I am gay, and I have never once wanted to have sex with a woman. At least that's the case while I’m awake.
But my dreams are different. Twice in my life, I have had had passionate sex dreams about girls which were so vivid that I still remember them years later. The first came when I was in third grade — it was about pop star Mandy Moore, who was, ironically, one of the more modest teen queens of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s era. In my dream, she was kinky and aggressive, and came toward me in an S&M lingerie set.
Upon waking, I suddenly saw why my male friends found her so attractive. Or why men found women attractive at all, to be honest.
The next one came ten years later. I was a sophomore in college, and I dreamt about a classmate. She was a friendly brunette, though with average-enough features that I wouldn’t describe her as stunning. But in my dream, I realized how beautiful she was, how much I adored her body, how much I wanted her to love me. I can’t remember what we were doing; we may have had sex, maybe not. All I know was that it was hot. When I woke up, I thought to myself, “Oh my God, I have a crush on a girl.”
I didn’t, really. But it made me consider if I did. Dreams are weird that way. Of course, I’m not the only person who’s had such REM fantasies. On various dream forums, I noticed straight men writing about dreams that seem plucked out of gay porn, and straight females wondering why so many of their sex dreams feature ladies. Some even dream of having sex as a different gender.
According to Dr. Kelly Bulkeley, dream researcher and senior editor of the APA journal Dreaming, dreams of the “wrong” gender are fairly common. “Many, if not most people, have a dream of this sort at some point in their lives, and they’re often memorable and vivid,” Bulkeley says.
Human sexuality, of course, is complicated. Bulkeley refers to Freud’s idea of “polymorphous perversity,” which theorizes that humans have all kinds of possible sexual interests, desires and yearnings within them that are suppressed during waking life. When we’re asleep, our mind is able to freely roam and throw up whatever freak flags it so desires.
“These dreams are a sign that your mind is exploring all the possible ways to be human, and just imagining what might happen ‘if',” he says. “And that’s just what dreams do.”
I am the first homosexual man who has approached Bulkeley with sex dreams about women. Usually he hears it from nervous heterosexuals, fearing they might be gay. Straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual — whatever labels someone may use — Bulkeley says these dreams serve as reminders that no person is 100 percent anything.
To Bulkeley, dreams of this nature suggest that, yes, perhaps there might be a chance the dreamer is attracted to that specific gender. “And to me, that’s not a bad thing,” Bulkeley says. “It’s human nature. Though maybe to some people, that’s frightening or shocking or disturbing.”
Dr. Ricardo Rieppi, a New York-based psychotherapist, elaborates, saying that sexual orientation doesn't neatly fit into categories like gay or straight. He likes to think that most people lean toward one way or the other, while these dreams are merely “reflecting an aspect of someone’s sexuality," which isn't something they'll necessarily want to pursue.
Rieppi doesn’t think sex dreams hold any more or less weight than other dreams. “They’re ways in which our mind is working out thoughts, reflections, feelings and experiences in ways that are beyond verbal communication,” he says. “A lot of people think dreams mean this, or dreams mean that, but that’s not really the way it works.”
One thing that’s definitely possible, though, is that we’re having these “wrong” dreams far more frequently than we realize. As Bulkeley points out, there is increased blood flow to the genitals (for both men and women) during REM sleep, the stage of sleep when dreaming usually occurs. Men get erections, and women get clitoral swelling.
“There’s an arousal factor,” Bulkeley says. “So we are probably having these dreams more than we know, but we don’t remember them.”
So where does this all leave me? I still like guys. I still have no interest in dating women or having sex with women. Still...on the chance that I happen to run into Mandy Moore on the streets of New York, maybe, just maybe I’ll ask her out for a drink. That is, if it’s okay with Ryan Adams.