Hot Hot August - Part 1: A Brief History of the Interpretation of Sex in Dreams

It is Hot Hot August!! Which means we are talking about sexy dreams! And August lasts 31 days so we doing a little series about sex and the role it has in dreams.

We’ve got cheating, we’ve got public nudity, we’ve got sleeping with a random assortment of people!

And today we are starting with a brief history of the interpretation of sex in dreams and finish it off with a fun dream study.

All right, how far back do sex dreams go!? All the way to the top. Or back. From wikipedia, a surviving collection of dream omens from ancient Assyria/Babylon entitled Iškar Zaqīqu records various dream scenarios as well as prognostications of what will happen to the person who experiences each dream, apparently based on previous cases.] I’m not sure if this is the earliest recording of sex in dreams, but dream scenarios listed in this collection included sex acts. Interesting!

Also, I found an article on JSTOR entitled Erotic Dreams and Nightmares from Antiquity to the Present, by Charles Stewart at London College in 2002. And he is my main source today for a lot of what I’m about to tell you. Charles asks “Do erotic dreams result from divine intercession, an immoral life, or recent memories?

The Hazda of northern Tanzania decorated a boy with beads after his first nocturnal emission, like they did with girls having their first periods. I’m slightly confused because the Hazda people are still alive and he writes about them in the past tense, so maybe this is something they no longer practice? I’m not sure, it’s worth looking into!

On the flip side, John Cassian was a monk who lived in the 400s CE in France wrote that a nocturnal emission meant the person suffered a sickness, “something hidden in the utmost fibers of the soul”. No wonder we had the Dark Ages!

In ancient Greek and Roman times where I guess sexy dreams were bad??, doctors recommended sleeping on one’s side, not eating warm food, sleeping with a lead plate next to one’s testicles, or having sex in the dark to not remember those lusty images when you sleep.

By the contrary, a hunter of the Umeda people on Papua-New Guinea would intentionally sleep on a net-bag scented with magic pig-hunting perfume (called oktesap), so he could have an erotic dream and essentially foretold a successful hunting expedition. Though it sounds like they would have sex after a kill - I don’t know if literally after, if the hunter brought a person with whom to consummate the act or if they waited until they got home. According to Carl Jung, he believes that “the hunt” symbolizes sex and so I think this theme is universal.

Okay, now onto a modern study about sex and dreams.

A small study was done in 2007 by Antonio Zadra, PhD.

  • 109 women, 64 men - they kept a dream diary for 2-4 weeks. Participants were around 30 years old on average. The information does not go into detail about sexual orientation, or gender identity, so I am just reading the facts, but see where there is an opportunity for greater research.

  • Based on his research, sex dreams make up 8% of dreams (292 dreams out of 3,564 dreams recorded)

  • Sexual intercourse was the most common type of sexual content,

  • followed by sexual propositions, kissing, and fantasies

  • Mastubation was in 6% of sex dreams, and 4% of particpants had orgasms

  • Differences

  • "Men's sexual dreams were more likely to take place in public or unknown settings, to have the dreamer initiate sexual contact, and to involve unknown characters or multiple partners,"

  • Zadra writes, adding that "gender differences in the content of everyday sexual dreams may reflect people's waking needs, experiences, attitudes, and concerns with respect to sexuality."

  • His findings were presented today in Minneapolis at Sleep 2007, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

We hope you enjoyed learning about sex in dreams!

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You can also send your dreams to us at (with two zz’s!) And check us out on instagram and facebook. Sleep tight! And remember, don’t let the sexy dreams bite! Night night!


Stewart, Charles. “Erotic Dreams and Nightmares from Antiquity to the Present.” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 8, No. 2 (June 2002), pp. 279-309

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