nobody mentioned Paul McCartney.

    May 13, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ringo

      That guy gets ALL the girls. Never seen anything like it.

      May 13, 2011 at 14:09 | Report abuse |
  14. Dude

    Jenna Haze & Lexi Belle

    May 13, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Dude

    Hot twins making out

    May 13, 2011 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Stewie Griffin

    Brian Griffin....errr......I mean.........a....ummm....a really, you know, hot...uhhhhh.....chick. Yeah. Hot chick. Yep. That's what does it for me, soooo, you know, there you go.

    May 13, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Dallas

    Most My fantasies are now scenes at Naughty America. I may be the anomaly, but I only fantasize about things I can actually make happen though. So, for instance, I'd only fantasize about a famous athlete or model if I were dating him at the time.

    May 13, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. John Mayer

    I do with you Jennifer!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. jessicaber

    Actually, one time when I was in my twenties and still living with my parents and my only sister and her fiance lived there too I was home in the afternoon and I took a hot dog from a package in the refrigerator and used it to mastrubate with. I was pretending that it was a man's penis. Years later my sister my sister took me to Applebees from my brithday and she made an allusion to "her hot dog that I ate". Completely out of the blue she said "that will teach you to eat my hot dog". I think that they have maybe been holding it as a grudge against me that they thought I opened a pakage of their hot dogs and ate one with out asking.

    May 18, 2011 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Tom

    I'm thinking about Michelle Fritzsching

    May 27, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. jessicaber

    I usually start to feel more horney when things feel socially tense, like Satan is winning or something. I do not know why that is.

    May 27, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. i am setting up A web portal for my business. and i want to know the copyright guidelines, specifically the legality of copying other articles from other websites. in other words, is it ok to copy an article from another site and paste it in my site ( of

    Good point Amanda.My "authority" would have huge hissy fits if I started in with the spray paint and probably would lock the stuff in the shed and take the key to work with him. Debbie(Quote)

    November 29, 2011 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.