Savage Love

Savage Love: Restless

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Dear Dan,

I'm a 31-year-old gay male. I've been with my fiancé for three years, and we are getting married in the fall. I've got a question about initiating sex in my sleep—I read somewhere that "sexsomnia" is the "medical" term. According to my fiancé, I have initiated or performed some kind of sex act in the middle of the night and then gone right back to sleep. The next day, I don't remember anything. This freaks me out for a couple of reasons: My body doing things without my mind being in control is concerning enough, but it feels kinda rapey, since I doubt I'm capable of hearing "no" in this state. My fiancé doesn't feel that way; he finds it sexy. The other thing—and maybe I shouldn't have read so much Freud and Jung in college—is that I'm worried my body is acting out desires that my conscious mind doesn't want to acknowledge. According to my fiancé, the last time I did stuff in my sleep, I rimmed him and told him how much I wanted to fuck him. Rimming isn't a typical part of our sex life (although I'd like it to be), and my fiancé has never bottomed for anyone (I've topped guys in prior relationships, but in our relationship I've only bottomed). Is my body doing things that my mind won't admit it wants to do?

—Sexsomniac Hoping Eventually Eager Trysts Stop

Sexsomnia is a real and sometimes troubling phenomenon, SHEETS, and not something the internet made up like Pizzagate or Sean Spicer. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says sexsomnia is real but they prefer the fancier, more "medical" sounding name: sleep related abnormal sexual behaviors. Dr. Michel Cramer Bornemann, a lead researcher at Sleep Forensics Associates (sleepforensicmedicine.org), describes sexsomnia as "sleepwalking-like behaviors that have sexualized attributes." And sleep-rimming your delighted fiancé definitely counts.

"Sexsomnia may be expressed as loud, obscene vocalizations from sleep (that are typically uncharacteristic of the individual while awake), prolonged or violent masturbation, inappropriate touch upon the genitals, buttocks, and breast of a bed partner, and initiation of sexual intercourse," said Dr. Bornemann. "The vast majority of sleep disorders are not reflective of a significant underlying psychiatric condition."

So your unconscious, late-night gropings/initiatings/rimmings don't mean you secretly desire to be an ass-eating top. And there's no need to drag poor Sigmund or Carl into this, SHEETS, since you're not doing anything in your sleep that you don't desire to do wide awake. Like all sleep disorders, sexsomnia is just something that happens to a very small number of people, SHEETS, there's no need to endow it with deeper meaning. Take it away, Dr. Bornemann...

"The brain is made of approximately 100 billion neurons, or electrical connections that allow effective communication between brain subunits. As with all electrical systems, errors in transmission may occur—these are called 'switching errors.' In sleep, switching errors may activate previously quiescent areas of the brain while other areas remain off-line. In sleep-related behaviors, it is thought that deep-seated subunits near the sleep-wake generating center become triggered, which activate primal automatic behaviors. Simply stated, electrical switching errors in sleep may unleash the animal that actually lies within us all—sometimes to an extent that may have unintended criminal or forensics implications."

In most cases, sexsomniacs will hump a pillow or jerk themselves off. The sexsomniacs who tend to make the news—the ones we hear about—are the "unintended criminals" Dr. Bornemann alluded to, i.e., people who've sexually assaulted someone while asleep. Luckily for you, SHEETS, your fiancé is okay with your "primal automatic behaviors."

You're not a danger to yourself or others currently, SHEETS, but if you got a new partner or your current partner's feelings about surprise, middle-of-the-night rimjobs were to change, you could be a danger. So you should chat with a doctor now about drugs and/or other interventions.

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