Are My Rape Fantasies Normal...If I'm a Rape Survivor?

Dear Em & Lo ,

I'm not sure if I'm going to word this correctly, but here it goes. I'm 20 years old and am engaged to a wonderful man who has blessed me with a son. Before I met him I had a bad life and I had been raped 3 times. Lately during sex we have talked about what we could experiment with but rape fantasies are all I can think about. I've looked up on Google to see if anyone else has a similar question but no one has. I'm concerned that these "fantasies" aren't normal for a rape victim. I know studies show that women like to be dominated but for a rape victim it should be different. In your opinion, should I seek mental help? Or do you think this is normal for me?

-- Confused & Conflicted

Dear C.C.,

First, let us start out by saying we are not professional therapists or medical professionals. But as writers on the topic of sexuality for the past 15 years, everything we've read and heard about rape fantasies -- or, as we prefer to call them, ravishment fantasies -- would lead us conclude the following: YOU ARE NORMAL!

A huge percentage of people -- men included -- have ravishment fantasies they find arousing. Just because you suffered some traumatic experiences in the past doesn't mean you should now deny yourself the pleasure of a very common fantasy to fit some politically correct notion of what's mentally tasteful or appropriate. That's the great thing about fantasies -- they can be absolutely inappropriate! And in your case, they may actually be theraputic: in your mind, even though you're imagining being sexually dominated, you ultimately have total control. Which is why we use the term ravishment fantasy instead of rape fantasy: no one who enjoys these kinds of fantasies actually wants to be brutally raped in the real world; instead, they have a specific scenario of sexual domination in their mind which, again, they control and can manipulate. In this make-believe world you can be wanted so badly by someone who is blinded by their lust for you, wherein all of your sexual responsibility -- indeed your shame -- is removed. The appeal of that is certainly understandable, whether we're talking about someone who's been sexually assaulted or someone who's never been sexually assaulted.

But don't just take our word for it. The following three articles are great references for someone in your situation:

  1. Dealing with Rape Fantasies as a Survivor of Sexual Abuse: This is from Pandora's Project, a resource for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. It's a list of frequently asked questions by people in your situation, all answered in a very thoughtful, straightforward, supportive way.
  2. Of Rape and Rape Fantasies: This is a thoughtful letter sent into Dear Author (a romance review blog for readers by readers) from a survivor of rape about enjoying reading and writing rape fantasy fiction -- and accepting it with grace.
  3. The Rape Fantasy: David J. Ley, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who writes for Psychology Today, discusses how rape fantasies are a way for a person to mentally assert control over a situation in which they were powerless.

If it's just the guilt of having an "inappropriate" fantasy that's getting you down but you think you'd otherwise enjoy entertaining these sexual thoughts, then we say go for it: don't punish yourself any further by denying yourself some much-deserved pleasure. But if, on the other hand, these fantasies are really negatively impacting your life, your relationship and your self-worth, then it's time to seek some professional help.

Wishing you nothing but the best,

Em & Lo

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