It’s hard to make sense of rape fantasies in the #MeToo era
Alyssa pulls the vibrator out of her underwear drawer and starts racking a little corner of her brain called the “spank bank.” Sometimes, she’ll be able to recall a memory or mental image that can make her climax lickity-split. Other times, the spank bank turns up empty, no matter how much she turns it upside-down and shakes it.
When that happens, Alyssa doesn’t turn to porn. It’s too unrealistic to get her going. Instead, she has to use her imagination, and she’s got one foolproof fantasy that always brings her orgasm: rape.
“It’s hard to reconcile — being a feminist that’s all gung-ho about affirmative consent, and then behind closed doors, fantasizing about sex being forced on me,” Alyssa says.
She mentions affirmative consent, the new consensus on how to navigate sexual encounters in the #MeToo era. Affirmative consent is explicit and enthusiastic, rather than assumed based on silence or lack of resistance. It’s ongoing throughout a sexual encounter, because your partner can change their mind even after you’ve whipped out your genitals. Unfortunately for Alyssa and the countless others who fantasize about rape, consensual love-making isn’t what gets them most excited.
Take, for example, the 125 million people who bought a copy of “50 Shades of Grey.” The appeal of the book was the power dynamic between the main characters — one dominant partner having their way with a submissive one.
If Christian Gray detracted from his forceful foreplay to ask for explicit permission to penetrate, half the middle-aged moms reading it would instantly stop touching themselves and throw their book down a wishing well. When forced sex is your biggest turn-on, taking breaks to re-establish consent whiplashes you out of the fantasy and completely kills the mood.
However, pop culture like “50 Shades” is often condemned for its portrayal of these innermost fantasies. “The Fifty Shades franchise is advertised as an erotic romance, but in reality it is a story of sexual violence,” claims the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Researchers have even performed studies to prove the book glamorizes violence against women.
To the NCSE, those who enjoy the book series (or enjoy dominant/submissive fantasies more generally) are branded as traitors to the #MeToo cause.
That’s bad news for the majority of American women, given that two in three women get off to rape fantasies. Men may get turned on by the idea of having sex forced on them, as well, but not quite as much as women do.
Massive studies on pornography are proof of this. Ladies love porn with violence against women. Women are increasingly seeking out porn with tags like “extreme brutal gangbang,” “forced” and “rape.”
Perhaps one of the best explanations for why women find coercive sex so appealing is the sexual desirability theory. This reflects your typical romance novel narrative, in which a powerful, dangerous man is so seduced by a beautiful woman that he simply must have her right then and there. “I’m so goddamn sexy,” the fantasy goes, “I can’t be resisted.”
However, there’s an enormous difference between daydreaming about forced sex and actually experiencing it.
As Alyssa explains it, “when I’m masturbating to some ‘pin me down and rip the buttons off my blouse’ kinda shit, I’m entirely in my own head. There’s no breaches in consent because I’m in complete control of the scenario.”
And if she ever wanted to act on her fantasies, that’s perfectly fine, too, as long as she finds a consenting partner. The BDSM community is chock-full of self-described perverts looking to translate their deviant desires into real-life sex acts.
The hardest part, Alyssa admits, is overcoming the feeling of hypocrisy. It takes constant reassurance to remind her that feminism and equality aren’t mutually exclusive from rape fantasies.
“You’re right,” she says defiantly. “My sexual fantasies don’t have to be politically correct.”