Ethics of Dream Sex
Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, Ph.D.,
Copyright (c) 2005
at the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD)
Conference 2005, Berkeley, June, 2005.
INTRODUCTION (1 minute)
(Pass out cards)
Good morning. I will begin with a schedule for this session, starting
1. Ground rules
2. My dreaming background
3. My sexual dreaming experiences
4. Scenario: Consider your own ethics (the main part of this
5. My views on the scenario
6. A sample of opinions:
Against - For - Neutral
7. Audience opinions:
including discussion and cards
(about half of our time)
8. Final Questions
GROUND RULES (1 minute)
So, I’ll start with going over some ground-rules for this possibly
sensitive topic of the ethics of dream sex.
During this session today, I definitely plan to be open-minded and
respect each person’s rights, dignity, and integrity, as well as that
of his or her opinions and dreams. I will ask and expect others to do
I will forewarn the audience that unexpected issues or emotions may
arise in our discussion and that mutual agreement about the degree of
privacy and confidentiality are essential ingredients in creating a
By a show of hands, does everyone agree to privacy and confidentiality?
I also recognize that each person is the decision-maker as to whether
or not to share his or her opinions or dreams out loud, or anonymously
in writing on the cards I passed out. Does anyone need a card?
I plan to guide the audience to more fully experience, appreciate, and
understand various viewpoints on this topic.
Last of all, as always, I will be honest and accurate in the
communication of my own credentials and competencies.
Before we go on, I need to point out that you do not have to be a lucid
dreamer or even care much about lucid dreaming to participate today.
However, my main dream focus is on lucid dreaming and I will talk about
it quite a bit.
MY BACKGROUND (5 minutes)
I will continue with a summary of my own background.
I remember having had lucid dreams since I was seven years old and I
faced up to scary witches in a recurring nightmare. You can see
my web site: durso.org/beverly for a detailed description of my Lucid
Dreaming and Lucid Living.
Starting in the late 1970’s, I helped do research on lucid dreaming at
the Stanford Sleep Laboratory. I was able to signal from the dream to
the physical lab while being definitely asleep and dreaming. I
also led workshops and taught others how to have lucid dreams, and I
have given presentations on the topic at ASD conferences since 1986.
I have remembered, on average, six dreams per night, for most my of
life. I’d say that between 2 and 10 dreams per week were lucid, to
various degrees. So, I’d estimate that I have had over 20,000
lucid sleeping dreams in my life so far.
My dreams usually seem like what we call waking physical reality
until I become lucid, although I often know that I am dreaming
from the start of the dream. Occasionally, my non-lucid dreams are
bizarre, and yet I ignore this sign of being in a dream and I
rationalize the experience, just as many people might do.
To me, lucid dreaming does not mean merely “clear” dreaming, or even
“controlled” dreaming, necessarily, if you were not aware that
you were in a dream at the time.
Also, I personally believe in levels of lucidity, on a spectrum. I do
not see lucid dreaming and non-lucid dreaming as binary states. In
other words, one is not just lucid or non-lucid.
Finally, I’d say that in a lucid dream I am more present than in a
non-lucid dream, bringing my whole self into the experience. I know
that I am more than my dream body and that the source of myself is
outside of the dream or inside the dreamer.
I can let go of fear and experience myself as more than just my body,
know that anything is possible, and see everyone and everything in the
dream as part of our expanded minds, our higher self, the Source, or
what I call the Dreamer of life.
When lucid, I can become more “free”, have fun, accomplish goals, be
"in the moment", and maybe even experience magic!
HIGHLIGHTS OF MY SEX DREAMS (5 minutes)
But, now let’s get to today’s subject: Sex.
In my lucid dreams, I think of sex as a powerful bonding or integrating
experience. I have had sex with dream characters who represent men,
women, old people, young people, strangers, relatives, as well as
people of various races and classes.
In dreams, I have been the woman, the man, half woman/half man, divided
by upper and lower body, left and right sides, and with both a penis
and a vagina. This made it possible to make love physically with myself
in all combinations. I have also had sex as a man with a man, a woman
with a woman, and with different groups in my dreams.
In one lucid dream, I had sex with the earth, as I flew at its edge,
one leg dragging into the dirt. I can barely think of some sexual
situation that I have not experienced. These dreams are all very
enjoyable and everyone is always totally accepting.
Often, I perform some sexual advance or action as soon as I know I am
dreaming, to prove in a way that I feel unrestricted in the dream.
STANFORD SEX DREAMS
In a groundbreaking experiment at the Stanford Sleep Lab, I was hooked
up to electrodes and vaginal probes. My goal was to have sex in a dream
and experience and record an orgasm. I would signal with different eye
movements that would be picked up by a polygraph machine.
I dreamed that I flew across Stanford campus and saw a group of
tourists walking down below. I swooped down and tapped one dream guy,
wearing a blue suit, on the shoulder. He responded right there on the
We made love, and I signaled the onset of sex, the orgasm, and when I
was about to wake up. We later published this experiment in the
*Journal of Psychophysiology* as the first recorded female orgasm in a
It is called "Physiological Responses to Dreamed Sexual Activity during
Lucid REM Sleep and was Presented at Asilomar Conference, Fall,
1983. This was also the time that I completed my Ph.D. in Artificial
I should point out that when the experimenters asked me to have an
orgasm, alone in a room in waking physical reality, in order to monitor
my physiology and see if it matched that of the dream orgasm, I could
not do so.
In WPR, I felt much too inhibited to do the simplest sex act all by
myself. I need to point this out to demonstrate that I definitely do
not act in WPR as I do in my dreams.
Also, Stephen LaBerge’s first book publisher for: Exploring the World
of Lucid Dreaming, still would not use my real name in these dream
accounts, because of their sexual nature. Instead, I used my dancing
TODAY’S SCENARIO (5 minutes)
Okay. Let’s move on to today’s scenario.
The following scenario was adopted in part from a workshop that Ed
Kellogg presented at IASD’s Third Online PsiberDreaming Conference,
September 2004 called “The Ethics of Dream-Psi.”
Scenario: "In a dream, you meet a good friend, half undressed and very
attractive. Although both of you feel happily married to other people
in physical reality, and would not have sex with each other in waking
life, both you and your friend feel quite turned on by each other in
the dream. Your friend wants to have sex with you, and even
begins to caress and kiss you.”
Do you have dream sex with your friend? If not, why not? Consider the
following situations I created, and think of others you might find
1. You DO NOT know that you are dreaming and your
situation matches that of waking life. For example, you know you are
married in the dream.
2. You DO NOT know that you are dreaming, but
neither character has gotten married yet in the time frame of this
dream, or you take on a character different from your normal self.
3. You DO know that you are dreaming. That is, you
find yourself in a lucid dream. This is the case I find most
4. You SUSPECT that you are having a mutual
dream, or a similar dream which both of you will remember having
about each other during this night.
As I said in my abstract, some dreamers, if they did not know they were
dreaming, would behave as they would in waking physical reality.
Others might feel things just “happen to them” in their dreams. In
other words, they feel that they don’t have a choice.
In lucid dreams, where dreamers know they are dreaming and know they
are not in waking physical reality, many dreamers find sex, in general,
a positive way of bonding and feel more acceptable of any kind of sex
the more lucid they become.
Others actually get more conscious of the effect of their actions on
other dream characters and may more often choose not to have sex the
more lucid they become.
Should having sex in dreams, especially in lucid dreams, where you know
you are in a dream, have the same associations or regulations
that we place on it in waking physical reality? To many people,
lucid dream reality seems a place of less fear, inhibitions, and social
However, coming back to waking physical reality from a dream, people
tend to redefine what sex in the dream means.
Considering these issues, would YOU have, or not have, dream sex with
your friend? Please think about your answers for the next two minutes
before I describe my response and we open up the discussion to those
who feel comfortable sharing.
You can write out your response anonymously on one of the cards I
handed out and submit it to me, if you’d like, so that I can
anonymously incorporate your response into the discussion.
To make sure we get a well-rounded set of opinions prior to our
discussion, I have created a broad range of generic responses that I
will share after I describe my own views.
(Wait a few minutes.)
MY VIEWS ON THE SCENARIO (5 minutes)
I’ll now continue first with my views on the scenario.
First of all I have to say, if I did not know I was dreaming, I would
most likely behave as I would in waking physical reality (WPR.)
Typically, this would mean that I would not have sex with my friend
because I would “believe” I had a husband.
However, if, in my dream, I had not yet married and therefore believed
I did not have a husband, or,
I lived an alternative life in my dream, for example, I was a small
black boy in Africa (which has happened), then I could not use my
husband as a reason not to have sex.
I believe that in both WPR, or in any dream reality, I would not have
sex with anyone who appeared unwilling.
First, I will exclude the issue of mutual dreaming and consider only my
individual morals in lucid dreams. Keep in mind that being lucid and
getting more lucid means different things to different people.
However, by common assumption or definition, “knowing I am in a dream”
means “knowing I am NOT in WPR.”
For me, knowing that I am not in WPR makes me feel more “free” and less
bound by morals than if I thought I was in WPR.
I consider myself not really “married” to my husband in lucid dream
reality (LDR) in the same social way I do when awake. I find willing
sex an acceptable way of bonding in LDR. In fact, I feel more
acceptable of any kind of sex the more lucid I become. By he way, I
have discussed this with my husband and he’s okay with it.
Also, when I am lucid, I realize that other characters seem to
demonstrate my unconscious desires and fears. As in WPR, I believe that
we always see people and events through our own filter.
So, from my perspective, I do not call myself “very” lucid if
someone else in my dream does not seem lucid. Therefore, I would need
to decide if my friend seemed lucid in this dream as well.
Keep in mind that when I feel most lucid, sex, as we commonly think of
it, becomes undefinable because I find no “separate” bodies in my dream.
I realize that what I am about to say can sound very complex as I
consider other dream character’s lucidity and mutual dreaming. If you
get lost, you can refer to my web site later, where I will post this
First, I understand that I can not be certain when I label someone
else’s experience as “lucid.” I can only speculate.
To me a dream character acts lucid if they demonstrate that they do
know we are in a dream. For example, they might tell me before I
realize it that we are in a dream or they might initiate flying.
Therefore, if I felt that my friend seemed lucid in my dream, then, by
association, I would feel very lucid myself, and I would not feel
inhibited about sex.
However, if my friend seemed very lucid, if he felt that he should not
have sex with me, then he would be unwilling at some level, and I would
not have sex with him.
Now, I will address the issue of thinking I may be having a mutual
dream. If the dream character that seemed to be my friend acted
connected to my friend’s mind in WPR, as I feel connected to the
dreamer I might call Beverly’s mind, then I might consider the dream a
mutual one between my friend and I.
So, if I thought I was having a mutual dream, that is, I seemed to
dream WITH my friend and not just OF him, my friend seemed lucid, I
knew that my friend felt the way I do about LDR, in other words more
“free,” less bound by morals, and he was willing, then I might have sex
with him. However, I would need to consider at least one more issue.
Assume that my friend and I did have sex in a dream where we both knew
we were dreaming, we both knew we had spouses in WPR, and we both felt
that we dreamed WITH each other. We would now both have a shared memory
of that experience in WPR.
This memory would most likely feel very intense, maybe even more
intense than a memory of mutual sex in WPR.
The shared memory alone would probably affect our marriages. If I
really wanted to protect my marriage, then I would refuse to have the
experience in any mutual reality.
If, however, I wanted to take a risk and have sex with my friend in
this way, it would probably end up as one of the most intense
experiences of my life.
Just imagine: it would include: extreme sex, that seems forbidden, but
is not against our morals, where we both have extreme lucidity and we
both remember it afterwards in the same way. This would seem really
amazing to me!
However, knowing how I am often not very lucid in WPR, the experience
might make me yearn for my friend. What would this do to him, me, and
Now that I think about it, on some level, just speaking all this
somehow seems immoral in WPR. I feel much more inhibited as I speak
about it now, than I would probably feel in my dream.
Finally, I need to say that I would like to enjoy my non-mutual dream
experiences without going against my morals.
However, given that I can not have absolute certainty that my dream is
not mutual, just as I can not have absolute certainty that another
dream character is lucid or not, I may be going against my own morals
at any time.
I think I can live with this level of possible immorality, especially
if no one ever convinces me, to a very great degree, that they have
mutual dreams with me.
If they do not, then for all practical purposes my experiences remain
private, at least in WPR.
That's it for my thoughts.
OTHER VIEWS ON THE SCENARIO (5 minutes)
Before we open the topic up for discussion, let’s listen to some other
viewpoints. I made up these quotes, after listening to people
respond to this scenario.
People who WOULD NOT have dream sex might say the following:
I’d feel that I was cheating, and this could carry over into WPR.
What happens in the dream world affects our waking life.
Another person’s dreams, or even WPR, might be affected by our
What we do in dreams, fantasy, and imagination can affect our
Even if I felt fine having sex in the dream, I would feel repulsed when
I woke up.
I would not do something against my ethics in a dream where I had
I can practice behavior that fits with my personal ethics in my lucid
The more lucid I get, the more aware I become of the effects of my
When lucid, I stop letting my sexual desires direct me.
I’d need to get permission from my WPR friend and my spouse.
If I had a way to tell that the dream character was a made-up image,
then I might have sex.
I fear that dream characters may be disguised.
On the other hand, people who WOULD have dream sex might say the
Why should WPR ethics apply in the very different reality of dreams.
Everything should be experienced in dreams.
We already control our dreams too much.
I like to follow the script of all my dreams.
I don’t want to go against the flow of my dreams.
Having dream sex might help my marriage by showing a need for change.
I might discover something new or get to know myself better.
The dream could be helping me discover my limits or my styles of
I am responsible for myself and must respect the choices of others.
By rejecting sex, we might be restricting the very purpose of
imagination which we use for preparation.
My dream characters seem imaginary, so I don’t feel restricted.
Maybe the dream character really is my spouse in disguise.
(Something to think about)
Some people may feel undecided:
I might talk to the dream character first, or maybe even talk to my
friend when awake.
I could wake up and ask my spouse if our our marriage vows applied to
I would try to determine if the character was a made-up form that just
looks like my friend.
Ethics may be cultural conditioning, not applicable to dreams.
I could wake up feeling a great bonding or great guilt.
Why assume marriage is monogamous?
I cannot judge level of the lucidity of others in my dreams.
I trust the actions of my non-lucid self most of all.
The actions of my lucid self matter to me the most.
I am never myself in my dreams.
Now that we have heard all these different views I’d like to hear what
YOU would do and why. Remember to keep what you hear in this room
confidential. Who would like to start?
Discussion (30 minutes?)
We could go on for a long time, but we must end for today.
Final questions (3 minutes?)
We have only a few minutes for any final questions or comments if
anyone has any.
All right. Time’s up.
I have a few bibliographies that include the papers I have online and
which include my email and web site for those who want them and who
talk to me in person afterwards.
Thank you very much for a stimulating session.