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Rape fantasy or domination and submission desires?

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Nunya asks:

I am 24 and a sexually active woman. I have a fantasy that I have told no one about because its embarassing. I keep having fantasies about being held down and forced to have sex. It really turns me on too. Is this normal? (No I have never been raped or molested, so its not some pshychlogical thing comin out.) I want to ask my boyfriend to do a roleplay with me about forcing himself on me but I don't want him to think I am a psycho nutball. Would this be safe and healthy as long as we made up something, a codeword like "reindeer" or something so that if I got scared or it got to rough one of us could say the code word and we stop? Do other people have this fantasy or am I really a psycho nutball?

Heather Corinna replies:

It's important to understand that rape is only sex for the person doing the raping. And really, it's not even that, since partnered sex is something we do WITH someone, not TO someone, or have done TO us.

A person being raped does not have control over the situation, isn't consenting and IS literally being forced or coerced. The person being raped also isn't sexually gratified, nor are they consenting to sex or having any say at all in who is assaulting them, or what is happening. For someone being raped, rape isn't sex: it's an assault. And fantasies people have about rape usually -- like a lot of fantasy -- aren't all that realistic. For instance, many people aren't held down when their raped, nor is their rapist someone they find sexually attractive. What makes something rape isn't being held down in a given way, or being called a "dirty slut," or a given sexual activity happening: what makes something rape is when one person does something sexual to another person which that other does not want. You're expressing wanting this, so you aren't talking about rape.

In other words, I think it's off-base to classify what you are describing as a rape fantasy, even though I know it commonly is called that in our culture. But you know, our culture is pretty messed-up about rape, and has a very bad habit of conflating or confusing rape with sex. It isn't rape or anything even resembling rape when we have safewords, when we are asking someone to do something sexual to us based on our wants and likes. We aren't being forced to have sex when we are asking to be held down and/or asking for someone to have sex with us.

I'm nitpicky about this because as a survivor myself and as an advocate for other rape survivors, I feel it's critical not to confuse what rape is, or confuse "rape" fantasy with fantasizing about bottoming or BDSM sex, which seems to be what you're talking about. You're talking about wanting a certain kind of consensual sex, which you can stop at any time, based on your wants and needs: that isn't rape, nor does that have anything to do with rape. Really, if we lived in a better world, there wouldn't even be anything about rape at sex education sites, because it just has nothing to do with sex. The only reason we discuss it here is that so many of us have been raped, and it can have some big effects on our sexuality, because so many people confuse rape with sex, because rape creates some sexual health issues, and because rape is so prevalent and widespread that anywhere we can talk about it, we will, in the hopes than we can help eradicate it. Some people do report having what sounds more like rape fantasy -- where they do NOT have any control over who does this to them, have no say in what happens throughout, and are in severe emotional distress -- but from what we know, that's quite rare.

I'm also nitpicky about this because we want to be careful classing any kind of sex which everyone is consenting to and enjoying as rape.

I'm not saying any of this to make you feel ashamed: there's never any reason to feel ashamed about sexual fantasy or seeking to enact them consensually. It's just a slippery issue in terms of what we call things, how rape is viewed, and where the line really is between rape and sex, which is an important line for everyone to keep in mind. Once full consent of everyone involved is in place, it's sex, not rape.

But yes: other people like to fantasize in ways like you are -- sometimes called, which I think is much more accurate, ravishment or consensual force fantasy -- and/or engage in sex in which one partner "bottoms" (or submits) and the other "tops," (or dominates) or in all sorts of roleplay, or where they are being held down or constricted in some way. That doesn't mean anyone who has those desires is a "psycho nutball." We all differ very greatly in our desires, and many people's desires include domination and submission and power hierarchies. While people who like and electively choose to "bottom" vary like anyone else, one thing many often say about why it is appealing is because they enjoy feeling as if they do not have to be the person in control, or the person responsible or calling the shots: many describe bottoming as being about trust and surrender. It's also not sage to suppose that consensual force fantasies are more common amoung rape survivors (from what we know, they aren't), but some survivors have expressed/do express that it can sometimes feel healing to engage in a form of 'forced" sex in which they, as they were not during actual rape, DO have control.

If your partner is also interested in, and feels good about, this sort of roleplay, and you also feel good about it, and the two of you can negotiate it as you would any other kind of sex, have sex safety in place as you would with any other kind of sex (including use of a safeword, as you suggested, that is understood to mean stop the moment it's said, but also with it being clear that HE can stop at any time), then there's really no reason to posit this kind of sex would be any less safe or healthy than any other. As with any other kind of sex, too, but particularly with something which may or will press against the edges of anyone's boundaries, the more specific you can both get about what you are and are not okay with in advance, the better. For instance, you say you want a safeword for if this gets "too rough," so it's also a good idea to talk in advance about what you think or know might be too rough, so your partner doesn't go there at all.

Just be aware that he may or may not want to engage in this, and remember that just like many people may not want to enact this kind of sex from the bottom, plenty of people won't want to do it from the top, either.

Even though this really isn't about rape, not everyone wants to roleplay being someone forcing -- even when it's not for real -- another person into sex. It might bother him -- or he just may not find it sexy -- to act that way or have someone see him that way, even in a consensual, negotiated scenario.

Hopefully, you're in a sexual relationship where your partners cares about you enough, and is sensitive enough where you shouldn't have to ever worry about just bringing up a fantasy, even if it's one he doesn't want to participate in. We shouldn't even have to worry about being ridiculed or mistreated by a partner for discussing our desires, even when they aren't the same as our partner's or when those desires are unusual. If you don't feel like you have that kind of relationship with your partner, no matter what it is you want, we'd always advise that you choose only sexual partners -- for anything -- who you know treat you and your sexuality with care and sensitivity. If you DO have that, bringing this up should be okay, especially when you make clear that you're expressing a desire which you'd like to enact, but which a) he isn't obligated to, nor should he feel obligated to, agree to, and b) that if he does want to explore it, he gets to have terms/safeties of his own as well as you.

Here's a little more information for you which should be helpful:

written 24 Oct 2007 . updated 29 Jun 2008

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