Last week I published an article on the common sexual fantasies of both sexes, and surprisingly got quite a negative backlash about one of the fantasies in particular; namely, women’s tendency to have rape fantasies.
Being accused of promoting rapes is not something I take lightly, so here I am, back with some of the answers to why exactly women have rape fantasies.
Despite the many people who would prefer to not talk about issues and repress everyone around them (you know who you are and please stop sending me personal mails), this is a topic that needs to be discussed. The fact that someone fantasizes about rape doesn’t mean they want to get raped (just like sometimes wishing your colleague was dead doesn’t mean you’re going to stab him/her tomorrow). Like I’d explained in the article, most women stated that they would not like that particular fantasy to come true, and that rapists in such fantasies are handsome, desirable, driven by desire (not hate or misconceptions) and able to make the woman attain an orgasm.
However, the fact that many women do have such fantasies is perhaps an astonishing one, and one that has been studied by several researchers. Here are some of the explanations forwarded:
Sex, in all its conventional and unconventional forms is rarely as smooth a ride as movies (and even porn) will have you believe. Danger and pain can get hearts racing, cause complete awareness and create a state of arousal. Women fantasizing about rape show openness to experiencing pain, though in a controlled manner and perhaps only limited to fantasy.
Women have been taught that they’re sweet and nice and that ‘kinky’ is a word best used for men. Having a rape fantasy lets women explore the not-so-sweet version of sex without feeling dirty themselves, because the act is done to them not by them. This is why the fantasy rapist is very close to the fantasy hero – good-looking, desirable, and great in bed.
Whether it was Cinderella wanting to attend a party or Snow White living in a forest with seven dwarfs, they managed to be so desirable that one prince roamed the countryside making all women try on a shoe and the other kissed a dead body. Rape fantasies let women play with the idea of being so desirable that perfectly decent men lose all control.
Sound weird? It isn’t. A rape fantasy will progress the way a woman wants it to. If she doesn’t like the idea of sex with lights on, it’ll take place in the dark, and if she wants to pick up the speed or slow it down, that’s how it’ll go. The woman will build the man, the setting, and the process of the fantasy exactly how she likes it – so it’s a fantasy where the victim has all the control.
A masochist is a person who derives sexual and other pleasure by experiencing pain, humiliation and self-denial. Both men and women can have masochistic tendencies, where they need to experience a level of pain before they can feel any pleasure. A rape fantasy is a relatively safe way for a woman to give an outlet to her self-harm desires.
Women are raised to be sexual ‘gatekeepers’; they are quite often told that sex is something men want from them and that they should not have sex till the man has given them something (a ring, a marriage certificate, etc). This makes women repress their natural biological instincts. Rape fantasies allow them to imagine passionate sexual encounters without feeling like they’re to blame for it.
Around 50% of romance novels have a rape scene of the female lead character, usually done by the male lead character. Not only is this about the female’s desirability, but also about ‘taming’ a man and leading to him ultimately wanting a committed relationship with the woman. Think of all the rom-coms that show a couple who hate each other falling in love with each other. It’s simply adversary transformation.
Brett Kahr, a psychoanalyst, conducted the largest survey of sexual fantasies; he believes that masturbatory fantasies, for the most part, are attempts to cope with difficult childhood experiences. A desire to overcome trauma can lead to some women fantasizing about rape in order to overcome childhood sexual abuse. This way, a painful memory can be transformed into pleasure, however briefly.
The reason why people find the idea of rape fantasy horrifying is because rape is a horrifying crime. However, a rape fantasy is nowhere close to the reality of rape. In the safety and comfort of her own space a woman can let her imagination run wild; her rapist can be a very desirable and accomplished person and the rape can be more domination/rough sex than a violent crime.
Many women who admitted to having rape fantasies also showed an interest in exploring sex beyond the missionary position. They showed a more open attitude towards sex and were more comfortable with their sexuality. It’s not like rape fantasies are the most dominant fantasies; they’re just part of the many fantasies that women have. In a study, only 9 to 17% percent of women said that rape was their preferred fantasy.
Don’t assume that if a woman enjoys the occasional (or not-so-occasional) rape fantasy that all she wants to experience is domination by a man. In a study, many women who said they had rape fantasies also expressed a desire to dominate men in the bedroom. It may be a general leaning towards BDSM or a simple desire to dominate and be dominated, but most women don’t limit themselves to being dominated all the time…not even in fantasy.
In quite a few mammalian species, it’s part of the male’s job to pursue the female and subdue her before he can have sex with her. Women may have been biologically programmed to select a dominant male to mate with. With the evolution of humans, the act of real rape has been, rightly, criminalized and what is left is just a ‘surrender fantasy’ that women may think of but would never like to happen to them in reality.
So, to all those who think rape fantasies means that women want to get raped, no, they don’t. Sexual aggression against a woman (or a man) will always be the aggressor’s fault. It doesn’t matter what she wears, says or thinks, you can’t rape her.
In case your girlfriend or wife is interested in ‘rape play’, do talk about what she’d be comfortable with, when she’d like it to happen and how far she’d like you to go before you decide to ‘surprise’ her with it.
And if you’re a woman who has rape fantasies, relax, a lot of other women do too. Process why, enjoy the fantasy and take care of yourself.