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How many women have rape fantasies?" my friend Michael Malice asks over drinks. The question comes out of thin air.
"I don't know, but it's not uncommon," I reply.
"I'd think a lot of women have rape fantasies," says another guy friend. "Every girl I've been with wants to be dominated."
"You should know, since you're into spanking," replies Michael. I'm shocked, but perhaps I shouldn't be. Fantasizing and masturbation are our most secretive sexual acts, allowing us to envision our darkest, strangest scenarios. Fantasies are completely our own, to share or not. We may never truly know what's going on in our friends' or partners' mindsall the lurking erotic treasure trails or secret crushes, which can be liberating or isolating. Once I started asking about rape fantasies, I had women clamoring to tell me theirs, perhaps because it's such a taboo topic.
I find rape fantasies disconcerting. I can't get to the second word without fully absorbing the first, and rape is so laden, it stops me in my tracks. I do like to be tied up, ordered around, or spanked on occasion, just not in the context of being raped, even in my mind. But plenty of women do. Nancy Friday wrote in her 1973 classic My Secret Garden, "Rape does for a woman's sexual fantasy what the first martini does for her in reality: Both relieve her of responsibility and guilt. . . . She gets him to do what she wants him to do, while seeming to be forced." Every woman I spoke with echoed this idea. But fantasizing about rape does not mean a woman wants to be raped. That should be obvious, but isn't always.
I called Lisa Carver (myspace.com/drugsarenice), the woman behind the infamously in-your-face band Suckdog and author of the brilliant new memoir Drugs Are Nice (Soft Skull Press, 2005). "I've been having rape fantasies since I was little. They're incredibly violent, and involve me being tied up in a burlap sack and hung from the ceiling. All these men are beating me with sticks and then they gang-rape me. There's also the rapist who's insane; he loves me and doesn't understand he's raping me. I kind of like it, yet in my fantasy it's rape." It gets even better (or worse, depending on your viewpoint). "In one scenario, the devil rapes me. He comes up from the bathtub drain and pulls my cervix out and fist-fucks me. He does it to me with his hot penis, which is on fire, and I love it," Carver enthuses.
The desire to be captured, taken, used, and abusedwhile enjoying itcame up several times. "Tina" ties her long-held rape and kidnapping fantasies to her dysfunctional family. Growing up with an alcoholic father, overworked mother, and no running water, she "had valid reasons for wanting to be 'rescued.' " This manifested itself in looking out the window at night for potential kidnappers and dreaming about any form of adult sexual experiencebut when a man actually flashed her, she ran away.
In my random sampling, only one woman, "Dana," wanted to rape a guy. In her fantasy, she's hooking up with a guy who tells her he's not in love with her and won't fuck her. She pulls out a knife and tells him to screw her or he'll die. Another involves her holding eight men at gunpoint. She shoots all who don't make her come orally, and marries the last survivor.
These fantasies may sound scary, disturbing, or even laughable, yet they are real coping mechanisms. Carver credits her rape fantasies to her dad's war stories; he was a drug runner in Mexico, and prided himself on never ratting anyone out. "Because I'm a woman and I'm very sexual, in my mind it got turned into how I could take gang rape. I can survive and even get revenge. The important thing is not to beg for help."
Feminist writer Jill Soloway (jillsoloway.com) thinks rape fantasies work on an evolutionary level. "A woman who gives it up too easily is capable of having a baby born to a father different from the man who's fucking her. A man naturally feels more attraction to a woman who's judicious and says no." This goes for both parties. "For most, if not all, of the women I know," e-mails Soloway, "good sex entails a shared fantasy of dominance, where the man knows you're playing. How weird is this? We fight for the right to say yes, then once we have it we find it's hottest if we pretend to say no."
Carver has another theory. "It's because we are preparing for childbirth, which fuckin' hurts. Our bodies are thinking, I must prepare mentally for getting ripped apart by a human head. Every time I'm pregnant, I have the most violent fantasies." Folksinger Jessica Delfino (jessydelfino.blogspot.com) wrote a song called "I'm Saving This Rape for Someone Who Loves Me" about staving off an attacker and holding out until "my lover gently rapes me to a Genesis CD." Delfino tells me, "I think it's innate for every woman to have an internal need to be wanted so badly that a man would take sex from her."
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