Rape Fantasy or Pseudo Rape Fantasy?
Is it really rape we are talking about when we say...?
Posted June 13, 2008 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
July 2020 update: I have been very impressed by many of the reader comments to this article, and I strongly encourage you to read them. I think a number of the comments are much better than the column itself! However, one thing I won't tolerate are people who reply to the comments of others in ways that are disrespectful, mean, or nasty. I will immediately remove any comments like that. I welcome differing points of view. But if you can't disagree with my readers in ways that are civil and respectful, please find a therapist and deal with your anger issues. --Paul
I recently read Matt Hutson's excellent post, "Why Do Women Have Erotic Rape Fantasies?" It got me thinking more about rape fantasies, and why I don't think there's any such thing. That's because when we talk about rape fantasies, we don't define our terms.
If you ask most women who have rape fantasies to describe the man who is "raping" them, you'll find he's not exactly what we picture when we think about the average rapist, unless the guy has been spending six hours a day in the prison weight room or reads Shakespeare to Bubba, his cellmate.
Look at the buffed-out dude on the book cover that was included to illustrate the "Why Do Women Have Erotic Rape Fantasies?" post. We're talking a serious bodice-ripping hunk. I don't think that's the image that emerges when police or emergency room personnel ask victims of rape to describe the man who just raped them.
The fact is, the guy who is doing the "raping" in a lot of women's fantasies of forced sex is someone whom she might want to have sex with anyway. Often missing is the terror, violence, confusion, rage, and disgust that makes rape, rape. The woman with the fantasy is in control by virtue of who she has "raping" her, or because she's the one scripting the scenario, while control is the last thing that a woman who is being raped has any of.
Even if the woman's rape fantasy involves her being degraded or humiliated by an anonymous aggressor or gang of gross guys with missing front teeth, her fantasy doesn't make her fear men in real life like an actual rape often does. It doesn't make her afraid to go out of doors.
Even if her fantasy is a way of processing something overwhelming from her past, we would never suggest she walk alone at night in dangerous places to get a firsthand opportunity to enjoy her fantasy. And even if the depth psychologists would say that one part of her mind really is being raped, they still can't get around the caveat that another part of her mind remains in control.
Of course, I'm side-stepping what might be the various cultural, religious, and perhaps biological reasons for why so many women have sexual fantasies where they are "taken" by a man instead of being the taker. But unless you are a radical feminist, I think you can see that there's a significant difference between that and the realities of actual rape.
So, is it really rape we are talking about when we say a woman has rape fantasies? I don't think so. I would suggest that for most women, "Erotic Rape Fantasy" is a contradiction in terms—even for those women whose fantasies of being raped include terror, degradation, and unwanted force.