Myth: The Rape Fantasy

Today I read someone claim that because some women have “rape” fantasies, they must be motivated by a sex drive that causes them to subconsciously behave in a manner that would allow them to “fulfill” these fantasies, impacting their impulses and the way they dress and behave as well as what they notice and their reactions in certain circumstances.

I think I’ve mentioned this in passing, but this claim is so pointless in the context in which it was made that it suggests an unjust underlying proposal, that I have to dedicate a post to emphasizing that it is wrong at its very premise: women do not have rape fantasies in which they are victims.

There is no such thing as a rape fantasy unless you are the attacker. Someone who is fantasizing about being “raped” is not fantasizing about being raped when he or she is clearly consenting to being in such a situation within the fantasy, and constructing the details of the situation. Similarly, you can fantasize about being dominant in a power struggle, but it’s not a rape fantasy if in the fantasy you know that your partner is in fact consenting. You are fantasizing that they are wanting it even as they say otherwise. Unless you are fantasizing about someone who is struggling against you and actually means no (in which case you’re a total disturbing ass) that is not a rape fantasy.

The term “rape fantasy” to describe a simple fabricated circumstance of no-means-yes is deeply problematic, and leads to all kinds of bullshit suggestions like this.

The only possible way there could be a rape fantasy ever is if the person in question is fantasizing about raping (and not being “raped”) and the victim is actually a victim in the fantasy. All other cases are not rape fantasies. No one asks to be raped. Ever.

This is just another way / excuse for people to water-down the word rape and escape all responsibility.

28 responses

  1. Just a question.

    What if someone is fantasizing, and in the fantasy they are the victim. Really, the victim. And they don’t want to have the fantasy but they can’t stop it? That’s not consenting because it’s a fantasy is it?

  2. Nahida, this guy’s (was it a guy?) claim isn’t totally bizarre, which I think you know because you attacked the core and not what he built on it. OF COURSE we, on some level, signal our subconscious desires through our actions. What’s disturbing is that he would point this out as if it’s significant, or some kind of “justification”. So what? What is it any concern of his why she does things or what’s going on in her head, unless he is looking for justification? He will still require her clear consent.

  3. I have Serious Thoughts about this issue, mostly because I have non-consent fantasies in which I am the perpetrator.

    I think the most important thing to understand is the difference between reality and fantasy. I may fantasize about non-consent; I feel an instinctive sense of horror and revulsion at the idea of raping someone. (Let me be clear: if you actually want to rape people, you don’t have a disturbing-but-harmless kink, YOU ARE A RAPIST FUCKHEAD.) Similarly, someone might fantasize about being forced to have sex and feel an instinctive sense of horror and revulsion at the idea of being raped.

    The psychology of rape and a non-consent fantasy are very different. In my non-consent fantasies, for instance, the person doesn’t want sex for some reason (possibly a really good reason– I get quite a lot of mileage out of people with religious reasons to not want sex) but is overcome by desire to the point that they can’t help but have sex. I am going out on a limb here to say that actual rape is /nothing like that/.

    Similarly, someone else might fantasize about a dark stranger forcing them to have sex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be raped. They might like rough, forcible sex, or being desired so much their partner is willing to do anything to have them, or the freedom from slut-shaming this affords them (since, hey, they didn’t want to do it anyway).

    tl;dr: Fantasy =/= reality, fantasizes about rape =/= wants to be rape survivor or perpetrator

    • but is overcome by desire to the point that they can’t help but have sex. I am going out on a limb here to say that actual rape is /nothing like that/.

      The thing is, this is key. Being overcome by desire is not consent yet but acting on that desire, at that point is consent. If you are fantasizing that your partner is overcome with the desire to have sex and then willingly submits to you because of his/her own desire, you’ve fantasized they’ve consented. Of course we’re talking about fantasy, so the differentiation is kind of meaningless. =P But understanding fantasy =/= reality is crucial. In fantasy everything is constructed, no one is hurt, and control is ultimately yours. The problem I had with this person is essentially the confusion of fantasy with reality–that if a woman fantasies about rough or forcible sex, and behaves in such a way to betray this, that it has anything at all to do with anyone else’s reality. Having no apparent reason of pointing out that people can act on their subconscious desires, he sounded like he was looking for wiggle room (ie it wasn’t rape it was miscommunication! besides she wanted it etc etc)

      • But to get to that point of consent, wouldn’t there need to be some amount of coercion? Sex by coercion is rape.

      • No. Sex by coercion is rape, yes. But coercion is not the only way of getting to that point. (In fact, if the point in question is when they are “overcome by desire” it is probably not at all the way of getting to it.) Coercion is forcing / blackmailing / intimidating into compliance. You can’t coerce someone who doesn’t mind being “coerced.” You have their consent to persuade them.

        And needless to say, consenting to being seduced is not the same as consenting to having sex.

  4. Nahida.

    First, I want to say that I’m commenting in good faith. And second, you don’t owe me answers.

    I would like to understand how we are supposed to know when we have been given consent. In your reply you said, “Consenting to being seduced is not the same as consenting to having sex,” and I agree. But the feminist model requires consent in both. It’s harassment if we don’t get consent for the former, and rape if we don’t get consent for the latter. That is clear when there are two, but what about all the stages in between? How much consent do you need? Do I have to stop and ask the woman I’m with every step of the way? If I can kiss her, remove her sweater, touch her? Can she say I assaulted her between stages?

    I apologize if you have written about this already.

    • Why are you making this complicated?

      Another concern of feminism is to encourage women to initiate instead of sinking to the mentality that they are supposed to be “taken” and are not allowed to express their desires, and to encourage men to be aware of their partners rather than driving forward in patriarchal aggression.

      You need to know the woman you’re with and the situation. If you understand neither, you should not proceed. Yes, she CAN say you assaulted her between stages, if you did indeed assault her between stages. But I take it that’s not what you meant? You are suggesting she would lie. An overwhelming number of rape survivors don’t even pursue justice due to horrifying social pressures and harassment; consequently, to complicate the straightforwardness of rape with insecurity resulting from the loss of privilege and misogynistic mistrust of women under the guise of considering the nuances of sex in such an urgent state is ridiculous. You irrationally suspect that she will intend to be fraudulent and deceptive. Stop watching movies written by men. If you don’t trust her–which it sounds like you don’t, if you’re afraid this hypothetical woman will falsely accuse you of assault–then you shouldn’t be having sex with her.

      Talk about it. Set your boundaries. And act responsibly.

    • In general, the difference between “consent” and “non-consent” to sexual activities is fairly obvious. If your partner is actively responding, moaning, trying to remove your clothes, etc., it is a pretty safe bet they’re consenting. If not, you can always ask. “Hey, want me to eat you out?” is not unhot, you know? It’s not like we’re expecting you to sign a notarized legal document or anything. :)

      • This is embarrassing but I have actual rape fantasies… not the controlled kind as in full on porn dreams… I like s&m. That’s my preference. I think every one has their fantasies. but i agree with above point, every one needs to know when fantasy stops and reality begins!

  5. >There is no such thing as a rape fantasy unless you are the attacker. <

    Ideally this is all that would ever need to be said, because it's perfectly put.

    (I'm bummed that I forgot to update my feed to make the switch and was all, "What happened to Nahida?!" and only then realized I'd need to add the WordPress feed to my Google Reader. Glad to have you back even though you didn't go anywhere!)

  6. I have rape fantasies in which I am the victim, and I’m really confused as to what you’re trying to say.

    Yeah, it’s not REALLY rape if I’m technically consenting, but the POINT of a rape fantasy is to make it seem like you aren’t consenting, and make it seem like the other person REALLY is raping you. It’s not really misleading because the point is that it seems like a rape.

      • For one, it’s inaccurate. If there is consent, it isn’t rape and therefore doesn’t make sense to call it a “rape fantasy.” And secondly, it’s a term that fails to acknowledge the distinction–which in the context of rape crimes and victimbood is hugely significant, and leads to people like this guy (in the post) pulling theories out of his ass, because he had confused factors which women can control and hidden consent in a fantasy construct with rape.

  7. What you are talking about is role playing. A rape fantasy is a sexual fantasy a person (male or female) has in their imagination (not consensual game play with another person) where they are being forced to do something against their will. and many women have them. and of course it NEVER means we actually want to be raped. and to say that women
    are not allowed to have these fantasies is not feminist. It’s thought police. There is no such thing as a “bad” fantasy. There is only “bad” action or behavior.

    • Who the fuck is saying women aren’t “allowed” to have these fantasies? This post is about the inaccuracy of the term and how it’s oppressively exploited. Learn the difference between a verbal disagreement and an actual imposition on behaviors before you lecture me about what I’m talking about.

  8. As long as it isn’t a man’s idea I think it is empowering! If he suggests it, it’s probably because he likes actual rape.


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