Remember that one time you tried to tell your friend about a dream you had, and she literally didn’t care? Yeah, hi, welcome to Cosmo, where we not only care about your dream—but also help decode the meaning behind it.
It’s kind of our way to pay homage to Sigmund Freud, anyway. The dude literally studied dreams for a living so that you could figure out why, in your dream, you’re pregnant, your teeth are falling out, or why you’re all of a sudden naked in front of all your peers. He claimed that dreams represent “wishes that the dreamer subconsciously wanted to be filled” …not necessarily that you literally are about to have a bun in the oven.
But sex dreams? Yeah, those are a whole different entity than just your normal REM cycle dreams. These are explicit, sometimes naughty, and if I may speak candidly, sexy AF. Some may even leave you waking up after experiencing a wet dream (and yes, it’s completely normal. More on that here).
But unlike what Freud said, just because you’re boning your boss over his office desk in your dream doesn’t necessarily mean you want that IRL. It’s a lil more complicated and complex than that.
So we spoke with Lauri Loewenberg, an expert dream psychologist who can decode your weirdest, sexiest, and freakiest sex dreams. She’ll speak on what they all mean and why, for the love of Lizzo, you can’t get that weird stranger you saw on the bus *once* out of your head.
A Super Rich Person
This one's simple: "It could just be that you desire wealth," Loewenberg says. "Sex dreams are not just about what you need, but also what you desire for yourself because sex is all about acting on desire." A dream about boning a wildly rich person could be a very straightforward sign that you wanna be rich, too. But you probably already know that about yourself.
Someone Who Works For You
Sex dreams about people from work are super common (these are, a little bit sadly, the people you see the most), and there are crucial distinctions between dreams about bosses and people who are your subordinates.
In the case of someone who works for you, Loewenberg suggests thinking about what their job is, what they do for you, and what their job represents. Are they an assistant who keeps your entire schedule running smoothly? That could indicate you're in need of an organizational overhaul, Loewenberg says.
Ever wake up feeling confused about why that person you met six months ago for like, five minutes showed up in your steamiest dream ever? You're far from alone—Loewenberg says this is a common sleep fantasy. She adds that dreams about acquaintances are not about being attracted to them, "but something about them."
"What stands out the most or what you remember most about them," Loewenberg says.
Your Totally Platonic Friend
Loewenberg has a rule she likes to apply to dreams about platonic friends. “Pick the first three things that come to mind when you think of that person, then apply them to yourself,” she said. So if you dream about having sex with your best friend, even if you aren’t at all sexually attracted to them, brainstorm the first three things you associate with that person, and then see if any of those qualities or traits would be beneficial to you if you incorporated them into your own life.
The theme you should be picking up on is that sex dreams are less about the people who appear in them and more about what those people represent in your current life situation. Your subconscious is a tricky, tricky thing.
A sex dream about a coworker is very similar to having a sex dream about a platonic friend—you should apply that rule of three traits, but then think about the fact that you two are united by the workplace. “Do you need to unite with them for the sake of work?” Loewenberg said. “Or is there something about that coworker that would really benefit you if you united that quality into yourself?
”Sex dreams that involve a boss, though, are a bit different. The fact that this is someone who’s in a position of power over you is important.” Loewenberg suggested thinking about if you need to connect with your boss in some way, maybe on a project. She also said it could mean that you need to be more of a “boss” in various aspects of your life—look for areas in which there’s room for you to take charge more.
Literally Anyone Who Isn't Your Partner
Dreams about the person you aren't currently boning can straddle the line between fantasy and nightmare, though Loewenberg reassures that having occasional sex dreams about other people is completely normal and fine. If it's happening all the time, she encourages you to examine your actual sex life.
"Take a look at the frequency of your sex routine in real life," Loewenberg says. "Are you just not getting enough from them? Or are you getting enough, but not enough variety?"
Someone You Don't Think Is Hot
Loewenberg says the cheat sheet for interpreting basically any sex dream is to think about what most stands out about the person you're sleep-boning. Which isn't always something as simple as physical attraction, as is the case in dreams about people you aren't even attracted to. "What stands out about the personality, what is it about them that first comes to mind?" Loewenberg suggests asking. "Something about them is what your subconscious desires and wants you to incorporate into yourself."
Sex dreams with celebrities typically mean one of two things: Either you just think that celeb is super hot and having sex with them is a legitimate fantasy of yours, or if they seem like a random celeb you’re not really that into, you should apply Loewenberg’s rule of three to this situation as well. But instead of the way you apply her rule for a platonic friend, notice the first three things that come to mind when you think about why that person is famous. Are they a musician? If so, Loewenberg suggests looking to some of their popular song lyrics to see if there’s a message hidden for you there. Again, your subconscious is a tricky lil devil.
Not quite the same as a dream with a regular celeb! A sexy dream about someone like the president could be a sign that you need to get better at "governing your own life and your affairs better," Loewenberg explains.
With other politicians, the dream is probably more about their platform, and what they represent to you. "Their platform is speaking to you on some level, and you need to merge that into your own behavior," Loewenberg says.
Your First Big Ex
If you’re dreaming about having sex with an ex—don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you are secretly still in love with them and should dump your current partner immediately. In fact, definitely don’t do that. Loewenberg says that sex dreams involving an ex, particularly your first love, are the most common type of sex dream.
“If it’s been a long time since this person’s been in your life, it’s not about him, but about what he represents: first love, the passion, excitement, being desired, desiring someone,” Loewenberg says. She adds that the first love reminds us of a time when we felt alive and everything was very vibrant, and so they show up for a few reasons—like when your current relationship status is dry, if you’re lonely, or if you’re in a relationship that feels routine or unexciting.
“It’s a gentle reminder from your subconscious that this excitement is something you need to bring back into your relationship,” Loewenberg says. “Find a way to spice it up and bring back the spark and passion.”
A Mysterious, Faceless Stranger
The faceless stranger dream is probably most widely known for its reference in When Harry Met Sally, after Sally says her oldest sex fantasy is that a “faceless guy” rips off all her clothes, and that’s the sex dream she’s been having since she was 12. But despite Harry’s shock at Sally’s fantasy scenario, Loewenberg says the “mystery lover” dream is actually the second-most common theme to dreams about exes.“
It doesn’t mean there’s someone out there waiting for you, and you’re dreaming about them,” she says. “This is really more about yourself. The mystery lover symbolizes some aspect of yourself that you’re trying to get to know and utilize in your own life.” The faceless man represents a desire for you to be more authoritative and assertive in your daily life.
Someone Of The Same Sex
If you’re a woman who isn’t normally attracted to other women, same-sex sex dreams are still very common, according to Loewenberg. “If it seems weird and random to have that dream, remember it’s not really about [having that curiosity], but more about what the person you’re having sex with represents,” she says.
Think about the qualities the women who appear in your dream represents—is she particularly nurturing, strong, or kind? And think of things you’ve done lately that make you really proud of your gender. Did you get praise for completing a big project in your male-dominated office? Are you newly volunteering for a woman’s equality cause? Or maybe you’re secretly looking for an opportunity like that.
An EXTREMELY common sex dream scenario! If it's a teacher or professor you have a crush on, this sex dream is a simple, "hot for teacher"-type of thing, Loewenberg says. But if you didn't or don't have an IRL crush on them, she suggests thinking about the subject they teach, rather than their biceps or perfect hair.
"If it was your English teacher, maybe there's some need for better communication in your life right now," Loewenberg says. "Or if it was your math teacher, it could be a need to get better at your finances."
Someone You Hate
Angry sex can be great, but having sex with someone you absolutely despise in your dream seems cruel and unfair. But still, it’s worth thinking about why you’re spending your precious sleeping hours thinking about someone you can’t stand.
“It could be that your subconscious mind is urging you to find a way to connect with that person, to come together on some level with them for the sake of your sanity,” Loewenberg suggests. “It’s not good energy to carry around hate.”
She says it could also mean that this person has some skill or personality trait that you’d like for yourself. Maybe they’re a really good dancer, and you’d like to be a good dancer. Or they have a job you think you deserve. Try to think about what they have going on in their life, not just the fact that they appeared naked in your dreams.
In A Group
While they might seem fun, crazy, and cool, sex dreams about orgies signify a lot of distress in your life, Loewenberg says. “That can usually be connected to some kind of confusion or overload that’s going on in your real life,” she says. Just like you were probably overwhelmed by all the moving parts in your sex dream, you’re probably IRL overwhelmed by a bunch of moving parts in your daily (non-sex dream) life.
“An orgy is typically about too much going on at once,” Loewenberg says. “Do you have too much going on? Are you trying to accomplish too many things?” The message is that your attention is divided among too many things — look for ways to simplify some parts of your life, or look for things that you can maybe put on hold while other projects slow down.
In A Public Place
Sometimes the most memorable part of a sex dream isn’t so much about the other person (or people) in it, but the location. “In dreams, we use geographical locations to symbolize geographic areas of your life: like your home life, your work life, your love life, you social circle,” Loewenberg says. “The public location would symbolize some part of your life that everyone knows about.”
So if you’re having sex in your office in front of a bunch of people, it could mean your work life is dominating a lot of your conversations lately, or that you’re known best for your accolades at work, or that work is occupying all of your brain space. The same goes for settings like school—think about why you’re so consumed with that particular place.
In Your Childhood Home
One very common location for dreams of all types — not just sex dreams — is your childhood home. It’s just a bit creepier when it’s a sex dream, taking place in your childhood bed. Loewenberg suggests that it’s less about the actual place, but more about who you were when you were living there.
“Ask yourself what’s going on right now that makes you feel like a child,” Loewenberg says. “Do you need your mom right now to help you with your bills or a relationship issue? Or are you acting childish right now?”
The same goes for having sex dreams in other previous living spaces, like a college apartment or dorm room. What was going on in your life when you were living there, and what were you like as a person? Use that previous version of yourself to measure yourself against now—maybe you’re holding onto something from back then that you’re looking to let go or maybe you let something go that you need to remember.
About A Mindblowing Orgasm
The first thing Loewenberg mentions about having dreams about great orgasms is that yes, women have wet dreams too. They’re not just for men. In fact, women tend to have more wet dreams as they age, while men tend to have fewer with age. But anyway. Aside from the thrill of an orgasm without putting in any work at all, a dream about an orgasm can represent an exciting end to something. Or it just could mean that you’re really craving IRL sex. Either way, it’s all fun and good in the end.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.