Women’s Erotic Rape Fantasies : An Evaluation of Theory and Research

Joseph W.Critelli and Jenny M.Bivona Journal of Sex Research,45(1),57-70,2008 Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group,LLC ISSN : 0022-4499 print/1559-8519 online DOI : 10.1080/00224490701808191 Introduction

Sexual fantasies or daydreams can range from brief thoughts or images to stories with detailed plotlines. They may deal with actual past experiences, purely imagined experiences, or a mixture of both (Leitenberg & Henning, 1995). A rape fantasy may be a mental imagining (a sexual fantasy) about rape, a fictional story about a rape, or an acted out scene of pretend rape between consenting adults. As Hazen (1983) articulated,” It does not seen normal that a person should want to imagine rape. The true mystery is why anyone does’ (p.23).Because real-world rape is a violent crime, the choice of rape as a subject for fantasy is very disturbing to some people. In contrast, fantasies of forced sex are often exciting, pleasurable, and sexually arousing (Kanin, 1982).Although women’s rape fantasies have been a subject of formal study since the 1940s, they are not well understood. For example, the existence of these fantasies, along with the belief that fantasies often operate in the terms of wish fulfillment, allows a possible interpretation that, at some level, women may want to be raped (Deutsch, 1944; Maslow, 1942). Although many researchers have argued against such an interpretation, their positions have not been entirely convicting, largely because of gaps, ambiguities, or other


weaknesses in the explanations given. One of reason why these fantasies may have been systematically avoided by some researchers and theorists.

Defining Rape Fantasies Rape fantasies contain three key elements: force, sex, and nonconsent. Individuals expert control over the contents of their own fantasies involve sexual activities that take place consistent with the will and desire of the fantasize, even though these activities are against the will of her self-character in the fantasy. From the point of view of the selfcharacter, there is nonconsent, and these are fantasies. From the viewpoint of the fantasizer, an implicit consent has been given and these fantasies might be viewed as ritual displays of male dominance and female surrender (Fisher, 1999)

The Prevalence of Woman’s Rape Fantasies As awareness of rape as a social problem and depictions of rape in the popular culture have increased over the past 40 years (Bevacqua, 2000), it is possible that this has affected the prevalence of rape fantasies. Claims have been made within the academic and popular cultures that rape fantasies reflect personal and societal pathology (e.g. Brownmiler, 1975) .Sentiments such as these suggest that many women may be ashamed of having rape fantasies. For example, research ( Gold, Balzano, & Stamey 1991) has found that woman who wrote fantasies of forced sex also rated themselves as more frightened, guilty, and disgusted after writing the fantasy than did women who did not write about forced sex. Strassberg and Lorckerd (1998) found that 55% of females have had rape fantasies, and these females estimated that their rape fantasies occurred an average of three times a month with a median of once a month. Shulman and Horne 2

(2006), in an Internet survey, reported that 10 % of women have rape fantasies that occur once a month or more. Two studies (Person, Terestman, Myers, Goldberg & Salvadori,1989, Hsu et.al.,1994, respectively) have estimated the percentage of women who have had rape fantasies within the last 3 months s 20% and 22%.

Erotic and Aversive Rape Fantasies Kanin (1982) stated that some women have rape fantasies that are exclusively sexual and erotic, while other women have rape fantasies that are exclusively fearful and exclusively fearful and aversive. This conclusion may be somewhat misleading, as 21 % of his participants classified their fantasies a reflecting a combination of sexual excitement and fear/terror, and 54 % of fantasies that were characterized as exclusively fearful contained fearful contained male rapist who were described as physically attractive. According to Kanin, erotic rape fantasies contain low to moderate levels of fear with no realistic violence. In these fantasies, women typically are approached aggressively by a dominant and attractive male who is overcome with desire for her, she feels or express nonconsent and present minimal resistance, he overpowers her and takes her sexually. Kanin made the interpretation that these were not true rape fantasies, that the described resistance amounted to a “token no” and he called these “seduction fantasies”. Participants themselves characterized these as rape situations, however and the self – character in these fantasies showed nonconsent. As no evidence was presented that the self-character’s non-consent was insincere, the label of “seduction” does not seem justified. Certainly, in actual rapes minimal resistance and female sexual arousal do


sometimes occur (Duddle, 1991: Johnson, 1985) and their occurrence would not render the encounter a seduction rather than a rape. Aversive rape fantasies come closer to representing realistic rape. In these fantasies, the male is more likely to be older, unattractive, and stranger. These fantasies contain coercive and painful violence, and little or no sexual arousal. A typical scenario for an aversive fantasy would consist of an assailant “grabbing, throwing to the ground, ripping off clothing while the victim is fighting to keep the aggressor from achieving penetration” (Kanin, 1982, p.117). Kanin found that women with aversive rape fantasies were more apprehensive about actual rape and more likely to have dreams to rape than were other women. 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, 1990: Gold, et al.; 1991). Kanin (1982) found that 29% of his subjects reported having aversive rape fantasies. No other studies have classified rape fantasies in this way, and his methods were unique and may have primed participants to recall aversive fantasies.

Current Explanations for Rape Fantasies Researchers and clinicians have created a number of theories for explaining rape fantasies at the same time, it is clear that some of these theories are incompatible with one another, and some stand on stronger ground than do others. An acceptable explanation should address the three defining features of erotic rape fantasy: sex, use of force to obtain sex and female nonconsent.


Masochism The earliest major theory of rape fantasy is a psychoanalytic position developed by Deutsch (1944), which states that rape fantasies are an expression of women’s innate masochism, i.e., their unconscious desire for suffering and pain. Deutsch speculated that, because girls are physically weaker and more in need of protection than are boys, movements toward independence from the parents and expression of natural aggressive impulses are more strongly inhibited in girls than they are in boys. To help induce this renunciation of independence and aggression , parents offer their daughters the reward of being loved and care for: “ In this renunciation the aggressive forces that are not actively pent must find an outlet, and they do this by endowing the passive state of being loved with a masochistic character” (Deutsch,1194,p.25). The empirical evidence does not support masochism as a general explanation of rape fantasies. Kanin examined women’s written descriptions of rape fantasies specifically to determine if, in the fantasy, women appeared to be deriving sexual pleasure from the pain and suffering of rape, and he found no evidence for masochism. Most women, over 99 % by one assessment ( Layman, Gagnon, Micheal & Michaels,1994),clearly state that they do want oto be raped in reality, and considerable evidence supports the demonstrated fact that they would be repulsed and traumatized by actual rape (Bond & Mosher,1986; Gold et al., 1991; Resnick & Acierno,1997; Wilson,1987).Some research (Gosselin, Wilson & Barret, 1991) indicates that women who engage in masochistic sex are more likely than other women to fantasize about being forced to do something sexual.


Sexual Blame Avoidance It has been well documented that, across nearly all cultures, female sexuality has been actively suppressed (Allgeier & Allgeier, 2000; Baumeister & Twenge, 2002, Bronmiller, 1975).Researchers have inferred from this theory is women who are raised in sexually repressive environments, women who are high in sex guilt, and women who have negative attitudes toward sexual stimuli would be more likely than other women to engage in rape fantasies. Some studies have found that rape fantasies were more likely in women with high sex guilt ( Moreault & Follingstad,1978 ) and in women who were reared in sexually repressive families ( Hariton & Singer,1974) ,Thus studies that have provided the most direct tests of he sexual blame avoidance theory, taken as a whole, do not support it as a general explanation foe rape fantasies. Other research on rape fantasy and personality suggests that sexual blame avoidance may be applicable for some women. Hariton and Singer (1974), in a community sample of married women, found that having rape fantasies during intercourse correlated with marital contentment and erotic arousal leading to orgasm. Overall, the evidence for the sexual blame avoidance theory is not strong, but it would be premature to conclude that this theory is not helpful for understanding rape fantasies. Based on Hariton’s (1976) analysis, it is possible that blame avoidance will have validity for women who use rape fantasies often. But her research also suggests that if the level of sexual repression is too high, there may be shutdown of all sexual fantasies during intercourse. Thus individuals with high sex guilt


may show a higher proportion of rape to non rape sexual fantasies than those who are low in sex guilt.

Openness to Sexual Experience In direct contrast to sexual blame avoidance is the openness to sexual experience theory. Instead of being driven by repressed sexuality, this theory states that rape fantasies may just be part of a woman’s generally open and accepting attitude toward sex ( Gold et.al..1991; Pelletier & Herold, 1988,Strassberg & Lockerd,1988).The researchers interpreted this to mean that as women have more sexual experiences, their diversity of fantasies also increases, including rape fantasies. The connection between experience and fantasy has not yet been elaborated on in this theory. The authors concluded that rape fantasies seem to be “just one more expression of a generally open, positive, unrestrictive and relatively guilt –free expression of one’s sexuality” (p.413).The openness theory avoids and thus fails to explain the most central, paradoxical aspects of rape fantstasy.

Desirability The essential idea here is that the rape fantasy portrays the woman as so attractive, seductive, and desirable that the man loses control breaking core expectations of civil decency in order to have her (Hariton,1973; Heiman et.al., 1976: Kanin1982; Knafo & Jaffee, 1984).In this way the rape becomes a testament to her sexual power.Kanin (1982) suggests that such a fantasy not only enhances the female’s self-esteem, but also generates excitement as she feels the extent of the man’s desire.Women often mention “feeling desired” by a partner as an excitatory factor in sex (Graham, Sanders, Milhausen,


& McBride,2004 ).Strass Berg and Lockerd ( 1998) found the folwwing themes to be simililar in prevalence to rape fantasies : “ I imagine myself delighting many men,: and “ I pretend tat Iam another irresistibility sexy female,” Desirability theory could be tested by deterring whether women who have rape fantasies are also more likely than other women to have other desirability fantasies.

Male Rape Culture Brownmiller (1975) argued that woman’s rape fantasies are a pathological manifestation of male0dominated culture. She maintained that, “the rape fantasy exists in women as aman-made iceberg’ that can should be destroyed by feminism (p.322).Brownmiller observed that American culture is saturated with fantasies of men as the conquering sexual hero and sexual aggressor, while women’s attractiveness to men is predicated on showing vulnerability and playing the victim. She argued that, as women have not been given the opportunity to explore and create their own sexual fantasies the fantasies they do have are a product of male conditioning. In her view, rape fantasies are a pitiful effort on the part of young girls…..to find their sexuality within the context of male (desires)’ 9p.325).In contrast to Brownmiller’s position, several studies indicate that roughly 10 % - 20 % of men also have fantasies of being forced into sex ( Hunt,1974:Person et al., 1989; Sue,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 into women.

Biological Predisposition to Surrender


In contrast to Brownmiller’s cultural explanation for women’s rape fantasies, this theory suggests that underlying biological factors play a role in the attractiveness of rape as a fantasy theme for women. Helen Fisher (1999) suggests that females may have a natural desire to surrender to a selected, dominant male. Fisher maintains, however, that the human desire to surrender not a desire for actual rape.

Sympathetic Activation Recent work on the physiology of sexual arousal suggest that the interaction of both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems is crucial for women’s sexual response ( Motofei & Rowland, 2005).Palace and Gorzalka (1990) state that anxiety may enhance sexual arousal though the direct instigation of sympathetic activation (i.e., increased blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and muscle tension), which prepares the way for genital arousal and vaginal lubrication. As previously discussed (Kanin, 1982) during erotic rape fantasies women typically envision an attractive male overcome with passion that uses mild to moderate force to overcome her nonconsent.The level of violence used is typically inimal, resulting in little pain. During the fantasy the woman may experience some anticipation anxiety, fear, tension, and anger, along with images of strolling against the assailant. In addition this fantasy is often experienced as part of consensual sex with a chosen, attractive partner. According to research on sympathetic activation, such a fantasy would be expected to increase sexual arousal and to increase sexual attraction to an actual partner. In other words, this theory provides a physiological basis for understanding how rape fantasies can enhance sexual experience. In the case of aversive rape fantasies, the


presence of an unattractive fantasy rapist and the level of violence employed may produce reactions of disgust rather than erotic arousal.

Adversary Transformation. In essence both romance novels and rape fantasies are created works of fiction. Sexual fantasies are self-generated erotic intentionally initiated to provide enjoyment and sexual arousal. Romance novels are structed erotic fantasies that individuals intentionally expose themselves to ,typically for emotional satisfaction and sexual arousal. In a rape fantasy women create an imaginary scenario and they participant in the fantasy through the rape experience of their self-character. In a romance novel that includes rape, women identify with the lead female character and vicariously experience rape. Hazen (1983) notes that, although the hero in romance novels must be handsome, he may also be cruel. Gorry (1999) in a content analysis of male romance heroes found that these men are strong, masculine, muscular, sexually bold, and dangerous. According to Slamon and Symons (2003), romance heroes are not gentle and sensitive; they are men with the physical and temperamental qualities of warriors. In sexual fantasies, both consensual and forced, men typically see themselves as doers and women see themselves as the ones to whom sexual acts are done ( Ellis & Symons, 1990; Leitenberg & Henning, 1995 ). Conclusion Current research indicates that from 31 % to 57 % of woman have had rape fantasies with from 9 % to 17 % reporting that rape fantasies are either a frequent occurrence or


favorite fantasy. Because rape fantasies are perceived as socially unacceptable or potentially embracing, these are most likely underestimates. Although rape fantasies are not most prevalent or most frequent sexual fantasies, they are among the most popular, and they plan a major role in the fantasy lives of one or two women in 10.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. Eight major theories have been identified. Six of the theories are psychosocial in nature, and biological predisposition could be classified with these six, as its main implications are behavioral. Sympathetic activation operates at a different, physiological level of analysis. In this sense, sympathetic activation does not compete with the other seven theories, and it could potentially complement one or more of the psychosocial theories by providing the physiological grounding for its psychosocial effect. The remaining seven theories potentially compete with one another, but some theories overlap or show compatibilities such that they could be combined into broader. Other theories appear to be logically inconsistent with each other, such that support for one would tend to disconfirm the other. Combinations that show incompatibilities include masochism and openness, blame avoidance and openness, and male rape culture and biological predisposition. At the same time, incompatible theories may identify separate, valid, but competing influences on rape fantasies. To the extent that one of these components makes a greater contribution to rape fantasies, the other components would have less of the phenomenon left to explain, but both components may be needed for a comprehensive understanding. Sexual blame avoidance is not supported as a general explanation, but it may apply


to women who have rape fantasies with high frequency. Openness appears to describe women who report having occasional rape fantasies, but, by itself, it is deficient in explaining why they have these fantasies. although male rape culture generally is not supported by current evidence, pervasive media depictions of males as conquering heroes and women as vulnerable sex objects may influence the pervasive media depictions of males as conquering heroes and women as vulnerable sex objects may influence the prevalence of women’s rape fantasies. Biological predisposition theory seems promising, but the details of this position have not yet been elaborated, and this theory has not been tested in the domain of rape fantasy. Sympathetic physiological activation provides an explanation for the biological basis on which a fantasy about an aversive event, such as rape, can lead to heightened sexual arousal and possible increased attraction to an actual partner. Adversary transformation however has not been tested empirically .An integration of biological predisposition, sympathetic activation, and adversary transformation should be explored. These theories are not only mutually compatible, but they also seem to fit together and complement one another, despite being developed in widely different contexts. 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. The display of male dominance may function as a way for females to assess genetic quality and the ability to protect. Sympathetic activation provides the physiological basis for understanding how fantasies that generate feelings of fear and anger may enhance sexual arousal. Adversary tarn formation suggests that in rape fantasies, the idea of rape, because of women’s inherent fear of actual rape, functions as a powerful means for producing the danger and excitement that gives the fantasy sexual


and emotional impact. Future research should explore the generalizability of prevalence estimates across demographic characteristics such as age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. In particular, research should be expanded to include rape fantasies of lesbian and bisexual women to determine differences in context, content or other variables such as gender of assailant. Future research also should focus on samples from cultures that are both more andocentric and more egalitarian than that of the United States, as these will provide valuable evidence as to the relative biological and cultural contributions to rape fantasies. My view’s of Women’s Erotic Rape Fantasies I think that the most important part of desiring this type of fantasy is completely trusting your lover that he wouldn't hurt you. According to Kanin (1982) fantasies of forced sex are often exciting, pleasurable and sexually arousing. On the other hand, a healthy fantasy about rape would only be with someone you trust and admire. I think this fantasy is an extreme form of the man's role in a sexual relationship. The ultimate form of "taking control”. I think that based from a rational psychology, it can be a very erotic form of fantasy. I think a lot of women love to be "man-handled" if what that means is to experience his passion (and/or love) as a physical force. For example, think of the common picture of a woman who is standing, leaning perhaps, back onto a car; the man is facing her. It's as if he's backing her into the wall of the car. To be the lady there, with the right man! Note that when this works, it's because the woman is safe in every way: the man knows and respects her limits. Oftentimes, that doesn't need to be communicated verbally. Meanwhile for some who have actually been sexually abused, rape fantasy may


be a way to heal past wounds by exploring in a safe environment with a sense of control. Infact most woman , over 99 % by one assessment ( Laumann, Gagnon, Michael & Michaels, 1994) cleary state that they do not want to be raped in reality, and considerable evidence supports the demonstrated fact that they would be repulsed and traumatized by actual rape ( Bond & Mosher,1986; Gold et.al.,1991; Resnick Acierno,1997Wilson,1987) Beside that rape fantasies occur in both the male and female sexual fantasy realms, and their contents range from unwilling seduction to violent, forceful sex but these fantasies are not rexperiences of past adult sexual aggression ( Gold et.al;1991, Gold & Clegg, 1990; Kanin, 1982). It should not, however, be assumed that a rape fantasy is a wish to actually engage in the act in reality." It can also represent an outlet for sexually submissive men and women, and also sexual dominants can imagine themselves as having sexual control or power without actually committing an illegal or immoral act. Many people assume that people aroused by rape fantasies must be more likely than others to commit the actual act, or that victims with rape fantasies actually want to become victims of sexual assault. This does not correspond with observed scientific evidence, however; while rapists usually fantasize about rape, so do normal psychologically healthy people.



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