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TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2019
I don’t flirt with girls, I offend them. Or maybe that’s just my way of flirting. I think if someone is offended by what I say, then they’re not worth my attention. Which is just as well, since they usually walk away from me.

For example, I managed to offend a couple girls outside a house party recently. I was there for about fifteen minutes. The first girl I don’t remember. I was drunk. The second girl had just arrived at the party and I, in what was intended as an innocent gesture of welcoming (honest), touched her arm and said “Hi”, or maybe something slightly more witty than that.

Soon enough, the girl said something about nonconsensual touching. I asked if my welcome pat counted as some sort of inappropriate breach. She said, “Well…”

“There’s a serious difference between what I just did and, you know, significant nonconsensual contact,” I said.

“But it wasn’t consensual,” she insisted. “I meant it as a friendly gesture,” I offered, to no avail. She said any form of touching needs to be negotiated so that consent is guaranteed.

Which reminded me of an old Saturday Night Live skit that satirized the so-called Antioch Rules, a code of sexual conduct proposed by a group called the Womyn of Antioch, based in Antioch College, Ohio, in 1991. The Antioch Rules state, basically, that every escalation of sexual activity has to be preceded by explicit request and consent.

The SNL skit – portraying a game show called Is It Date Rape? – had contestants decide whether a dramatized situation constituted date rape. In one dramatization Mike Myers, playing a college student, asks his female counterpart, “May I elevate the level of sexual intimacy by feeling your buttocks?” She responds, “Yes. You have my permission.” “May I raise the level yet again, and take my clothes off so that we could have intercourse?” “Yes. I am granting your request to have intercourse.”

I regaled the girl at the party with this SNL reference. She wasn’t particularly amused. Eventually I found myself saying, “Well, isn’t a woman entitled to a rape fantasy? Who’s to say that that a person’s fantasy is wrong?”

She didn’t take very kindly to this, and expressed her disagreement. Like I said, I was drunk, and so I don’t remember the specifics. But I do recall saying something like, “Do people really need to get explicit permission for every sexual move? Isn’t the mystery, the not knowing what’s going to happen, the not knowing what will be accepted and rejected, what makes sex interesting?”

At this point, she had had enough. “Okay. Bye,” she said, and walked past me into the party.

“A woman is entitled to a rape fantasy.” That’s a perfectly feminist thing to say, right? I mean, what right does a feminist have to invalidate a women’s rape fantasy, if a woman happens to have one? Who are feminists to judge the innermost desires of someone else, even, or especially, in the name of releasing them from male (mental-sexual) domination?

The psychological literature on rape fantasies (which makes for some titillating reading) shows that anywhere from 15% to 50% of women have them, which may be a low estimate, considering the shame factor that reduces disclosure rates among respondents. There are a number of proposed “psychological explanations” for the prevalence of rape fantasies, ranging from attachment and self-esteem issues (the Harlequin romance thing: that a man finds you so irresistibly attractive that he’ll take you even by force) to a taste for occasional submission. Even self-identified “dominant type” women and committed feminists can share this taste, if only to relieve themselves of the burden of having to dominate all the time. (For example, check out Viceland.com’s typically faux-shocking "One Rape, Please (to go): I paid a male whore to rape me because I wanted to" by Tracie Egan, who opens her story by saying, “I blame my recurring rape fantasy on the fact that I’m a feminist.”)

One prickly issue in these studies is the fact that even women who have been sexually assaulted develop or maintain a fantasy involving forced sex, despite having experienced the real thing. One explanation for this is that a rape fantasy is one way – and a healthy one, according to the psychologists – of dealing with and getting some control over the traumatic experience. My own girlfriend, who was sexually abused as a child, enjoys – sometimes, not always – rape-like sex. There may or may not be any strict causal link between her real abuse and her fantasy rape, but the real abuse certainly hasn’t caused any aversion to the fantasy rape.

Now, I don’t participate in my girlfriend’s fantasy because I like it (it is, admittedly, hot); I do it because she likes it. If a girl “likes it rough”, it’s a courtesy to administer a few loving slaps, choke them a little, pull their hair, is it not? And as far as being “creative” or extreme in bed, that’s pretty mild stuff. BDSM, this ain’t (not that there’s anything wrong with BDSM either).

“These fantasies may sound scary, disturbing, or even laughable,” writes Village Voice contributor Rachel Kramer Bussel, “yet they are real coping mechanisms.” But why denigrate these fantasies by calling them “coping mechanisms”? Why think of sexual fantasies, however violent, as symptoms of an illness that needs to be “coped with”?

On this point, David J. Ley on PsychologyToday.com cautions, “we as clinicians have to pull back, and give up our disease model thinking…Instead, we may need to consider the possibility that this fantasy represents a normal, even a healthy, attempt by a person to regain some control over their sexuality, and the way in which their traumatic history affects them.”

Ley relates a heartwarming story from the world of psychology conferences about a woman who approached him after he gave a talk about rape victims with rape fantasies. Having suggested that “this fantasy represents a normal, even a healthy, attempt by a person to regain some control over their sexuality,” Ley recalls the woman – herself a victim of rape troubled by her own rape fantasies – telling him that his talk “had helped her, and had given her permission to free her mind, her body and her sexuality, and to stop tearing herself up over her fantasies.”

In another PT article journalist Michael Castleman puts it plainly: Rape fantasies “are neither wrong nor perverted. They imply nothing about one's mental health or real-life sexual inclinations. They just happen, to somewhere around half of women.”

Of course, in absolutely no way does any of this excuse the act of real rape. If anything, I’m condemning rape even more strongly than those who absurdly associate rape with mildly inappropriate touching or verbal behaviour, like the friendly pat I gave the girl at the party, or my provocative statements. In my view, by elevating my harmless touch to “nonconsensual contact” she trivialized rape victims’ suffering. And her thought-crime view of rape fantasy struck me as downright anti-woman.

After all, what’s worse? Recognizing rape fantasy for what it is (a perfectly common expression of the sexual imagination), or telling someone that their own fantasies are not valid, just an internalized product of a patriarchal society that prefers them to remain submissive, passive, and available for men’s sexual pleasure? I’d say it’s the latter. Who is anyone to say what fantasies are legit and which aren’t? Who’s to say when a woman’s fantasy is her own or when it is merely what men want of her?

It may seem, on the surface, that a rape fantasy is something only a brainwashed, oppressed woman could enjoy. But in a role-playing situation the fantasy rape “victim” is just as much, if not more, in the position of power as the “top” or “ravisher” (those, I just learned, are terms for the rapist role player). The victim role player sets the boundaries, the limits, the rules. It’s an inversion of the real act of rape. Pain made into pleasure, violence turned to love. The same principle is what makes violence in art cathartic and even beautiful. We don’t want violence in real life, so we put it in fiction. We don’t want to really be raped, so we put it into sexual fantasy where it’s not just harmless, it’s fun.

Of course, not all women have rape fantasies, as the misogynist might hope. But women who don’t share such fantasies shouldn’t accuse women who do of being brainwashed by those kinds of men. They both make the same mistake (or at least, the same assumption): that rape fantasy caters to the male species’ desires; that it’s for the men. The misogynist and the vulgar feminist have this in common: a lack of irony about fantasy (the man says “she actually wants to get gangbanged by the football team”; the woman says “she’s just been programmed by male dominated society to want that”).

We’re lucky enough to live in a society in which we don’t have to argue against rape. That’s because almost nobody is stupid or insensitive enough to actually argue for it. Conversely, nobody should have to argue for or against the legitimacy of rape fantasies, or any fantasy for that matter.

Fantasies are dirty things, and they will probably shock and disgust many prudish people. But what I find more shocking is a feminist-pretending partygoer who is disturbed by the possibility of another woman’s rape fantasy. An example, perhaps, of progressiveness and political correctness turned into intolerance. Call it a failure of imagination on her part.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying No means Yes. I’m saying the inverse, that Yes can be expressed as a No. That’s what a fantasy is. In Kurt Cobain’s immortal words, “Rape me. Rape me, my friend.” And if you’ve been shamed by some vulgar feminist into feeling guilty about your own rape fantasy, keep in mind what Cobain said in the same song: “I’m not the only one.”


This article first appeared in the inaugural issue of the zine Junkyard, April 2011.
Jackson

Jackson

2011-05-25 18:49:53

I miss you, Hogan, and your very poorly thought out arguments. What you, a simple non-feminist, fail to realize is that a majority of women are socialized to believe that men have a fantasy that women have rape fantasies. Because of this, any woman confessing a rape fantasy may (highly probably) simply be unwillingly submitting to her perception of a fantasy which will, if indulged, make a man happy. Any man who accepts a woman at face value, when she asks to have a rape fantasy indulged, is actually just abusing societal norms to assault a woman.

And women, it seems to me that too many of you have fantasies about men fantasizing about women having rape fantasies! This puts an unfair pressure on men to fantasize about a truly awful event. Shame on you for fantasizing about a shameful act that shames us men for being ashamed of shame in the first place.
REPLIES: Hogan, Hogan, HaileyCelesse

Hogan

Hogan

2011-05-25 22:39:13

Replying to Jackson:
Thanks for the comment, Jackson. I miss you, too. And for similar reasons.

First, I don't really consider my writing to be about making an argument, let alone a "poorly thought out" one. It's more like, "What do you think of this? Is it at least interesting?" Asking that is my usual purpose in writing, no matter what I'm writing about.

Second, I actually consider myself (pardon the unintentional pun), broadly speaking, to be a feminist. My problem was with what I called "vulgar feminists" who end up sounding more politically correct than progressive.

I agree with you completely that "a majority of women are socialized to believe that men have a fantasy that women have rape fantasies." Where I wholeheartedly disagree is when you say that "any woman confessing a rape fantasy may (highly probably) simply be unwillingly submitting to her perception of a fantasy which will, if indulged, make a man happy." You hedged your bet with the parenthesized "highly probably". Surely some, maybe even most, women succumb to the sexist traps that are laid out for them, like internalizing rape fantasies to please men rather than themselves. But that doesn't mean that there are plenty of legit rape fantasies held by women who know exactly what they're doing and why, who aren't just dupes to male desires, whatever that means.

I also disagree that "Any man who accepts a woman at face value, when she asks to have a rape fantasy indulged, is actually just abusing societal norms to assault a woman." Really? Even when it's her idea and he's reluctant? Or can you not imagine a situation in which a woman's (socialized?) rape fantasy is stronger than a man's (what? natural?) rape fantasy. Are you saying that it's natural for men to want to assault women, and that it's all socialized brainwashing when a woman has the fantasy?

Also, you stick in another caveat, "at face value", which seems to leave the door open for a deeper, more legitimate form of the fantasy. But you don't want to leave that door open, right? All rape fantasy is a product of male brainwashing, advertising, pornography? Is that what you're saying?

It seems to me a bit condescending to tell "women" "that too many of you have fantasies about men fantasizing about women having rape fantasies" and just plain strange to say that they thus put "an unfair pressure on men to fantasize about a truly awful event." So, if I follow you correctly, men, through various forms of socialization, impose rape fantasies on women, who in turn pressure men into the fantasy which they wanted internalized in the women in the first place? In this case, we're all victims of patriarchy, both the men and women, right? This is true to an extent, certainly, but I still don't think you can completely rule out a legitimate rape fantasy, one which is embraced by a woman and is not just what men want of her (or what she thinks they want of her) and which does not make the woman into some passive victim of male desire.

I wasn't trying to argue that all rape fantasies are good. I was just saying that they're not all bad. Given the prevalence of rape fantasies I'd say that it is insulting to the millions of women who have them to judge them as you seem to have judged them. If a woman has a rape fantasy (for real, not just "socialized" "unwillingly"), let her have it. And if she wants you to, indulge her in it. Notice that I didn't (and wouldn't) argue that women should be as indulging with their boyfriends' desire to fantasy rape them. That's a very different story.

Also notice that I made a clear distinction between "real" and "fantasy" rape. The former is a completely horrific act; the latter is just part of some people's sexual imagination. Where do we draw the line? Perhaps every sexual position except girl-on-top is too close to assault. Or maybe all penetration is technically rape, no matter how consensual it is. What do you think?

You know, Jackson, as a self-professed libertarian I'm a little surprised that you frown so much on what individuals have going on in their heads. Who are you to say which fantasies are acceptable and which are not?

I'm even more surprised, though, considering that truly awful short story (speaking of "poorly thought out") you submitted in Anne Stone's class back at Capilano. You know the one. The one where the guy rapes the woman and, if I remember right, something to do with thrusting his thunderbolts of love into her? What was that all about?

You know, men also have fantasies of being taken by force by women. But if in our male-dominated society women are more likely to be brainwashed into having such fantasies, why do men have them? There isn't very much socializing that goes into men being submissive to women (despite what reactionary misogynists say), so what's with these guys if not somewhat the same thing as with the women who aren't just socialized into the rape f

Hogan

Hogan

2011-05-25 23:06:41

Replying to Jackson:
That last sentence should have read, "There isn't very much socializing that goes into men being submissive to women (despite what reactionary misogynists say), so what's with these guys if not somewhat the same thing as with the women who aren't just socialized into the rape fantasy? Why does it have to be a problem?"

I should add that when I said, perhaps incautiously, that I participate in my girlfriend's rape fantasy and that it is "admittedly hot", I should have said that I also find it a little absurd. But I play along. I'm told what to do, and I do it. In Dan Savage's lingo, I'm good, giving and game (or GGG).

Guys and girls have a wide variety of fantasies. Sometimes people like it slow, erotic, passionate; and the same people at other times like it fast and rough. Even rape fantasies are pretty vanilla, as they say, compared to, for example, BDSM. And what do you think of BDSM? What horrid socialization is responsible for that? Why, instead of being shocked, do we not applaud people who have the courage, amidst a prudish, judgmental society, to embrace their fantasies and the creativity to act them out? Why moralize, as you seem to, about what gets up to half of women off, even if there is some overlap with an overgeneralized, stereotypical, perhaps socio-biological view of what gets men off?

HaileyCelesse

HaileyCelesse

2011-05-26 02:41:25

Replying to Jackson:
Firstly, Jackson, I am offended by your comment. Being the girlfriend of the author I could potentially take your comment as a personal attack, hell, any woman could take your comment as a personal attack because it removes agency from women, sexual agency, and poses female fantasies (fantasy) (perhaps you are only specifically talking about rape fantasy, but, like Matt said in his comment, why would you stop there, what of BDSM, etc?) as socially constructed and a consequence of a patriarchal society. But, if you posit that, are not all fantasies socially constructed and a consequence of a patriarchal society and if this be true, who cares? If it gets your rocks off and your partner is open and accepting then you should be able to share and express those fantasies through "socially constructed" sexual act. If your partner is turned off then, like Dan Savage would say, "DTM" or Dump The Motherfucker.

In a society of "socially constructed" "patriarichally" imposed sexualities there exists many stigmas against sexual fantasies, stigmas which you have clearly expressed here. You have stigmatized this sexual act by branding it as a product of socialization, as something women are lead to believe men want and will perform in order to "make a man happy." I don't think any woman would or should "unwillingly submit" to a man's rape fantasy because that then becomes rape in itself. And, I don't think any woman would consciously submit to a fantasy which compromises her sexuality. However, you, "a simple non-feminist," seem to believe women do not have the will to deny a man's fantasy or that they could critically engage with their sexuality and realize: "Hey, that's not for me" and subsequently reject imposed male fantasies in order to preserve their own sexual rights. It seems that you are talking about rape yourself, not rape fantasy. There is a distinction.

In actual fact, it's men like you and the stigmas you impose that force women to hide their sexual fantasies because you dismiss any female fantasy as illegitimate due to, again, this idea that these fantasies are socially constructed but, also, because it is men like you who believe women should not have these fantasies. Maybe it's not you, but, there are many men who believe a woman to be a sexual tool, in comedian Jim Jeffries' words, a "container to shoot it into." Whereas it is seen as a social convention for heteronormative males to sit around the table and talk about their conquests, does the same convention exist for women? If you came out with me and my girls and any one of us was talking about a sexual conquest would you feel sorry for us because: "Oh, you are just adopting a male-gaze on sexual activity," or if we were talking about wanting to hook up with a tall-dark-handsome man would you cry: "Poor you, that is a socially constructed fantasy," or would you keep your mouth shut hoping you fit the bill, fantasizing about the potential.

But, back to the point. It's very difficult for women to express their fantasies even to their partners because we fear they will react as you have because we realize you have been socialized to dismiss our sexual fantasies, for many reasons not just the ones I have listed above (I should include the "disgusting" factor and the "fear" factor). For myself, coming to terms with my own fantasy was liberating. I had this fantasy for years but was made to believe it was wrong. It was wrong to fantasize about being dominated by a man. It was wrong to want sex by surprise! But mostly, again, it was wrong to want to be dominated by a man. Many feminists would believe this desire compromises my position as a woman (no pun intended) as such an act would elicit my submission to a patriarchal figure. Ah, therein lies the rub! But, it's not a submission in action or in idea. In the act of a rape fantasy (if you are really performing it) you can struggle, actually, for me it is preferable to struggle (for it shows that I have a will) and the idea is not submissive because I am the orchestrator of the fantasy. I can choose when to stop with code words like "blue" (because saying "stop" is usually a part of the struggle) and it is I who initiate it. When the man does not abide by these rules and persists, it is rape (the distinction emerges again).

Feminists might disagree with my rationale saying it contravenes my freedom. But, if I am not free to explore my sexuality, what good did the feminist movement (and the liberties it afforded us) do? Do I need to burn my bra again? Feminism is not single-sided, there are different factions. But, there are feminists whose views on women's rights are antiquated, especially if there are feminists out there who would deny the legitimacy of a woman's sexual fantasy because they are still stuck on "social constructions" and "patriarchy."

Women shouldn't need a movement to be sexually free.
Do you?

Jackson

Jackson

2011-05-26 14:57:40

I suppose my major shortcoming here is my inability to communicate sarcasm over the internet. I completely agree with your article; I feel vulgar feminism has gone too far. My comment was meant as an extension ad absurdum; the use of repetition was meant to be a sign that I wasn't actually writing seriously.

Who seriously uses a phrase like: "Shame on you for fantasizing about a shameful act that shames us men for being ashamed of shame in the first place".

The accusation that your arguments were poorly thought out was also meant as irony, as your writing clearly is quite well thought out.
REPLIES: Hogan, HaileyCelesse

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