Sure, the old "men think about sex 7,000 times a day" myth has long been debunked, and we've abandoned the notion that women latch on hard after one night of passion. But rest assured: We're all sexual beings, whose thoughts turn to the carnal more often than any other subject.
Our dreams, moored so tightly to our waking thoughts, follow suit. In fact, according to Dr. Debby Herbenick, author of Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva, Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction, both men and women experience sexual arousal roughly once every 60-90 minutes during sleep.
Though deeply personal to the dreamer, PG-rated REM movies follow similar scenarios and scripts that touch on shared deeper anxieties, fears, needs and desires. The same is true for the films that sit behind the beaded curtain in the NC-17 section of our brains. Some involve body-contorting positions dreamers would never imagine doing in real life, others often involve infidelities or sexual experiences with someone of the same gender. They can be pleasurable, surprising, fun and frightening in equal measure.
So, is there a deeper meaning to nocturnal naughtiness, or do we all simply want to bang our best friends and bosses? We spoke to some leading dream experts to learn about the hidden meanings behind common sex dreams.
#1. Dream about sex with an ex
Many people report fiery dreams featuring old flames. Does that mean you're subconsciously pining for a previous partner? Not necessarily, says Dr. Gillian Holloway, renowned dream expert and author of The Complete Dream Book of Love and Relationships.
Former lovers often appear in erotic dreams as a type of subconscious emotional snapshot, "especially when those feelings are mixed-up, such as happiness and pain," she says.
A new relationship can evoke emotional flashbacks to a previous connection, resulting in subconscious dreams of love or lust. "This is like a love memory that is ignited as we begin to care and get close again," she says. "If the memory is a bad one, consider if there are similar patterns afoot. If the memory is a good one, take heart, and let things unfold."
The subconscious seems to take emotional x-rays of deep feelings; especially when those feelings are mixed-up such as happiness and pain. When we dream, the image of the loved one is used as a pictograph of "real love" or "I'm afraid to love because last time I got hurt." This doesn't mean you never got over Frank or Joan, it means their memory now serves as short-hand for your fear, concern, and desire for love.
- Do your mixed feelings from the past impact your ability to relate in the present?
- Are you trying to commit to a new relationship and finding it difficult to feel as deeply as you would like?
#2. Dream about unfaithfulness or cheating
Did you dream of a bed session with someone other than your significant other? You're not alone. Per dream researcher Dr. Kelly Bulkeley, a visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, this is common territory for anyone in a relationship.
Dreams that include sexual threats imply a lack of self-confidence and projection rather than action. "Your dreaming mind might imagine the worst-case scenario — cheating — to prepare yourself for it if it happened," he says, which aligns well with nightmare theory.
#3. Dream about sex with someone of the same gender
This dream can elicit thoughts of sexual confusion in some, but that doesn't necessarily mean you secretly want to have sex with someone of the same gender. Rather, it suggests you could be trying to understand an alternative perspective or psyche in your waking life, says Holloway.
This dream is seldom associated with an actual desire to be the opposite sex; rather it presents the dreamer with insight or increased understanding of what it is like to be a man or woman. Some have realized something important about a partner's needs which they would never have understood without having such an experience. In other cases the dreamer may be operating from a male or female psychological stance. The gender in the dream reflects "where you're coming from" in a physical metaphor.
- Have you discovered something significant about the opposite sex that became clear in the dream?
- Could the physical difference be a metaphor for a psychological or emotional perspective?
- Are you coming from the point of view of the other gender these days?
#4. Dream about a faceless lover
Says Holloway: Men and women alike enjoy the faceless lover. In this scenario you are having a wonderful time with a dream lover who makes you feel just right. The experience is fun, exciting and sometimes deeply fulfilling. There can be emotional connection as well as passionate action in this dream. Often it is only after awakening that you realize your partner had no face.
Dreams are like visual and sensory pictures of feelings. This dream gives us the opportunity to have an emotional, physical and even spiritual experience based solely upon the experience itself. There is no input here about who your partner is, what he does for a living, or if your friends think she is beautiful. This partner goes right to your core, knows what you like and what you need, and everything works.
For some people, the faceless quality reflects the fact that they are getting to know what they want in a partner, but they haven't found the right person yet. In this sense they are practicing loving certain qualities, but those qualities don't belong to a face yet. For people already in a relationship, the faceless lover can be an uncomplicated and guilt-free way to have sex in a way that you may have missed, a reminder of qualities that are satisfying to you.
For still others, the faceless lover may be an enactment of qualities that you do relish in your present relationship. Close your eyes and sense if the faceless wonder feels like your partner.
- What quality in your faceless lover do you particularly like: such as understanding, spontaneity, or eagerness?
- Is this a quality that is very important to you?
- If you are in a relationship, does your partner know this is the quality that pleases you most?
- If you are not involved presently, should you remember what "works" for you, and search for that in a potential lover?
#5. Dream about sex with a celebrity
Whether you're in bed with Brad or Beyoncé, you dreamed of a famous person who is probably powerful and synonymous with a certain profession. This may mean you're developing or "have a special ability or unique interest that you feel passion for," which the celebrity in question embodies, says Holloway. Awesome.
The subconscious can use the image of sexual union to depict union or connection of any kind. If you are developing a talent, ability or skill in yourself you may dream of having a fling (or marriage) with someone famous at the top of that field. Budding writers dream of sleeping with best-selling authors, struggling athletes dream of marrying well-known Olympians, and fledgling public speakers dream of sleeping with famous broadcasters.
- What qualities do you associate with the celebrity?
- Is there any sense in which you are coming to develop those qualities in yourself?
- Is there an aspect of yourself, or an aspect of your partner that reminds you of the celebrity?
- We tend to project our talents onto others and enjoy their performance. Can you acknowledge the same traits in yourself that you admire and desire in others?
#6. Dream about interrupted sex
Says Holloway: You and your partner are about to make love. You may be in your bedroom, or another setting, and everything is going well until one or both of your parents walk in.
You stop, frozen, embarrassed and annoyed. The parent may talk to you or do some unimportant errand. Although you are a bit mortified to be caught in the act, your parent doesn't seem to notice what is happening.
This dream suggests some element associated with your parents may be impacting your sexual satisfaction or your primary relationship. Typical associations include the need for parental approval of one's partner, choices, or lifestyle.
Beliefs about sexuality, satisfaction, love and the right to be happy that have been absorbed from our parents can also impact our intimate lives without our conscious awareness of them. It is seldom the case that the actual parent is intruding; rather something we learned from them, or associate with them is depicted in the dream as the appearance of the interrupting parent.
- Is there some belief, fear or expectation you learned from your parent(s) that tends to intrude into your awareness as you begin to make love?
- Is there a sense in which you believe your fulfillment might be disloyal or damaging to your parents?
- Since in the dream you are more worried about their presence than they are about your activities, do you worry about their opinions more than is objectively necessary?
#7. Dream about stripping
Tamara Trusseau, international dream interpreter and author of The Key to Your Dreams, says stripping, or some other means of intentionally removing clothing in dreams, does not reflect an urge to change your name to Cinnamon and gyrate to some Def Leopard on the main stage. Rather, it reflects an urge to "liberate from restraints and inhibitions" with a partner.
#8. Dream about having no place to have sex
Says Holloway: You and your partner are looking for somewhere to make love. You search discretely all over, finding a likely spot which lacks privacy, or a private spot that lacks comfort. Where in the world can you go? Most of the dream consists of traveling through homes, cities, beaches and valleys without much luck of finding a place.
Most people feel that the search for a place to make love in this dream reflects a search for connection and intimacy that has been lost or misplaced. It is a common dream to have after a break-up or separation, or when partners are ignoring each other or the relationship.
- Are you looking for love in the wrong places?
- Are you trying to keep constant something which has already changed?
- Is there a break-down in communication between you and your partner?
#9. Dream about a vanishing partner
Like a Snapchat message or Blockbuster video store, a dream in which your lover slowly disappears. No matter what you do, they keep evaporating. This is a more common erotic dream than you think, says Holloway, who believes this could be linked to frustrations or anxieties with a partner in real life — maybe they're not fulfilling your needs or "feelings of connection and arousal once intimacy begins." It might be time to have a talk.
In many cases this dream is linked with frustration about partners in waking life. Some people who find it hard to find the "right one" or a reliable partner may suffer through these evaporating encounters in their dreams. Most of us can identify with the experience of feeling someone turned us on and then disappeared. But there can also be a deeper meaning to this dream. Sometimes the abrupt introduction of sexuality into an encounter actually "vaporizes" intimacy. Some people have little difficulty locating partners, but are less able to sustain feelings of connection and arousal once intimacy begins.
- Are you frustrated with difficulty in finding a permanent partner?
- Do you find relationships begin in a promising manner and then just fall apart?
- Is it possible you look at things through a rosy lens until you become close to someone, and then are shocked by the lack of substance or commitment they have to offer?
- Do you feel it might be worthwhile to practice dampening fantasies at the beginning, and proceeding with a bit more realism, care and time?
#10. Dream about sex with a best friend or co-worker
Whether it's your annoying boss or your BFF since birth, you dreamt about someone you know well or see often. Holloway says this is more "about working together or enjoying the chemistry of doing something well together" rather than pure carnal drive.
Partnerships of any kind are often depicted in dreams in a sexual way. If you have great rapport, good chemistry, and know your co-worker well you may indeed have sexual dreams about them. While there may be some attraction involved these dreams are most often related to the pleasure you feel in the working partnership. You may also be developing aspects of your own abilities as a result of this connection, and dreams often depict give-and-take in sexual metaphors.
- How would you describe your co-worker?
- Is there a side of yourself you might describe in similar terms?
- Is there a talent, ability or tendency in yourself surfacing right now as a result of this working relationship?
- Do you have a great working "marriage" or a similar passion?
- Do you get "turned on" by the same things at work or are you turned on by intimacy; something it takes years to develop?
- Are your deepest bonds formed more slowly with people you have known for years?
Well, that or you may just want to get down and dirty with your cubicle mate. Dreams do sometimes mine reality.