That long-held fantasy you have about sex in a public place or cuckolding may say more about your personality than you realize.
In his new book, Tell Me What You Want, sex educator and researcher Justin J. Lehmiller studied the sex fantasies of more than 4,000 Americans from all walks of life ― straight people, LGBTQ+ individuals, folks of all political leanings and religious backgrounds.
He discovered our sexual fantasies, at least in part, appear to reflect our personality traits and characteristics. For example, it’s not extroverts but introverts who want to try kinkier things in the bedroom. (More on that later.)
In Lehmiller’s online survey, participants ages 18 to 87 were asked to describe their all-time favorite fantasy in their own words. They were also asked about hundreds of specific people, places and things that they might have ever fantasized about. There were 369 questions in the survey.
The participants were also asked to describe their levels of what psychologists consider the big five personality traits: extroversion (how social and outgoing a person is), openness to experience (how intellectually curious or adventurous someone is), conscientiousness (how dependable and plan-oriented a person is), agreeableness (how cooperative or compassionate a person is) and neuroticism (how anxious, depressed or angry a person is).
Lehmiller found that people’s fantasies spoke to their unique personality makeup and psychological needs.
“Our fantasies seem to tell us something important about who we are and where we are in our lives at any given moment,” he told HuffPost.
While there was a lot of overlap between women’s and men’s fantasies, women were far more intense and bold in their sexual thoughts.
“Men’s fantasies had far more in the way of emotional content than previous research had led us to believe,” Lehmiller said. “And women’s fantasies were far more adventurous than research suggested. We seem to have a lot in common when it comes to the types of things that turn us on.”
So what do your biggest personality traits say about the sexy thoughts you’ve been having? Read on to find out.
Extroverted people are outgoing and draw energy from being around others and trying new activities. No surprise, then, that they’re also plenty social when it comes to sex.
“Extroverts fantasized more about threesomes and other forms of group sex, as well as various forms of consensual nonmonogamy, such as swinging and polyamory,” Lehmiller said.
But introverts had the kinkier sex fantasies.
“Extroverts were less likely to fantasize about taboo activities, whereas introverts were more likely to fantasize about them,” he said. “This may be because introverts have a harder time establishing the types of sexual relationships they want and that increases their propensity for developing taboo and uncommon sexual interests.”
People who rank high on agreeableness are givers in bed. The care and concern they have for people in their daily lives come into play in the bedroom too.
“Their fantasies involve more themes of mutual pleasure. They really want to see their partners enjoying themselves and be absolutely sure that everything is safe and consensual,” Lehmiller said. “Agreeable individuals also have far fewer fantasies about emotionless sex and taboo activities.”
People who are conscientious are very detail oriented. These are the ones who schedule sex and may be most comfortable with vanilla sex.
“As with everything, conscientious people were detail oriented in their fantasies as well,” Lehmiller said. “For example, they paid more attention to the settings in which their fantasies took place. In bed they have a tendency to conform to norms. Conscientious folks were less likely to fantasize about BDSM and taboo sex acts.”
Still, you’d be wrong to equate vanilla sex with bad sex; a recent study found that men and women who rank high in conscientiousness have more satisfying sexual lives than the rest of us. Don’t knock Google-calendar-scheduled sex until you’ve tried it!
People who rank high in neuroticism harbor a lot of stress in their personal lives. To them, the ideal sexual experience would be a calming, emotional romp with someone they feel romantic about, Lehmiller said. They’re a lot less likely to seek out adventurous sex that will stress them out because of the newness of the situation.
“Neurotic people fantasized more about passion and romance, perhaps because feeling desire puts them at ease and allows them to relax and enjoy the activity,” he said. “Neurotics fantasized less about having group sex and trying new things, perhaps because these activities involve elements of uncertainty, which can be stressful.”
Openness to experience
If you think anything goes with people who are open to experience, you wouldn’t be wrong. If there were a Weirdest Attempted Sexual Position (How Did You Not Sprain Your Wrist?!) Award, these folks would win it.
“People who are high in openness — meaning they tend to be curious and imaginative by nature — tend to have the most variability in their sexual fantasies,” Lehmiller said. “They fantasize about almost everything you can think of, from conventional sex acts to things that are sexually taboo. It seems that if you like to try new things in real life, you like to try new things in your sex fantasies too.”
For more on Lehmiller’s research, head to his site.