Biastophilia: Understanding the Psychology of the “Rape Fetish”

Reader’s Question

A link in a blog led me to a report about an online game that involved rape. This made me wonder about the psychology behind rape fetishes.

I know that people rape not just for sex, but for power and control. What I don’t understand is why people would gravitate toward some of these online games and to porn sites that depict rape.

Can an interactive game involving rape give the player the power and control a real rapist seeks? What kind of person would visit such sites? What psychological principles explain such behavior?

Psychologist’s Reply

There is considerable debate about the reasons for the proliferation of such sites and the motivations for those who visit them. But before we discuss some of the more important issues, it would be a good idea to clarify some definitions and terms.

Technically, there is no such thing as a “rape fetish.” A fetish is the deriving of sexual pleasure from an inanimate object such as rope, articles of clothing, grooming utensils, etc. I have some prior posts that address this issue such as:

There are individuals who derive sexual or other pleasure either from the act of rape or fantasies of raping. Generally, the term Biastophilia is used to describe the deriving of pleasure from any form of coercion or brutality during sex or specifically from the act of raping. Sadism and sexual sadism are also terms used to describe the enjoyment of inflicting sexual or other (physical or emotional) pain on another.

Now, one need not be a biastophile to visit some of the sexually-oriented sites you describe or to enjoy their content. Some individuals can indulge in certain fantasies as supplementary aspects of an otherwise healthy sex life. The sites give them the opportunity to carry out in fantasy an urge they would never consider carrying out in reality. But the availability of sites that feature rape “games” or depict rape are also indeed a boon to those who have a true rape paraphilia. And research suggests that the more times a person predisposed to rape spends engaging in deviant thoughts and viewing risk-enhancing material, the more likely they are at some point to act on them. So visiting such sites is not without risk — especially because the “connections” a person can make to others frequenting the sites and participating in the “games” can result in an unwitting connection to a skilled predator.

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