Chicago - Men may spend infinitely more of their waking time thinking about sex than women, but both genders dream about the subject in equal measure once the lights are out, according to a study released on Thursday.
That surprising finding comes from a small Canadian study and flies in the face of previous research that suggested the gentler sex has far fewer erotic dreams than the male of the species.
But that's where the similarities end. For the most part, male and female sex fantasies, even in the land of nod, tend to conform to gender stereotypes, the author of the study said.
While women tend to fantasise about film stars, politicians, rock stars or lovers past and present, men tend to visualise themselves making love to multiple partners in public or unknown settings.
The women who took part in the study were twice as likely to have dream scenarios featuring celebrities such as actors Brad Pitt or George Clooney, or Irish rocker Bono, as their male counterparts.
The men, on the other hand, reported dreams featuring multiple sex partners twice as often as the women.
Flesh and blood lovers, past and present, turned up in 20 percent of the women's dreams but only 14 percent of the men's dream sequences.
In their fantasy worlds, the men almost never had to put their ego on the line and come on to a woman. In about 90 percent of the erotic dreams they logged and reported to investigators, the women made the first move.
"The men had women coming on to them - at least in their dreams," said author Antonio Zadra, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Montreal in Canada.
The pattern may reflect a certain amount of wishful thinking given the usual social norms that apply in the dating and courtship world, Zadra said.
And finally, when it came to erotic dreams that dealt with sexual disappointments, the genders had very different tales to tell.
The women recounted scenarios where they were turned off by something that happened or the pace of proceedings. For the men, it was more often a case of their virtual partners refusing to engage in certain activities, or their sexcapade plans falling through for some reason.
"Maybe their demands were unrealistic even for their dream characters," Zadra said.
The study was based on interviews with 109 women and 64 men who logged their dreams over a period of two to four weeks. The volunteers racked up about 3 500 dreams, but just eight percent were erotic dreams.
As noted above, women seemed to have as many erotic dreams as men. This reflects an increase from what was reported in the 1960s, but that may reflect an increased willingness of women to talk about the subject or the fact that women are having more such dreams since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, or both, according to Zadra.
Zadra reported the results of his analysis at Sleep 2007, the annual conference for sleep scientists, researchers and industry representatives in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Wednesday.