Men may spend infinitely more of their waking time thinking about sex than women, but both genders dream about the subject in equal measure, says a new study.
That surprising finding flies in the face of previous research that suggested women have far fewer erotic dreams.
But that’s where the similarities end. For the most part, male and female sex fantasies, even in the land of nod, tend to conform to gender stereotypes, say psychologists from the University of Montreal in Canada.
In your dreams
Their study was based on interviews with 109 women and 64 men who logged their dreams over a period of two to four weeks. The volunteers racked up some 3,500 dreams, but just eight per cent were sex-related.
The findings were reported in June at Sleep 2007 a conference for sleep scientists and researchers held in Minneapolis, USA.
While women tend to fantasize about film stars, politicians, rock stars or lovers past and present, men tend to visualize themselves making love to multiple partners in public or unknown settings.
The women who took part in the study were twice as likely to have dream scenarios featuring celebrities, than men. The celebrities that the women dreamed about included actors such as Brad Pitt or George Clooney and Irish rocker Bono.
The men, on the other hand, reported dreams featuring multiple sex partners twice as often as the women. Flesh and blood lovers, past and present, turned up in 20 per cent of the women’s dreams but only 14 per cent of the men’s dream sequences.
In their fantasy worlds, the men almost never had to put their ego on the line and come on to a woman. In about 90 per cent of the erotic dreams they logged and reported to investigators, the women made the first move.
“The men had women coming on to them – at least in their dreams,” said study author Antonio Zadra, an associate professor of psychology.
The pattern may reflect a certain amount of wishful thinking given the usual social norms that apply in the dating and courtship world, he said.
And finally, when it came to erotic dreams that dealt with sexual disappointments, the genders had very different tales to tell. The women recounted scenarios where they were turned off by something that happened or the pace of proceedings. For the men, it was more often a case of their virtual partners refusing to engage in certain activities, or their sexcapade plans falling through for some reason.
“Maybe their demands were unrealistic even for their dream characters,” Zadra said.
As noted above, women seemed to have as many erotic dreams as men. This reflects an increase from what was reported in the 1960s, but that may reflect an increased willingness of women to talk about the subject or the fact that women are having more such dreams since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, or both, according to Zadra.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.