Awkward: How to handle a sexy dream about a friend

By Summer Hoagland-Abernathy, Copy Chief

Savanna Steffens

Today is the first warm day of the year, and you and your friend have found time to hang out. The two of you buy some honey lavender ice cream and head to the hiking trails to take in the pleasant weather.

As you skip along, you talk about everything under the sun. Suddenly, you look over, and your friend is naked. You quickly avert your eyes downward, but you see their fingers slowly slide into your ice cream, and you, too, are now naked.

You wake up from this dream with a start to find you never turned off your diffuser, and the lavender essential oil your friend gave you has been filling your room all night.

You check your phone and see they just texted, “Wanna hang out? It’s really nice out today!”

What do you do? It would be so weird to see them after that dream, but you can’t avoid them forever. The Chronicle spoke with sex and mental health experts to navigate the path to forgiving yourself and forgetting your sexual dreams.

It’s not a big deal:

“What’s important is reminding oneself that a lot of times we have dreams about many, many things that our subconscious could react to,” said Jennifer Litner, sexologist and director of Embrace Sexual Wellness. “The first step is reassuring yourself. … It’s going to be okay. It could just mean you enjoy your friend.”

She said having all kinds of dreams about friends is a normal occurrence. Your subconscious can be activated in a variety of different ways based on what is going on in your life, and a dream about a friend could be based on something as small as a perfume they were wearing that you thought was sexy. 

It might not be about sex:

Lizzette Arcos, a psychotherapist at Youth & Family Counseling, said dreams with nudity and sex in them often have nothing to do with sex. Instead, those feelings and images may be symbolic of another facet of your waking life.

“It’s not necessarily [that] you’re sexually drawn to that person,” she said.

Arcos suggests exploring how you feel around your friend. Have you been vulnerable around them, pulling back barriers and showing your true self?

Arcos said this may explain your nudity in a dream, as you literally display yourself. Does your friend make you anxious? Perhaps your nudity may represent your inability to defend yourself from them, she said.

If it is about sex, that’s okay:

“At night, when our body is refueling, that’s absolutely when, if we are at all aroused, our brain might be having sexual thoughts,” said Catalina Lawsin, Ph.D., a clinical health psychologist, specializing in sex and relationships at her private practice. “It’s absolutely natural for the people who we engage with to be in those dreams.”

Lawsin said sexual thoughts about platonic friends, whether in dreams or in your waking life, should be normalized and destigmatized. There is no reason to feel ashamed or guilty, she said.

However, Lawsin said, if you are having negative feelings like shame or guilt, lean into them and ask yourself why you’re having them. Are you afraid that your sexual dreams will create a shift in your relationship?

Return to examining yourself, instead of your friend, she said, because you want to find what this dream is saying about your wants, needs or desires, not theirs.

Lawsin said if you want to discuss dreams like this with someone you trust, make sure the conversation is not in writing. There is nothing wrong with having these dreams, but you still want to protect your own privacy.

“Having sexual fantasies, whether in a dream-like state or not is entirely normal,” Litner said. “It’s part of the human experience, so just [be] able to be gentle with yourself around that, and [do not put] any shame around it. It’s okay to have fantasies about all kinds of things.”