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Shared fantasies: Justin Lehmiller on the science of sexual desire

by Race Bannon .
Sunday Jun 23, 2019

On the Friday during the International Mr. Leather weekend in Chicago I was thankfully able to make time for a side trip to the Multiplicity of the Erotic Conference (MOTE) being held nearby.

MOTE is a new incarnation of the former Conference on Alternative Sexualities hosted for the past 10 years as a collaboration between Programs Advancing Sexual Diversity (PASD) and The Community Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS).

The MOTE Conference addresses cutting-edge research and the most current clinical approaches to sexuality, gender and relationships, focusing on the intersections of research, clinical work and professional practice by presenting the latest ideas and findings on polyamory, consensual non-monogamies, kink/BDSM sexualities and identities, transgender/genderqueer/nonbinary experiences, asexualities, sex worker studies, hierarchical (power-exchange) relationships, and so on.

Closing out the Conference was a stellar keynote address by Dr. Justin Lehmiller, an esteemed Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute and author of the book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Lehmiller is also the brains behind the extremely popular blog site, 'Sex & Psychology' (

The data gathered and analyzed for his book served as the foundation for Lehmiller's keynote titled 'Which Sexual Fantasies Are Common, and Which Ones Are Truly Rare?: Insights From the Largest Survey of Sexual Fantasies in the United States.' The keynote was spectacular and made even this seasoned sexuality writer take notice of some fascinating research.

When gathering his data, Lehmiller surveyed 4175 adults in the United States across the entire range of genders, ages, sexual orientations, races, and relationship styles. They completed a 369-question survey inquiring about their fantasies, personalities, sexual histories and demographics.

Participants were asked to describe their "favorite" sexual fantasy of all time and sum up that fantasy in a single word of their choice.

Some of the more popular one-word answers? Threesome. Dominance. Bondage. Gangbang. Submission. Orgy. BDSM, and many more.

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