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Sexual Orientation vs. Erotic Orientation

A lot of people are surprised to learn that it’s extremely common for women to fantasize about other women, regardless of their sexual orientation. Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a sex researcher and educator, recently surveyed 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies. Among this group of people, 59% of women (who identify as heterosexual) said that they have had same-sex fantasies. Yes, you read that right–nearly 60% of straight women have fantasized about having sex with another woman. That’s a large percentage!

But this trend isn’t just limited to the U.S. For many years, “lesbian” has been the most-watched category on Pornhub in majority of the world. In 2018, the category was #1 most-watched for women and #4 for men. Pornhub found that women were 151% more likely to seek out lesbian videos than men. Even further, the company found that 37% of gay male porn is actually being viewed by women.

While same-sex fantasies appear to be more common among women, they are not alone.

Dr. Lehmiller’s survey found that 26% of straight men have had same-sex fantasies. Other studies have found similar statistics. To be clear, we are not talking about people who identify as bisexual, pansexual, or any other orientation in which that person is attracted to more than one gender. These different sexualities absolutely exist and are wonderful and valid (no question!), but these statistics are describing people who identify as straight and are not romantically attracted to the same sex.

There are a lot of theories as to why heterosexual individuals watch gay porn.

Straight women may watch lesbian porn because it tends to focus on female pleasure, whereas straight porn is typically all about male pleasure. Straight men may watch lesbian porn due to insecurities about their own sexuality or masculinity–it guarantees that they won’t be turned on by other men. Women might watch gay male porn because it’s free from objectifying or comparing themselves to other women, or it feels more authentic and less forced than straight porn.

However, Dr. Joe Kort, a sex therapist and educator who specializes in sexual identity concerns and LGBTQIA-affirmative therapy (he is also a gay man himself), suggests a different reason. Dr. Kort teaches that there’s a difference between sexual orientation and erotic orientation. He says, “sexual orientation is how you self-identify as gay, straight, bisexual or anywhere in between. Erotic orientation reflects your sexual fantasies, desires and behaviors.”

Sexual orientation is who you’re attracted to, and erotic orientation is the things that turn you on and bring you to orgasm. Our sexual and erotic orientations may not always match. We may fantasize about behaviors or things that we wouldn’t actually want to try in real life. Despite what our culture often tells us, that’s okay!

Erotic orientation is not only about gender.

People may also fantasize about other things that they may not want to try in real life, such as BDSM or a threesome. In fact, these are two of the top 7 most common fantasies that Dr. Lehmiller found in his study. The full list includes (in no particular order):

  • Multipartnered Sex (e.g., threesomes, orgies)
  • BDSM (bondage, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism)
  • Novelty, Adventure, and Variety (i.e., doing something new and different, such as sex in a new setting)
  • Sexual Taboos (i.e., doing something that is socially or culturally forbidden)
  • Passion, Intimacy, and Romance
  • Swinging, Polyamory, and Open Relationships
  • Gender and sexual fluidity (e.g., cross-dressing, becoming the other sex)

Am I Normal?

Therapists often try to avoid the word “normal,” but I want you to know that if you have any of these fantasies, you’re normal. And if you fantasize about things you don’t actually want to try in real life, you’re normal. AND if you identify as straight but you fantasize about the same sex, or if you’re gay and fantasize about the opposite sex, you’re still normal. No shame!

All of this can be confusing at first, especially if you are questioning (or have ever questioned) any part of your sexuality. Writer Tori DeAngelis says, “our erotic personalities are as unique as our fingerprints.” At the end of the day, you should love who you love and fantasize about the things that turn you on, even if those two things don’t exactly match. 

Want to know more?

If you want to learn more about the concept of sexual orientation versus erotic orientation, you can visit Dr. Kort’s website (http://www.joekort.com/), his TikTok page (@drjoekort), or his podcast, Smart Sex Smart Love. If you’re exploring and/or questioning any part of your sexuality and want support, the therapists at Emma Schmidt & Associates would love to support you on that journey and be affirmative of your identities. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!

1. Contact Emma Schmidt and Associates to request a free Counseling consultation.

2. Meet with a skilled therapist for Counseling through our HIPAA compliant platform.

3. Begin online Counseling and begin your journey towards mental wellness, health, and happiness.

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The therapists at Emma Schmidt and Associates are skilled relationship and sex therapists. However, that’s not the only mental health service they offer. Our therapists treat general mental health and relationship concerns. We offer anxiety treatment, depression treatment, trauma and PTSD treatment, EMDR, and relationship and couples therapy. In addition to offering online therapy in Ohio, we also offer online therapy in Kentucky, and online therapy in Indiana. Contact our office to learn more about the many ways our team of skilled clinicians can help you thrive.

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