Women Have Way More Sex Dreams These Days Than They Used To — Here's Why
Sex dreams: We all have them.
We traditionally think of dreaming about sex as an experience exclusive to young boys, who we associate with so-called wet dreams involving nocturnal emission. But the truth is, erotic dreams aren't particularly gendered: A 2007 study conducted in Montreal found about 8% of both men's and women's dreams involved sex, with no difference between genders. Way back in 1953, sex researcher Alfred Kinsey found 37% of women had even had an orgasm from a sex dream by age 45.
Even all those decades ago, Kinsey's study showed 70% of women had experienced sexual dreams at some point in their lives. Compare that to the roughly 80% of men today who've had them, according to a 2011 study1—and mind you, a lot has changed for women's sexual lives between 1953 and 2011.
To that end, a new study2 published in the journal Psychology & Sexuality found women are having more and more sexual dreams nowadays. As the Daily Mail reports, researchers found women today have sexual dreams more than three times as often as women did 50 years ago.
How often people dream about sex.
Researchers asked nearly 3,000 people about the dreams they can recall and found the vast majority of people had experienced sex dreams. About 83% of folks have had erotic dreams, and 47% said erotic motifs appear in one out of every 10 of their dreams. Overall, 18% of people's dreams were erotic in nature. (For comparison, people reported just 6% of their dreams were about sports, 6% about music, and 4% about politics.)
Men did have slightly more frequent sex dreams than women, but the difference was pretty negligible: Across all age groups, 16% of women's dreams and 21% of men's dreams were erotic. But when you look at the younger generation of folks—those between ages 16 and 30—22% of women's dreams and 25% of men's dreams were erotic.
Why women are having dreams about sex more often.
That more than one in five of young women's dreams these days are about sex is a new development: A similar dream study in 1966 found less than 4% of young women's dreams were about sex. According to the researchers behind the latest study, the increased frequency of sex dreams among women "could reflect the evolution induced in modern societies by the feminist movement."
"One might speculate that younger women in modern society (post-feminism era) deal with sexuality as a topic more openly than older women of previous generations," they write in the paper on their findings.
Women have a lot less internalized shame around their sexuality, and therefore they might feel more comfortable talking, thinking, and fantasizing about sex—and therefore dreaming about it. As the researchers explain, "Dreams reflect waking life experiences." The more time you spend thinking about something (or doing something), the more likely it is to appear in your dreams.
Additionally, it's possible that women are more comfortable admitting that they're having sex dreams in the first place and thus are more likely to recall and report them to interviewers.
Sex dreams as a symbol of empowerment.
The study found most people felt great about their sex dreams. Duh—sex is great, and dream sex is the safest kind and usually supernaturally steamy and pleasurable.
That women are now more able to access this unconscious plane of sexual joy is a sign that their waking lives and conscious minds are more pleasure-positive, empowered to pursue their desires, and free from the distress of sexual shame than ever.
And that's something to celebrate.
Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.
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