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Journal of Sex Research
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Women's Erotic Rape Fantasies: An Evaluation of Theory and Research
Joseph W. Critellia; Jenny M. Bivonaa a University of North Texas,
To cite this Article Critelli, Joseph W. and Bivona, Jenny M.(2008) 'Women's Erotic Rape Fantasies: An Evaluation of
Theory and Research', Journal of Sex Research, 45: 1, 57 — 70 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/00224490701808191 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00224490701808191
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openness to sexuality. Although many researchers have argued against such an interpretation. Maslow. and for 9% to 17% of women these are a frequent or favorite fantasy experience. In addition. and predispositions more clearly than does overt behavior (Ellis & Symons. USA. which suggests that there is something wrong with the women who have them. male rape culture.1080/00224490701808191 Women’s Erotic Rape Fantasies: An Evaluation of Theory and Research Joseph W. In the realm of sexual fantasies. Critelli. Bivona University of North Texas This article is the first systematic review of the research literature on women’s rape fantasies. The true mystery is why anyone does’’ (p. psychoanalytic (Deutsch. ‘‘It does not seem normal that a person should want to imagine rape. Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 Sexual fantasies or daydreams can range from brief thoughts or images to stories with detailed plotlines. the major theories of women’s rape fantasies are evaluated both rationally and empirically. biological predisposition to surrender. largely because of gaps. sexual desirability. Current research indicates that between 31% and 57% of women have fantasies in which they are forced into sex against their will. P. such as a feared performance evaluation. For example. purely imagined experiences. University of North Texas. Russell. LLC ISSN: 0022-4499 print=1559-8519 online DOI: 10. they are not well understood. 2008 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group. 1980) have maintained that rape fantasies are masochistic and pathological. and sexually arousing (Kanin. Box 311280. Denton. 1990).’’ Women’s rape fantasies exist as a psychological enigma. In contrast. because the experience of the rape itself would be abhorrent. sympathetic physiological activation. Why would a person have an erotic and pleasurable fantasy about an event that. 23). pleasurable. 1933=1965) and some feminist positions (Brownmiller. or other weaknesses in the explanations given. Methodological critiques and programs for future research are presented throughout. allows a possible interpretation that. In contrast. sexual blame avoidance. 57–70. would be abhorrent and traumatic? In this article. 45(1). As Hazen (1983) articulated. ambiguities. As sexual fantasies are relatively unconstrained by social consequences. or a mixture of both (Leitenberg & Henning. more importantly. are not rare. but they may not want to engage in actual infidelity because of negative consequences to the marriage. 1975. an affair would be exciting. One reason why these fantasies are not well understood is that the study of women’s rape fantasies may have been systematically avoided by some researchers and theorists.O. Psychology Department. their positions have not been entirely convincing. motives. 1944. and begins the task of theoretical integration to arrive at a more complete and internally consistent explanation for why many women engage in erotic rape fantasies. Greater awareness that some women have erotic rape fantasies could reinforce the myth that women want to be forced into sex. both as fantasy and in actuality. Although people often daydream about events that they do not want to happen. These theories explain rape fantasies in terms of masochism. rape fantasies differ in key respects. fantasies of forced sex are often exciting. and adversary transformation. the existence of these fantasies. 1942). they may reveal underlying psychological processes. Freud.JOURNAL OF SEX RESEARCH. and this might encourage male sexual aggression. 1944. makes provisional judgments as to which theories appear to be most viable. They may deal with actual past experiences. Erotic rape fantasies are paradoxical: they do not appear to make sense. 1982). one could fantasize an extramarital affair. but. the area that almost certainly has posed the greatest conceptual challenge for researchers is that of ‘‘rape fantasies. This article evaluates theory and research. For some. TX 76205-1280. women may want to be raped (Deutsch.edu unpleasant consequences. Critelli and Jenny M. For example. And although fantasies about unpleasant events. Although psychology has emphasized the study of overt behavior. 1995). at some level. E-mail: critelli@unt. Although women’s rape fantasies have been a subject of formal study since the 1940s. in real life. along with the belief that fantasies often operate in terms of wish fulfillment. the investigation of fantasy may provide unique contributions to the field. . these fantasies are not pleasurable. rape would be avoided not only because of Correspondence should be addressed to Joseph W.
Although men also have rape fantasies (Leitenberg & Henning. 1999). The key words. avoiding an area of study that is difficult to understand and perhaps uncomfortable to discuss blocks the growth of knowledge. along with a methodological evaluation of the quality and credibility of these data. 1995). which are later rated for presence of forced sex. Individuals may have had rape fantasies but do not consider them to be favorite fantasies or they may be reluctant or embarrassed to write out a detailed description of a rape fantasy. has since diminished. and these are rape fantasies. in the long term. But the reduction has not come about because researchers have arrived at a consensus as to the meaning and function of rape fantasies. and submission. the term ‘‘rape fantasy’’ will follow legal definitions of rape and sexual assault (Corpus Juris Secundum. It can be argued that. coercive sex. At the rational level the focus will be on whether the theory makes sense. Early researchers acknowledged the importance of female erotic rape fantasies. Table 1 displays the empirical studies that have reported either the prevalence (percent of women) or frequency of women’s rape fantasies. Twenty studies were identified. The present analysis covers women’s waking. an avoidance of this topic sends the false and disturbing message that there is something shameful about women’s sexuality. Just as important. All sources identified in these searches and their references were examined for possible inclusion. From the point of view of the self-character. perpetuates ignorance. Because individuals exert control over the contents of their own fantasies. and research activity in this area increased vigorously between the 1970s and 1980s. and others ask subjects to write out their favorite sexual fantasies. we will begin the process of integrating the lines of explanation into a more complete understanding of women’s rape fantasies. daydream. We will evaluate existing theories of rape fantasy. In addition. rape. Do its conceptual strands fit together in a logical and internally consistent manner? Which aspects of rape fantasy does the theory address and which aspects go unexplained? At the empirical level the focus will be on how consistent the theory is with data obtained by third-person and self-observations. and important as a scientific enigma whose solution can lead to a deeper understanding of female sexuality. and. This activity. or incapacitation through. Key questions will guide the analyses: How many women engage in fantasies of forced sex? Are there personality differences between women who have rape fantasies and those who do not? And what function do these fantasies serve? Finally. We will review more than 30 years of research on rape fantasies. many rape fantasies involve sexual activities that take place consistent with the will and desire of the fantasizer. seven from the noncollege community and 13 from college students. so conclusions as to possible effects of sexual orientation cannot be reached at this time. and imagery. as a major fantasy theme for women. This reduction may have to do with the previously noted social reservations attached to this topic. forced sex. Thus we would argue that. and contextual explanation of the phenomenon of rape fantasies so that individuals can better understand why the speculation that women want to be raped is in error.CRITELLI AND BIVONA As pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and colleagues (1953) forcefully argued. to coerce a woman into sexual activity against her will. diminishes societal well-being. along with truncated versions thereof. or researchers simply may have come to a temporary impasse. against the will of the character she identifies with in the fantasy. force. with each of these combined with fantasy. nearly all studies have failed to distinguish between the rape fantasies of heterosexuals and those of lesbians. Key word searches were carried out on PsychInfo and EBSCOhost. Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 The Prevalence of Women’s Rape Fantasies A thorough review of the literature on women’s fantasies of forced sex was conducted. Defining Rape Fantasies For the purposes of the present review. however. this is the time for taking stock and preparing the way for future developments in an area that is important in its own right. Thus rape fantasies contain three key elements: force. sleep or intoxication. an implicit consent has been given and these fantasies might be viewed as ritual displays of male dominance and female surrender (Fisher. and nonconsent. Several methodological concerns place limits on the conclusions that can be reached from these data. for example. From the viewpoint of the fantasizer. that is. despite this research. comprehensive. even though these activities are against the will of her self-character in the fantasy. sexual assault. although final judgments are not yet possible. erotic rape fantasies. Thus the fantasy logs provide valuable . any attempt to make final judgments as to the validity of the various theories of rape fantasy would be premature. All used convenience samples. included the following: sex. there is nonconsent. 2002). threat of force. This term will refer to women’s fantasies that involve the use of physical force. One purpose of the present analysis is to develop a more integrated. Some measures ask for a direct self-report of whether the individual has ever had rape fantasies. seek out other theories that can be applied to this phenomenon. these should be considered a separate phenomenon and they will not be 58 considered here. sex. and identify which lines of explanation appear to be rationally sound and empirically viable.
N ¼ 1. Mean age: 21. N ¼ 141. Volunteered to be observed having sex. overpowered or forced have as recurring fantasy. N ¼ 66 Porto. Knafo & Jaffe College sample. Crepault. intercourse. forced to surrender frequent of 34 sexual 31 homosexual). women. 30 homosexual) Age not reported. an acquaintance. your will. fantasy. 71% married. (exact item not listed). Age Solitary rape fantasy item. Price. N ¼ 60 (30 heterosexual. Mean age: Caucasians: 9th most 21. ‘‘Since college entrance.’’ Homosexuals: Most frequent sexual fantasy of 5. Abraham. fantasies. and Switzerland. Talbot. American. Homosexuals: Age: 18–44. Checklist of sexual fantasies ‘‘I imagine that I am being Intercourse: Most frequent overpowered or forced sexual fantasy of 21. 29% have had fantasy. Beech. N ¼ 67 Checklist of sexual fantasies ‘‘Overpowered=raped’’ during sexual activity. and when not engaging in sexual frequent of 21. ‘‘often. to surrender. Mean age: 27. Checklist of sexual fantasies ‘‘Scene in which you are the 42% have had the fantasy. 70% single.’’ Masturbation: 4th most American Jews. & Couture partnered women from (1977) Quebec.’’ frequent of 34 sexual fantasies. 93% single. Community sample. to surrender.’’ 33% have the fantasy ‘‘occasionally. N ¼ 203.’’ Not in 10 most frequent of 34. France.’’ Second most frequent sexual fantasy of 15. ‘‘Forced sexual encounters. sexually active women. 38% African fantasies.’’ favorite sexual fantasies. N ¼ 64 Checklist of sexual ‘‘Being overpowered or Heterosexuals: 7th most & Hillman (1985) (33 heterosexual. frequent of 21.’’ 13th most frequent=12th most prevalent of 31. Hariton & Singer (1974) Sue (1979) Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 Masters & Johnson (1979) College sample. Solitary item on rape ‘‘Being forced to have sex. Responses mailed in. Checklist of sexual fantasies ‘‘Being forced or 36% have had fantasy. Aversive rape fantasies: did you ever have 4 times per year. N ¼ 30. Hunt (1974) Community sample.’’ 9% have the fantasy with partner. did 57% have had rape fantasy. Volunteers were author acquaintances=referrals.’’ Face-to-face interviews. 4th during intercourse. College sample. forced to surrender most frequent of 34 sexually against sexual fantasies. Age: 20–40. Community sample. you ever have fantasies fantasies. Community sample. Age: 75% 25–77. 100% during masturbation. 76% Jewish. during sexual activities victim of aggression. Allensworth. N ¼ 73. Checklist of sexual fantasies ‘‘I imagine that I am being 49% have had fantasy. married women. 29% have had erotic rape not reported. raped? More specifically. 29% have had (daydreams) about being aversive rape fantasies. thoughts where you put yourself in the place of a woman being raped so that you were able to visualize the rape situation and the rapist?’’ African Americans: 2nd Checklist of sexual ‘‘Being overpowered or Price & Miller College sample. sexually against fantasies. Davidson (1985) College sample. Mean age: 19. Study How Common are Women’s Rape Fantasies? Sample Measure(s) Wording of Rape Fantasy Measure Prevalence/Frequency of Rape Fantasies Community sample. 14% during intercourse.044. your will. N ¼ 116 sexually active women. (1984) Mean age: 22. Median age: 32. Heterosexuals: 2nd most frequent sexual fantasy of 5.’’ 19% of those who have fantasy during masturbated have had masturbation. overpowered into a most prevalent of 13. 62% (1984) Caucasian. Kanin (1982) College sample. N ¼ 166 Checklist of sexual ‘‘Overpowered by 16% listed as one of 5 sexually experienced fantasies. Nonsexual behavior: 5th most behavior.RAPE FANTASIES Table 1. & Vaughan (1980) (Continued ) 59 . sexual relationship.
33% have had the fantasy. 22% have had fantasy within the last 3 months.’’ Checklist of sexual fantasies. The term ‘‘context’’ will refer to what activity the individual was engaging in during the rape fantasy. Goldberg. Checklist of sexual fantasies. ‘‘Forced sex with a male. N ¼ 106. 80% single.’’ ‘‘rape=force’’ Prevalence/Frequency of Rape Fantasies 15% included acquaintance as one of 5 favorite. ‘‘I imagine I am being overpowered or forced to surrender. Checklist of sexual fantasies. as Hunt suggested that women over 35 showed unusually low prevalence rates. Balzano. Gold. Rank 5 favorite sexual fantasies of 49. 26% wrote sexual fantasy with at least some use of force. 72% single. In addition.’’ ‘‘Forced sex with more than one male. N ¼ 58. this may guide individuals to respond in terms of fantasies that are more erotic in nature. Kling. ‘‘Being forced to submit. Fantasy log for 3 frequent sexual fantasies.’’ ‘‘Being forced to submit. When asked as part of a checklist. M ¼ 3 times=month. 13% included ‘‘rape=force’’ content in favorite sexual fantasy. Mean age: 28 fantasies. 36% have had the fantasy. whereas stand-alone items may be more likely to reflect either erotic or aversive rape fantasies. findings from these two studies appear in Table 1 but will not be included in summary statistics. & Stamey (1991) College samples. Ages not reported. College sample. Experiment 2: N ¼ 87. this study 60 included a number of older women. Age not reported. making these data nearly uninterpretable. Wilson (1987) Pelletier & Herold (1988) Community sample. Without a replication of this finding. N ¼ 212 Checklist of sexual married students. 1974) yielded an unusually low prevalence: 19% of the women who had masturbated reported having rape fantasies during masturbation. Mean age: 22 Describe favorite sexual fantasy. Terestman. Beech. & Salvadori (1989) Gold & Clegg (1990) College sample. Another study (Talbot. perhaps. such as masturbation. N=A N=A Hsu. results based on stand-alone measures will be identified explicitly. it is unclear whether this indicates that women typically do not engage in rape fantasies during masturbation or. whether it reflects an age-related decrease in rape fantasies.’’ ‘‘Overpowered by stranger and forced to sexually surrender. 51% have had the fantasy. Mean age: 25. Experiment 2: 9% wrote sexual fantasy with at least some use of force.’’ Shulman & Horne (2006) Internet survey. 9% included stranger as one of 5 favorite. the item used may either appear on its own or as part of a checklist of sexual fantasies. 12% wrote fantasy involving force. Lockerd (1998) Median age: 20. Age: 80% 20–26. Median age: 26.CRITELLI AND BIVONA Table 1. Fantasy log for 3 favorite sexual fantasies. 10% have fantasy once a month or more. As the number of studies involved with each of the specific comparisons employed below is six or fewer and these studies typically vary in methodology.’’ Fantasy log for 3 sexual fantasies. 7th most preferred of 49. Myers. One study (Hunt. Checklist of sexual fantasies. Experiment 1: N ¼ 94.’’ evidence but they can offer only lower-bound estimates of prevalence. Experiment 1: 17% wrote sexual fantasy with at least some use of force. 1980) used a sample of author acquaintances and their referrals. In the following discussion. Diefenbach. 18% have had the fantasy. N ¼ 137. & Vaughan. Study Continued Sample Measure(s) Wording of Rape Fantasy Measure ‘‘Overpowered by acquaintance and forced to sexually surrender. & Elias (1994) Strassberg & College sample. N ¼ 409 Readers of British daily newspaper. N ¼ 136 single women. which has been the most common procedure. such as weighted means and confidence intervals. College sample. N ¼ 77. 55% have had the fantasy. N ¼ 261. and nonsexual activity. ‘‘Scene in which you have the impression of being raped. when participants are asked directly if they have had rape fantasies. 20% had fantasy in the last 3 months. these would give an appearance of conclusiveness that would . 31% have had the fantasy. sexual activities with a partner. Kessler. intercourse. it would not be meaningful to report aggregated indexes. In addition. Checklist of sexual fantasies. 8th most prevalent sexual fantasy of 16. 14th most preferred of 49. Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 Person. Knapke. Because of these special methodological concerns. Davidson & Hoffman (1986) College sample. Mean age: 28 College sample.
Estimates were evenly distributed. These estimates range from 9% to 17%. With the exception of those by Strassberg and Lockerd (1998). In estimating prevalence of rape fantasies. Shulman and Horne (2006). Two studies (Person. Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 Two ways of considering rape fantasies are to assess their relative prevalence and relative frequency of occurrence as compared with other sexual fantasies. with these estimates ranging from 31% to 57%. ranging from five items to 34 items. which may have primed participants to report more fearful or aversive fantasies. context. 1975). 1999).’’ and he called these ‘‘seduction fantasies. context does not appear to be a major factor. & Salvadori. 2000). Kanin made the interpretation that these were not true rape fantasies. women typically are approached aggressively by a dominant and attractive male who is overcome with desire for her. respectively) have estimated the percentage of women who have had rape fantasies within the last 3 months as 20% and 22%.g. and these females estimated that their rape fantasies occurred an average of three times a month with a median of once a month. estimates have varied. An inspection of prevalence across decades reveals that studies published in the 1970s show prevalence rates ranging from 36% to 49%. with lists differing considerably in number of fantasy items included. and the study from the 2000s shows a 34% rate. Sentiments such as these suggest that many women may be ashamed of having rape fantasies. and item wording. Erotic and Aversive Rape Fantasies Kanin (1982) has presented the most detailed content analysis of rape fantasies. research (Gold. in an Internet survey. studies from the 1980 s show prevalence rates ranging from 31% to 57%.. these may be underestimates. With regard to context. With regard to relative frequency for those who do have rape fantasies. the above estimates are fairly consistent. characterize the distribution of scores so that their practical and theoretical implications can be determined. Myers. and perhaps on socioeconomic status (SES). prevalence rates for rape fantasies appear to have been relatively stable over the past 4 decades. he overpowers her and takes her sexually. erotic rape fantasies contain low to moderate levels of fear with no realistic violence. but they do show a median ranking in the top 10.. Overall. Kanin stated that some women have rape fantasies that are exclusively sexual and erotic. Goldberg.RAPE FANTASIES not be justified by the data (Wilkinson & Task Force on Statistical Inference. According to Kanin. estimates of ever having rape fantasies with context unspecified show a range of 31% to 57%. Strassberg and Lockerd (1998) found that 55% of females have had rape fantasies. and he used unusually direct and explicit wording (see Table 1). This conclusion may be somewhat misleading. Table 1 indicates that estimates of how many women have had rape fantasies are comparable for the community and student samples. and disgusted after writing the fantasy than did women who did not write about forced sex. Terestman. As awareness of rape as a social problem and depictions of rape in the popular culture have increased over the past 40 years (Bevacqua. With the possible exception of rape fantasy during masturbation. Community estimates ranged from 31% to 49%. educational level. Hsu et al. with a median of 42%. there is no standardization across studies in their checklists of sexual fantasies. and 54% of fantasies that were characterized as exclusively fearful contained male rapists who were described as physically attractive. he asked a solitary question rather than embedding the rape item within a checklist of sexual fantasies. guilty. that the described resistance amounted to a ‘‘token no. Table 1 shows that there are eight known estimates of the percentage of women for whom rape fantasies are frequently recurring or preferred sexual fantasies. reported that 10% of women have rape fantasies that occur once a month or more. Claims have been made within the academic and popular cultures that rape fantasies reflect personal and societal pathology (e. with a median of 14%. these may be underestimates.’’ Participants themselves 61 . however. & Stamey. as 21% of his participants classified their fantasies as reflecting a combination of sexual excitement and fear=terror. The wording of the rape fantasy item did not appear to affect results. 1994. In addition. Despite the increased prominence of rape themes in popular culture. With this caution in mind. 1989. For example. while other women have rape fantasies that are exclusively fearful and aversive. 1991) has found that women who wrote fantasies of forced sex also rated themselves as more frightened. In these fantasies. Brownmiller. As with the prevalence findings. while those using the more explicit wording of ‘‘rape’’ ranged from 34% to 57%. while estimates for rape fantasies during intercourse or other sexual activities are comparable. Unfortunately. relative prevalence indicates that rape fantasies are not the most common sexual fantasies. We will. while student samples ranged from 31% to 57%. ranging from 36% to 49%. Key comparisons were made regarding type of sample. For absolute frequencies of rape fantasies. studies from the 1990 s show prevalence rates ranging from 36% to 55%. she feels or expresses nonconsent and presents minimal resistance. it is possible that this has affected the prevalence of rape fantasies. Studies that used a variation of ‘‘overpowered or forced’’ showed a range of 31% to 55%. there are nine reports of the percentage of women who have had rape fantasies. Balzano. Community and student samples would be expected to differ somewhat on age. they show a median ranking within the three most frequently experienced sexual fantasies.
which states that rape fantasies are an expression of women’s innate masochism. In these fantasies. 1982). A typical scenario for an aversive fantasy would consist of an assailant ‘‘grabbing. in actual rapes minimal resistance and female sexual arousal do sometimes occur (Duddle. 1986. Kanin (1982) found that 29% of his subjects reported having aversive rape fantasies. are not more likely than other women to have rape fantasies (Gold et al. it is clear that some of these theories are incompatible with one 62 . movements toward independence from the parents and the expression of natural aggressive impulses are more strongly inhibited in girls than they are in boys. Each of the major theories will be examined and evaluated in an attempt to develop a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of why some women have rape fantasies. et al. including those of some women who were sexually abused as children (Gold. a theory may provide a valid explanation for one component of rape fantasies. Michael. another. Bond and Mosher (1986) presented women with either realistic depictions of rape containing pain and suffering or with depictions containing minimal discomfort and found reported sexual arousal to be much higher in the latter. Most women. Masochism The earliest major theory of rape fantasy is a psychoanalytic position developed by Deutsch (1944). 1991. suggesting that these fantasies are not reexperiences of past adult sexual aggression. These fantasies contain coercive and painful violence. p. and 5% had fantasies of being whipped or beaten by a partner. Several studies using more conventional methodologies have suggested that a small proportion of rape fantasies are aversive (Maltz. Gold. and a stranger. 1982.. and these will be the focus of the present investigation. & Michaels. Gagnon. Kanin (1982) examined women’s written descriptions of rape fantasies specifically to determine if. Instead. On the other hand. women appeared to be deriving sexual pleasure from the pain and suffering of rape. Estimates are that between 5% and 10% of the general population has engaged in some form of sexual masochism and that these acts generally are consensual. 1944. 1995). As no evidence was presented that the self-character’s nonconsent was insincere. 1995). Gold et al. pleasurable. p. 1990. and their occurrence would not render the encounter a seduction rather than a rape. and little or no sexual arousal. clearly state that they do not want to be raped in reality. Certainly. It is unlikely that one of these theories is right and all the others are misguided. the male is more likely to be older. 1991). Kanin. and he found no evidence for masochism. 1990. however. in the fantasy. 1997.. In particular. 1991. however. and it is unlikely that all women have rape fantasies for the same reason. their unconscious desire for suffering and pain. and some stand on stronger ground than do others. ripping off clothing. and female nonconsent. Wilson. Resnick & Acierno. Hsu and colleagues (1994) found that 8% of women in a sample of college students had fantasies of being sexually degraded.. and the self-character in these fantasies showed nonconsent. while the victim is fighting to keep the aggressor from achieving penetration’’ (Kanin. parents offer their daughters the reward of being loved and cared for: ‘‘In this renunciation the aggressive forces that are not actively spent must find an outlet. It appears that most of the current research deals with erotic rape fantasies. the label of ‘‘seduction’’ does not seem justified.e. Deutsch speculated that. 1994).. Kanin found that women with aversive rape fantasies were more apprehensive about actual rape and more likely to have dreams of rape than were other women.CRITELLI AND BIVONA Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 characterized these as rape situations. and his methods were unique and may have primed participants to recall aversive fantasies. 1987). and considerable evidence supports the demonstrated fact that they would be repulsed and traumatized by actual rape (Bond & Mosher. And as a large majority of women have consensual sexual fantasies (Leitenberg & Henning. Aversive rape fantasies come closer to representing realistic rape. 251). To help induce this renunciation of independence and aggression. 1991). No other studies have classified rape fantasies in this way. The empirical evidence does not support masochism as a general explanation of rape fantasies. because girls are physically weaker and more in need of protection than are boys. so that various theories would need to be combined and integrated to approach a comprehensive understanding. The more aversive rape fantasies may operate as attempts to deal with the fear of actual rape by gaining some sense of control over rape situations and rehearsing how one might deal with actual rape (Gold & Clegg. and Current Explanations for Rape Fantasies Researchers and clinicians have created a number of theories for explaining rape fantasies. it should explain why women engage in rape fantasies when they could just as easily initiate a consensual fantasy. and they do this by endowing the passive state of being loved with a masochistic character’’ (Deutsch. 1991. i. 117). An acceptable explanation should address the three defining features of erotic rape fantasy: sex. At the same time. 1985). a theory should explain why many women actively engage in rape fantasy for their own enjoyment and erotic arousal when their dominant reaction to actual rape is one of repugnance. over 99% by one assessment (Laumann. Johnson. use of force to obtain sex. throwing to the ground. Women who have been raped as adults. Gold & Clegg. unattractive.
reported having rape fantasies during intercourse ‘‘very often. women have been socialized as to the importance of not being perceived as promiscuous. often leading to orgasm. overly sexual. Hollender. Hariton’s (1976) second group experienced a wide variety of sexual fantasies during intercourse. Thus studies that have provided the most direct tests of the sexual blame avoidance theory. 2006. Taken together. the woman is forced to do something she does not want to do. Knafo & Jaffe. inquisitive. Baumeister & Twenge. in a sample of college women. do not support it as a general explanation for rape fantasies. 2002. in a community sample of married women.. 1997). it does not seem likely that they are using the rape fantasies to escape blame for expressing their sexuality. some studies have found that rape fantasies were more likely in women with high sex guilt (Moreault & Follingstad. some research (Gosselin. so she cannot be blamed for what happens. and conformist. Deutsch. For example. that is. with the majority of research at odds with blame avoidance.’’ and ‘‘slut’’ have been used to control and restrict women’s sexual behavior and. women who are high in sex guilt. independent.’’ These women described their rape fantasies as highly erotic. female sexuality has been actively suppressed (Allgeier & Allgeier. or insufficiently reticent with regard to sex. In support of the theory. cabin.). These women were characterized as dependent. found that 97% had experienced the fantasy. 1991. 1988). 1998) and they scored higher than other women on positive attitudes toward sexual stimuli (Gold et al. 1974). Shulman & Horne. and women who have negative attitudes toward sexual stimuli would be more likely than other women to engage in rape fantasies. and they had difficulty with orgasm and sexual arousal. Other research on rape fantasy and personality suggests that sexual blame avoidance may be applicable for some women. reduce guilt and shame.. however. found that having rape fantasies during intercourse correlated with marital contentment and erotic arousal leading to orgasm. unobtrusive. it is 63 Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 .RAPE FANTASIES nonpathological (Baumeister & Butler. A third group was brought up in a background of sexual repression.’’ ‘‘easy. comprising 14% of their sample. 2000. An issue that has not been discussed in this literature is that nearly all individuals who have rape fantasies also engage in consensual sexual fantasies. including rape fantasies. by extension. which would inhibit sexual gratification. anxiety. suggested that there may be two different types of women who have rape fantasies and a third type that does not have any sexual fantasies during intercourse. ‘‘I imagine I am having sex in a secluded setting (island. conditions that make sexual taboos more salient also may increase the likelihood of rape fantasies. According to this explanation. etc. 1984). but these women reported no fantasies at all during intercourse. and therefore enhance sexual gratification as compared with engaging in a fantasy of consensual sex. This high-variety group was described as impulsive. however. taken as a whole. Brownmiller. One study found no relationship between rape fantasies and sex guilt (Pelletier & Herold. remains untested.’’ ‘‘tramp. The use of force combined with her own nonconsent allows her to avoid blame. such as ‘‘loose. As might be expected. 2006). Based on Hariton’s (1976) analysis. Studies have produced conflicting evidence. for some women. across nearly all cultures. aggressive. Women in this category reported having positive relationships with their husbands and being relatively passive during intercourse. 1970. and depression. 1978) and in women who were reared in sexually repressive families (Hariton & Singer. Overall. controlled.’’ while 55% have had rape fantasies. This theory suggests that. engaging in premarital and extramarital sex. these findings suggest that masochism may play a role in the rape fantasies of a small proportion of females. that rape fantasies are situationally triggered. 1975). in further qualitative analyses. Strassberg & Lockerd. serious. Sexual Blame Avoidance The most frequently cited explanation for why some women have rape fantasies is that these fantasies allow women to avoid blame or responsibility for expressing their sexuality (Crepault et al. As the same women are experiencing both consensual and rape fantasies. By having the fantasy take the form of rape. Strassberg and Lockerd (1998). 1991) indicates that women who engage in masochistic sex are more likely than other women to fantasize about being forced to do something sexual. 1977. Nearly all women who have rape fantasies also have consensual fantasies. the evidence for the sexual blame avoidance theory is not strong. 1944. The high variety group showed an active. It has been well documented that. and nonconformist. The first type. exploratory approach to sex. Hariton (1976). Powerful labels. & Barrett. Thus the precondition for this theory is sound. their sexual feelings. suggesting that they were not sexually repressed. a sexual fantasy of their own in which they participate or seek out consensual sex may arouse anticipations of self-blame and feelings of guilt. This group engaged in rape fantasies. Hariton and Singer (1974). but it would be premature to conclude that this theory is not helpful for understanding rape fantasies. Researchers have inferred from this theory that women who are raised in sexually repressive environments. In direct opposition to blame avoidance. but not with the frequency of those in the first group. It is possible. other research has found that women who had rape fantasies scored lower than other women on sex guilt (Shulman & Horne. Wilson. Deutsch’s theory of the origin of female masochism.
nonconformist. Recall that one of the types of women that Hariton identified had a wide variety in their fantasies. The openness explanation for why women have rape fantasies may complement Hariton’s (1976) descriptive system. For example. Kanin (1982) suggests that such a fantasy not only enhances the female’s selfesteem. Pelletier & Herold. Gold and colleagues (1991) had college females write out their three most frequently occurring sexual fantasies. their diversity of fantasies also increases. paradoxical aspects of rape fantasy.. Although the openness theory does appear to describe the rape fantasies of many women. with rape being only one of their many sexual fantasies. Openness to Sexual Experience In direct contrast to sexual blame avoidance is the openness to sexual experience theory. and desirable that the man loses control. In a second sample. The openness theory avoids and thus fails to explain the most central. it may be more likely to involve forced sex than would the fantasies of those with low sex guilt. does not appear to match the Gold and colleagues (1991) openness pattern of those who wrote out frequently occurring fantasies that involved rape. seductive. Women often mention ‘‘feeling desired’’ by a partner as an excitatory factor in sex (Graham. The authors concluded that rape fantasies seem to be ‘‘just one more expression of a generally open. Research that employs both checklist and fantasy log methodologies may be able to clarify this issue. aggressive. Kanin. Hariton’s group that reported frequent rape fantasies on a checklist. In other words. this does not appear to be the case. 1995. Researchers concluded that women who have fantasies of forced sex are interested in a range of sexual stimuli and activities. 2004). fantasized more often about sex. Studies have found that women with high sex guilt have fewer sexual fantasies in general (Leitenberg & Henning. however. 1991. 1978. In this way. 1973. and they had more positive feelings toward sexual stimuli. 1988). positive. 1991. This creates a problem for a strong interpretation of the blame avoidance theory. . had more nonforce sexual fantasies. unrestrictive. independent. 1990. Pelletier and Herold (1988) found that women who had experienced a greater variety of sex acts and those who had more sexual partners had a greater variety of sexual fantasies. These women had also read more soft-core pornography and had seen more pornographic movies than those who 64 did not include forced sex in their written fantasies. does the diversity of fantasies come from women having fantasies about their actual experiences? With regard to rape fantasies. and relatively guilt-free expression of one’s sexuality’’ (p.. and if force is chosen. Thus individuals with high sex guilt may show a higher proportion of rape to nonrape sexual fantasies than those who are low in sex guilt. Gold & Clegg. Strassberg and Lockerd (1998) found that college women who had rape fantasies and those who included forced sex in their written fantasies scored lower on sex guilt than did other females. it may be deficient in explaining why women would choose to include force in their fantasies. The essential idea here is that the rape fantasy portrays the woman as so attractive. 413). It is possible that those who are high on sex guilt do not differ from those who are low on sex guilt in frequency of rape fantasies. The researchers interpreted this to mean that as women have more sexual experiences. Heiman et al. & McBride. but also generates excitement as she feels the extent of the man’s desire. The connection between experience and fantasy has not yet been elaborated on in this theory. as women with rape fantasies are not more likely than other women to have experienced actual rape (Gold et al. previous research may have used an inappropriate metric to test this theory. This theory is more descriptive than explanatory. Those who wrote a fantasy that included forced sexual activity also had written fantasies with more themes of group sex and sex with strangers.. and showed more positive feelings and expectations toward sexual stimuli than did other women. These women were described as impulsive. but when they do have a sexual fantasy. Desirability Another explanation for women’s use of rape fantasy considers its implications for a woman’s sense of sexual attractiveness and desirability. 1984). the rape becomes a testament to her sexual power. 1982. breaking core expectations of civil decency in order to have her (Hariton. Pelletier & Herold.CRITELLI AND BIVONA Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 possible that blame avoidance will have validity for women who use rape fantasies very often. women who had written fantasies that included forced sex were more sexually experienced in terms of number of partners and variety of sexual acts. including rape fantasies. why the self character in these fantasies experiences nonconsent. Those who had rape fantasies also scored higher in sexual experience. Moreault & Follingstad. and were more likely than other women to have rape fantasies. this theory states that rape fantasies may just be part of a woman’s generally open and accepting attitude toward sex (Gold et al. But her research also suggests that if the level of sexual repression is too high. Knafo & Jaffe. 1988. 1998). Instead of being driven by repressed sexuality. Strassberg & Lockerd. What it does is to identify a pattern of empirical findings and describe what appear to be their direct implications. since its prediction of sex guilt leading to rape fantasy goes against this general restriction on sexual fantasies for those with high sex guilt. Milhausen. there may be a shutdown of all sexual fantasies during intercourse. Sanders. 1982). and exploratory in their approach to sex. Kanin. 1976.
Although inconsistent with one implication of desirability theory. birds. dominant male. research (Shulman & Horne. this study does not provide a direct enough test of the theory to place it in jeopardy. and since a sizable minority of men themselves have fantasies of being forced into sex by women. as women have not been given the opportunity to explore and create their own sexual fantasies. and sometimes physically subdue the female (Fisher. Strassberg and Lockerd (1998) found the following themes to be similar in prevalence to rape fantasies: ‘‘I imagine myself delighting many men. 1979). This large proportion of men in a submissive role to women is not consistent with the view of a monolithic male culture that forces ideas of rape onto women. Brownmiller observed that American culture is saturated with fantasies of men as the conquering sexual hero and sexual aggressor. To the contrary. 2006) has found that women who espouse feminist beliefs are just as likely to have fantasies of forced sex as are other women. If so. Sue.. and perhaps more directly. and one way of developing a fantasy storyline is to combine these depictions into a theme of rape. Fisher maintains. pursue. Person et al. healthy mates who could pass on some of these advantageous traits to her children (Fisher. It seems likely that desirability contributes to the occurrence of rape fantasies. 1999). and the biological predisposition to surrender has not been directly tested. much of their long-term reproductive success would have been determined by the selection of strong. In her view. She maintained that. to determine whether women’s erotic rape fantasies are arbitrary cultural artifacts or whether they have biological roots. humans may also have a corresponding tendency to portray this ritual in fantasy. that the human desire to surrender is not a desire for actual rape. Because women’s total reproductive output as measured by number of children is relatively restricted. 1974. rape fantasies are ‘‘a pitiful effort on the part of young girls . Certainly. Researchers might investigate. those who are more insecure about their desirability have these fantasies with greater frequency. for example. At the present time. . focus on the woman’s desirability. 1989. dominant. it does not seem likely that this theory plays a major role in explaining female rape fantasies. the prevalence of rape fantasies has been stable. She argued that. 1995). especially since gender roles have changed considerably over the past 40 years (New Strategist Editors. whether women who are most insecure about their attractiveness to men are more likely than others to have rape fantasies or whether.’’ Desirability theory could be tested by determining whether women who have rape fantasies are also more likely than other women to have other desirability fantasies. 1999). the culture is permeated with depictions of men as conquering sexual heroes and women as vulnerable sex objects. it would be premature to attempt an evaluation of the relative contributions of cultural and biological explanations of rape fantasy. In a number of species. the fantasies they do have are a product of male conditioning. It is of considerable importance. Male Rape Culture Brownmiller (1975) argued that women’s rape fantasies are a pathological manifestation of male-dominated culture. the male must present a display of dominance. and mammals. Both rape and any desire for rape by nonselected males would reduce women’s reproductive success. while women’s attractiveness to men is predicated on showing vulnerability and playing the victim. Currently. Biological Predisposition to Surrender In contrast to Brownmiller’s cultural explanation for women’s rape fantasies. Helen Fisher (1999) suggests that females may have a natural desire to surrender to a selected. however. ‘‘the rape fantasy exists in women as a man-made iceberg’’ that can and should be destroyed by feminism (p. For example. Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1989) explains that the reciprocal display of male dominance=female surrender is a basic pattern in the animal world. but there are other fantasy themes that also. among women who do have rape fantasies. As the fantasy theme of perpetrating rape on women is not a dominant male fantasy (Leitenberg & Henning. for copulation to take place. it seems unlikely that men would be the source for women’s fantasies of forced sex. 2006) while. and that these predispositions originate from primitive brain regions that have evolved to insure successful mating in reptiles. There is no research that directly tests this theory. this theory suggests that underlying biological factors play a role in the attractiveness of rape as a fantasy theme for women. 322). 325).’’ and ‘‘I pretend that I am another irresistibly sexy female. . rape almost certainly would have reduced the reproductive success of ancestral human females by making them vulnerable to impregnation by men with inferior genes. Sympathetic Activation Although theory and research on sympathetic physiological activation have not previously been linked to 65 . several studies indicate that roughly 10%–20% of men also have fantasies of being forced into sex (Hunt. There is currently no evolutionary basis for thinking that women would have a natural predisposition to seek rape. to find their sexuality within the context of male [desires]’’ (p. as indicated previously. In contrast to Brownmiller’s position. however. In addition. but several studies do have implications for its validity.RAPE FANTASIES Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 Zurbriggen and Yost (2004) found that fantasies with forced sex were no more likely than other fantasies to include descriptions of the male’s sexual desire.
In sexual fantasies. The level of violence used is typically minimal. or nonaversive. Witcher. high levels are often disruptive (Anderson.e. No research has tested the sympathetic activation theory with reference to rape fantasies. female subjects with anxiety pre-exposure showed enhanced rate and magnitude of genital arousal (vaginal blood volume). Yerkes & Dodson. In particular. are erotic love stories written almost exclusively by women for a female audience. men typically see themselves as doers and women see themselves as the ones to whom sexual acts are done (Ellis & Symons. during an erotic video. 410).. but its empirical support in related areas is promising. Leitenberg & Henning. As previously discussed (Kanin. 1983). the woman may experience some anticipational anxiety. in a content analysis of male romance heroes. According to Salmon and Symons (2003). this theory provides a physiological basis for understanding how rape fantasies can enhance sexual experience. fear. One review of historical romance novels found that 54% included the rape of the lead female character (Thurston. women typically imagine themselves as the object of male passion rather than focusing on the male and expressing her passion for him (Money & Ehrhardt. In a related line of research. constricting peripheral arteries to supply more blood to the muscles and brain. Sexual fantasies are selfgenerated erotic stories often intentionally initiated to provide enjoyment and sexual arousal. researchers could determine whether rape fantasies are effective in producing sympathetic activation. increases attraction to an attractive individual in the situation and decreases attraction to an unattractive person. as compared to those with neutral preexposure. 1987). According to research on sympathetic activation. and dangerous. Romance novels are structured erotic fantasies that individuals intentionally expose themselves to. the woman in the scene often functions as a sexual object and he imagines taking her out of the scene and having sex with her. As a start. Recent work on the physiology of sexual arousal suggests that the interaction of both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems is crucial for women’s sexual response (Motofei & Rowland. during erotic rape fantasies women typically envision an attractive male overcome with passion who uses mild to moderate force to overcome her nonconsent. Hazen’s (1983) analysis of rape in romance novels also functions as a theory of women’s erotic rape fantasies. p. found that these men are strong. tension. and anger. which prepares the way for genital arousal and vaginal lubrication. 1990. such as fear or anger. In other words. & Green. fear. typically for emotional satisfaction and sexual arousal. 1908). increased blood pressure. this fantasy is often experienced as part of consensual sex with a chosen. this enhanced sympathetic responsivity may activate specific genital responses’’ (Palace & Gorzalka. where the Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 . which activate sympathetic arousal. both romance novels and rape fantasies are created works of fiction. muscular. and muscle tension). Some of the fear-inducing stimuli that have been used include crossing an unstable bridge (Dutton & Aron. they are men with the physical and temperamental qualities of warriors. the presence of an unattractive fantasy rapist and the level of violence employed may produce reactions of disgust rather than erotic arousal. Palace and Gorzalka (1990) found that. Sakheim. A growing body of evidence indicates that anxiety. When men view explicit sexual activity. In essence. women identify with the lead female character and vicariously experience her rape. Considerable research indicates that. he may also be cruel. resulting in little pain. In a romance novel that includes rape. There are systematic differences in the ways that men and women view sexual interactions. 66 whereas moderate levels of stimulus intensity may facilitate a response. such a fantasy would be expected to increase sexual arousal and to increase sexual attraction to an actual partner. this literature makes an important contribution to understanding how rape fantasies might function. a meta-analysis (Foster. Viewing the same scene.CRITELLI AND BIVONA rape fantasies. In the case of aversive rape fantasies. which account for 40% of mass paperback sales in the United States (Salmon & Symons. Palace and Gorzalka (1990) state that anxiety may enhance sexual arousal through the direct instigation of sympathetic activation (i. romance heroes are not gentle and sensitive. When sexual cues are provided. 1990. 1995). both consensual and forced. During the fantasy. although the hero in romance novels must be handsome. 1972). & Beck. heart rate. masculine. 1990. Campbell. Sympathetic activation enhances ‘‘fight or flight’’ reactions by. such as physical exercise. Research also should determine whether erotic rape fantasies during intercourse result in enhanced attraction to an actual partner. Hazen (1983) notes that. 2003). This carries over to romance fiction. respiration. Adversary Transformation Romance novels. and secreting epinephrine to increase metabolism. and anger. sexually bold. for example. 2005). They explained that an anxiety-evoking stimulus ‘‘provides a jump start or preparedness for sexual arousal. attractive partner. can enhance sexual response. 1974) and threat of electric shock (Barlow. In a rape fantasy women create an imaginary scenario and they participate in the fantasy through the rape experience of their self character. 1982). and it is not uncommon for these novels to include themes of rape. along with images of struggling against the assailant. dilating pupils to facilitate vision. whether the source is aversive. Gorry (1999). In addition. 1998) concluded that sympathetic physiological activation.
does this mean that many women want to be raped in real life? Some early theories conjoined the notions of fantasy wish fulfillment and female masochism to answer this question in the affirmative. possibly with the majority of women who have experienced rape fantasies having primarily one type or the other. 1983). they are among the most popular. the notion of conquering the heart of the rapist may be implicit. Fantasies are powerful emotional experiences in their own right. At the same time. explanations given for why so many women would have erotic fantasies about rape often have been conceptually deficient. Gold & Clegg. It is generally compatible with each of the other theories except for masochism and male rape culture. Because fantasies often involve a wish fulfillment. as each woman makes numerous decisions on a 67 Conclusion The Context for Understanding Rape Fantasies Current research indicates that from 31% to 57% of women have had rape fantasies. These assumptions may lead to a misinterpretation of rape fantasies. For example. the challenge takes the form of a violent confrontation with an evil adversary. but it is yet to be empirically tested. Has he been won over and transformed? For rape fantasies that occur during intercourse.RAPE FANTASIES Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 focus is on the heroine’s subjective experience of the male’s passion for her and sometimes of her pain from male abuse. that the fantasies are not very realistic. 1990. seduce him into falling in love with her. Hazen argues that the romance novel presents the heroine with an exciting challenge. and passion in reallife relationships. sexually aggressive adversary who appears to be evil. The content of rape fantasies appears to vary along a continuum. Researchers could investigate the attitude of the rapist toward the self character at the end of the fantasy. 1982). which heightens the emotional intensity of the story (Hazen. and that women can control their fantasies but they cannot control actual rape. Some have mentioned that rape fantasies are not all that popular. Erotic rape fantasies are not realistic depictions of actual rape. biological predisposition and sympathetic activation theories suggest that what is ‘‘wished for’’ in real life is surrender to a powerful and attractive selected male and a sense of danger. nonconsensual forced sex. Hazen argues that. and it shows a close fit to sympathetic activation theory. and transform his apparent evil and cruelty into something more socially acceptable without diminishing his masculinity. and there is currently no good basis for estimating proportions of rape fantasies that are more erotic or more aversive. More aversive fantasies typically involve a threatening. In romance novels the narrative structure allows the fantasy to continue to completion in marriage. The challenge for the heroine is to conquer his heart. Kanin. dominant male who is overcome by passion and uses mild to moderate force to overpower . these are most likely underestimates. Adversary transformation provides a fresh view of what may transpire in rape fantasies. as a fantasy event. that is. In addition. shattered purity through violent sex is a primordial danger whose tension creates a powerful story. Most research has involved erotic rape fantasies. there is often a violent confrontation with a dominant. have him voluntarily make a lifetime commitment to her. In romance novels. when the actual experience of such an encounter would be traumatic and repugnant. In erotic rape fantasies. but they do not answer the question of why women would want to have fantasies that depict their own rape. simplistic wish fulfillment is not supported empirically. one would expect at least a moderately strong relationship between fantasy rape and actual rape. These points are well taken. 1991. male who uses more violent levels of force to rape or attempt to rape a female who shows strong nonconsent and active resistance. The more erotic fantasies typically involve an attractive. corresponds in toto to actual rape. in the female imagination. Because rape fantasies are perceived as socially unacceptable or potentially embarrassing. and the aspects of rape fantasy that do apply to wish fulfillment may involve an aspect or component of fantasized rape rather than a desire for actual rape. often unattractive. and the evidence does not support masochism theory for the vast majority of women. and they play a major role in the fantasy lives of one or two women in 10. If having rape fantasies revealed a motive for actual rape. Although rape fantasies are not the most prevalent or most frequent sexual fantasies. excitement. It also assumes that rape. In male fiction. Erotic Rape Fantasies and Wish Fulfillment The erotic rape fantasy exists as a psychological enigma: many females actively engage in an erotic and pleasurable fantasy of an encounter that satisfies the technical definition of rape. rape is used as an effective means of creating excitement and dramatic tension. research could determine whether there is any linkage between the partner and the fantasy rapist. and penetrate a woman despite her nonconsent. Viewing rape fantasies with a simplistic model of wish fulfillment assumes that what is important is what the fantasy reveals about real-life desires. Nearly all current researchers disagree with this position. In romance novels. with from 9% to 17% reporting that rape fantasies are either a frequent occurrence or a favorite fantasy.. as women who have erotic rape fantasies are not more likely than other women to be rape victims (Gold et al.
the idea of rape. Sympathetic activation operates at a different. The remaining seven theories potentially compete with one another. At the same time. has not been tested empirically. and desirability theories. Which women show a particular attraction to rape fantasies may be determined by some combination of the blame avoidance. the other components would have less of the phenomenon left to explain. This theory has strong support with regard to fear and anxiety manipulations. research should be expanded to include rape fantasies of lesbian and bisexual women to determine Downloaded By: [Canadian Research Knowledge Network] At: 04:24 9 September 2010 . In this sense. In particular. and biological predisposition could be classified with these six. are certainly not the only mechanisms for generating a sense of sexual excitement. An integration of biological predisposition. Desirability theory does appear to explain one of the contributing factors in rape fantasies. openness. These theories are not only mutually compatible. Biological theory sets the stage by identifying ritualistic displays of male dominance and female surrender as important parts of the courtship ritual in many species. To the extent that one of these components makes a greater contribution to rape fantasies. sympathetic activation. sexual blame avoidance is not supported as a general explanation. Although male rape culture generally is not supported by current evidence. the idea of rape could operate as a means to an end rather than as an end in itself. and male rape culture and biological predisposition. For example. internally consistent explanation. The display of male dominance may function as a way for females to assess genetic quality and the ability to protect. In this way. Biological predisposition theory seems promising. blame avoidance and openness. but competing influences on rape fantasies. in a fantasy. physiological level of analysis. Consensual fantasies of sex with a special partner or sex in a romantic setting also are effective for many women. blame avoidance and openness each may apply to different types of women. Laying the physiological groundwork for explaining how the experience of a negative event can enhance a positive emotional experience is a pivotal step forward in making sense of rape fantasies. but it has not yet been tested’ on rape fantasies. but the details of this position have not yet 68 been elaborated. and cultural and biological factors each could operate as separate. theories that provide a general explanation for why a rape fantasy could be erotically effective may be complemented by theories that explain why some women may respond more strongly than others to erotic rape fantasies. Adversary transformation suggests that in rape fantasies. In our judgment. as its main implications are behavioral. Adversary transformation. such that support for one would tend to disconfirm the other. Sympathetic physiological activation provides an explanation for the biological basis on which a fantasy about an aversive event. Rape fantasies. if that were desired. and sexual orientation. however. Eight major theories have been identified. but both components may be needed for a comprehensive understanding. as will be illustrated in this section. ethnicity. it is deficient in explaining why they have these fantasies. because of women’s inherent fear of actual rape. pervasive media depictions of males as conquering heroes and women as vulnerable sex objects may influence the prevalence of women’s rape fantasies. by itself.CRITELLI AND BIVONA daily basis that easily could increase the likelihood of actual rape. valid. Sympathetic activation provides the physiological basis for understanding how fantasies that generate feelings of fear and anger may enhance sexual arousal. rape in a female fantasy would be similar to a male fantasy of physical conflict with an evil foe. sympathetic activation does not compete with the other seven theories. despite being developed in widely different contexts. Openness appears to describe women who report having occasional rape fantasies. incompatible theories may identify separate components of a broader model of rape fantasies. with the importance of this factor as yet undetermined. Theories of Erotic Rape Fantasy Current theories of rape fantasy represent researchers’ best attempts at answering the question of why many women would want to engage in erotic rape fantasies. It is important for researchers to be aware of each theory’s strengths and limitations. current evidence does not support masochism theory as a general explanation of rape fantasies. but some theories overlap or show compatibilities such that they could be combined into a broader. In this sense. can lead to heightened sexual arousal and possible increased attraction to an actual partner. however. Other theories appear to be logically inconsistent with each other. but it may apply to women who have rape fantasies with high frequency. such as rape. and adversary transformation should be explored. Methodology and Future Research Future research should explore the generalizability of prevalence estimates across demographic characteristics such as age. Adversary transformation provides a perspective for understanding how. but. and this theory has not been tested in the domain of rape fantasy. How do these theories relate to one another? Six of the theories are psychosocial in nature. Combinations that show incompatibilities include masochism and openness. but they also seem to fit together and complement one another. and it could potentially complement one or more of the psychosocial theories by providing the physiological grounding for its psychosocial effect. functions as a powerful means for producing the danger and excitement that gives the fantasy sexual and emotional impact. Similarly.
G. 96–100. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Fisher. & Green. (1990). Sexual deviance. Anderson. J. A number of theories have been created over the past 50 years for making sense out of the phenomenon of rape fantasies. MN: West Group. Strachey. R. Women’s fantasies during sexual intercourse: Normative and theoretical implications. Norton. 22. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Researchers should replicate the Hariton (1976) study and determine whether women who have rape fantasies with high frequency follow blame avoidance. Bond. (1999). 86–101. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. M.’’ scales of absolute frequency should be employed. 313–322. L. Laws & W. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. New York: W. Rather than measuring frequency of rape fantasies with scales that use vague descriptive markers such as ‘‘often’’ or ‘‘occasionally. Theory. D. 56–57.). Violence and Victims. R. sincere and token nonconsent. Research employing daily diaries of sexual fantasies. J. (1997). H. Deutsch. J. 162–183. The psychology of women (vol. 34. 84. Deviance without pathology. 1). Gemme & C. Arousal and attraction: Evidence for automatic and controlled processes. B. such as gender of assailant. Duddle. and treatment (pp. Crepault. Campbell. Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach. A. Theory-driven research focuses investigative efforts on the major questions that require resolution. and the willing victim myth. Wilson. Milhausen.. Sexual fantasies of college students with coercive experiences and coercive attitudes. K. S. J. & Barrett. & Symons. The utilization of sexual fantasies by sexually experienced university students. Wheeler (Eds. 5. E. Gold. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. A. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Future research also should focus on samples from cultures that are both more androcentric and more egalitarian than that of the United States. A. Foster. Leaving home for romance: Tourist women’s adventures abroad. & Couture. R. (1944). D. (1991). & Singer. F. The first sex. 17.. New York: Random House. Erotic imagery in women. Graham. Bevacqua. Gosselin. 27. & Aron. 11–15. If supported.). G. 24–32. E. In D. B. 26–28. S. (2002). New York: Guilford Press. 6. K. S. These would reduce error variance attributable to individual differences in the interpretation of nonspecific descriptive labels. (1991). D. Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Abraham.). K. Paul. (1976). New York: Plenum Press. (2004). Work is needed on the content validity of sexual fantasy measures so that some level of standardization can be achieved. 12.. M. (1965). K. Arousal and the inverted-U hypothesis: A critique of Neiss’s ‘‘reconceptualizing arousal. Two studies of females’ sexual force fantasies. Journal of Sex Research. Personality and Individual Differences. 15–26. and this is clearly inadequate. Psychology Today (British ed. & Allgeier. Review of General Psychology. R. E. Sanders. L.. This would allow researchers to make more effective comparisons across studies. Dutton. 30. The personality and sexual preferences of sadomasochistic women. Baumeister. (2000). C. and rape. M. B. B. several show promise in contributing to a comprehensive understanding. or other variables. 22. (1983).. J. Gold. (1986). B. Journal of American College Health. St.RAPE FANTASIES differences in context. Guided images of rape: Fantasy. C.. Hariton. Eibl-Eibesfeldt. E. and erotic and aversive rape fantasies. Anxiety increases sexual arousal. women. (1990). & Mosher.. (1974). A. F. (1990). 527–538. assessment. (1975). Hariton. 75–82. 2002). T. University of California at Santa Barbara.. A. Sexual masochism. Items are needed to discriminate among types of force. Witcher.. Sexual interactions (5th ed. P. History of child sexual abuse and adult sexual fantasies. Davidson. 166–203. (1974). & Twenge. & Beck.. Barlow. Although it is no surprise that none of these theories provides a complete answer in itself. J. S. F. 42. (1985). Journal of Sex Education & Therapy. New York: Simon & Schuster. physical force and incapacitation. D. content. K. C. Human ethology. S. C. Sakheim. R. (1986). 464–473. & Stamey. Corpus juris secundum (Vol. Davidson. Trans. A.. R.. In R. Sexual fantasies and sexual satisfaction: An empirical analysis of erotic thought. It may be useful when testing theories of rape fantasy to consider both the comparison between women who have rape fantasies and those who do not and the comparison between those who have them with high or low frequency. S. L. We encourage those with an interest in rape fantasies and in their implications for understanding female sexuality to go forward in testing these theories. Emotional sequelae of sexual assault. should be compared with retrospective checklists as a way of determining the accuracy of the retrospective measures. Brownmiller. 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