Ask the Doctors: Are My Fantasies Appropriate?

How “appropriate” are fantasies about somebody who isn’t your current serious partner?
–Roving Eye

Fantasies are completely integral to many people’s sexual arousal and enjoyment; attempting to quash them, as some try to do when worried about their content, can actually impair sexual functioning. Sometimes fantasies are a window into our desires, while other times (or for other people), they’re a source of erotic fuel and nothing more. It’s very possible to fantasize about things that we wouldn’t choose to do or event want to do in real life, and since that’s the case, fantasizing about a person who’s not your partner is not (necessarily) a clue that you’re with the wrong person or even that you would take the opportunity to have sex with the fantasy person if it was offered.

However, because we don’t get as much comprehensive information about sex as we should, many people don’t know how common these kinds of fantasies are. Some of us tend to think these are signals that we should act on, moving whatever is expressed by the fantasy into real-life desire and experience. While each person, and each couple, must determine what boundaries are appropriate for them, having a third person (or a cast of thousands!) crop up in your fantasy life is not necessarily a signal that you should be breaking up, turning non-monogamous, or getting worried about your love and desire for, or commitment to, the person you’ve chosen in your “real” life.

Even if it is a real desire, you still have a choice whether to act on it. I know plenty of bisexual people, for instance, who keep their bisexuality alive during a monogamous relationship via fantasy. It’s a myth that bi people have to have “one of each,” just as it’s a myth that if your eye wanders to someone other than your partner, you’re an adulterous accident waiting to happen. But each person who fantasizes about a real person they know also must be clear about where her or his commitments lie.

Having said this, if you are not satisfied with the person you’re partnered with in some way, you might find it useful to look to your fantasies to get clues about what you might want that you don’t currently have. I’m not suggesting this is a signal (necessarily) to change partners; instead, it could be that you’re projecting particular kinds of desire onto your fantasy person (this is important: that might not even be true of them in real life!) — and that gives you clues about communication needs with your actual partner.

It’s also pretty common for your real-time partner, if s/he finds out you’ve been fantasizing about someone else, to feel threatened or offended. While it’s a good idea to share many fantasies with your partner, this kind may not the kind to pipe up about when you’re cuddled up and getting all into pillow talk. Again, each couple is different, so some have no problem with whispered, “Oh, I’d totally do her” confessions. This kind of talk, when shared, turns into mutual spice for some pairs — while it’s the beginning of divorce for others.


We’re dedicated to getting you the information you need about sex, pleasure and your health. If you have any questions, please email our staff experts, Dr. Carol Queen and Dr. Charlie Glickman, at education@goodvibes.com! For product-related questions, please email or call our customer service staff at customerservice@goodvibes.com.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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