Researchers affiliated with the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières and institutes affiliated with the University of Montreal surveyed over 1,500 adults of both sexes to analyze and compare sexual fantasies that are often considered unusual, to see how unusual they actually are. According to Medical News Today, the secondary aim of the research was to compare the differences between sexual fantasies in men and women statistically.
"Although several theories and treatment plans use unusual sexual fantasies (SF) as a way to identify deviancy, they seldom describe how the fantasies referred to were determined to be unusual," the study, which was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, explained.
The survey participants ranked 55 different sexual fantasies and had the ability to write in their own favorite sexual fantasies. Each sexual fantasy was then rated as statistically rare, which accounted for less than 2.3 percent of those surveyed, or statistically unusual, which was considered less than 15.9 percent of participants. A sexual fantasy was considered common if it was chosen by more than half of the participants. It was considered a typical sexual fantasy if it accounted for more than 84.1 percent of the surveyed adults.
"Clinically, we know what pathological sexual fantasies are: they involve non-consenting partners, they induce pain, or they are absolutely necessary in deriving satisfaction," Christian Joyal, the lead author of the study, said. "But apart from that, what exactly are abnormal or atypical fantasies?"
The researchers found that only two sexual fantasies were found to be rare: Sexual activities with a child or an animal. As one might expect, pedophelia and bestiality-themed fantasies were rare. Though people might assume many other sexual fantasies would be considered rare, only these two were statistically rare when researchers surveyed a general population of adults.
At the same time, only nine sexual fantasies were considered unusual. Unusual sexual fantasies included scenarios involving "golden showers," cross-dressing, sex with a prostitute, or abusing someone while they are intoxicated, according to a press release regarding the study.
Typical sexual fantasies for women involved sexual encounters in a romantic location. Typical sexual fantasies for men included having sex with two women. Both sexes reported having sexual fantasies that involved oral sex.
Both men and women commonly had sexual fantasies involving submission and domination themes and these two themes were significantly related to one another. A significant proportion of women had sexual fantasies involving being tied up, being spanked, or being forced to have sex. People regularly had sexual fantasies that involved both domination and submission, the researchers found.
Fantasies that involved the participant's significant other were more common in women than in men, as the researchers expected. Men who were involved in a committed relationship more frequently have sexual fantasies involving extramarital encounters.
The researchers noted that there was a significant number of sexual fantasies that were not uncommon, but were almost uniquely male sexual fantasies. These fantasies had no apparent evolutionary or biological theories to explain how common they were in men. Those involved heterosexual anal sex, sex with transgendered individuals, and watching their partners have intercourse with another man.
Women frequently did not want their sexual fantasies to come true, but the majority of men surveyed said they would love for their sexual fantasies to be realized, the researchers noted.
"Our main objective was to specify norms in sexual fantasies, an essential step in defining pathologies," Joyal said. "And as we suspected, there are a lot more common fantasies than atypical fantasies. So there is a certain amount of value judgment in the DSM-5."
"The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) - the handbook of psychologists in North America - refers only to 'anomalous' fantasies, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is similarly vague, referring to 'unusual' fantasies when defining paraphilias," Medical News Today explained.
The researchers urged professionals to be careful when labeling a sexual fantasy as deviant or unusual, given that so few sexual fantasies are actually rare or uncommon. The researchers suggested that professionals focus on the effect of sexual fantasies on a person's life, rather than how uncommon an individual's fantasy is believed to be.