Paper Menu >>
Journal Menu >>
2011. Vol.2, No.8, 792-796
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/psych.2011.28121
The Affective Personality and Its Relation to Sexual Fantasies in
Regard to the Wilson Sex Fantasy Questionnaire
Mathias Carlstedt, Sven A. Bood, Torsten Norlander
Department of Psychology, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden.
Received April 29th, 2011; revised August 29th, 2011; accepted October 6th, 2011.
The present study investigated associations between affective personality types, sex and sexual fantasies. Par-
ticipants were 209 students, 75 men and 134 women who completed the Wilson Sex Fantasy Questionaire (Wil-
son 1978) and the Positive and Negative Affect Scales (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). Results showed that
self-destructive and high affective personality types had more sexual fantasies compared to self-actualizing and
low affective types. Men had significantly higher scores on exploratory and impersonal sexual fantasies com-
pared to women. It was suggested that positive affectivity is associated with “external transparency” that is, a
susceptibility to stimuli from the outside world, while negative affectivity is associated with “internal transpar-
ency” that is a tendency to look inward, reflect and fantasize.
Keywords: Sexuality, Fantasy, PANAS, Affective Personality
A sexual fantasy may be defined as an erotic yearning or
constellation of mental images that evoke sexual arousal
(Segen’s Medical Dictionary, 2011). In sexual fantasies a per-
son may experience whatever he or she wants no matter how
dangerous, illegal, socially unacceptable or impossible it would
be to experience that in reality. Results indicate (Leitenberg, &
Henning, 1995; Wilson, 1997) that sexual fantasies provide a
better picture of a person’s sexuality compared to actual sexual
behavior since the latter must take into account social conven-
tions. Sexual fantasies may be memories of experiences, or
plans for future activities, or experiences that seldom happen in
real life. They may be things one wants to experience as well as
things one never desires to transform into reality. They may be
sudden daydreams in a moment of boredom or conscious
strategies for enhancing the experience of masturbation or sex-
ual intercourse. In any case, sexual fantasies are something
most people occasionally experience (Leitenberg, & Henning,
1995; Wilson, 1978).
Frequency of sexual fantasies has been shown to correlate
positively with the frequency of orgasms, ability to become
sexually aroused, and sexual satisfaction (Arndt, Foel, & Good,
1985; Cogan, Cochran, Velarde, Calkins, Chenault, Cody, Kel-
ley, Kubicek, Loving, Noriega, Phelan, Siege, Stout, Styles, &
Williams, 2007) and it is now considered pathological not to
have sexual fantasies (American Psychiatric Association, 1995).
However, it is not clear whether or not frequent sexual fantasies
contribute to a satisfying sex life, or are the result of good sex
life (Cogan et al., 2007).
There are a number of factors that may be related to the
unique profile of sexual fantasies of an individual. Biological
sex is probably the most investigated factor associated with
sexual fantasies. Men report more sexual fantasies than women
(Leitenberg, & Henning, 1995; Wilson 1978; Wilson 1997).
Different themes occur with different frequency between men
and women. Men fantasize about a wider variety of imaginary
partners, and more about having multiple partners simultane-
ously. Men more often fantasize about having sex with anony-
mous strangers. Women fantasize about having sex with fa-
mous people, and with other women. Men are generally more
active in their fantasies, while women are more passive. Men
fantasize about performing sexual acts while women are more
inclined to have fantasies being the subject of sexual acts. Men
also have more dominance fantasies (fantasies that dominate
someone else) while women have more submission fantasies
(fantasies of being dominated) (Leitenberg, & Henning, 1995).
Finally, men more often fantasize about rape: both to rape and
being raped (Wilson 1978).
There have also been studies showing the link between sex-
ual fantasies and personality. Hariton and Singer (1974) found
correlations between women’s personality and types of sexual
fantasies. For example, women with great variation in their
fantasies tended to be more impulsive, independent, and non-
conformist, while women with sado-masochistic themes were
more controlled, serious, and reclusive. Arndt et al. (1985)
examined various sexual fantasies in men and women in regard
to the Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey (Guilford,
Guilford & Zimmerman, 1978), and The Sibling Incest Aver-
sion Scale (Arndt & Ladd, 1981). Guilford-Zimmerman Tem-
perament Survey measures personality based on ten different
dimensions, such as self-control, kindness and emotional stabil-
ity. The authors found links between different themes in sexual
fantasies on both instruments.
Green and Mosher (1985) investigated responses to sexual
stimuli in relation to five affective variables: fear, guilt, disgust,
joy, and interest. Their hypothesis was that positive emotions
(joy and interest) promote sexual arousal, while negative emo-
tions (fear, guilt, disgust), inhibited sexual arousal. They found
only one significant effect for positive affectivity, which, how-
ever, did promote sexual arousal. There were no significant
effects for negative affectivity. Another study (Heiman &
Hatch, 1980) examining influences from various different emo-
tions on men's sexual responses, reported that both positive and
negative affectivity may promote sexual arousal.
Birnbaum (2007) investigated two strategies to deal with
problems that involve forging secure emotional ties to other
people: anxious attachment and avoidant attachment. A person
M. CARLSTEDT ET AL.
with avoiding attachment avoids close relationships with other
people (to avoid confronting the uncertainty for proximity),
while a person with an anxious attachment on the contrary,
frantically cultivate their close relationships and have an insa-
tiable need for closeness and tenderness (to compensate for
emotional insecurity). Birnbaum hypothesized that people with
anxious attachment also have more sexual fantasies. Further-
more, it was found that men with anxious attachment had more
romantic fantasies and focus on satisfying their partner, while
women with anxious attachment had more impersonal and un-
fettered imagination, so it was concluded that people with anx-
ious attachment seem to have less sexual fantasies. Individuals
with avoidance attachment have fewer romantic fantasies.
Woodhouse and Gelso (2008) found that people with anxious
attachment also experience a high negative affect, while those
with avoidance attachment behavior deny and repress negative
A frequently used scale assessing affect is the PANAS (Posi-
tive Affect and Negative Affect Scales) (Watson, Clark, &
Tellegen, 1988). Wilson, Gullone, and Moss (1998) demon-
strated that there usually is no significant correlation between
positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). Therefore, Nor-
lander, Bood, and Archer (2002) concluded that it was possible,
at the level of the individual, to have different combinations of
high or low PA and NA values. Norlander, et al. (2002) com-
bined the scales into a model with four affective personality
types: Self-actualizing with a high PA and low NA; High affec-
tive with a high PA and high NA; Low affective with a low PA
and low NA, and Self-destructive with a low PA and high NA.
Since then, a growing research has been conducted on affec-
tive personality. Results indicate, among other things, that indi-
viduals with a Self-actualizing affective personality experience
the least stress and those with a Self-destructive personality the
most stress, whereas the Low affective personality type experi-
ences the second lowest and the High affective type the second
highest level of stress of the four affective personality types
(Bood, Archer, & Norlander, 2004). Concerning affective per-
sonality and posttraumatic experiences, results indicate (Nor-
lander, von Schedvin, & Archer, 2005) a greater ability to re-
cover by the High Affective personality type compared with the
Self-destructive and Low affective types. The Self-actualizing
showed an intermediary response. With regard to sleep quality
(Norlander, Johansson, & Bood, 2005) individuals who display
high positive affect, optimism and a high level of energy
achieve a better sleep quality, and that this phenomenon may be
true even when these individuals simultaneously experience
high levels of stress and negative affectivity.
The aim of the present study was to investigate possibly as-
sociations between Affective personality types and sexual fan-
tasies. To our knowledge there are presently no such studies
available necessitating that the current study is exploratory in
The present study had 209 participants, 75 men and 134
women. Their mean age was 26.1 years (SD = 8.81, range = 19
to 87). Participants were grouped in terms of Affective person-
ality (that is, Self-actualizing with a high PA and low NA; High
affective with a high PA and high NA; Low affective with a
low PA and low NA, and Self-destructive with a low PA and
high NA). Statistics by ANOVA revealed no significant differ-
ences in age either for Affective personality or Sex.
The study had two independent variables, namely Affective
personality (consisting of the four personality types: self-de-
structive, low affective, high affective, self-actualizing) and Sex
of participants (men, women). The four affective personality
types were derived from the PANAS test (Watson, et al., 1988)
by a method developed by Norlander, et al. (2002). There were
89 people in the Self-destructive group (38 men and 51 women),
27 in the Low affective group (12 men and 15 women), 67 of
the High affective group (20 men and 46 women), and finally
26 people in the Self-actualizing group (4 men and 22 women).
Dependent variables were various types of sexual fantasies as
measured by the Wilson Sex Fantasy Questionnaire (Wilson,
Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scales. The PANAS-
instrument (Watson, et al., 1988; Norlander et al., 2002) pro-
vides information on the degree of positive and negative affec-
tivity. It consists of ten adjectives for positive affectivity (PA),
for example, “committed” “proud” and “active” and ten adjec-
tives for negative affectivity (NA), such as “upset” “hostile”
and “frightened”. The adjectives describe feelings and emo-
tional states. For each word respondents are allowed to indicate,
on a five-point scale, how often they had that feeling during the
last week. The scores for the positive words are then summoned
to a PA-value and likewise a NA-value is created. Cronbach’s
alpha for the present study was .75.
Norlander, et al. (2002) improved on the PANAS instrument
by deriving four different personality types. This was achieved
by dividing the results on the PA-scale into two halves, one
with high PA and one with low PA. The same procedure was
used regarding the NA scale, yielding four different groups. In
the current study the distribution was based on the Swedish
norm group for the PANAS instrument (N = 1010). Cut-off
points for low PA = 35 or less, for high PA = 36 or above, for
low NA = 17 or less and finally for high NA = 18 or above.
Wilson Sex Fantasy Questionnaire. The WSFQ-test (Wil-
son, 1978) consists of 40 examples of sexual fantasies. Re-
spondents may indicate how often they have a sexual fantasy,
on a six-point Likert scale from 0 (never) to 5 (regularly). The
fantasies are divided into four groups with ten imaginative ex-
amples in each. The categories are Exploratory, Impersonal,
Intimate, and Sado-masochistic. Examples of the exploration
category are “Being promiscuous” and “Incestuous relation-
ships”. Examples of the impersonal category are “Watching
other people having sex” and “Using objects for stimulation
(e.g., vibrators). Examples of the intimate category are “Love in
the romantic surroundings” and “Sexual intercourse with loved
partners.” Examples of the sado-masochistic category are: “Be
bound” and “Whip or spank someone.” The sum of the respon-
dents score on all four types of imagination also gives a meas-
ure of how often he/she has sexual fantasies at all. This fifth
variable is here called Fantasy-fluency. Cronbach’s alpha for
Fantasy-flue ncy in the cu r rent study was .91.
Questionnaires with a cover sheet with instructions, back-
ground data and the tests were distributed to students who
wanted to participate. This was primarily done by asking them
when they dwelt or passed through one centrally located large
M. CARLSTEDT ET AL.
open space at the university. This space includes a cafe and is
crowded especially at lunchtime. Through using screens was it
possible to organize a demarcated area. Then people who
passed were asked whether or not they wanted to participate in
the survey. Those who accepted were headed to the demarcated
area where they were allowed to complete the questionnaire.
Approximately one in five people, who were approached, ac-
cepted to participate in the study. Two individuals decided to
terminate participation after first h a v i n g accepted participati o n.
When it seemed reasonably to suspect that people who vol-
untarily agree to complete a questionnaire concerning their
sexual fantasies during their lunch break, may be more sexually
outspoken than those who abstain, the theme of sexual fantasies
was not mentioned when potential respondents were ap-
proached. They were instead asked to participate in a study
dedicated to “Affectivity and Fantasy”. It was only when they
had the opportunity to read the survey cover letter that they
found out that it was about sexual fantasies. They then also
received the information that they had the right at any time to
discontinue participation and to do that without having to jus-
tify themselves. The questionnaires were completed anony-
mously and respondents submitted their questionnaires in a
sealed box. In order to provide as much privacy as possible, it
was never more than five respondents in the demarcated area at
the same time. For further privacy respondents were given
writing pads so they did not have to crowd around the tables.
They were also asked to place themselves as far apart as from
each other as possible. Statistical analyses were performed by
using the statistical software SPSS, version 18.
Affective Personality and Gender in Regard to WSFQ
A Pillais’ MANOVA (4 × 2 factorial design) was conducted
with Affective personality and Sex of participants as independ-
ent variables and with the WSFQ scales (i.e., Exploratory, Im-
personal, Intimate, Sado-masochistic and Fantasy-fluency) as
dependent variables. The analysis yielded significant effects for
Affective personality (p = .024, Eta2 = .08, power = .92) and
for Sex of participants (p = .003, Eta2 = .08, power = .92), but
not the interaction (p = .108, Eta2 = .03, power = .82). The
results from the univariate F-tests concerning Affective person-
ality and Sex of participants are given below. For means and
standard deviations see Table 1.
Affective personality. Univariate F-tests showed significant
effects for Exploratory [F (3, 200) = 3.25, p = .023], Impersonal
[F (3, 200) = 7.04, p < .001], and for Fantasy-fluency [F (3, 200)
= 4.49, p = .004]. Post hoc testing (Tukey-HSD, 5% level)
showed that concerning Exploratory high affective and self-
destructive participants scored higher as compared to the self-
actualizing, whereas the low affective fell in between. Con-
cerning Impersonal the self-destructive and the high affective
had more fantasies than both the self-actualizing and the low
affective. Finally, regarding Fantasy-fluency the same pattern
was repeated i.e., the self-destructive and the high affective had
more fantasies than both the self-actualizing and the low affec-
Sex of participants. Univariate F-tests showed significant
effects for Exploratory [F (1, 200) = 9.43, p = .002] and Imper-
sonal [F (1, 200) = 4.93, p = .027]. Descriptive analysis showed
that men scored higher compared to women for both Explora-
tory and Impersonal.
Low and High PA and NA in Regard to WSFQ
The above performed analysis indicated that affective per-
sonality types with high negative affectivity (i.e., High affective
and Self-destructive) were the ones who experienced most sex-
ual fantasies. In order to further investigate this relationship a
Pillais’ MANOVA (2 × 2 factorial design) was conducted with
Positive affectivity (low, high) and Negative affectivity (low,
high) as independent variables and with the WSFQ scales (i.e ,
Exploratory, Impersonal, Intimate, Sado-masochistic and Fan-
tasy-fluency) as dependent variables. The analysis revealed
significant effects of Negative affectivity (p = .001, Eta2 = .09,
power = .96) but not for Positive affectivity (p = .717, Eta2
= .01, power = .18) or interaction (p = .767, Eta2 = .01, power
= .16). The results of the univariate F-tests in regard to Nega-
tive aff ectivity are giv en below. For mean s and standard dev ia-
tions see Table 2.
Univariate F-tests showed significant effects for Exploratory
[F (1, 205) = 10.27, p = .002], Impersonal [F (1, 205) = 20.17, p
< .001], Intimate [F (1, 205) = 5.70, p = .018], Sado-masochis-
tic [F (1, 205) = 7.30, p = .007], and Fantasy-fluency [F (1, 205)
= 15.75, p < .001]. Post hoc-testing (Tukey-HSD, 5% level)
showed the same pattern for all dependent variables i.e., par-
ticipants with high Negative affectivity had more sexual fanta-
sies. A subsequent comparison between the two personality
types with high negative affectivity on item level showed
(Mann-Whitney U-test, 5% level) only significant differences
for three items where the High affective had more romantic
oriented fantasies compared to the Self-destructive (“love out-
doors in the romantic surroundings”, “sexual intercourse with a
Means and (standard devia tions ) for affective personality (self-destructive, low affective, high affective, self-actualizing) and gender (man, women) in
regard to the WSFQ scales (exploratory, impersonal, intimate, sado-masochistic, fantasy-fluency).
Self-destructive Low affective High affective Self-actualizing
Man Wom Man Wom Man Wom Man Wom
M. CARLSTEDT ET AL.
Means and (standard deviations) for low and high positive affectivity
(PA) and low and high negative affectivity (NA) in regard to the WSFQ
scales (exploratory, impersonal, intimate, sado-masochistic, fantasy-
Low High Low High
beloved partner”, “passionate kissing”).
The study showed a connection between Affective personal-
ity and sexual fantasies, namely that the self-destructive and
high affective individuals had more sexual fantasies compared
with the self-actualizing and low affective. The relationship
was significant in two out of four of the WSFQ subscales and
Fantasy fluency that is the total score.
The high affective and the self-destructive personality types
have in common that they both are high on negative affectivity.
Follow-up analysis also showed that people with high negative
affectivity had significantly more fantasies on all five depend-
ent variables compared to those with low negative affectivity,
while there was no difference in terms of high and low positive
Previous research shows no conclusive results. Green and
Mosher (1985) demonstrated that negative affectivity had an
inhibitory effect on sexual responses, and promoted sexual
arousal on one of five variables. Heiman and Hatch (1980)
reported that both positive and negative affectivity may pro-
mote sexual arousal. Arndt et al. (1985) found positive rela-
tionships between frequency of sexual fantasies and sexual
One explanation contradictive results may be that different
personality types differ in the way they report their experiences.
Individuals who are characterized by high negative affectivity
often have more introspective personalities (Woodhouse, &
Gelso, 2008), which may lead to that they more easily can de-
tect and remember their sexual fantasies. This hypothesis would
also shed some light on the imbalance in the sample of the cur-
rent investigation. The breakdown of the different personality
types was made according to the Swedish norm group (Nor-
lander et al., 2005), but only about one quarter of the respon-
dents were low affective or self-actualizing. The respondents
had significantly more negative affectivity as compared to the
Swedish norm group. The reason for this may be that individu-
als with an “introspective orientation” are more likely to take
five minutes of their lunch hour to answer questions about
emotions and imagination.
Another explanation may be derived from the previously
identified (Woodhouse, & Gelso, 2008) connection between
Attachment orientation and negative affectivity that is, those
having an anxious attachment are also higher on NA. People
with anxious attachment also exhibits generally higher fre-
quency of sexual fantasies, something they have in common
with the self-destructive and the high affective groups in the
present study. The result may therefore indicate that self-de-
structive and high affective individuals are inclined to anxious
attachment. It is suggested (Birnbaum, 2007) that individuals
with anxious attachment orientation uses sexual fantasies in
order to satisfy their needs for security, closeness and affirma-
tion. Also the need for novelty and variety (Leitenberg & Hen-
ning, 1995) and aggression (Heiman & Hatch, 1980) may be
channeled into sexual fantasies. Finally, self-destructive and
high affective personality types report higher levels of stress
(Bood, et al., 2004) than the self-actualized and low affective
types, which could possibly imply the existence of a mecha-
nism in which sexual fantasies acts as a valve for frustrations
caused by stress.
Men had significantly higher scores on Exploratory and Im-
personal compared to women which is in line with many other
studies (e.g., Leitenberg & Henning, 1995; Wilson, 1978).
There was no significant difference between men and women in
regard to Fantasy-fluency which is in conflict with several pre-
vious studies where men tend to have more sexual fantasies
than women (Wilson, 1978). One explanation for this may be
sample composition with an over-representation of self-de-
structive and high affective participants. This may also reflect
the main limitation of the present study, which was that par-
ticipants were not randomly selected from a larger sample, but
recruited by asking them as they passed a cafeteria.
The present investigation was not concerned with sexual
arousal but rather sexual fantasies. As already stated, positive
affectivity promotes sexual responses (Green & Mosher, 1985;
Heiman and Hatch, 1980). A sexual response could be consid-
ered a response to external stimuli. Thus, it would be possible
to formulate the hypothesis that positive affectivity affects an
“external transparency”, a susceptibility to stimuli from the
outside world, while negative affectivity affects an “internal
transparency”, a tendency to look inward, reflect and fantasize.
American Psychiatric Association (1995). Diagnostic and statistical
manual of mental disorders (4th ed.) . Washington, DC.
Arndt, W. B., Foel, J. C., & Good, F. E. (1985). Special sexual fantasy
themes: A multidimensional study. Journal of Personality and Social
psychology, 48, 472-480. doi:10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112
Arndt, W. B., & Ladd, B. (1981). Sibling incest aversion as an index of
oedipal conflict. Journal of Personality Assessmen t, 4 5, 52-58.
Bäccman, C., Folkesson, P., & Norlander, T. (1999). Expectations of
romantic relationships: A comparison between homosexual and het-
erosexual men with regard to Baxter’s criteria. Social Behavior and
Personality, 27, 363-374.
Birnbaum, G. E. (2007). Beyond the borders of reality: Attachment
orientations and sexual fantasies. Personal Relationships, 14, 321-
Bood, S. Å., Archer, T., & Norlander, T. (2004). Affective personality
in relation to general personality, self-reported stress, coping, and
optimism. Individual Differences Research, 2, 26-37.
Cogan, R., Cochran, B. S, Velarde, L. C., Calkins, H. B., Chenault, N.
E., Cody, D. L., Kelley, M. D., Kubicek, S. J., Loving, A. R.,
Noriega, J. P., Phelan, K. A, Siege, S. C, Stout, T. I, Styles, J. W., &
Williams, H. A. (2007). Testing Freud’s hypothesis. Psychoanalytic
Psychology, 24, 697- 700. doi:10.1037/0736-9718.104.22.1687
Green, S. E., & Mosher, D. L. (1985). A casual model of sexual arousal
to sexual fantasies. Th e J ou r n al o f S ex Research, 21, 1-23.
Guilford, J. P., Guilford, J. S., & Zimmerman, W. S. (1978). The Guil-
ford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey. CA: Sheridan Psychological
M. CARLSTEDT ET AL.
Hariton, E. B., & Singer, J. L. (1974). Women’s fantasies during sexual
intercourse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 313-
Heiman, J. R., & Hatch, J. P. (1980) Affective and physiological di-
mensions of male sexual response to erotica and fantasy. Basic and
Applied Social Psychology, 4, 315-327.
Leitenberg, H., & Henning, K. (1995). Sexual fantasy. Psychological
Bulletin, 117, 469-496. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.469
Norlander, T., Bood, S. Å., & Archer, T. (2002). Performance during
stress: Affective personality, age, and regularity of physical exercise.
Social behavior and P ersonality, 30, 495-508.
Norlander, T., Johansson, Å., & Bood, S. Å. (2005). The affective
personality: It’s relation to quality of sleep, well-being and stress.
Social Behavior and Personality, 33, 709-722.
Norlander, T., von Shedvin, H., & Archer, T. (2005) Thriving as a
function of affective personality: relation to personality factors, cop-
ing strategies and stress. Anxiety, Stress and Coping, 18, 105-116.
Perrin-Wallqvist, R., Eriksson, E., & Norlander, T. (2001). The effects
of alcohol intake and induced frustration on the disposition to start
fires. Social Behavior and Personality, 29, 547-556.
Tidefors-Andersson, I. (2000). Den fördömda handlingen: Sexuella
övergrepp mot barn [The condemned act: sexual abuse of children].
Göteborg: Psykologisk a Institutionen, Göt eborgs Universitet.
Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and
validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The
PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54,
Wilson, G. D. (1978). The secrets of sexual fantasy. London: J. M. Dent
& Sons ltd.
Wilson, G. D. (1997). Gender differences in Sexual fantasy: An evolu-
tionary analysis. Personality and Individual Differenc es, 22, 27-31.
Wilson, K., Gullone, E., & Moss, S. A. (1998). The Youth Version of
the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule: A psychometric valida-
tion. Behavior Change, 15, 187-193.
Woodhouse, S. S., & Gelso, C. J. (2008) Volunteer client adult attach-
ment, memory for insession emotion, and mood awareness: An affect
regulation perspective. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55, 197-