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Advice – In a long distance relationship, fantasizing about strangers.

My partner (M27) and I (F21) are in a long distance relationship thing, we met in early 2019 and eventually got back together half a year ago. He is literally halfway across the world from me and due to this situation we have to wait a little bit more to see each other again in person (we haven’t seen each other for nearly 2 years). During the time we were apart, we had bf/gf and later realised that we should be together. I love him more than anything and we believe that we are made for each other.

The thing is I do have this “wild dream” that I want to have different sexual experiences with different people as “you only live once”, and I’m bisexual which makes it sound really promising. And I’m pretty sure that my partner has had way more fun in this field than I do, and I’m a bit petty about that. Not like I’m dying to have sex with any human beings, just I have always wanted to know everything, to live the typical “college sex life” thing that I don’t have. In the past, I have only had sex with less than 10 guys, and they were just.. fine, like nothing special about it, and I know that I wanted more. But also a part of me acknowledge that I love my partner and I only want him for honestly the rest of my life and we will for sure have a healthy steamy sweaty sex life.

So what should I do? I haven’t told him about this, I think I will when we are in person, but still this thought is stuck in my head.

KK Healing, Reddit.

Dear KK Healing,

As someone who has also been in a handful of long distance relationships, I can definitely relate to the difficulties that come with lack of physical intimacy in long distance relationships. Long distance relationships were already difficult enough as is pre-pandemic. And now with the added complexity of COVID risk management in addition to the uncertainty of the future, I can definitely empathize with how difficult it has been for both you and your partner. For the sake of the discussion below, I am going to assume that you have a traditionally monogamous arrangement with your partner.

In your case, it is further complicated by your perception of the “college sex life”, the assumed sexual experience gap between you and your partner, and your bisexuality. Each of those aspects adds a different wrinkle to your perception. So let’s unpack those one by one before we get to the actual advice portion of this post.

We are socialized and conditioned to envision an idealistic, hyperactive college sex life. But contrary to common beliefs, National College Health Association (NCHA) reports that in the spring of 2020, 40.2% of undergraduates have never had vaginal intercourse and 34.7% have never had oral intercourse. What is even more interesting is that that number is actually lower than what NCHA reported in fall of 2015, which indicates that less college undergrads are having sex today than five years ago. So the conditioning around sexually active college undergrads might be more rooted in fantasy than reality. The same 2020 NCHA survey further found that out of the 54.4% of the undergraduates who had sex in the past year, 15% had more than four sexual partners. That means only 8.16% of the college undergrad population maintains that perceived “college sex life” story we tell ourselves in our heads. And in reality, most folks – 82.5% to be exact – either never have sex in college or only have had one sex partner in the last year.

The Contemporary Group puts it succinctly – “Perceptions can often be distorted. When everyone in a small social group is engaged in a particular activity, it may seem as if everyone on campus must be doing the same.”

Then there is the COVID layer to add to all of this. Most people aren’t really seeking new sex partners while there is a global pandemic going around. Instead, more folks are turning to sex toys and established sexual connections to meet their sexual needs. And according to Dr. Justin Garcia of the Kinsey Institute, 71% of singles did not have sex with anyone since the pandemic started ramping up. So even if the “college sex life” perception were to be true, that sexual aspect would be even more depressed in the context of the pandemic.

“Sexual fantasies: our misperceptions about the sex lives of young people.” IPSOS. Aug 8, 2018.

Now that we have deconstructed the myth surrounding “college sex life”, let’s talk about your perception of the sexual experience gap.

According to this study from IPSOS, we perceive that others have three times the amount of sex than they actually do in reality. Bobby Duffy’s Perils of Perception theorizes that such a gap could stem from a couple different factors, such as misrepresentation of our sexual activities and misleading portrayals in popular media and entertainment. Duffy further hypothesizes that “part of it seems likely to be ‘social desirability bias’, where we give the answers we think are socially acceptable, which pushes men to inflate the reality and women to deflate it.

Let’s now apply this to your perception. Based on what you have shared, I gather that you and your partner never had a frank and complete discussion about your respective past sexual history. It could just be possible that you anticipate that he has been more sexually active than you were, even though it isn’t necessarily the truth. It is even more interesting to see you apply the word pettiness to the experience gap. That could be a reflection of your six-year age gap, in that you almost want to “catch up” to the perception of the sex life your partner has had before he met you.

Even if we assume that there is indeed a gap in sexual experiences that you and your boyfriend have each had, the number of sex partners – as you yourself experienced – is not at all indicative of the quality of the sex life that he maintained before you have. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had five sex partners or fifty. What is more important is the type and depth of those connections as well as what they can bring to the relationship you have with them now. And the question you should really be asking is if the type of intimacy you currently have in your long distance relationship (and will have when you two eventually close the distance gap) is satisfying enough for both of you collectively and each of you individually.

Now let’s talk about your bisexuality.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that you have had no or very limited same-sex sexual encounters. And because you are currently in a monogamous long distance relationship with an opposite-sex partner, there isn’t an opportunity for you to experience same-sex relationships, which is feeding into your fear of missing out. You commented in a later thread that you and your boyfriend have discussed having threesomes so that you can still experiment with and experience your bisexuality in a space that is still safe for your relationship with your boyfriend. But threesomes are really only a small subset of the whole bisexual experience and expression of your sexuality.

Let’s first separate your bisexuality from your desire to sleep with others.

Bisexuality probably does not exist in a gender-scarcity vacuum where bifolks need to have two partners of the opposite-sex in order to be satisfied. Bisexuality and monogamy often does exist in the same space, in the same way that heterosexuality and monogamy exists in the same space. Straight monogamous folks can still miss sleeping with other people of the opposite sex too. Monogamous bifolks that happen to be in opposite sex relationships are still bisexual in the same way that bifolks in same sex relationships are still bisexual. Your fantasy/desire to experience a wider spectrum of your sexual expression is actually independent from your bisexuality. Bisexuality just happens to be the medium through which your desire is manifesting.

Many bifolks feel that they are not “bisexual enough” simply because they have not yet had an adequate amount of same-sex encounters. But in honesty, there is no quota or expectation around how many people one need to have slept with in order for that person to be qualified as a sexual being. Your bisexuality does not need first-hand experience in order for your sexual identity to be justified; it is justified in the mere virtue of your existence.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

So let’s finally put it all together.

You asked what you can do with your desires.

Fantasy is healthy, even when the fantasies themselves are not viable in reality. If you find yourself frequently fantasizing about sleeping with others, think of it as a result of your current sexual headspace instead of feeling shame or guilt about how promiscuous you want to be. In your current absence of sexual and physical intimacy, finding creative solutions and outlets for your sexuality is not only sane but necessary for your survival. Lady Vivra wrote a great piece about embracing your sexual fantasies here that might be worth a read.

Dare to be more sexually honest with yourself.

Allow yourself to freely indulge in the kind of sexual headspace you need to be in in order to survive this current long distance aspect of your relationship with your boyfriend. Many find fantasizing about the unreality to be very challenging, especially if it deviates so far from what is deemed possible. Self-acceptance will come with the self-honesty.

Once you feel more comfortable with expressing your desires by yourself, you can then use this opportunity to connect with your boyfriend at a more vulnerable, foundational level. Since it has been two years since you last shared the same physical space, I am sure he too is feeling the sharp longing for a physical reconnection with you. And it is very possible that he too has fantasized about sleeping with others the same way you have. Even if exploratory non-monogamy is off the table, being able to connect with your partner about the honest desires that you two have will lead to greater enjoyment in your current intimate connection.

Don’t just wait until the distance is closed; do it now. A great way to start this conversation is by sharing how you have been feeling and the challenges you have been facing. This will give your partner an opportunity to empathize with the sharp longing that you have been experiencing, to share his own experiences with his own longing for you, and to work together for a solution – even if temporary – that works for both of you collectively and each of you individually as you weather the long distance portion of your phenomenal relationship. That will help you both get to that healthy, steamy, sweaty sex life not just when the distance is closed, but also to ensure that you two keep having healthy, steamy, sweaty sex life.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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