How common are rape fantasies in women

Why do women have erotic rape fantasies?

A recent analysis of 20 studies over the past 30 years shows that between 31% and 57% of women have rape fantasies, and these fantasies are common or preferred by 9% to 17% of women. Given that many people feel ashamed to report rape fantasies, these statistics are most likely lowball numbers.

In my personal experience, most women appreciate subtle to moderate dominance in the bedroom - a little restraint, a little pain - as long as they feel safe. I had a friend who wanted me to call her a slut, but that exceeded my limits. Although I didn't mind calling her naughty etc because she was delighted with what I had done to her. The whole "You shouldn't like this, but I know you do" routine. She explained that sexuality was taboo in her household. If she pretended to be corrupted by someone else, she could join in the illegal activities and indulge in her repressed desires. Not all of our plays followed this narrative, but when it did the temperature rose.

Research into rape fantasies has not been particularly well known. Many people do not want to acknowledge that women have them, fearing that the message will incite or excuse real rape: "See? Women want it!" But I follow the Kinsey line that it is better to study the disturbing parts of human sexuality than to keep them in the dark.

So did Joseph Critella and Jenny Bivona, the researchers at the University of North Texas who published the meta-analysis mentioned in the above Journal of Sex Research in January. They combined 20 studies and an entire field of theory to evaluate eight possible explanations for women's rape fantasies. Some of the explanations overlap, others contradict each other. Here is a summary:

  • Masochism: The idea that women want suffering. Women who engage in masochistic sex are more likely to have rape fantasies, but the vast majority of women with rape fantasies do not want real rape. Accordingly, masochism can only apply to a small group of women.
  • Avoiding Sexual Guilt: (See my ex above.) Women are socialized not to seek sex so that they are not considered tramps, but if they have sex against their will they can avoid guilt. Studies comparing sexual repression to rape fantasies are mixed and overall do not support the explanation, but they may have used incorrect metrics. Sexually repressed women have fewer fantasies overall, but they may have a higher proportion of rape fantasies. In any case, this theory would only hold true for some women.
  • Openness to Sexual Experience: In some ways this is the opposite of the last one, and it doesn't explain rape fantasies so much as it describes the type of person who has it. When you are sexually open, you entertain a wider variety of fantasies. As one study described the rape fantasy among these women, it is "just another expression of a generally open, positive, unreserved and relatively guilt-free expression of their own sexuality".
  • Desirability: Many women like to believe that they are so attractive that men cannot resist the urge to overtake them. The evidence for this theory is suggestive but not yet conclusive. I did a study in home Buffalo Social Service Sisters Last year noted that women with attachment anxiety (neediness) have more sexual fantasies with submission.
  • Rape culture in men: Some have argued that women have been conditioned to join men's fantasies of domination. But the prevalence of rape fantasies has not changed significantly over the past few decades as having gender roles.
  • Biological predisposition to surrender: In many mammalian species, the male must pursue and subdue the female in order to mate. Women can be programmed to surrender to the successful dominant man. Just like many other theories in evolutionary psychology, this makes sense but has not been tested empirically.
  • Sympathetic activation: The sympathetic nervous system becomes engaged in times of stress or danger, activating a fight or flight response, which is characterized by increased heart rate, breathing, pupil dilation and genital arousal. Like a roller coaster, fear and excitement go hand in hand.
  • Adversary Transformation: In a survey of romance novels (which are usually written by and for women), 54% of the main female characters were raped. The male heroes are usually sturdy warrior types, and these books can illustrate the desire to "win the rapist's heart" and tame him in marriage.
  • Responding to trauma: This one is not mentioned in the newspaper but Brett Kahrzu Psychoanalyst who conducted the largest survey of sexual fantasies of all time, argues that most masturbatory fantasies are attempts to convert early difficult experiences into pleasure. Those who have been sexually abused can try to manage their trauma by taming these experiences.
  • Laziness: Not mentioned in the newspaper either. Writer Tracie Egan points out in her essay titled "A Rape Please (Take Away)" About Hiring a Male Prostitute to Rape Her (which I recently read live): "... as a girl it can be more difficult handling my equipment, so I have to be a boss in the bedroom to make sure I got it to work properly. [But] it gets really boring always being in charge ... "

I asked Kahr if it was unhealthy to have rape fantasies. "On one level, they are hardly a problem as they represent a very normative part of the female sexual fantasy," he said. Many women have them, and most of these women easily distinguish between reality and fantasy. However, in some cases, it may recapitulate forgotten abuse that has not been properly handled, or it may reflect masochistic tendencies. A woman should see a professional when her fantasies plague her. A professor of clinical psychology at Alliant International University who has studied rape fantasies [pdf] told me that "the sexual and emotional health of such engagement can vary widely" and would like more research on the subject.

Should women share their rape fantasies with their partners? "Obviously a loving, committed, sympathetic man would react gently and empathetically to such messages," said Kahr, "but a more sadistic partner (with conscious or unconscious sadism towards a woman)" could use the information more destructively. "One must proceed with caution. "

I asked my friend Rachel Kramer Bussel, an editor at penthouse who wrote about rape fantasies for them Village voicewhether she thought it was unhealthy to play them with men. She said it wasn't unhealthy per se: "At the end of the day, the woman is in control, and in this context it can be hot to completely abandon yourself to someone who knows they can be trusted."

Rachel added that "it is probably a tricky fantasy for men as this is something they are impressed with not to do." I covered a study that supported such an inhibition in the April issue of Buffalo Social Service Sisters;; it has been shown that men are slower to recognize words associated with dominance (to force, violentlyetc.) when primed with gender-specific words (Climax, Orally, Etc.). Pretending to rape someone, Rachel says, is "a huge responsibility to take, and when you're dealing with a woman who has a history of sexual abuse in her past, it's especially thorny."

Update 06/13/08:

Paul Joannides, author of the wonderful Instructions for switching on, raises a few good points in a post on his own blog. First, in most rape fantasies, the man is a piece and the woman is neither scared nor disgusted. If the rape in these fantasies has nothing to do with real rape, is it still rape? The authors of the paper I fixed the problem. You notice the difference between erotic and aversive rape fantasies, the second type that involves ugly, violent rapists and little arousal. Most rape fantasies, as Joannides correctly points out, fit into the first category. But there are constants. The authors write: "Rape fantasies contain three key elements: violence, sex, and non-consent." They continue, "Certainly, in actual rape, sometimes there is minimal resistance and feminine sexual arousal ... and their occurrence would make the encounter no more seduction than rape."

Second, Joannides writes that the woman with the fantasy is in control "because she is the one writing the scenario", so consent is implied by definition. This is how the authors address this obvious contradiction: "Individuals exercise control over the content of their own fantasies, [but] these activities are against the will of their self-character in the fantasy." So whether, as Joannides argues, "erotic rape fantasy" is a contradiction, depends on how one understands the relationship between oneself and one's fantasy self. As you may recall, Kurt Cobain shared this prickly epistemological paradox in the 1990s addressed one of his songs: "Rape Me".