Humans are sexual beings, and frequent thoughts of sexuality are perfectly natural. It’s common for people to have these thoughts completely out of the blue, and they aren’t anything to be ashamed of.
But for some people, these thoughts can be quite distressing, especially when they are of explicit or taboo scenarios, including unwanted sexual acts, violent sexual imagery, or morally inappropriate thoughts. Examples of these thoughts include sexual attraction to family members or children, sexual acts with animals, and performing violent or criminal sexual acts. Despite not aligning with a person’s actual desires or values, the thoughts can trigger intense anxiety, fear, guilt, and shame.
These thoughts are a product of the mind’s tendency to latch onto threatening or taboo subjects rather than a reflection of one’s actual wishes. They often have to do with something or someone you care about. As an example, a man who loves his family might have a recurring incestuous thought. It disgusts him and it’s not something he would ever act on, but he can’t get rid of it (via Begin Again Institute).
When these types of thoughts occur often, there’s usually something deeper driving them. It could be past trauma, OCD, sex addiction, or an eating disorder. People experiencing these thoughts may feel a loss of control and fear that these thoughts might reflect their true desires, creating significant distress and discomfort.