‘Not cheating’: Sexologist debunks popular X-rated activity

A steamy new sex survey has revealed that a whopping two-thirds of Aussies (59 percent) fantasise about getting frisky with their friends or work colleagues.

The research, which was conducted to mark the release of season 3 of Netflix's raunchy dramedy Sex Education, also found that celebrities and influencers were far less likely to pop up in our X-rated daydreams.

Portrait of beautiful young woman lying in bed with closed eyes
Two-thirds of Aussies have sexual fantasies about friends or work colleagues, a study has found. Photo: Getty Images.

But what exactly is a sexual fantasy? What do they reveal about us — and, for those already coupled up, is fantasising about that cutie across the office tantamount to cheating?

Below, we dive headfirst into the world of sexual fantasies with a little guidance from Aussie sexologist Aleeya Hachem, who is part of the Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, led by Chantelle Otten.


Sexual fantasies vs sex dreams

First, Aleeya explains the difference between sexual fantasies, which tend to happen when we're awake or 'daydreaming,' and sex dreams which happen when we're asleep.

"A sexual fantasy is much more deliberate than a sex dream," she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

"We find that in clinical practice sex dreams don't really mean much. For example, a sex dream about a colleague or an ex-boyfriend sometimes isn't necessarily about the person itself but it can be about processing an emotional connection.

"Whereas a sexual fantasy is very much a deliberate, safe place that you can go to fantasise and to explore something without actually doing it."

Making fantasy a reality

So, if sexual fantasies are self-driven, does that mean we actually want to go out and do exactly what we fantasise about?

"Not at all," Aleeya says. "Studies have shown that just because you have a sexual fantasy about a particular topic or a particular person doesn't mean that you actually want to go and do it in real life."

A common example of a sexual fantasy that Aleeya sees a lot is BDSM.

"A lot of people might have sexual fantasies about BDSM or being tied up or being dominated, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they want that in their real life because that could be quite threatening or it could be quite intense for them.

"Essentially, a fantasy is a safe place for them to explore that and to really tap into that to give them sexual pleasure without actually having to go and do it."

Passionate man gently touching stroking caressing blindfolded sensual woman before having sex, lovers couple enjoy foreplay erotic game with bdsm fetish black ribbon on eyes, role playing concept
Fantasy doesn't necessarily mean reality, says sexologist Aleeya Hachem. Photo: Getty Images.

Fantasies are also a common and healthy way to explore 'forbidden' sexual encounters with people who are off-limits in real life such as coworkers and ex-partners, as reflected in Netflix's survey.

"It could be sexual acts, whether it be something like BDSM or having a threesome. It could be also sex with the same sex or the same gender," Aleeya adds.

"Sex that we know that is forbidden is probably one of the most common fantasies because it is forbidden and you wouldn't go and do it in real life.

"It's more fun to fantasise about, especially when you've got that existing connection with them in real life which makes it more heightened."

What does it really mean?

Aleeya often sees clients who interpret their sexual fantasies as true yet hidden desires and preferences, but that's not always correct.

She gives the example of women in heterosexual relationships who assume they're gay or bisexual because their fantasies involve women.

"It can absolutely mean that they are gay or bi, but not necessarily," she says.

"If you wouldn't go and act on it, it doesn't really say much about your sexuality other than it's something that you want to explore in your head, or in a fantasy.

"We know a lot of porn is very male-oriented, very male pleasure-driven whereas lesbian porn is the complete opposite, it focuses on female pleasure so a lot of heterosexual women actually prefer watching lesbian porn."

The 'Pool of Fantasy' diagram. Photo: Instagram/great.sexpectations.
The 'Pool of Fantasy' diagram. Photo: Instagram/great.sexpectations.

Is having a sexual fantasy 'cheating'?

According to Aleeya, it's 'really common' for her to see clients who are in relationships but feel guilty about fantasing about other people.

She's often asked if having sexy daydreams about someone who isn't your significant other counts as cheating.

"What I say is, 'No, not necessarily; unless you actually want to go and act on it. But if you're just fantasising about it, you don't have to share it with your partner," she explains.

When thinking about sexual fantasies, Aleeya instead encourages people to picture a concept she was taught at university: the 'Pool of Fantasy'.

"Within the pool, there are all the things that you fantasise about that you'd actually do, and then there are all the things that you fantasise about but you wouldn't do.

"And it's so healthy to fantasise about those things that you wouldn't do. Just because you fantasise about them, it doesn't mean you're going to go out and do them. This is based in theory and research so people don't need to feel guilty about it."

When to seek help

While enjoying sexual fantasies is a very healthy and normal part of life, as with anything there can be a point when too much of a good thing is, well, too much.

"I think when it does interfere with your daily life, or if it does take over sex with your partner if you are in a partnered relationship then perhaps it is quite disruptive and you could absolutely speak with someone like a sexologist," Aleeya advises.

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