The first time I had a sex dream about a platonic friend, I woke up to a pillowcase drenched in sweat, in a state of pure panic. The dream itself was mostly non-descript; I couldn't remember the details surrounding the sex very well, but I couldn't shake the fact I thought of my friend in that way. The dream sex was extremely average; I would even go as far to say the sex, despite created in my own limitless, vivid brain, was bad.
In the hours that followed, I paced up and down my flat, trying to pick it all apart: What did this mean? But I've never even fancied them? Will this make things awkward between us? This is weird, make it stop. And then, suddenly, came the most confusing feeling of them all: I now had an unrelenting desire to fuck my platonic friend, all because of a sex dream. The urge came thick and fast, constantly invading my thoughts, prodding at me to act on it, or else I would shrivel up and die. I thought to myself, This obsession will surely subside, so I decided to ignore it. But I couldn't—I had become totally infatuated.
And so, being the fickle, impressionable human that I am, I had sex with my friend, all because I slept with him once in a passing dream. When it was over, I satisfied the itch, never did it again, and we remained friends. This wasn't the first instance I've developed a rapid-fire obsession with someone I've had a sex dream about—it just wasn't about a celebrity this time, and it was just a coincidence that he also wanted to sleep with me.
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When I spoke to my friends about what had happened, I was surprised to hear that they've gone through this, too—in fact, one of my best friends did the exact same thing I did. But all of this still left us with the great unanswered question: Why did this happen and what does it mean?
Sex dreams are extremely common, with one study showing that 8 percent of people's dreams contain some sex-related activity. Most people spend two hours a night dreaming – whether you remember it or not—which means most people could spend nearly 60 hours a year specifically dreaming about banging someone that they may or may not personally know. Science says there isn't just one way to interpret sex dreams; there are multiple psychological theories exploring the unconscious, all still failing to pinpoint a single answer. Despite having a sex dream about one specific person, it rarely ever has anything to do with them, or even about sex at all.
Psychosexual therapist Lisa Etherson points out that sex dreams can be triggered by a combination of factors, ranging from simply feeling horny to having something your psyche is trying to tell you. "Sex is important to us, it is part of our survival instinct. The most important thing to consider is that sex dreams aren't necessarily about sex, so don't worry when you have to face your boss the next morning when you were having a threesome with them the night before."
However, according to dream analyst and expert Jane Teresa Anderson, the people you fuck in your dreams do have some significance—just not in the way you expect them to. "Consider your dream a metaphor. But there's always significance in the identity of the dream sex partner; for example, in a dream of exciting sex with someone you see as adventurous, your dreaming mind may be processing a feeling of integrating a more adventurous approach to life," she tells me.
Sometimes we process experiences, concerns or thoughts through sexual imagery and feelings, which ends up manifesting as weird sex with your partner, when really all your brain is trying to tell you is that you have an unresolved thought that you might not even be aware of. And with the knowledge that humans dream every night—whether they remember it or not—it begs the question: Why do we always remember the contents of sex dreams?
"We usually remember things that trigger powerful emotions, and arousal can be powerful, even in your sleep," explains Stefan Walters, a psychotherapist practicing at Harley Therapy . Other dreams can just process more benign feelings or experience, which don't make it on our conscious radar. The physical component of sex dreams makes them more memorable; so whether your dream-sex is terrible, or so good you have a sleep orgasm, it will always linger at the forefront of your mind.
However, that's usually as far as sex dreams usually go in waking life. Sex dreams are not likely to unveil a wild new kink you dreamt of, or even tempt you pursue new desires in real life. It might make you more open to experimenting the possibility, but Etherson explains that it's more of a fleeting moment. "It's more likely that we will simply think 'wow, that was fun' but not necessarily want to pursue it. If you have dreamt about a kink, found that dream enjoyable and tried it in real life, and still found it enjoyable, then that's great, but it doesn't necessarily mean you want to pursue it."
Now that I understand that sex dreams are more complex and symbolic than I've ever given them credit for, I've taken my sexual experience at face value. My sex dream didn't affect my desires directly, but with the help of my compulsive personality, I made the decision actively seek out real-life sex with my dream-sex partner. So while I may not ever know how or why my sex dream manifested in my waking life the way it did, one thing is clear: As long as acting on your dream urges IRL aren't negatively affecting your life, then it doesn't matter. Dream-fuck on.