Rape and Submission Fantasies: A Source of Healing?

“I don’t mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated. I don’t mind being told to stand on my own feet, not to cling, be all that I am capable of doing, but I am going to be pursued, fucked, possessed by the will of a male at his time, his bidding.” — Anaïs Nin

domination sex fantasy

On the surface, rape and domination fantasies can seem bizarre, perverted and unhealthy. Why would a woman dream lustfully about such a deeply violating act? Well according to many sexual health and psychological experts, such fantasies aren’t only common, affecting an estimated 30 to 60 percent of women based on collective studies, but A-okay. For some women, they may even prove therapeutic.

I recently began watching Dr. Laura Berman’s Showtime series Sexual Healing, a program that chronicles couples working to overcome sexual and relationship problems under the counsel of Laura Berman, PhD. The first installment features Brandon and Sabrina, a young couple grappling with reduced sex drive. Though they’d had an active, healthy sex life previously, Sabrina’s earliest sexual experiences were deeply traumatic. Throughout her early childhood, she was molested by a temporary step-father.

During a one-on-one session, Dr. Berman asks Sabrina what she fantasizes about sexually. Here’s a clip from their chat:

Sabrina: I need someone to rip off my clothes…and he’s so nice, so gentle.

Dr. Berman: A sort of submission fantasy?

Sabrina: Yeah, maybe. And maybe that’s bad.

Dr. Berman: No. In fact a lot of women who have been through sexual trauma, even women who haven’t, have rape fantasies, submission fantasies…because it’s sort of a way to work through it. It feels arousing because it’s sort of in your control. It’s kind of taking what was out of your control and putting it in control.

Dr. Berman’s insight really struck me, having never experienced or fully understood rape fantasies myself. Witnessing the lightbulbs of empowerment that seemed to flash in Sabrina’s head as she began to see her desires for what they really are—a chance to heal wounds from her past—gave me chills! I can’t imagine such revelations, paired with her willingness to work through challenges her loving beau, not shifting her sense of self-worth and sexual embracement toward the better.

Another woman on the program, the most shy and conservative of the bunch, shared a fantasy in which a man enters her home and rapes her, “taking her from behind over the sofa” until the act gradually becomes pleasurable. Then he forces her to prepare food for him (interesting, considering the fact that she hates cooking). She makes him a sandwich before he “takes her” again, this time on the kitchen table. Because she considers herself prudish, she told Dr. Berman that she associates her fantasy with knocking down her inhibitions and thinking more freely.

“Fantasies allow us to experience the outer limits of our imaginations safely, with no risk–and for some people, that includes fantasies of coerced sex,” writes Michael Castleman, MA, author of All About Sex. “In fantasy everything is permitted and nothing is wrong.”

5 More Reasons Women Fantasize About Rape & Domination

1. The thrill of desire. Robert Frost called love “an irresistible desire to be desired,” and for good reason. Little feels as good as being wanted. While the actual act of rape isn’t about sex but power, says Dr. Berman, rape fantasies are all about sexual desirability. To be so desired that a man (or woman) can’t help but rip a woman’s clothes off and go to town on her body provides many women a sense of euphoria.

2. Permission to experience pleasure first, without worrying about performance. Unlike actual sexual violation, rape and domination fantasies involve pleasure. “When you restrain her, it means she has permission to experience pleasure without having to worry about being good in bed or returning the favor,” says Cosmo writer Caroyln Kylstra. This is one reason women particularly prone to people-pleasing, putting others’ needs before their own, are more likely to fantasize about being aggressively taken.

3. Permission to be sexual. In a society that over-sexualizes women in entertainment and the media while encouraging hush-hush attitudes about sex most everywhere else, many women experience intense shame when it comes to expressing themselves sexually. “Rape fantasies allow them to explore their sexuality without embarrassment, as they are being taken against their will, at least mentally,” said Dr. Berman. Doing so allows women with sexual shame freedom to savor the experience, she says, without feeling embarrassed or dirty.

4. Societal teaching. Women and men are exposed to countless illustrations of male dominance/female submission in todays’ culture, and both genders tend to internalize these roles, according to research summarized in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. We tend to desire what we know, particularly if we haven’t challenged these beliefs.

5. Adrenaline boosts. A thin (and important) line divides pain and pleasure, and they tend to go hand-in-hand, says Dr. Berman. “Danger and pain can act as an instant adrenaline boost,” she writes. “They get the heart pumping and excitement flowing, and such reactions mimic the feelings of sexual attraction and sexual desire.” Some amount of pain can jump-start pleasure, which can lead to highly erotic and pleasurable play.

If experiencing rape or domination fantasies in your mind or bedroom* heightens your sexual satisfaction, closeness with your partner or emotional healing, I say DREAM ON—knowing that there’s nothing wrong or “dirty” about you. If not, well, there are countless other fantasies worth having…

*Acting rape and domination fantasies out can be healthy and safe with a trusted partner in safe quarters, say psychologists, but some are best kept within—particularly if they involve significant pain or harm, strangers or acts your partner doesn’t feel comfortable with. If you’re struggling to cope with or manage your own fantasies, guidance from a trusted professional can go a long way.

Have you had domination or rape fantasies? Were you surprised to learn that, addressed properly, they can provide healing? What themes do you see in your fantasies? What reasons would you add to my list? I love hearing your thoughts! ♥ You can also chat with me and the Girl Boner community on Facebook and Twitter.

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20 Comments

  1. Another insightful post that hist close to home. Keep up the good work and thanks for giving light to so many of these rarely discussed issues.

    Reply
  2. I love reading BDSM stories- as long as their is no humiliation and boundaries are clear cut- now I know why, or at least part of it. It is sexy one person being so into you that they want to take care of you posses you, dominate you, but in such a way that in the end you are a better, healthier, and deeply satisfied person 🙂
    Great post

    Reply
    • Great point, Alica. Fiction is a great way to safely indulge in these fantasies, even if we’re not necessarily turned on by the violent aspects. Roni Loren’s work taught me that — such a talented writer. You’re so right about the end results being key. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Raani York

     /  October 14, 2013

    Hi August,
    I read your post with greatest interest. I heard about all this before and was asking myself how this could be possible, considering the fact that a lot of women already consider themselves raped if a Guy sneezes into their direction… and all of a sudden they’re allowed to have fantasies “like this”.
    I personally think some of these women might not feel… “adored” – “desired” – “wanted”… And eventually this might be the reason of them declaring possessive sexual fantasies “dirty”.
    (At least to me this makes sense… I haven’t found out what a professional psychologist would say to me. LOL)
    I’m lucky, to be honest… there are hardly any fantasies I have or had that I can’t tell my boyfriend – and sometimes – out of the blue… he makes them come true… 🙂

    Reply
  4. laurie27wsmith

     /  October 14, 2013

    A brave subject here August, I expected to see a shower of bile heaped on you for daring to write about rape fantasies. Play acting in sexual situations is a common theme as you well know. With rape fantasies it allows women, who for various reasons don’t enjoy some sex acts to actually come out and be someone else. If you are tied up and blindfolded then whatever happens to you is not your fault, right?
    If these fantasies go beyond the pale and involve brutality and violence then it’s a different scene altogether. I would like to add for those who may visit and demand to know how a man knows what it’s like to be raped, well I was raped at 5 years old and still remember it. Thanks for another great post August.
    Laurie.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry that you endured such horrific violence and violation, Laurie. I admire your courage in sharing and moving forward to thrive, as it seems you have, in your life. Thanks so much for the support!

      Reply
      • laurie27wsmith

         /  October 15, 2013

        Thanks August, it does give me something to draw from with poetry and my books. I brought it up more for the benefit of those who seem to think that men know nothing about rape, except for being a perpetrator and not as a victim.
        Laurie.

      • I truly appreciate that you did, and your reason. And I relate to turning life’s darkness into literary lemonade!

      • laurie27wsmith

         /  October 17, 2013

        Thanks August, I may as well make some use of what happened. I like the term literary lemonade, it has a certain ring to it.
        Laurie.

      • laurie27wsmith

         /  October 17, 2013

        Oops, I forgot, thanks so much for the follow.

  5. Rape and submission fantasies as a way to cope and heal is an idea I had never even considered but I can see how it would work. By controlling the fantasy the woman take back that sexual power. Well done piece.

    Reply
    • It was a new concept to me as well, Russell. Knowing that might make those who have such fantasies feel greater ease, as it worked out for the woman in the TV series. Thanks for the support. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Beautifully done, August. It’s a topic that’s not discussed much, so I applaud you for having the courage to do so. I had no idea that it could therapeutic for victims of sexual abuse. I often thought it was just the opposite, but I could see how it would help. Very interesting post. Can’t wait for the next one.

    Reply
  7. I think ironically the submission fantasies are empowering, you give yourself permission to experience letting someone else take control, you are giving them the control while really keeping it yourself with the knowledge the safe word will stop everything, I also think that women spend so much time being strong, no matter what is going on in our lives we are expected to support everyone else around us at the same time, that it is freeing to be able to have one area even if only in your own head where you relinquished control and allow yourself to be ‘weak’ without feeling bad about it after

    Reply
    • Excellent points, Paula! I definitely see the appeal in opting out of being in control or the chief decision maker. Safety, wellness and pleasure seem key in all aspects of our sexuality.

      Reply
  8. The idea of bondage fantasies goes back to an unexpected time and venue which were the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book series. As someone mentioned above experiencing those scenarios could be erotic and enlightening as long as the participants understand that violence and humiliation are not part of the act.

    Reply
  9. Such a difficult topic to tackle. Well done, though. I love BDSM related books. No shock to you, I’m sure. As someone above mentioned, context makes a world of difference in this arena. Especially when dealing with someone’s trauma, before delving into this kind of play, it would be important to set boundaries and understand that there could be triggers along the way. Done incorrectly with someone who doesn’t know you or your history if you’ve been victimized in this manner could be devastating, but done right….the possibilities of changing your own ending, superimposing positive memories over the bad, and healing? Wow. That’s why communication and safe words are so key in BDSM. For your safety and well being. No matter how much or how well you communicate, we aren’t mind readers.

    Reply
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