Wet dreams. They only affect cis-guys and are just one of many signs of their ongoing horniness started around puberty. Right?

No, not even close.

There are nearly as many myths about wet dreams as there are women—yes, women—who have them. Also known by the less sexy name, nocturnal emissions, wet dreams are basically mid-sleep orgasms (or, as I like to call them, sleep-gasms).

People of all genders and genitalia can experience wet dreams, so why do they have such a penis-owner rap? The answer to that probably lies in what happens.

For many people with a penis, wet dreams make themselves known with a puddle on the bedsheets upon waking. If you have a vulva, the wetness may stay largely inside your body. And given that sexual science has been historically limited, especially research focused on women, femmes and LGBTQIA folks, and that women’s sexuality still remains largely taboo in many places, women and femmes’ wet dreams have gotten less literal light.

“I started having them around middle school when I was also having major crushes,” said Michele M., a graduate student in the San Fransisco Bay area. “I would wake up sort of out of breath and physically aroused, usually after a dream I was having sex, even though I hadn’t even had it yet.”

When Michele shared her experience, a relative seemed a bit horrified. So Michele kept the occurrences to herself for years, swaying between embracing and enjoying them as sexy or no big deal and feeling somewhat ashamed and wondering what was “wrong” with her.

With more knowledge about these natural happenings, perhaps we can prevent similar shame in others.

Why “Female Wet Dreams” Happen

No one knows exactly why many women and vulva owners experience wet dreams, but a range of factors may contribute.

“Previous research, including my own study, have found that many factors may influence the event to occur, such as hormonal fluctuations (like when you're ovulating, or during pregnancy), lucid dreaming, sexual dream imagery and periods of sexual frustration or sexual abstinence,” said Lyndsay Mercier, MEd, a PhD candidate and sexologist, who recently completed a her doctoral research study on women who orgasm during sleep.

In other words, you might experience the dreams more often at certain times of the month, if you menstruate, or when it’s been a while since you had sex or masturbated.

No one’s quite sure whether sleep orgasms start in the body or the mind, but “it is likely a combination of both systems working together.” And while they happen most often in the morning or just before you wake up from a nap, indications that sleep and relaxation play a role, they can also happen pretty randomly.

The Spicy Perks of Wet Dreams

Wet dreams may be a sign that your body is functioning well sexually. Both arousal and orgasm require sufficient blood flow to your genitals, so if a nocturnal orgasm occurs, you probably aren’t experiencing circulation problems that could interfere with either.

On top of that, and perhaps the greatest benefit of so-called “female wet dreams,” is the sheer enjoyment they can bring. Orgasms release feel-good brain chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin, so you could end up starting your day on a brighter or more relaxed note.

You might look and feel more vibrant for up to 48 hours, according to research published by the Association of Psychological Science, thanks to that postcoital glow. Sleep-gasms may even help you feel more connected to your sexuality and desires in a world in which too many barriers stand in the way for many femmes.

“Folks with vulvas usually love the experience and find it exciting, relaxing and pleasurable and many women feel a sense of pride or empowerment that this is something they have the ability to experience,” said Mercier, who coined the term "somnus orgasm" to describe the uniquely female (assigned at birth) experience of orgasm during sleep.

Not only that, but many women describe mid-sleep orgasms as the best and most intense they’ve had, she said. For some gals, they’re the only orgasms they’ve so far experienced.

Given that orgasms are often assumed for men and considered a potential bonus of sex for women within heterosexual relationships, knowing that your body is capable of inviting climactic pleasure might help pave the way for more wakeful bliss.

“Some women even experience very deep and meaningful dreams in conjunction with sleep orgasms that have significantly helped to shape their sexual identity,” Mercer explained, “so for some, it is even more than a quick thrill.”

Read: These 31 Facts About Orgasm Are Fascinating!

Problems With Penis-Only Presumptions

Recognizing that women’s wet dreams are common, natural and worthy of embracing might not seem like a huge deal, but… it is. A very big deal, in fact. Assuming that nocturnal desire, pleasure and arousal are for guys-only fuels the myth that women and femmes aren’t as “sexual” or desirous as men.

Many people still learn that men are perpetually turned on and women are more focused on relationships, when in reality, desire is very individual and not based on gender or genitalia. Every chance we get to unlearn these types of messages, including that 'only men experience wet dreams,' matters.

“It is extremely problematic to assume that only people with penises experience wet dreams,” said Mercier. “The largest problem is that, just like when folks experience their first period and are unprepared, experiencing an orgasm during sleep for the first time can also be traumatic.”

Many women in her study reported not knowing what was happening and assuming something was wrong with them, that they were “evil, dirty, sinful or that they had a medical issue.” And yet, 98% of participants were well aware that male-bodied folks can experience orgasm during sleep.

“This is just one of the many examples of the perpetuation of male experiences of sexuality and pleasure taking priority over the experiences of women,” Mercier noted.

Virtually no sex education curricula mentions, much less explores, women’s wet dreams, yet many highlight the male equivalent as a milepost of puberty. Mercier believes one reason for this involves avoidance of discussing orgasm.

With males, she said, “the discussion can be centered around ejaculation, while with females, we wouldn't be able to talk about wet dreams without also talking about orgasm, which has always been an issue when it comes to sex education in school settings.” As a result, she added, female sleep orgasms go altogether ignored.

Read: The 5 Key Differences Between the Male and Female Orgasm

And get this. Vulva owners may have far more sleep orgasms, compared to people with penises, who often only experience them during puberty. “In my study,” said Mercier, “I found that people with vulvas…experience orgasm during sleep across the entire lifespan, beginning under the age of 10 to well into their 70s!”

Michelle M. said she now delights in all of her wet dreams. “Imagine feeling stupid or embarrassed for having pleasure,” she said of her past bouts of shame. “I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I do think accepting [sleep orgasms] has helped me in other ways… like in my relationships, I won’t settle for his pleasure only. We are both in this and deserving.”

So what do you say we start teaching youth of all gender identities that women’s wet dreams are a valid, natural thing? Whether described as wet dreams, nocturnal emissions, sleep-gasms or Mercier’s term, somnus orgasms, they deserve attention.

Imagine bettering the world, one embraced sleep-gasm at a time.