Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
So my favorite thing about being the sex columnist is the weird new conversations it opens up, especially when those conversations are in McCabe at 2 AM and involve making sex noises.
(The comment conversations aren’t too shabby either—does anyone have good suggestions for M, on the last column, about how she can experience more intense physical sensations while topping? I too am curious.)
The most interesting, and perhaps most inevitable, question I got this past week was about rape fantasies.
My snarky answer, of course, is to take a page from Margaret Atwood and say something like “Of course I have a rape fantasy… that I had bled more so the cops could have believed me.”
But I shouldn’t skirt around the issue just because I know I’m going to offend somebody. I do have rape fantasies, real ones, although I prefer to call them “non-consent” or “ravishment” fantasies, and since reliable sources tell us that over half of all women have such fantasies, I can say that on this issue at least, it’s nice to be in the majority.
So what the hell do I mean when I say “rape fantasy”? There’s generally considered to be two kinds of rape fantasies—ones where you are aroused during the imagined rape and ones where you’re most definitely not. Most fit the first category, including mine, and so while I understand those better, both kinds share the same ideas of domination and non-consent, and both kinds are under your complete control.
(What’s the difference between a “typical” BDSM scenario like I described in my last column and a “typical” rape fantasy? BDSM tends towards psychological domination, more than one kind of sexual act, and careful, deliberate actions on the part of the top. There’s rarely hot wax involved in a rape fantasy—they tend to involve fast, rough, violent, no-bells-or-whistles, hah! whistles!, penetrative sex.)
Can I go back to that part about complete control, about you scripting the fantasy because it’s all in your own head? That’s why people have introduced the term “ravishment” to describe these fantasies instead of rape or non-consent—“ravishment” doesn’t bring up the same contradictions—and that’s why saying that “rape fantasies prove all women want it” is bullshit. Rape is not something the victim scripts. Rape fantasies are.
It can be fun to imagine a lot of things that you would never actually want in real life, and for some people rape is one of those things. What are some of the reasons that people want to pretend rape?
1. Guilt avoidance. It sucks, but we still live in a society where people, especially women, are made to feel guilty about wanting sex. Let me quote Nancy Friday, from her classic 1973 book of women’s fantasies:
“The most popular guilt-avoiding device was the so-called rape fantasy… it simply had to be understood that what went on was against the woman’s will. Saying she was ‘raped’ was the most expedient way of getting past the big No to sex that had been imprinted on her mind since early childhood.”
2. Being irresistible. It can be fun to imagine that you’re so attractive that nobody can resist the urge to touch you, and that they need to have sex with you so much that they’re just going to take it. Let me repeat: it can be fun to imagine when you are in a highly sexually aroused state and completely in control of who is touching you and how. Not so much otherwise.
3. Fear can heighten excitement. This is a known fact—fear gets our adrenaline up, our heart pumping, our pupils dilate, even our genitals aroused. Think of a rape fantasy as like a roller coaster—a controlled fear experience which you can get off of, and not you being thrown around out of control at 150 mph.
4. The more positive side of guilt avoidance is “pressure to perform” avoidance. In my violent rape fantasy, nobody really expects me to “perform” or to be “good” or to really do anything but what my instincts tell me to do. And it’s fun to imagine a situation where we’re expected to just run on instincts. (This is another gradation for me between “BDSM” and “rape” fantasies—in my BDSM fantasy, I have less pressure to perform because I have less ability to perform, but in my rape fantasy, I become a purely instinctual creature.)
There’s other reasons, including working through trauma, but those four encompass most of the fantasies of most of the people I’ve talked to about the subject. (Who are, yes, mostly women. But not entirely.) Mine is mostly about three and four, with a dash of enjoying rough sensations.
So that, my friends, is my take on that. Did any of those reasons sound plausible? Good. Remember that ravishment fantasies are perfectly normal—they’re not something you need to get help for unless you feel like they control you, rather than the other way around. For example if they’re the only sort of fantasy you ever enjoy, or if they intrude on your other thoughts, or if they consistently turn into nightmares.
But so far I’ve been talking about these as fantasies—things to think about while you’re masturbating.
Do I think you can make them into reality? I do, given the same BDSM rules as last time—know you can trust your partner, negotiate beforehand, set express limits, have a safeword.
And be prepared for weird stuff to happen. I’ve had it happen that I’ve been running through a rape fantasy in my head when my brain plays tricks on me and decides to turn it into a flashback. I have ways to deal with flashbacks, mostly involving massaging my own head (oh man, guys, massaging my own head is, like, the originary sexual act, as far as I’m concerned, because it makes it feel like the top of your head is rising up and hovering above you, and oh man, that’s the best sensation ever, I’m getting wibbly thinking about it) but yes.
The point is, if that can happen when you’re in your own head, what can happen when you bring it into the open and bring another person into your script, no matter how trustworthy they may be? Think about it.
Keep enjoying your fantasy on your own. If you’re considering bringing it up with your partner but are a little scared, find a way to sound them out—maybe send them an erotic story—and work up to the word “ravishment” in small steps. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Maybe have hot fantasy fulfilling sex. Communicate about that. Communicate some more.
And hey, communication? Next week’s topic is going to be erotica and porn (I still need to do some research to figure out what I want to say in my thousand rambling words), so get well-rested.
Keep on loving yourselves until next time,