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Kerrigan: Captain Raynor, I've finished scouting out the area and... You pig!

Raynor: What? I haven't even said anything to you yet!

Kerrigan: Yeah, but you were thinking it.

Raynor: Oh, yeah, you're a telepath. Look, let's just get this over with.

Jay, would you like to talk about the specifics of how body swapping works, on the fantastically written show, known as “Picard”...

Congratulations, You have just acquired the amazing superpower of Telepathy! Now you can now peek into the innermost thoughts of your friends and enemies whenever you want. Isn't that awesome?

There's a bit of a problem here, though. You see, people tend to think about sex. A lot, in fact. So, guess what you're going to find when you start mind-probing people out of curiosity?


Dirty Mind Reading is what happens when someone with Telepathy has the misfortune of reading somebody's naughty thoughts, either because he can't control his powers or because he doesn't have the wits to use them responsibly and is simply getting his Karmic justice.

For bonus points, have him accidentally read the mind of someone in the next room actually having sex, which can lead to Sex by Proxy. A subtrope of A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read, though often played for comedy as well. See also Oh God, Did She Just Hear That? and My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That.

Examples of Dirty Mind Reading include:

Anime & Manga

  • School Rumble has a weird example, in that Yakumo can't read everyone's minds, only of those in love with her. However, she's very beautiful, and half the male population is head-over-heels for her, yet she's never heard anything dirty, but she just finds their obsession intimidating. She also finds Hanai carrying what's left of Nishimoto's Porn Stash.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, you don't even need another person to find yourself in this situation, such as Nodoka Miyazaki, who has a rather perverted subconscious, and much later, Naughty Tentacles and Boobies. Very creepy until the truth is revealed.
  • This is how an Elite Mook with a mind-reading madogu in Flame of Recca is defeated by Domon—she suffers a wardrobe malfunction and all Domon can think of after that is "BOOBS!"
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, Yusuke and company force a mind reader to help them find whoever is opening up the portal to the demon world, telling him to listen for anything strange. What he comes up with is a lusty "That girl's thinking about getting it on with her teacher, dammit!"
  • The heroine in Telepathic Wanderers is both good-looking and telepathic. Knowing a lot of people are fantasizing about raping her drives her to become a hermit.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has a scene where Shinji stumbles onto a memory of Misato's while in Instrumentality from when she was in her college days—in particular, when she skipped classes to have a week-long sex romp with Kaji. Misato freaks out about how she doesn't want Shinji to see her "like that", but Shinji just seems numb (or perhaps entranced).
  • Satori of Ranma ½ has the ability to read minds and he is not happy when the Saotomes and Tendos don't believe him. So, to prove that he can, he decides to read one of their minds and then tell them their thoughts. Unfortunately for him, he happens to choose Happosai's. It was so bad that Satori had a Nosebleed and fainted.
  • In High School DxD, Ise's Bilingual fails on Sairaorg's Bishop because she's willing to strip in front of Ise. Yes, her breasts tell which clothing she's going to strip next.

Comic Books

  • An issue of Ultimate Spider-Man plays with this. As Spidey is meeting the X-Men for the first time, Jean Grey compliments him for being the first guy who didn't immediately imagined her naked, which he hadn't... until she put the idea of doing so into his head. The next page and a half is her getting more and more annoyed as Spidey desperately tries to stop imagining her naked.
  • In Ultimate X-Men the same Jean Grey, immediately after meeting Kitty Pride and telling her she's a telepath, says not to worry about the dirty thoughts that come straight to the top of her mind as Kitty instinctively thinks about what to try and hide. Apparently everyone else does the same thing.
  • Poor Jean has this happen yet again in one issue of the main-continuity she narrates about the woes of telepathy, she mostly picks up on people's petty greed, anger, and resentment, but one sales clerk is thinking, "Please walk up and down my chest in six-inch stilletto heels...."
  • Her pseudo-daughter, Rachel, reacts to this in an early issue of Excalibur, suddenly tar & feathering the offender.
  • Also in X-Men, Gambit deliberately invokes this trope to keep telepaths out of his mind...these aren't just any dirty thoughts, though, no...they involve the Blob.
  • In the tie in comic book for City of Heroes, the psychic superheroine was disgusted to hear the thoughts that a teenage boy was having of her. Strange, since being sixty years old should have given her more time to get used to it... or at least to choose a costume that wasn't absurdly Stripperific.
  • Persha of the First has the power to see through the eyes of others. She sometimes uses it to keep track of her scheming mother, who is also very popular with men. Persha has encountered the Primal Scene enough that she's more annoyed than disgusted when this trope happens.


  • While it never actually happens in the show (bar the pleasure sensing in Objects In Space), rather a lot of Firefly Fan Fiction takes River's well-established Power Incontinence to its logical conclusion.
  • In the Kim Possible story Nights In The Big City, the Sensei of the Yamanouchi ninja academy says that because of the monkey spirit's sense of humour, "I have been given the ability to read minds, but only when they are in the gutter".
  • This Tin Man fanfic uses a version of it. Raw isn't sure quite what to make of the truly strange emotions coming from two of his human friends, as Viewers handle the whole mating thing much differently. Unfortunately for him, he finds out.

  Raw didn't get any sleep after all that night. He ended up pacing his room. This was worse than when the females went into season.

  • Tends to show up in Golden Sun kink meme prompts and fills, especially when Ivan (noted for being rather fond of his mind reading powers in canon) is half the pairing. Possibly nodded to in Dark Dawn, when it's noted that Ivan is no longer quite so thrilled with his mind reading powers.



 Nick: This is cold. Right out of the package. Never been used. (sets the knife down and picks up another)

Male Professor: Amazing.

Nick: This is from the cafeteria here at the college. Oh, remind me not to eat here. (he sets it down and picks up another knife) This is… oh God… oh Jesus…

Female Professor: Yes?

Nick: (throws down the knife) A woman… her husband's back… eight…nine times!

Female Professor: Yes, we know.

Nick: You know? How could you give that to me? Don't you know how hard it is for me to have to see things like that?!

Male Professor: We have to test you. In science…

Nick: Now I won't be able to sleep! What a sight! His… oh… (lowers his head to the table but then suddenly lifts it back up) Someone has had sex on this table.

(the professors glance at each other guiltily)

Female Professor: Thank you Mr. Deezy, that will be enough for today.



  • When Edward of Twilight reveals his telepathy to Bella, he mentions that most of the people around them are thinking of either sex or money. Except one, who was thinking about their cat. It's also made pretty clear that this is one of the least pleasant parts of the high school experience. He can hear everybody's pointless horny thoughts... as well as much later hear the thoughts of a gang of thugs who were going to rape the girl he loves. Fortunately, he was nearby to rescue her.
  • In one of the Xanth novels, three of the young characters need to join the Adult Conspiracy (i.e. learn about sex) before obtaining a magical MacGuffin that will allow one of them to lead a tribe of goblins. This is because said character is nearly blind, and the item she needs is a set of magical contact lenses that will not only fix her vision, but allow her to see into the thoughts and daydreams of others. Including the naughty ones. It was determined that she had best learn about sex the mature way, rather than from seeing the filthy thoughts of the average goblin male.
  • For an example of this trope played extremely darkly, there's a book called Fall to Grace wherein the protagonist, Jiro, gains super powers on his tenth birthday. One of them is mind reading, and he can't really shut it off at first. Jiro hears his father's thoughts as he masturbates, and it's a fantasy about raping his son. Cue running away and, when he meets his father again later on, blind panic that leads Jiro to telekinetically throw three chairs, a frying pan and a couch at him.
  • The Warhammer novel Beasts In Velvet has a 'scryer' as its protagonist. Since this is the Warhammer world and her powers freak everyone out, she divides men into the ones who want to screw her and the ones who want to burn her at the stake.
  • Stephen King's The Shining has an early scene where Danny Torrance notices a female hotel guest watching a bellhop and thinking she'd "like to get into his pants". This leads to a kind of Entendre Failure, as five-year-old Danny can't understand why she doesn't just get some pants of her own to wear instead of taking his.
  • The reason why Sooki Stackhouse hasn't had a boyfriend until she met Bill Compton. She can't control her Psychic Powers, so any guy she meets (except LaFayette, of course) immediately starts imagining what they'd like to do with her, and she hears all the dirty details. Bill, being a vampire, has no brainwaves and can't be read, which attracts her more than anything.
    • And if she tries to be intimate with a normal human, she can hear every little thought that passes through his head. She's commented that those thoughts are more along the lines of "what huge thighs" or "is that a birthmark?" than sweet flattering nothings. Also, Sookie doesn't want to know what the significant others of the bar patrons look like naked.
  • Harry Potter worries about this when he's dragging his feet on learning Occlumency (anti-mind-reading magic).
  • Dave Duncan's book Cursed has a family traveling in the country come through an area where an exiled telepath is hiding. Several erotic thoughts are revealed, although no names are associated with the thinkers directly. Other thoughts are revealed as well, and the patriarch decides that having a telepath living outside their enclave will be beneficial to both parties: the telepath would have food, clothing, etc., while the enclave would have a guardian to alert them to invaders or thieves.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar novels, people with strong enough "Mindspeech/Mindhearing" or "Empathy" can listen in on another's amorous encounters—sometimes even when they're trying to screen it out.
  • In the Dresden Files, Molly tries to examine a dead woman's last memories to help solve her murder. The woman was killed by a White Court Vampire. She got this trope. Yeah she did. It lead to this memorable exchange:

 Dresden She got something.

Butters She got something, all right. I haven't gotten anything like that in two years.

  • Invoked in Angry Lead Skies, where Garrett encounters a strange race of aliens silver elves. Informed that the female he's confronting may be a telepath, he tests this idea by deliberately picturing the two of them having vigorous sex, then watching her shocked reaction.

Live Action Television

  • Buffy discovers just how often teenage boys think about sex when she gets mind reading powers in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Earshot". There's one particular moment where Buffy picks up on someone thinking some very flattering things about her looks. She preens a bit until the thoughts go from "she's attractive" to "I'd like to push her against those lockers and have my way with her," at which points she freaks out a little and hurries away.
    • Illyria is only an empath, but as soon as Connor enters the room, she reports, "This one is lusting after me." Perhaps not a surprise, given what she wears.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, a telepath (not Kes) noted that Neelix was thinking that he'd like her to tug on his whiskers (a noted erogenous zone for Talaxians). Luckily she was attracted to him as well, so she wasn't really offended.
    • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lwaxana Troi read some dirty thoughts from Picard, or at least claimed to for the sake of messing with his head. She also mentions at one point that her former valet's thoughts about her were almost pornographic.
      • In an uncensored joke on Family Guy, Picard asks Troi to try and sense what some aliens are thinking. Troi ends up sensing one of Picard's dirty thoughts and confusingly mentions how Picard is standing over her and begins pouring lemonade all over her... until she realizes it wasn't lemonade. Picard quickly cuts her off and changes the subject before she can finish what he's thinking, and then gives Riker command and heads off to his quarters.
    • In the Peter David novel Q-in-Law, Q is (or at least pretends to be) appalled when Lwaxana mentions the above. Q says this is because, for a Q at least, thinking about something is the same thing as doing it, more or less.
    • In a Next Generation episode, Picard and Crusher were implanted with chips in their heads that ended up sending each other the thoughts of the humans. Crusher later told Picard that she read his thoughts while he was sleeping, prompting Picard to say that he cannot be held responsible for his unconscious thoughts.
  • Something Is Out There (a short-lived sci-fi series on NBC). The alien protagonist Ta'Ra is telepathic; unfortunately she's also a hot chick so she's constantly annoyed over how these Earth people want to "do that with her body" (her species has a somewhat different way of making love).
  • In Firefly, River suffers a brush with this in the episode "Objects In Space", where she comes across Zoe and Wash making out on the bridge. it says everything; she starts swaying, mouth opening and closing, and her hands start rubbing her arms, and she's forced to retreat very quickly.
  • A fairly squicky Charmed example: shortly after Phoebe becomes an empath, she's trying to talk to her sister Piper when a man begins to check Piper out. Phoebe feels his attraction for her sister—apparently as if it belonged to her—becomes flustered, and has to shoo him out.
  • Kelly from Misfits, a telepath, has the dubious honour of hearing the horny thoughts of the men around her. She hears Nathan's so often it becomes a bit of a Running Gag.
  • Right after explaining for the viewers' benefit that Telepaths have trouble shutting out other people's strong thoughts, Talia from Babylon 5 has cause to elbow Garibaldi who is standing behind her. After she leaves, his response to that is priceless, "I think I'm in love."
  • In the Torchwood episode "Greeks Bearing Gifts", Toshiko wears a mind-reading pendant to work and learns far more than she cares to about Gwen and Owen's illicit affair. Fortunately for her, Captain Jack is immune to the pendant's effects.
  • The empath character on Mutant X had to ask teammates to stop thinking such thoughts about her on (oddly only a few) occasions.
  • Implied in the Doctor Who episode "The Girl in the Fireplace." The Doctor does his fingers-on-temples mind-reading thing with Madame de Pompadour, telling her that if there's anything she doesn't want him to see, she should imagine a door and close it. He then points out a few open doors. Madame de Pompadour just smiles.

Newspaper Comics

  • In a few early Dilbert strips, Dilbert goes on a blind date with a two-headed telepath. It doesn't go well.

 Dilbert: Must not think anything naughty, must not think anything naughty — (the woman's faces freeze in horror) — Oops.


Dilbert: I must admit, this is the first time I've been on a date with a two-headed telepath. Now I'm sure some of the thoughts you're picking up seem strange and disturbing, but I assure you, these are perfectly normal thoughts for a guy — (the woman grabs the tablecloth in disgust and horror) — Well, maybe not that last one.


Video Games

  • Sasha Nein from Psychonauts accidentally wound up doing this as a child when attempting to learn more about his dead mother by probing his father's mind. Most of them were happy memories. A few of them were really happy (and child-scarring) memories.
  • Psycho Mantis laments his telepathy in his Final Speech in Metal Gear Solid, particularly, "how everyone thinks of only one thing".
  • In Starcraft, we're never told in-game exactly what Raynor was thinking when he met Kerrigan, but Kerrigan's response implies that this trope was involved. According to tie-in book Liberty's Crusade, it's along the lines of "She's Got Legs".
  • This trope plagues poor Satori Komeji in fanarts, such as this one (NSFW). It sometimes gets to her too.
    • Now and then this gets subverted by Satori getting bored or being neutral to the dirty thoughts, as sinful thoughts are presumably pretty common in Hell.
    • Since subconscious desire is a massive part of Freud's theories of psychology, this trope also gets used by Koishi, though she tends to be portrayed as less bothered by it.
  • Kreia's bond with the Jedi Exile sometimes veers into this territory, with the old bag lecturing about "base thoughts" and "indignities." However, one also wonders if that misplaced Bene Gesserit is getting her kicks by it, as she's talking about it a lot.
  • Invoked by Mint in Galaxy Angel Moonlit Lover, Vanilla route. While Tact and Vanilla did share some intimate moments (not that way; Tact just got his ears cleaned), Mint invokes this trope with some very careful wording, leading both Ranpha and Forte to be very visibly excited over the prospect. Naturally, Milfie and Chitose fails to get it.
  • Subverted in Kid Icarus: Uprising; when Palutena directs Pit to a stash of treasure in the second level, Pit asks her how she knows this. Palutena says that she can analyze the situation through Pit's laurels, then tells Pit that she can also use them to read Pit's thoughts while warning him that he better not be thinking of anything "naughty." But when Pit promptly sheepishly denies any impure thoughts, Palutena says she was kidding about the whole thing with the laurels.


  • In DMFA, all Cubi are naturally mindreaders. (technically 'thoughtreaders': in DMFA canon, 'mindreading' is intentionally searching through a target mind's memories, not just picking up on current thoughts). Some beings think they can scare away Cubi by intentionally thinking dirty thoughts for them to read. This doesn't work, though, as 'Cubi' is short for "Incubi and Succubi"-and a being attempting to out-dirty a race whose very name comes from supernatural seducers would have to get pretty inventive. It can be inverted, however: think of something boring or make it appear that your mind's not safe to read.
  • A halfling in Mind Flayed protects herself from a mind flayer by responding to its telepathy with thoughts of "hot uncensored tentacle sex." This is doubly traumatic for a species with facial tentacles.
  • This is bound to happen in Think Before You Think, since Brian can't turn off his mind-reading, but it becomes 10 times worse if Brian's thoughts are also projected.
  1. "I know ALL about your little jerkoff fantasies about me. Go ahead, I'll even stand here and watch...!"