BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
What does the term 'rape fantasy' mean? It is a sexual fantasy which involves one partner being coerced, or coercing another, into sexual activity. This term is often used to explain a particular sexual desire that involves being dominated or dominating another. I have heard women describe how they wouldn't mind being raped by certain celebrities in specific film scenes, for example, "I wouldn't mind if Ryan Gosling raped me" and a variety of statements like that. Because, yes, you actually would mind. I cry fowl.
No one wants to be raped. The very fact that someone wants to have sex with another person, celebrity or not, means there is attraction and desire, which could result in consent between both parties. This difference is essential to understand: Rape is a sexual act forced upon a partner without consent. If two adults consent, then it isn't rape. There is a distinct difference between domination and submission fantasies and rape. Extreme fantasies where two partners are role-playing a scenario mimicking rape is still consensual, because there is a prior agreement.
I firmly believe there is a clear difference between rape fantasy, which implies someone wants to be raped (and the very definition of rape itself makes this impossible) and a domination/submission fantasy.
In 2009, a report was published by Bivona, J. and J. Critelli titled "The Nature of Women's Rape Fantasies: An Analysis of Prevalence, Frequency, and Contents" in Journal of Sex Research. Sixty-two percent responded that they'd had at least one such "rape fantasy." However, the responses varied depending on the terminology; for example, when asked about being "overpowered" by a man, fifty-two percent responded positively. On the contrary, when the term 'rape' was used, only thirty-two percent responded saying they had the fantasy. Thus, the report proves that terminology used is not just semantic, but powerful, as the difference is pretty significant.
Why am I being so particular about a phrase? Simply, language makes a world of difference. By promoting the term rape fantasy, we are desensitizing what rape actually is. Rape is a non-consensual, forcible act, whether physically violent or not. It is suggesting that rape is not so bad, that it may actually be desired by women. In essence, it is excusing people who rape, while also taking away the rights and freedoms rape survivors should have, such as freedom of expression, proper medical care, and legal justice. Rape survivors often never report their assault, because they feel as though their families, friends, and authorities will not believe them, and may even ridicule them. By using the term rape fantasy, you are perpetuating the idea that rape is not a serious crime, that victims may have actually enjoyed it.
Of course, role-playing and enacting submissive/dominate fantasies are entirely separate from rape fantasies, but still need to be thoroughly discussed and established before attempting to re-create a lusty scenario. Having boundaries and safe words is absolutely necessary, as they can prevent any unintentional harm and miscommunication from occurring.
Let’s stop perpetuating rape culture by using our words better, fiercer, louder. It's one thing to have a fetish and a fantasy, it's another to perpetuate the idea that "no" can mean "yes." Yes means yes. Anything else is no.
Editor's Note: This appeared originally on our old site.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015) & Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications). Her chapbook XENOS is forthcoming from Imaginary Friend Press in 2016. She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the chief editor for Luna Luna Magazine.