Tag: rape

Is It Okay To Write Fantasies About Rape?

The short answer is “Yes.” But there are some important details to consider.

There’s a general distaste for rape fantasy because there is a very reasonable general distaste for rape. Rape is one of the most horrible things that a person can experience, so it’s only natural that there’s a strong social condemnation of not only rape, but of anything that is seen to encourage rape. This is all perfectly reasonable, except that we don’t always agree as a society on what kinds of things–stories in particular–encourage rape.

Rape fantasy as a rule does not, because people in general can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Also because most rape fantasy stories I’ve seen, read, heard, had, or written, have as a context that the rapist is a Bad Guy, and that rape is a Bad Thing.

When dealing with people who cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, almost anything can be used as some sort of justification for almost anything. John Hinckley Jr. used the movie “Taxi Driver” to justify shooting the President of the United States, for example. Mark David Chapman used “The Catcher In The Rye” to justify assassinating John Lennon. Neither of these crimes, nor many like them, were reasonably or logically inspired by the original source material–the crimes were the products of deranged minds, and the source material could have been anything.

On the other hand, the movie “Clockwork Orange” may have inspired several rapes. In one case, a 17 year-old girl was gang-raped by a group of perps who were (as in the film) singing “Singing In The Rain.” I tend to think that that group of perps would have been rapists in any case, and the movie only directed slightly how their crime manifested–they’d have still been rapists, but they might not have been singing rapists. Normal people who watched that film were not inspired to go out and commit crimes based on it. Still, there’s an important difference between this crime and the above crimes by other works: glorification.

The movie “Taxi Driver” doesn’t glorify the main character’s attempted assassination of a politician. The main character is clearly intended to be lonely, pathetic, and misguided. “Taxi Driver” wasn’t filmed in such a way that viewers would or should come out of the theater thinking that the assassination would have been a good deed. “Catcher In The Rye” does not–to the best of my knowledge–even have murder or assassination as a plot point, let alone glorify it in any way.

“Clockwork Orange,” on the other hand… well, the main character is not clearly the villain of the story. He’s charming, charismatic, and sympathetic in places. He’s the kind of character that people might want to identify with on many levels, and the rape scene itself was a mixture that contained more comedy than horror, downplaying the effects of the rape, up-playing the coolness factors of the perpetrator. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that the movie created rapists where none would have otherwise existed, but I do think that it’s treading along an edge that makes me uncomfortable, because rape shouldn’t be glorified.

You may be asking yourself why writing ANY kind of rape fantasy is okay, and the answer is that writing fantasy is by default okay and natural, including fantasies about crime and violence. If reading or watching a story about murder, rape, robbery, theft, and so forth, was truly harmful to society, then every society would be constantly harmed by the vast majority of the stories we tell. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

We can watch horror movies without committing murder, usually because we know the difference between fantasy and reality, and also because the stories are usually told in such a way that it’s clear who the villains are, and that their deeds are vile. Even in cases where there is some sympathy for the monster/killer/villain, the stories aren’t a glorification of them or their deeds. In cases where they are, those stories are again treading on ground that I’d rather they avoided.
Same with crime stories, for that matter, although for some reason bank robbers, kidnappers, and so forth are much more likely to be glorified than movie monsters/murderers.

The only other times/ways I can think of (other than rape glorification fantasies) where it is NOT okay to write rape fantasy are:

When You Don’t Know You’re Doing It

Unfortunately, many authors–even or especially famous authors–have written rape scenes that are seemingly intended to be something else. One example that comes to mind is the sex scene in Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, where the protagonist Howard Roark sneaks into Dominique’s bedroom at night, pins her wrists, physically overpowers her in spite of her fighting back, and has rough sex with her. It’s all meant to be okay, because a) Roark could tell just by looking at her that she really wanted him to do it, b) even though she said No, she meant Yes, and he could just tell, c) she enjoyed it, d) she entered into a romantic relationship with him afterward, and e) all the usual things that rapists think or say to justify their actions. As a rape fantasy scene it’s not bad… but it does glorify the act of rape, and justifies it, and the author seems to be oblivious that this wasn’t just rough, hot sex.
There are also countless other novels where the author seems to be trying to write a passionate love scene, but instead depicts a rape, sometimes a quite brutal one. Writers can mistake “lack of consent” for “passion,” but they’re not the same thing. When you write a sex scene, check it for consent. Consent doesn’t have to be verbal; it just has to be clear enough that the characters involved, along with any witnesses, would be able to tell that everybody was having fun. If/When you write a rape scene, make sure that not only do YOU know what you’re writing, but that the reader knows that you know it as well.

 

When It Comes Without Warning:
The sex (rape) scene in The Fountainhead also kind of comes out of the blue. This is supposed to be a philosophical novel about an architect, not a bodice-ripper. There’s nothing really in the book before that point that indicates to the reader what’s going to happen, and that kind of thing can put a lot of readers off. Especially if the reader has been the victim of sexual violence in the past.

Think of it a bit like killing a dog. It’s not something that you want to spring on readers without warning, if only because you’ll lose a lot of readers that way. If you’re writing rape fantasy, the idea will usually be to arouse your readers. That takes a certain kind of audience, and they usually like to know what they’re getting into. If you write in genres where sexual violence is common enough that it won’t shock your audience, something like Beast Porn, Bodice-Rippers, Splatterpunk, or fantasy BDSM stuff like Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Quartet, then you (and your readers) are probably safe.
If you’re writing conventional Romance, Erotica, realistic BDSM stories, and so forth, then you might consider including a Trigger Warning at the start of the work, or telegraphing to the reader PLENTY of advance warning.

Is It Okay To Fantasize About Raping Somebody?

The short answer is “Yes,” but there are some important details to consider.

The only caveats I’d place on that answer is that it’s probably not a good idea to use masturbation fantasies to condition yourself toward certain actions, especially if you’re the kind of person who ever has trouble telling fantasy from reality, and I’d discourage anybody from indulging in rape fantasies that glorify the act of rape. Otherwise, go at it. Fantasize away.

Just keep a strong wall inside your mind dividing this part of your fantasy life from anything that you’d ever consider doing in real life.

The first place that I encountered the idea of rape fantasy, the naming of it, was when I was reading sex manuals along the lines of “The Joy of Sex,” or “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid To Ask).” One or more of these tomes had passages on rape fantasy, mostly explaining what it was, and that it was okay. I seem to remember them focusing more on women having fantasies about rape than about men (or women) having fantasies about committing the act of rape, but it’s been a long while since I read those books.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first encountered the idea, but I do know that I first read those books years before I hit puberty. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d already had at least one rape fantasy that I remember. I’d attended a circus at one point, Barnum & Bailey’s, and I was among a handful of children who were picked to go down to the show floor. There was some kind of undersea theme, and they gave us special hats to wear, telling us that we were colonels in the undersea navy or something like that.

The rank was important because I remember thinking that it would give me some kind of authority to order the undersea soldiers around. I remember thinking that I’d like to order my minions (I didn’t use that word, just the concept) to take some of the lovely ladies of the circus that I’d seen performing earlier, and to strip off their clothing. I wanted to see what they looked like naked, the ladies that is.

Not technically a rape, but certainly a violation that demonstrates one of many reasons why it would be bad to grant young children any level of military command. Fortunately for the ladies, the soldiers, and myself, my special rank only allowed me to be paraded around for a bit, then returned to my seat. Or something. It’s so long ago that I’ve forgotten much of the incident. I do remember the moment of the fantasy, and I probably returned to that scene when I grew old enough to start masturbating, changing the memory of the fantasy into a new fantasy.

I can’t say if that was my first rape fantasy, and I can’t say how many I’ve had since. I can tell you that a very, very large percentage of the jokes that bounced around the playground of the grade school I attended were, in hindsight, bizarre rape-fantasy instructionals for blackmailing girls into nudity or various sex acts.

The standard joke would be something along the lines of:
A boy catches a girl in the act of peeing, and he sees her privates. She’s embarrassed. The boy tells her that he won’t tell anybody that he saw her peeing, IF she promises to give him a closer look at her private parts. She agrees. He then tells her that he won’t tell anybody that she showed him her private parts, IF she takes off her clothes entirely…

And so on, and so forth. There was rarely if ever any kind of punchline to these “jokes,” but they weren’t exactly porn either. Although that basic plot IS used in plenty of porn and erotica today. Anyway, these jokes were extremely common. They weren’t about overt rape-by-direct-force, but rape-by-blackmail was extremely common, as was rape-by-deception, and various other forms of sexual coercion.

I’m not going to say that any of it was healthy for society, but I can say that the vast majority of the kids telling that kind of joke did not turn out to be rapists that I’m aware of. I certainly didn’t turn out to be one.

The harm from those jokes would come not from the plot, but from the execution of of the story. They didn’t normalize the sexual assaults, but they did make them seem clever. They perpetuated the ongoing social narrative that it’s a boy’s job (or at least natural and reasonable inclination) to try to trick or trap girls into nudity/sex, and that it’s a girl’s job to protect herself. If the boy succeeds, then the only problem (in this narrative) is that the girl was foolish.
The stories glorified the predatory acts.

While it’s arguable that none of these stories directly caused anybody to ever commit a rape, I would say that such stories did (and likely do, if they still exist on the playgrounds today) perpetuate and reinforce rape culture. That is a bad thing. That kind of story can be harmful.

Do not indulge in rape fantasies that in any way glorify the act of rape.

Other rape fantasies that I encountered growing up were in the form of Damsel In Distress form, and were quite common in television, movies, and books. A woman would often be vaguely threatened by a man, she’d be breathless, her clothing might get torn. In the more family-friendly mediums, things would stop there, with the unspoken threat of rape. Sometimes the act might occur, but happen off-scene.

These scenes were generally crafted for the Male Gaze, to titillate the audiences. They could be problematic in a number of ways, but they did make the point that the attacker or potential attacker was a Bad Guy, not somebody that anybody should emulate.

The same kind of thing happened a lot in horror films, only more graphically. Same with certain action movies, like “Death Wish.” The stories were crafted for the viewers to be turned on by the nudity and the forced sex, but to avoid condoning rape. This is why “Rape and Revenge” movies (and books, and everything) are a thing: they allow the audience to experience the thrills of a fantasy that they know is wrong, and they allow the audience to experience the satisfaction of seeing justice be eventually served to the perpetrator that they were earlier vicariously thrilled by.
Most people aren’t likely to go out and commit rape based on “Last House On The Left,” “I Saw The Devil,” or “I Spit On Your Grave,” where the rapists are shown as despicable beings not to be emulated, and the rape is morally condemned instead of glorified.

I don’t think that the vengeance/justice aspect need be a part of personal masturbatory fantasies, but I do think that the moral condemnation should be clear. It’s okay to fantasize about rape, just as it’s okay to fantasize about murder, robbery, zombie apocalypses, and all sorts of other things that would be horrible in real life.

It’s okay for a man or woman to fantasize about raping.
It’s just not okay for them to fantasize about rape being in any way good, noble, or justified.

Once in a while, it’s fun in our fantasies to play the role of the Bad Guy. The only danger is if we end up playing him/her in real life.