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How Your Personality Type Affects Your Sexual Fantasies, From A Sex Psychologist 

Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D.
July 13, 2020
Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist
By Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist
Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and one of the country’s leading experts on human sexuality. He is currently the Director of the Social Psychology Program at Ball State University and a Faculty Affiliate of The Kinsey Institute.
July 13, 2020

Tell me a little bit about you, and I'll tell you what your fantasies are.

Your answers to 15 simple questions can help me to predict what types of things are likely to turn you on—and what types of things are likely to turn you off. All I need is a little information about your demographic background, your personality, and your sexual history. Below, we'll explore three of these 15 questions and explain why they're important for understanding Americans' sexual desires.

I'll draw upon insights gleaned from my survey—one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of Americans' sexual fantasies involving studying over 4,000 people over the course of two years. I'll also bring in the science that can help you to better understand what your fantasies say about who you are and where you are in life. 


What is your attachment style?

The degree to which someone feels insecure in a relationship says a lot about the kinds of things they are—and aren't—likely to fantasize about. Insecure, in this sense, means they need a lot of reassurance that their partner loves them, and they worry they may be abandoned.

People who have an insecure attachment type, are less likely to fantasize about group sex and nonmonogamy, and more likely to fantasize about bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism (BDSM), sexual novelty, and romance.

The trend of insecure people having fewer fantasies about multiple partners and nonmonogamy is perfectly logical. Insecure people would probably find these scenarios threatening. If they see their partner giving attention to someone other than them, or if someone else appears to be taken with their partner, jealousy can set in.

To the extent that insecure people do fantasize about group sex or nonmonogamy—and some of them certainly do—they tend to place themselves at the center of attention. This may be a way to minimize feelings of threat.

For example, an insecure person might actually enjoy a scenario where multiple people are giving them attention. This can blunt any feelings of rejection. As this example illustrates, with a little creative thinking, people can tailor virtually any fantasy scenario to meet their needs.

The link between insecurity and fantasies about BDSM and novelty can be explained as a form of psychological escapism. As previously mentioned, BDSM fantasies offer a break from self-awareness, as do novelty fantasies. Based on the survey results, those who had frequent novelty fantasies typically used them to reduce anxiety and escape reality during sex. In other words, both BDSM and novelty are potent ways of taking your mind off of relationship insecurities.

Finally, the link between insecurity and romance may stem from the fact that people who are insecure find it difficult to enjoy sex—including the very thought of it—unless they feel desired and validated. Therefore, anxious folks might actively include calming emotional content in their fantasies as a way of helping them relax and get in the mood.


Are you someone who is organized and cares about the details?

People who are high in the personality trait of conscientiousness tend to be detail-oriented and organized in their everyday lives. These traits also tend to transfer into their sexual fantasies.

Being conscientious is linked to having more novelty fantasies, especially fantasies that featured novel settings. Attention to detail seems to lead conscientious people to construct elaborate, planned-out fantasies—all the way down to location.

At the same time, conscientious folks seem less likely to fantasize about BDSM, taboo acts, and gender-bending. This pattern makes sense when you consider that conscientious people like to follow the rules. They tend to be conformists.


Would you describe yourself as outgoing and social?

Extroversion is a personality trait that reflects an outgoing nature, a desire to interact with the world. Extroverts like to meet new people in real life and in their sexual fantasies, too.

Extroversion is linked to more fantasies about group sex, as well as more fantasies about both consensual nonmonogamy and infidelity. This isn't at all surprising, as socially confident people are likely less intimidated by the thought of meeting and seducing new partners. Extroverts also tend to have more novelty fantasies, which can be seen as another symptom of their greater tendency to engage with the world around them.

Extroverts are less likely to have taboo sexual fantasies. People who have difficulty establishing the relationships they want also tend to create more unusual interests. Since extroverts usually don't have a problem establishing relationships, taboo sexual fantasies are less appealing.

Extroversion was also linked to the emotional content in people's fantasies. Specifically, extroverts had fewer fantasies about intimacy and social bonding and more fantasies about feeling validated. In particular, their fantasies included praise for their sexual skills and performance. Extroverts' fantasies were more likely to center around boosting their egos than they were around developing deep, emotional connections.

Overall, extroverts don't just want to be seen as the life of the party—they also want to be seen as the life of the sex party.

Excerpted and adapted from Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life by Justin Lehmiller. Copyright © 2020. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.
Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D. author page.
Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and one of the country’s leading experts on human sexuality. He is currently the Director of the Social Psychology Program at Ball State University and a Faculty Affiliate of The Kinsey Institute. Formerly, he served on the faculty at Harvard University.

In addition to being an award-winning educator, Lehmiller is a prolific scholar who conducts research on sexual fantasy, casual sex, secret relationships, and safer-sex practices. He has authored dozens of scientific publications and is the author of the sexuality textbook The Psychology of Human Sexuality. Lehmiller is on the editorial boards of several prominent academic journals in the fields of relationships and sexuality, including the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, and he is an elected full member of the International Academy of Sex Research.

He holds advanced degrees in psychology, including a Master of Science from Villanova University and a Ph.D. from Purdue University.