Trigger Warning: The following content deals with issues surrounding sexual assault and may be triggering to some readers.
I want you to rape me,” I said to my ex-boyfriend a few months into our relationship. He didn’t even need to respond for me to notice the fearful and dumbfounded look on his face. It was difficult to imagine him, a kind, gentle guy, as an aggressive sexual partner.
What do you mean?” he asked, baffled. I knew him to be a smart Stanford student, but a question like this, so far out of the comfort zone, seemed to throw him for a loop.
Don’t worry . . . this is not another column of borderline erotica. After a recent controversial anonymous piece in The Daily’s Intermission section, I felt it was necessary to do justice to both brave survivors of sexual assault and people who feel comfortable enough to safely express their sexual fantasies, no matter how out-there they may seem.
Of course, I did not actually want to be raped. So what do these desires signify? Am I perverse for having these feelings? As an avid supporter of sexual and emotional health on campus and a member of SHPRC, how could I enact my passions without being insensitive to actual victims of rape and other sexual violence?
I had the privilege to interview Dr. Jenn Berman, a renowned Los Angeles psychotherapist and host of VH1’s new show, “Couples Therapy,” where she does comprehensive counseling with celebrity partners. Dr. Berman also has a daily radio show known as “The Love and Sex Show with Dr. Jenn,” and has been an expert psychotherapist on countless shows from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to “The Today Show.”
Intermission: What does it mean to have a rape fantasy? Is there something wrong with people who fantasize about rape?
Dr. Berman: It is very normal to have a rape fantasy. There is a really big difference between a rape fantasy and the actual experience of being raped. There is nothing wrong with a fantasy. In the fantasy you are in control because it is your fantasy. It is the difference between an exciting experience and a terrifying reality.
You are the architect of your fantasy . . . you decide when your shirt gets ripped off, and how far things go. This is the opposite of truly being violated and raped.
INT: Just because someone fantasizes about being dominated or “raped,” does it mean they want to actually be raped?
Dr. Berman: This is an important thing for [people] to be clear on. It doesn’t mean you actually want to be raped. It is important to understand that fantasies are different from reality. [Rape] is catastrophic in reality. Even something like a threesome can be great in fantasy, but bringing it into a relationship may be very different than how you imagined.
INT: What if someone is a survivor and still fantasizes about rape?
Dr. Berman: Typically when someone who is a survivor has a fantasy, it is about redoing the experience where they are in control. Sometimes it can be difficult for someone to make sense of this kind of trauma. But it is important to talk about it in therapy and with someone who can offer you professional feedback so you don’t act out something that might violate you again.
INT: How do I know I can trust my partner not to take a rape role-play too far?
Dr. Berman: It is important not to act out a rape fantasy with a new partner, with someone you don’t know very well. It is important that they have proved to you they are already trustworthy over a course of time. It is important that you have a safety word; [the safety word] needs to be something you would never normally say.
INT: Why are pieces like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or the idea of domination so sexy or arousing to many people, women in particular?
Dr. Berman: There are many aspects that are appealing to women today. Women today take on a lot . . . we are more educated, more career-oriented . . . juggling more hats. Sometimes the idea of not being in charge and getting to be submissive can be very appealing. It is about being desired, being validated . . . the idea of someone being so overcome with lust for you (in the fantasy) can be very validating. The reality of rape is about hurting someone, not necessarily about sex.
INT: Do you think heterosexual men have any fantasies of being raped?
Dr. Berman: The male fantasy is more about being dominated than raped. It is not uncommon, especially for high-powered men, to have fantasies about being dominated in bed, when they are alpha males all day long at work.
As Dr. Jenn noted, if you want your partner to do something like sneak into your bedroom wearing a burglar-type ski mask, it is key to develop something like a safe word. I would recommend something like “panda,” unless there is somehow a panda incorporated into your intimate play. No judgments here, just know that the panda in question may not understand your human safe word.
Most importantly, in order to feel safe in your fantasy, you need to trust that your partner will respect your limits and stop when you want him or her to. Maybe you want to try out an intense fantasy, but you don’t feel quite ready yet. It can be fun to try a few stepping stone type activities to test your boundaries, exercise your trust and practice using your safe word. Perhaps try a blindfold — be creative and use a tie, a scarf, your “Fear the Tree” shirt . . . just kidding (kind of).
Note: If you feel like you need someone to talk to, please reach out to the Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse (SARA) office, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Vaden, or the Bridge.
Editor’s note: This story was written by the student who is currently the “Tree” of the Stanford Band. The views expressed here do not reflect those of the Stanford Athletic Department, Stanford University or the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. They are the opinions of an undergraduate student who requested some anonymity but allowed The Daily to identify her as a significant campus figure.
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