What Is The Difference Between Fantasy And Desire?

Can you distinguish between your fantasies and desires? Problematically, these two terms are commonly used interchangeably.

Published Jul 02 2018 3 min read

Guest post by Alexia Lawrie

Can you distinguish between your fantasies and desires?

Problematically, these two terms are commonly used interchangeably. Yet they mean two different things. Let us take a close look at how exactly these two terms differ. The wonderful folks at Pleasure Mechanics define these terms as:

Fantasy: The imaginary, the impossible, the improbable world of erotic pleasure where anything goes.

Desires: Specific elements from the world of fantasy and reality that you want more of in your life.

More succinctly, we can say that desires seek to be fulfilled, whilst fantasies are not. The following Venn diagram helps illustrate this.

What Is The Difference Between Fantasy & Desire?

The world of our imagination must not be confused with our actual desires. When we start to crave for something in our real lives it ceases being a fantasy and starts becoming a desire. Once we play out our desire it has become an action/conduct.

What Is The Difference Between Fantasy & Desire?

We can often get fixated with the idea that our fantasies depict what we want in real life. This can cause inner turmoil with feelings of shame, judgement, and secrecy. More so, when we deem certain fantasies as incompatible with our moral compass.

It is important to realise that we are entitled to have fantasies which shall always remain fantasies and nothing more. Check out here why you may have taboo sexual fantasies. Just remember, your fantasies belong to you. 

You and only you decide those which remain private, compartmentalised into your safe space; separate from those you choose to share, develop into desires, and perhaps act on.

Knowing the difference between the two, and being able to confidently name your desires, gives you the freedom to expand your sexual horizons whilst keeping it in a safe space.

An important study showed that women who enjoy submission related fantasies clearly indicate no wish to be raped in their real lives. When shown a series of realistic rape images, women express disgust and fear (Bond & Mosher, 1986). Both women and men in submission related fantasies, are in complete control and ascribes his or her own meaning to the exchange, in contrast to the reality of rape.


Tell me about your fantasies…

We all fantasise to some degree and have shown them to be part of a healthy sexuality (Zurbriggen & Yost, 2004).

Studies show that the fantasy of being dominated is greater in women than in men, on average, whereas the fantasy of dominating is stronger in men than in women, on average.

A recent study interviewed 1,517 adults (799 women and 717 men) about their sexual fantasies. The study showed the following results:

Common sexual fantasies in 84.1% of participants:

  • Feeling romantic emotions during a sexual relationship (seen more in women)
  • Fantasies in which atmosphere and location are important (seen more in women)
  • Fantasies involving a romantic location (both genders, no significant difference)
  • Receiving oral sex (seen more in men)
  • Having sexual intercourse with two women (seen more in men)
  • Having sex with someone other than the respondent’s current partner (seen more in men)

Here are the top 6 sexual fantasies for women.

A significant portion of women and men were shown to enjoy submissive fantasies:

  • Being sexually dominated(64.6% women, 53.3% men)
  • Being tied up for sexual pleasure (52.1% women, 46.2% men)
  • Being spanked or whipped (36.3% women, 28.5% men)
  • Being forced to have sex (28.9% women, 30.7% men)
  • Having anal sex (32.5% women, 64.2% men)

Now that we know the difference between the two, we can explore our fantasies without taboos, and confidently identify our desires.

Have better sex