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.

#GirlBoner Quickie: Solo Sex and Body Image

“Good sex is like good bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand.” ― unknown

Young woman playing with her self on bed

One thing I’ve learned about body image is that self-nurturing goes out the window along with it. When we perceive ourselves as not attractive or worthy of love, we treat ourselves as though we don’t deserve either. Our healthy eating habits tank. We work out excessively or not at all, sleep too much or struggle for any, and let everything from annual physicals and dental checkups to well-deserved rest time slide. If sex enters our brain, it’s likely to seem like a chore, a waste of time or even something horrifying. (“I can’t let him/her see this!”) Luckily, we can turn all of these factors around. From a Girl Boner standpoint, I believe that doing so starts with masturbation.

There’s SO MUCH I’d like to say on this topic, and probably will (though some is top secret for publishing reasons—shhh!). *secures blurt guard* Since we explored self-perception last week, I couldn’t resist at least dipping in today. (I ♥ GB puns!)

“Women who masturbate are usually more comfortable with their bodies and with sex in general,” says Ian Kerner, PhD, a sex therapist and the author of Sex Detox

Multiple large-scale studies have shown that women who masturbate routinely also have more positive self-esteem, positive views on sexuality and happier interpersonal relationships. Sadly, many women feel uncomfortable masturbating or discussing self-stimulation. (I certainly was, early on.) The more we learn about our bodies, and the beautiful things we’re capable of sexually and otherwise, the more comfortable and fulfilled we’re likely to be in our bedrooms, relationships and big, wondrous lives. Don’t you think?

5 Fab Facts About Female Masturbation 

1. Masturbation boosts our moods, instantly. Our levels of feel-good hormones, epinephrine and dopamine, skyrocket during self-arousal. Orgasm furthers these effects, making way for relaxation and a sense of euphoria.

2. Masturbation is a form of self-nurturing. Taking time for ourselves and prioritizing self-pleasure, in my opinion, is a lot like treating ourselves to healthy, gourmet meals rather than scarfing processed food from packages. All self-care habits lend themselves to others; we essentially tell ourselves we’re worthy, which goes a long way.

3. Masturbation staves off infections and disease. Masturbation stretches the mucous in the cervix, according to Sex: A Natural History, by Joann Ellison Rodgers, which acid levels and stimulates “friendly” bacteria production. This allows more fluid to move from the cervix to the vagina, washing away bacteria that cause urinary tract and yeast infections. Sexy self-play also helps relieve pain when infections set in. Masturbation and orgasm are associated with a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes and improved cardiovascular health.

4. Masturbation promotes restful sleep. Many women masturbate to “wind down after a hectic day or to fall asleep at night,” says Carrie Levine, a certified nurse and midwife. In addition to simply feeling good and distracting us from the day’s stress, the happy-hormones released during arousal and climax provide a “warm afterglow” that can help us sleep with peaceful ease.

5. Masturbation improves sex and intimacy with our partners. We can learn so much about our bodies, what feels great and what doesn’t, through self-exploration. “[Masturbation] helps build sexual confidence,”  explains Kathleen Segraves, PhD, a sex therapist and associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University. “It helps you guide the partner when you have a partner.” It also helps women who have difficulty reaching orgasm climax with ease, making sex more satisfying for both partners.

All of these solo sexy play perks are associated with positive body image. Stress, illness, a lack of self-care and sleep deficiencies make us feel worse about ourselves. (If you don’t believe me, try looking in the mirror after after a spree of sleepless nights, or when your whole body is pressed with worry.) Next time you’re feeling challenged in any of these ways, I hope you’ll consider a little naked TLC. When you do, try looking in the mirror afterward. I’m telling you—instant improvements. 😉 If you’re new to masturbation, check out Dr. Laura Berman’s article, A Woman’s Guide to Masturbation, for some stellar tips.

Have you noticed a link between your body image and sexuality? Are you comfortable talking to girlfriends or your partner about masturbation? Any related questions or topics you’d like Girl Boner to address? All respectful thoughts are welcome. You can also join me on Twitter and the Girl Boner Facebook page for between-post fun.


Va-va-va-GINA! 10 Fab Facts Worth Celebrating

Lieutenant Professor Olga Rockenstein (name changed, but barely) stood before the Sexuality of Women class like a bulldog personified. “Here we are going to talk about SEX!” she said. “Vaginas. Clitorises. Ovaries. STDs. Bisexualism. Lesbianism. Female sexual pleasure. Gender bias. Sexism. Sexual violence. Rape. And we are going to talk respectfully. If you can’t handle it, there’s the door.”

Let's Talk Sex - Chalkboard

The small-town college classroom fell silent, including the formerly snickering male I’d heard reference the “easiest A” and “best class ratio” ever. Of the forty-plus students, females outnumbered males three to one the first day. By the second class, two guys remained. (The professor later admitted that she plays her “militant lesbian card” on day one to intimidate weed out the non-serious.)

Before that class, I’d never spoken openly about sexuality or heard another speak so candidly about issues I quickly deemed vital. Unlike my grade school sex ed. classes, which emphasized erections, menstrual cramps, intercourse and abstinence, Rockenstein taught us to respect, understand and celebrate our bodies. It was about dang time.

Early in the semester, she assigned Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. After paging through the poignant true story collection, I went home and decided to check out my own vagina—as in look at it, for real.

I sat before my bedroom wall mirror, legs open wide, dumbfounded; I nearly had to force my gaze “down there.” Once I did, tears filled my eyes; I wasn’t horrified or awestruck, but sad. Had I really gone nearly two decades of life without so much as a glance? My gyno and boyfriend knew more about what laid beneath me than I did…

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot since then.

Vagina derives from the Latin word for sheath, or the case for a sword. Some women are understandably offended by the term, taking vagina to mean a case for a penis or harmful object. (There’s nothing wrong with housing a penis, obviously—but our lady parts are so much more than that!) I personally feel that vaginas encase our female sexual pleasure centers, and there’s a lot of power there.

Whether we call them vaginas, va-jay-jays, pussies, coots, twats, boxes, girly bits, lady parts or nether regions, our vaginas are beautiful components of our bodies, sexuality, relationships and health. With Valentine’s day approaching, I thought it was an ideal time for Girl Boner to pay tribute.

female reproductive system

10 Fabulous Facts About Vaginas

1. Vaginas facilitate pleasure. The clitoris, a tiny organ just inside the vaginal lips, has over 8000 nerve endings exclusively dedicated to female pleasure. (We gals luck out in this regard; the penis only contains 4000.)

2. Va-jay-jays are resilient… “The vagina has an incredibly rich blood supply which promotes rapid healing, even after injury or childbirth,” Dr. Alyssa Dweck told Shape magazine. The same goes for the insertion of large penises and sex toys.

3. …capable and strong. Vaginal muscles are our reproductive system’s quads, supporting everything from the ability to tighten during sex to urinary control. While they gradually weaken with age and childbirth, we can keep and regain strength using kegel exercises and sex-ercise (routine sexual play).

4. Excited vaginas grow. Vaginas average 3 to 4 inches in length but can balloon out to up to twice the size when sexually aroused, according to Dr. Lissa Rankin.

5. Vaginas love healthy food! A diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats helps keep the vagina healthy, while preventing dryness. (The same foods make way for a healthy libido.) Dr. Laura Berman recommends drinking plenty of water and limiting alcohol, soft drinks and coffee for added perks.

6. Pussies appreciate play. Sexual play solo or with a partner helps minimize stress, vaginal dryness and libido lulls. Masturbation is particularly important for managing menopause symptoms, says Berman, as well as for learning what we most enjoy.

7. Vaginas self-clean. Consequently, physicians discourage douching, which can disrupt the balance of healthy microorganisms that protect against harmful bacteria and infections.

8. Each vagina has its own unique smell, based on a variety of factors. For the most pleasant aroma, practice positive hygiene and eat namely healthy foods, including sweet fruits. Cranberry juice and probiotic sources, such as yogurt and kefir, may be particularly helpful.

9. Vaginas house the G-spot, the area known for the producing the most powerful orgasms. “The G-spot can be found by inserting your index finger into the vagina with palm facing upward and making a ‘come here’ motion with it,” says Dweck. “It may take some practice to connect with your G-spot, but it’s so worth it.”

10. Routine coot stimulation helps us think sharper, according to Dr. Patricia Bloom. It’s also linked with boosted longevity. (Long live Girl Boners and all who embrace them.)

Girl Boner Challenge:

Whether you’ve done so before or not, take time to observe your vagina in a mirror or camera image. Journal about your thoughts, or write it a love letter. V-day is near, after all.

Have you observed your vagina lately? What terminology do you prefer? Which fact strikes you most?

If you haven’t yet signed up for the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II, which takes place next week, you still can. I’m also happy to announce the brand spankin’ new Girl Boner Facebook page! Pop by and “like” it to stay fully in the GB loop. The vagina party’s already begun…