I write rape. I write a lot of other things, too. I write erotica that’s playful, teasing, sweet, and sexy; I write hot BDSM and Domination that’s either safe, sane, and consensual or at least ‘risk-aware kink’, depending on your flavor. But I also write rape, and it’s the non-consensual subject matter that — rightfully — bothers people the most.
Sexual assault is an all too common occurrence. RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) estimates that 1 out of 6 women have experienced either rape or attempted rape. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) estimates that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced some sort of sexual violence in their lifetime. In the much-overdue spotlight of the recent MeToo movement, millions of people have seen the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which sexual assault is not only tolerated but even glorified in some areas of our society.
I am not a rape or sexual assault apologist. You’re not going to find me praising the ‘incel’ subculture or anything similar. I consider myself a feminist, and I am rabidly in favor of gender equality. So why do I write stories which blatantly eroticize rape, manipulation, and coercion? Why do people read them? Should I write them, and should people read them?
People wiser than I have done extensive research on rape as a sexual fantasy. It’s more common than you might think, both among women and among men. Opinions vary as to what makes these fantasies so common — and so hot. Maybe it’s the idea of being completely helpless and out of control. Maybe it’s having the excuse to be sexual and do things (and people) you’d never do in real life — but if you’re “forced”, then it’s not your fault, and it’s somehow ‘okay’. For the rapist, it might be about having that control, and having the power over someone who can’t resist you, and who “lets” you have your way with them even if they don’t want to.
Importantly, though: it’s all pretend. Rape fantasies are fake, and while everyone realizes this, it’s especially important to bear in mind from an artistic, authorly perspective.
I’ve written rape that’s ‘realistic’: rape that is traumatic, ugly, and painfully unpleasant to write, and that I had to get up and walk away from after I’d finished the scene. Events like that in a character’s life aren’t fun to write, aren’t fun to read, and they certainly aren’t sexy. Erotic rape stories, however, have a very different tone and structure.
Erotic rape, like all erotica, involves people who are intrinsically attractive. The men are all built, strong, handsome, and well-endowed; the women are always beautiful, svelte, and feminine (at least, if that’s your thing). Non-con stories tend to focus on the ‘no means yes’ aspect of things, where the victim, no matter how initially reluctant, ultimately enjoys the experience on some level — if written from the victim’s point of view. If written from the aggressor’s point of view, it might instead focus on the thrill of the victim’s cooperation or degradation, but again: usually the victim ends up being more or less willing, one way or the other. The focus is not, by and large, on pain, terror, and trauma. It’s on the aspects of a forbidden encounter, a broken taboo, the secret enjoyment, and the lack of negative consequences.
Real rape isn’t like that. Real rape doesn’t have handsome, built men taking advantage of Cosmo-model women who secretly want it and after however many minutes of the best fucking they’ve ever had, they both cum at the same time, sans STIs or pregnancy. Real rape is dominated by fear, shame, and violation; it’s an invasion and betrayal of your safe spaces, your friendships and relationships (if done by someone close to you). It is often violent, painful, and terrifying, leaving people with emotional and psychological trauma that can haunt them for years or decades into the future.
But does eroticizing rape paint the picture that real rape is ‘okay’, or desirable, or sexy? In my opinion, no. We fantasize about so many things in the privacy of our bedrooms that we would never do in real life. A happily married man may still daydream about the woman he sees at lunch; a very conservative woman might enjoy herself to the idea of having two men at once. Neither of them is necessarily going to go out at the first opportunity and fulfill the fantasy. It’s exactly that: fantasy. Unreal, and not intended to ever come true.
Eroticizing rape isn’t a glorification of abuse; it is the ‘safe danger’ thrill of a roller coaster, haunted house, or extreme sports. What I provide — what I write, and what my non-con readers get off to — is make-believe. It is the sanitized, prettified, and simplified version of a real-life horror, attractive in part exactly because it is safe and unreal. Fantasy of any sort — sexual fantasies included — are escapism, where we can leave behind our normal, ordinary, unremarkable lives and have thrilling adventures.
And yes: it is okay to enjoy these fantasies, whether in writing them, reading them, or getting off on them. We as a species enjoy a huge amount of fantasies that we would never actually want to be part of. We enjoy crime procedurals without the desire to rob banks; we enjoy horror movies without the desire to be tortured and dismembered. We flock to tales of lost loves, heartbreak, pain, and tragedy, but we would never want to be the one who is abandoned, who is betrayed, or who suffers. They make for excellent, exciting, and engaging stories precisely because we don’t — and don’t want to! — experience them first-hand. Our taboo erotic fantasies, including erotic rape, are no different.
Some further reading:
- Fantasy, Reality, and Rape by Ann Regentin
- What Do Rape Fantasies Mean? The Psychology Behind the Common Fantasy, Explained by Gina Florio
- Women’s Rape Fantasies: An Empirical Evaluation of the Major Explanations by Jenny Bivona, Joseph W. Critelli, and Michael J. Clark.
- The Nature of Women’s Rape Fantasies: An Analysis of Prevalence, Frequency, and Contents by Jenny Bivona and Joseph W. Critelli.