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Monogamous brains just a fantasy: study

New research shows that most adults fantasize about more than just their partners

Danielle Pope — CUP Western Bureau Chief

Ladyfish in the Dungeon While not everyone fantasizes about having their own sex dungeon, Sam "Ladyfish" Quinn (pictured) says fantasies help relationships thrive. (Photo by Danielle Pope/CUP)

VICTORIA (CUP) — Who are you fantasizing about this Valentine’s Day? According to a recent study, apparently only 16 per cent said their lover.

The rest, are singularly focused on not being singularly focused.

University of Vermont researchers surveyed 178 sexually-active adults, and found that 84 per cent admitted that, while making love, they fantasized about having sex with others. That’s not all — the secretive lovers also frequently fantasized about sex that was kinkier than what they actually did, or wanted to do.

Some common fantasies included sex in public, group sex or bondage. Perhaps the most significant finding: One quarter of all surveyed expressed “significant guilt” about their fantasies, calling them immoral, abnormal and harmful to their relationships.

Related: Men fake it, too, says study

It may come as a surprise then, that when researchers surveyed the participants about their sexual satisfaction, those who fantasized the most enjoyed the greatest sexual pleasure and suffered fewer sex problems. Meanwhile, those who felt guilty about their fantasies tended to be sexually dissatisfied and reported the most sex problems.

Sam "Ladyfish" Quinn is the founder and president of Sagacity, a kink and fetish resource in Victoria, B.C., which serves both university students and community members. Quinn says it’s common for people to find challenges with sharing their fantasies, but she still sees its importance.

“When you share your fantasies with a partner, you risk judgment and the fear that your partner will be shocked or offended by what you fantasize about.

“Another potential pitfall of sharing your fantasies is jealousy — who wants to find out that while they are making love to you, you are fantasizing about the girl next door?” she said. “Sometimes, a fantasy loses its attraction if you share it. In the world of fantasy, never doing it can be very exciting.”

Yet despite the supporting statistics and viewpoints, the real shocker comes in knowing that 85 per cent of people polled have never even shared their deepest fantasies, let alone acted them out, according to a study performed last year by Brett Kahr, a British psychotherapist and author of Who's Been Sleeping In Your Head: The Secret World of Sexual Fantasies.

Kahr found that, within his polled audience, closer to 90 per cent of adults fantasize about someone other than the person they’re having sex with. He also found 41 per cent imagine sex with someone else’s partner, 39 per cent fantasize about sex with a work colleague, 25 per cent fantasize about celebrities and the list goes on.

Kahr discovered a relatively low number of women — 28 per cent — fantasize about sex with two men, while 58 per cent of women fantasize about sex with two women. On the kinkier side, 25 per cent of people fantasize about being tied up, with 18 per cent of men and seven per cent of women fantasizing about spanking someone. Yet, 11 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women fantasize about being spanked.

Numbers aside, Quinn believes that, overall, sex and sexuality is more open in 2011 than it has been in the past. Though she admits fantasies are largely only accepted by society so long as they stay fantasies.

“Fantasy is thinking outside the box. When we are creating fantasies, we are using our imagination to create unrestrained, extravagant, wild, bizarre, images or actions that we believe may never happen in our real-world relationships,” she said. “Fantasy breaks down boundaries, the generally accepted rules of behavior, and allows you to question your reality, or your relationship, and that can be scary.”

So what is it that keeps us from just investing in what’s right in front of us? After all, we chose our partners for some reason, didn’t we? Quinn sees playing out fantasy like taking a vacation — it’s not that you don’t enjoy your current life, it’s just nice to have the variety.

“A bedroom fantasy played out is like a mini-holiday from your boring bedroom routine. Turning your fantasies into realities can also be therapeutic,” said Quinn. “It can help revive a relationship, or can help an individual overcome a personal fear. Shared fantasies can also be a very powerful — a deep, dark secret shared by two people is a binding experience.”