Am I Sick for Having Rape Fantasies?

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Reader’s Question

I am a generally healthy female in my mid-30s. As I child, I would imagine fantasies of being raped. As an adult, I recognize that watching scenarios of rape (on TV or movies) arouses me. I am aroused by healthy means as well, but I have a concern that this is an effect of some sexual assault that happened as a young child, that my memory blocks out. I have no memory of being sexually assaulted, but have become aware of how powerful the mind is. I feel as though my emotional memory of childhood is very similar to what I’ve read about Stockholm Syndrome, although it appears I grew up in a healthy environment.

Is it possible that rape fantasies could be considered normal, or is it more likely that my subconscious is bringing possible abuse to the surface? Can simple acknowledgement of such possible abuse be enough to heal? Am I sick? I also have other fantasies I know are healthy, although the pattern of my sex life has been somewhat promiscuous at times. Is promiscuity also a symptom of past sexual abuse? I can’t ignore these questions any longer.

Psychologist’s Reply

Believe it or not, rape fantasies are very common, even in women who have never been sexually abused. In fact, research performed over the last 40 years has found that approximately four in 10 women (that’s between 31 to 57% of the women surveyed) admitted to having had such fantasies. That’s a lot of women. Actual prevalence of rape fantasies is probably even higher than that, as many women are embarrassed or ashamed to admit to them.

While it may seem disturbing to fantasize about rape, fantasy is very different than reality. Fantasies allow us to experience things we could not, or may not even want to, experience in real life. You can visit Mars, discover treasure, live in the 1800s, be a world-class jewel thief, or have different sexual experiences. Fantasies are a way to stretch our imaginations and let us be risk takers without having to face any actual risk. Moreover, when you fantasize, you are in charge of everything; you have all the control. Consequently, nothing is dangerous or off-limits, because if it gets too uncomfortable, you can always stop or modify the fantasy.

Having rape fantasies does not mean that you wish to get raped in real life. It also doesn’t mean that you are sick or have a history of being sexually abused. Some victims of sexual abuse do have rape fantasies and some are promiscuous. However, the same is true for many women who were not sexually assaulted. If you do not have memories of being sexually assaulted and you believe that you grew up in a healthy environment, chances are good that no one abused you. If questions about your history are still bothering you, it may be helpful to visit a counselor to talk about why they are so troubling. But if the rape fantasy is the only thing that leads you to believe you were sexually abused, I wouldn’t worry. It’s normal.

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