It’s Okay For Trauma Survivors to Fantasize About Rape

It’s about taking back your power and control.

Author’s Note: CW/TW rape, sexual assault. Please continue with care.

As a survivor of sexual assault and rape, it will probably surprise you to find out, I’ve had a rape fantasy. And I’m not alone.

Some women who have experienced the tragedy of sexual assault go on to be tormented by tremendous psychological turmoil over sexual fantasies of rape and forceful sex. They describe being angry and upset with themselves, confused that they and their bodies are responding with sexual arousal to a fantasy similar to an event that was so traumatic and devastating.

There is a general assumption, among people, advocates and therapists, that for a victim of sexual assault to fantasize about being violated, there must be something wrong. This fantasy must reflect some pathological process. I disagree. First, I will point out the prevalence of the fantasy of rape among women and men who have never experienced such events. The rape fantasy may very well occur independent of a traumatic event. — David J. Ley, PhD

Though rape and sexual assault do contain much violence, there is sex there already, in the mind and body of both victim and offender. So it makes sense that our minds attach a sense of sexuality to the event, regardless of it being unwanted.

Does this fantasy by a victim represent “identification with the aggressor,” and the idea that a victim is identifying with her offender in this fantasy? Absolutely not. In such fantasies, victims are rarely putting themselves in the mind or place of the aggressor. Instead, they are playing the role of the victim, but in a manner in which they are in charge — it’s happening in their head, in their control, under the power of their imagination.

Our society romanticizes rape and violence, in complex and disturbing ways, from the Beast pounding on Beauty’s door in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, to the contents of thousands of romance novels, where women “swoon” and “succumb” to male passions and dominance. Fantasies of forced eroticism may, in some cases, be the result of social programming. — Dr David Ley, PhD

Evolutionary biologist Randy Thornhill argues convincingly that rape is something that has occurred throughout human history, and thus, following his argument, these fantasies may reflect evolutionary adaptations. Psychologist Roy Baumeister has proposed that the fantasy of submission reflects a desire to escape from the burden of self, from the chore of being responsible, and in charge of your own existence.

Just like any fantasy or daydream, it is a way for a person to mentally assert control over a situation in which they were powerless. People do better when they move forward after a trauma, maintaining a sense of personal autonomy and power, developing a narrative that they, not the event and situation, nor the perpetrator, are in charge of their lives and actions.

And there’s the kicker. In a moment where all control and power over the situation was taken from me, it makes sense in my mind to experience something similar where I am in control.

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