Monday, March 28, 2011

The Unthinkable

Rape fantasy.

Not a fantasy about raping, but about being raped.

It seems as if anyone who enjoys this fantasy has no clue what rape is, and yet, 1 in 6 women in the United States have been a victim of rape or attempted rape. 1 in 6. At Starbucks as you get your morning coffee, realize that at least one women in the cafe with you has been raped. At a sport event, calculate the percentage of the crowd that's female, then mentally seat them together and figure out what a sixth of that is. How many sections are full of rape victims? Breathtaking, isn't it? Heart-rending might be a better term. Now count the men around you. 1 million men in the U.S. are estimated to rape victims. That's 1 in about 360. So 17.7 million women and 1 million men in the United States, and their families and friends, know damn well what rape is.

My immediate reaction to the idea of rape fantasy is, "What the fuck is wrong with these people?"

As you can see, it's hard to be nonjudgmental. Yet, I have a problem with playing thought police. I have a harder time telling women what they can, and cannot, find arousing. As I said, I'm strongly repulsed by it, but is it my place to tell a woman that she's not allowed to fantasize about being raped?

I wish that nobody fantasied about being raped. I wish that I didn't have to fear that rapists would use the existence of this taboo fantasy as an excuse for their crimes. I wish that evil men didn't solicit rape-by-proxy of their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends by going online, pretending to be their ex and asking some stranger to fulfill a rape fantasy, but it happens. It happens more often than you would think. I wish that it was so absurdly, horribly unthinkable that no one ever thought of it again.

But they do.

What a world.

Even with great heaviness in my heart over this matter, I have yet to reach a conclusion about where I stand on this issue. Like many of the thornier dilemmas I muddle through, it could take years before I can reconcile these two philosophies: the right of women to sexual self-determination, and my abhorrence for a crime that has nothing to do with sex.

16 comments:

  1. I wish there was another word to use in place of "rape" in this context, but if you sub in the term "sexual assault" before the word "fantasy", the notion that women are getting off on having that happen to them fizzles.

    These fantasies aren't about being assaulted. They're a kind of mental short-cut that gets past the unarousing logistics of imagining having sex you can't have or don't want to have in real life. Most wives who fantasize about sex with a gorgeous coworker, for example, do not want to fantasize about deliberately cheating on their husbands, too. Some form of "He made me do it!" just gets around whatever problems or pain such sex in real life might cause.

    People who zero in on the word 'rape" here are justifying sexual assault in the same way they use "She was wearing ______ " Even if all women everywhere stopped having these fantasies, the rapists would just come up with another excuse, and society would come up with another way to blame the victim.

    Women who go through public life covered head to toe are at risk for rape, and at risk for being blamed for it.

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  2. Hi Kathleen;

    I was trying to figure out what my approach wouldbe to taboo. I think I know what it will be now.

    Once in a while I snack on Nancy Friday's book on women's sexual fantasies, and its amazing about common the "rape" fantasy is. I think Ann is probably right, it provides a woman with a way to have a forbidden thrill, compared to actually being violated.

    Sometimes after sex I've looked at my wife and seen how peaceful or happy or at least content she is. At the very least she is not disturbed. And the thought occurs to me, the same act, forced on her by a stranger, would be a traumatic experience that could emotionally damage her, maybe beyond healing. Same act, different context, has so much power to give satisfaction or pain.

    I think there is also an element of power there too. So much of our sexual experience has to do with teh reception and assertion of power over another.

    GArce

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  3. Hi Kathleen,

    the only fictional account of rape that I can think of that confronts the reality of it is Stephen Kings' "Tbe Bag of Bones." There is nothing at all erotic in what he describes and it was the first time that I wished his prose was less memorable.

    Rape fantasy seems to be about something other than rape. For some it seems to be a guilt free way of getting to the zipless fuck. For others, the appeal may be that they know this will not happen to them so it is safe to fantasise.

    There are a lot of rape porn stories. Literotica has a whole section, coyly entitled "Non-consent". Many of these stories are written by men for men. They often focus on revenge, on teaching the woman a lesson, on not having to pretend to give a fuck to have a fuck. Even they rarely focus on the reality of rape: the bruised face, the broken teeth, the scraped-raw flesh, the swollen-shut eye, the stench of blood and piss and sweat and fear, the soul-destroying sense of violation that never fully goes away.

    The heart wants what the heart wants. Perhaps it only in our masturbation fantasies, built by us for us, that we truly admit what that is?

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  4. About a year ago, I argued (poorly) that rape fantasies were related to ravishment (http://www.besplace.com/2010/04/07/rape-vs-ravishment/ and http://www.besplace.com/2010/04/14/rape-vs-ravishment-part-ii/). Remittance Girl ripped me a new one. There are women who have the full blown rape fantasies that aren't just shortcuts to giving permission.

    My own experience in the bdsm world confirms that some folks have rough violent victim fantasies. I think that most people who do strongly recognize the distinction between fantasy and something they want to live out.

    In the end, I think there is more variety to human sexual desire than most of us can wrap our minds around.

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  5. Ann - How nice to "see" you again. It's been a while.

    I can't bring myself to read a rape fantasy story (and yes, I wish that there were another term for it. I've heard "forced surrender.") so for a long time, I wrapped my mind in soft, fuzzy, safe, comfortable denial, that it wasn't actual rape being depicted, but every conversation with devotees of it say flat out "Yes, it's rape."

    And while I know that there's a huge difference between what people fantasize and what they want in real life, this is a squick that I can't get past, and simply can't fathom. That, however, I try to remember is MY problem, not the problem of the fans of this fantasy.

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  6. Garce - When I try to wrap my brain around this fantasy, I often wonder if it's a version of lucid dreaming - where you try to control your worst nightmares by conciously entering the dream state and controlling what happens. I think that our minds have a safety mechanism where, when our imaginations get to be too much for us to handle, either wake us or switch to something more manageable. So maybe rape fantasy is a way to take control of something that in real life is beyond the victim's control.

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  7. I think it's tricky to make theories or speculations about why any one person chooses this fantasy. A 'rape' fantasy may be different for every person that dreams it, and each may use it for different reasons.

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  8. Mike - A FaceBook friend from time to time posts the covers of his father's men's pulp magazines. They appear to be from the 1960s and 1970. The theme of all the stories seem to be "put that bitch in her place by raping her."

    From the story of the Sabine Women to current Literotica offerings, there's nothing new under the sun.

    My sexual fantasies would make some BDSM practioners shrink back in horror. So it's not the violence that bothers me. It's the non-consent, but that's not all of it. The part that seems to bother me most is the way humanity is stripped from the victim.

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  9. Big Ed - Remittance Girl and I have been holding this conversation in fits and starts for years. What we always seem to return to is: It's fantasy. But I still manage to wander a torurous mental path to get to that conclusion every time.

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  10. Nikki - What you say is true. And the scope of the fantasies is probably incredibly wide. From mild to wild, as they say in the personals.

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  11. Ann - BTW, quite right of you to call me on the "blame the victim" tone of my "I wish" section.

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  12. Hi Kathleen - Yes, it's been a while! I've been ill for a few years, and my son has needed some extra care. We both seem to be doing a bit better now--knock on wood!

    Mike is right about the literotica rape section, and it's sometimes scary to read through, but how many of these men have actually committed these acts? My guess is very few. As long as it stays in their heads, should I have a problem with it? I don't think so.

    I also know that there are women out there who insist that it's actually rape they're fantasizing about. I wonder what they would do if they were actually sexually assaulted. Would they report it? My guess here is yes, they would, and they would feel the same things any woman who is assaulted feels. Even if the fantasy is degrading and dehumanizing, it's still a fantasy. It's not a wish, and it's not an excuse for other people, either.

    I've also heard the taking control theory, and I can see how that might work. Being able to mentally call the shots on how one visualizes an experience might very well be healing.

    I think we need another word, but we'd have to invent it. "Ravishment" doesn't really cover it. I tend to prefer the legal term when referring to the crime itself, though, because I think it's clearer that way. "Rape" has always had several meanings, only one of which is sexual assault. "Sexual assault" is pretty straight-forward, and puts the onus squarely on the perpetrator.

    Regarding the tendency to blame the victim, that's a fear response, and an understandable one. Sexual assault is a nasty crime that has consequences beyond the impact on the victim. It can change forever how people see you and how they treat you, leaving you in a situation where you either have to hide the past or deal with the labeling. Even saying, "I was raped" can lead to labeling, including slut, damaged goods, fair game and liar, if the hearer thinks you're making it up for attention. If people find out you were raped, they rarely look at you in quite the same way again.

    I can completely understand why women would want to find reasons to believe that it won't happen to them. Most of the time, that's what blaming the victim does, it sets the speaker apart in some way, helping her feel safe.

    Facing the possibility that no one is truly safe, and that this is most likely to happen at the hands of someone we know or trust, is genuinely terrifying.

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  13. This is one of the most straightforward and cogent apologia on rape fantasies that I've come across (in, believe it or not, Literotica):

    http://www.literotica.com/s/on-rape-fantasies

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  14. Anon - thank you for pointing me to that.

    It doesn't change my squick factor with it, but my squick factor is, as I've stated, MY issue.

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  15. Coming late to this excellent discussion...

    Ann, it's wonderful to see your lucid, insightful prose here on the Grip. Like Kathleen, I've missed "seeing" you.

    I think that there's a big difference between a "rape fantasy" written, or owned, by a woman and one created by a man. I tend to feel that the male versions of this fantasy are not rooted in sexuality at all, but fear and hatred. For women who have not experienced rape, the word and concept can be a shorthand for many other notions that have nothing to do with the reality of the crime.

    Thanks to all for your contributions.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  16. Hi Lisabet!

    Nice to hear that I've been missed! :) I've missed the erotica world, too.

    I think what's so scary about the uncensored male version is that it's a reminder of the fact that sex is about more than intimacy, affection and pleasure. It's also about humiliation, punishment and inflicting pain, and not in a safe, sane, consensual way.

    As long as it stays a fantasy, though...

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