[T]here’s a wide range of sexual fantasies people have, ranging from entirely unrealistic to applicable to real life, sex with Superman through to banging on a plane.
But the fantasy of being raped, also known as nonconsent and forced sex fantasies, is common.
Sexual fantasies let you explore your sexuality, they’re what we use to get off in those harsh, cold wifi-free winters, and we get to use them in roleplay scenarios to make our sex lives even more fulfilling.
But this common fantasy is one that few of us feel comfortable sharing. It puts people on edge and makes us feel a bit wrong.
Recent research indicates that between 31% and 57% of women have fantasies in which they are forced into sex against their will. For 9% to 17% of those women, rape fantasies are their favourite or most frequent sexual fantasy.
It’s natural if that makes you feel alarmed.
In real-life contexts, rape – meaning sex against your will – is deeply traumatising. It’s not at all ‘sexy’. It’s an intense violation that causes high levels of distress.
Content warning: Those who find discussions of rape and sexual assault may find this article triggering.
It seems strange that we’d use rape as the basis for our sexual fantasies – and yet so many of us do.
And it’s incredibly important to note that while rape fantasies are common, this does not mean that women secretly want to be raped. There is a huge difference between acted out role-play, imagined scenarios, and real-life experiences. No one asks to be raped, no one deserves to be raped, and how common forced sex fantasies are in no way justifies unwanted sexual contact of any nature.
It’s difficult to know exactly what these fantasies entail, because, well, they’re going on in someone else’s mind.
But the women we spoke to mentioned that their fantasies of forced sex steered away from experiences that would be close to reality.
Rather than lines of consent being crossed by friends or bosses, we fantasise about high drama situations in which we are forced to have sex to survive, entering into sexual contracts rather than having our right to consent taken away from us outright.
Amy*, 26, says a common fantasy is being kidnapped and held hostage, then having one of the guards forcing her into sex to keep her safe.
Tasha, 24, fantasises about thieves breaking into her house and being so attracted to her they have to have sex with her against her will.
In both scenarios, the women said they start out by resisting advances, then begin to enjoy the sex midway through. It’s giving up the fight and giving in to desire that’s the turn on, rather than the very real trauma of real-life rape.
But for other women, fantasies are more true to life. For some it’s not about feigned struggle, but imagining consent and control being ripped away as a major turn on.
Why is this? Why are so many of us aroused by forced sex when we’d be horrified by the reality of it? Why do we find the idea of rejecting sex then doing it anyway a turn on?
Dr Michael Yates, clinical psychologist at the Havelock Clinic, explains that there are a few theories.
The first is that women’s fantasies of nonconsensual sex are down to lingering guilt and shame around female sexuality.
‘For centuries (and sadly still all too regularly today), young women are taught to hide sexual feelings or encouraged to fit narrow gender stereotypes of the acceptable ways that female sexuality can be expressed in society,’ Michael tells Metro.co.uk. ‘As a result sex and sexual feelings are often accompanied by anxiety, guilt or shame.
‘One theory is that rape fantasies allow women to reduce distress associated with sex, as they are not responsible for what occurs, therefore have less need to feel guilt or shame about acting upon their own sexual desires or feelings.’
Essentially, lingering feelings of shame around taking agency over our own sexual desires can make us want to transfer them on to another body, thus giving us permission to fantasise about sexual acts. In our minds, it’s not us doing it, it’s all the other person, meaning we don’t have to feel guilty or dirty.
This explains why most rape fantasies don’t tend to be extremely violent, and why the women I asked reported resisting at first before having an enjoyable experience (which real-life rape is definitely not).
‘More often than not, most people who have rape fantasies imagine a passionate scene with very little force, based around the “victim” being so desirable that the “rapist” cannot control themselves, while the victim generally does not feel the terror, confusion, rage and disgust of an actual rape,’ says Michael.
The second theory is down to the dominant narratives shown in media and porn. It’s suggested that because our media and porn so often show men being dominant and losing control around a meek, deeply attractive woman, that’s simply how we envision ideal sex in our fantasies.
Take a flip through classic erotic literature, or even just look at the covers, and you’ll be confronted by strong men grabbing weak, swooning women.
‘Although rarely do these novels portray rape or sexual assault explicitly, they do play into the idea of a female sexual role as succumbing to the dominant role of male sexuality,’ notes Michael. ‘One whereby men can act upon their sexual urges at the point they choose (with the female having little power to object).’
So that might be the why – but what about the who? Does having fantasies about being raped mean anything about us? Are certain types of women more likely to have fantasies of being raped?
As with most sexual fantasies, it’s really not something to panic about.
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