Coming To Terms With My Rape Fantasies After Being Assaulted

rape

If I could enjoy reading about rape, did it mean that what happened to me wasn’t a violation?

I first learned about rape fantasies when I was a naive 17-year-old who had never even masturbated, much less considered power dynamics in sexual relationships. A friend told me that a girl he was interested in wanted someone to sneak into her bedroom and “force” her to have sex. I was intrigued, but quickly dismissed my interest in the topic. I saw it as aberrant, and the last thing I wanted was to be seen as weirder than I already was.

My parents came of age right in between the social conservatism of the ’50s and the leading edge of liberal hippies. Sexual expression or explorations were not things we discussed, aside from offhand remarks about perverts. The contradictions abounded: Sex should be open and free, but BDSM would be thrown on the “perverted” stack alongside pedophilia. As a result, when I finally did start exploring sex, my idea of what was good or right was very narrow: man, woman, bed, and birth control. If I wanted to get really crazy, maybe some lube.

By the time I was in my early 20s I started to recognize that I liked being directed in the bedroom, and I secretly enjoyed the idea of playing the victim. But I could barely admit, even to myself, that I found rape fantasies sexually exciting. At the time, it was difficult for me to understand the difference between playing out a fantasy and literally wanting to be raped, and I worried that my fascination amounted to excusing or even glorifying a deplorable act. I was worried that ultimately this made me deviant—only sick people would want to pretend to be raped. I didn’t want to see myself as a deviant; I wanted to be normal, and strong, and a “good feminist,” which to me meant not allowing myself to take any kind of submissive role, much less allowing myself to be forced. So I repressed those desires and continued to have sex without violence or role play.

In my late 20s, I started reading some fan fiction and erotica featuring BDSM, and because I’m a researcher at heart, I started looking into the real-world BDSM and kink communities. I spent a lot of time reconciling what I liked with what I felt was right, in the context of wanting to serve and transfer control and power to someone else. I learned that far from being anti-feminist, being a submissive actually can give a person a great sense of control, and that giving up power to someone else is just as valid a choice as any other in terms of sexual freedom. But I still wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a rape fantasy and I continued to harbor a deep-down feeling that it was wrong to want to be “raped” even in a scene. I was still conflating rape and rape fantasy, and I believed I couldn’t handle the emotions that kind of scene might produce.

I was living in a small mountain town, and while it was easy to access information about kink, it was far more difficult to put it into practice. For a long time, a lot of my exploration of BDSM—including my shame and guilt about rape fantasies—took place in my head. Eventually, though, I found someone to play with in real life, and he brought me out of my shell a bit and allowed me to admit some of the things I found the most disturbing. I found my power in making the choice to submit. I found I really enjoyed following directions, giving up my control over a scene. I loved playing out scenes where I was coerced or forced—all the while knowing I could make it stop at any time with a safe-word, because I trusted the person I was with and we’d discussed everything beforehand. I was consenting not only to playing out a rape fantasy, but consenting to allowing myself to enjoy it; I was able to give up the guilt I felt in harboring these fantasies. Finally I had found a way to express vulnerability in a safe space.

I had just turned 31 when I was drugged and raped, and it was nothing like playing or fantasy. I don’t remember everything, but I do remember telling him to stop and trying to push him off me. Unlike in a scene, though, I didn’t have any power to make it stop, I didn’t have a safe-word, and I didn’t have any say in how it would go. All of my trust was broken.

Rape is physically and mentally painful; it can have long-term effects on your ability to feel safe or at home in your body. In some ways, I feel lucky that I don’t remember everything; on the other hand, I still don’t know everything he did to me, and what I do remember is painful. I couldn’t even trust my brain, which is the one thing I always feel like I can rely upon. I spent a week with an ice-pack between my legs and years battling with myself on what I could have done differently, whether it really was a rape, whether I should report, telling myself I shouldn’t have gotten so drunk, and that I somehow deserved it. I was sad, angry, scared, alone, and quiet.

That’s true for a lot of survivors, though everyone reacts differently. But for me, my assault also took away something else: my ability to engage in a scene of non-consent or reluctance. I still wanted to play, but I was scared to try again. I didn’t feel like I had control over my own mind or body.

After the rape I was hesitant to put myself in any kind of situation that would trigger me, including a consensual non-consent scene. What’s more, I found myself falling back into my old judgements of my own sexual desires. I judged myself for ever wanting to play out a rape fantasy; how could I, now that I knew what it was like to really be violated? I found myself drawn back to rape fantasies in porn and erotica, which didn’t trigger me, and I spent a lot of time trying to justify that—maybe it was OK to read it but not to act it out. But I still felt guilty for finding rape scenes erotic. If I could enjoy reading about rape, did it mean that what happened to me wasn’t a violation?

Eventually I ventured back to BDSM, setting some very stern limits but exploring things I hadn’t explored before. One of those new things was open and honest communication about my past. I started to tell my story to potential partners, making sure they knew what had happened and what might rekindle my trauma, so they could be respectful of my boundaries. I only moved on to having sex with people I trusted. As a result, I finally felt safe enough to get back to playing out rape scenes. I’ll never be OK with playing out exactly what happened to me, but as long as I trust my partner, and know that he’ll stop if I use my safe-word, there’s no reason I shouldn’t play out a consensual scene of non-consent. Through these scenes, once again, I could let go of the guilt I felt for wanting to play. I found, and still find, that it’s cathartic to allow myself to be vulnerable with someone in a safe and moderated way.

I’ve found that playing out rape scenes helps me regain some of the power my rapist took from me. Every time I share my story or I play out a rape scene I regain a little of my autonomy. In a scene I don’t always know exactly what will happen, but I can trust that it won’t cross the lines I’ve set in concrete. The uncertainty I felt after I was raped is indescribable; it made me question something as fundamental as control of my own body. In playing out a rape scene, I willingly give up control knowing that I can make it stop at any time and regain that control. There is no uncertainty there.

In coming to terms with my sexual proclivities, I’ve struggled with what I perceive as morally right or wrong. For years now I’ve said that when it comes to sex it’s fine to do just about anything you want as long as it doesn’t do permanent harm or break major laws and everyone involved consents, but I haven’t been practicing what I preach. Now that I’ve reconciled my desires with my fears, I’ve found that playing out a rape scene has become a way to explore an aspect of sexuality that isn’t acceptable outside of a fantasy, but is something I still find exciting within a safe space. In the past I held myself back based on judgements I picked up from outside sources. From now on, I’m basing my choices on what feels right for me.

KS Woodmansee works on the back end of higher education by day and spends most of her free time hanging out with dogs. On average she reads or listens to 10 books a month usually focusing on some kind of dystopic future, despite that she is often accused of being a Pollyanna. She also enjoys ranting about feminist topics, sex, and adventures in online dating to anyone who will listen.

This originally appeared on The Establishment. Republished here with permission.

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