You're in the middle of a seriously steamy sex session. The mood is just right, and whatever your partner is doing feels damn good. Then, just as you're about to reach that big O...you wake up. Oh. It was only a dream.
Sex dreams are a perfectly normal part of life. Sure, sometimes they might make us feel a little uncomfortable (dreaming about the coworker you see every morning is definitely awkward). But remember, it's just a dream. Holly Richmond, PhD, a sex therapist in New York City, says people often worry that if they dream about something, it means they want to do it IRL, but that isn't the case. "It almost never has anything to do with actual desire or arousal," Richmond says. What happens in dreamland is often meant to stay in dreamland.
Still, like any other kind of dream, sex dreams can have deeper meanings. We asked sex therapists to explain what some of the most common sex dreams really mean (yes, dreaming about your ex is one of them).
Having sex with your boss
No, just because you dreamed about getting busy with your boss doesn't mean you actually want to sleep with them. Instead, it can indicate that you're not 100% comfortable with the power dynamic between the two of you, Richmond says. There are two ways this dream can go. One, you're dominating your boss, which likely means you want to push back against them somehow. Or two, you're being submissive, which means you're feeling passive aggressive towards your boss, rather than straight up defiant.
Sex with someone you dislike
"Think about why you dislike them. Do they dismiss you? Not let you talk?" Richmond asks. Perhaps they make you feel insecure. Even though we don't always like to admit it, often we dislike a person because they make us feel down about ourselves. "In some way, in your subconscious, you having sex with this person would be you taking your power back or exerting your power over them," she says.
Doing it with an ex
Just when you thought your ex was out of your life, they make a surprise appearance in your dreams. Lauri Loewenberg, a certified dream analyst, says if it's a recent ex, dreaming about them probably means you're not over them just yet. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Moving on takes serious time.
If it's an ex from years ago, don't worry, it doesn't necessarily mean you want them back, Richmond says. "It could be because there are some unresolved issues that didn't get worked out," she explains. Maybe things didn't end on the best of terms, or you feel there was something left unsaid.
Loewenberg adds that if it's your first love who's visiting you in your sleep, it could be that you're missing what that relationship represented—like newness, butterflies, and passion. "That dream will tend to show up when your current relationship is a bit routine, or you're just going through a dry spell," she says.
Sex with someone of the gender you don't usually go for
First, this doesn't mean you've been batting for the wrong team all along. "Novelty is the seed of human sexual arousal," Richmond says. "A lot of us are so locked into who we're attracted to that we need our dreamland to give us that space, that permission to open those doors a little bit wider." The same goes for porn. Even straight women love to watch lesbian porn, but for the most part, they're just in it for the fantasy.
Sex with someone embarrassing
Some sex dreams are the opposite of a turn on, like if you dream about getting it on with that one person at work who always has awful B.O. or the annoying guy who catcalls you on your commute. Loewenberg says to take a step back and ask yourself what three personality traits first come to mind when you think of this person. "Of those three things, at least one of them will be a quality you need to incorporate into your own behavior to benefit your life right now," she explains.
For example, maybe you know the person at work with B.O. is the best problem solver in the building, and you currently have a problem in your own life that you need to figure out how to solve. Or perhaps the guy who catcalls you never gives up trying to get your attention no matter how many times you ignore him, and you need to apply that stick-to-it attitude to something you have going on.
Getting busy with a celebrity
We've all woken up from a dream about Leonardo DiCaprio or Ryan Gosling only to be devastated that it wasn't real. This, of course, is just your dreams reflecting your fantasies, Richmond says. But there's also a sense of agency that comes with it. "It can really give us a sense of sexual empowerment, agency, confidence, some of the things we might be lacking in real life," she says. But just because it was a dream doesn't mean that confidence can't carry over into real life, she adds. Try to hone in on it even after you wake up.
Having sex in public
Doing it in public is risqué, to say the least, and if you're taking that risk in your dreams, it could mean you need to be more adventurous in (or out of) the bedroom. Richmond says dreaming about public sex could also be your subconscious rebelling if your partner is less adventurous than you. In that case, it could be a sign that you two need to have a conversation about kicking things up a notch. She also says that this is one dream that could have more of a literal translation, too. Maybe you actually want to have sex in public. We know, it's scandalous, but it wouldn't be crazier than your wildest dreams....