The Utility of Violent Porn

Under what circumstances is it acceptable to simulate non-consensual or violent sex?

Defining porn

Everyone has their own images of what porn is, their own definitions, and, it seems, objections to what they think is disturbing, yet likes what they like. “Do what you will,” seems to be the frowning refrain, “but this is what I think is too disgusting or violent to be permitted.” With such subjective definitions of pornography, how do we legislate or make personal decisions on which depictions of sexuality are acceptable for society at large? Are there types of pornography that are definable beyond “I know it when I see it,” and are demonstrably unhealthy to society?

“Anti-porn legislation and censorship has consistently been used to silence a broad array of people, including sex writers like me who create theoretical or political material,” says Clarisse Thorn, in an interview with the GMP.

Dworkin

Andrea Dworkin famously said “All penetration is rape” and reading a book of her life in NYC, where every man she encounters, it seems, rapes her or fucks her over some other way, you can see where she came up with that. She became a separatist feminist touchstone, a force against pornography, and even against sex. Robert Jensen is a contemporary anti-porn crusader and feminist who positions himself, according to Charlie Glickman’s article, in Dworkin’s lineage.

But the third wave reversed trends toward considering all men and all sex to be inextricable from the patriarchy, with feminist women themselves magically extricable from patriarchal society. We’re all in this together, and if we want to get it on with one another—pleasurably, respectfully, and consensually—then the answers to our problems with one another, in the bedroom if no where else, must be faced—together, and with the same open and honest spirit. Today’s feminist is as likely to share politics with Clarisse Thorn: to be sex-positive and to embrace, at least in theory, even our dark and seamy desires for one another. The other morning, a young feminist who had traveled to the area to attend a queer conference sat at my table, talking about coalition politics and sex positivity. She had never even heard of Dworkin.

Rape Fantasies

But it’s not because we don’t still have the societal problems Dworkin faced. Among feminists in the 1970s there was a wide range of response to a culture of rape, patriarchy, and violence against women. At one end of the spectrum were the anti-porn crusaders, including Dworkin. Near the other end, far from the academy, were realizations that simulation of rape allows control over the experience. Pat Califia and others were unapologetic about their desires, including those that set them at odds against other feminists and lesbians.

In a short story called “Rape Fantasies,” written by Margaret Atwood in 1977, women share stories of the fantasies they have of being sexually assaulted. However, in their fantasies, the uninvited stranger is not unwelcome, and the women in the stories are not powerless. These are stories of rape without lack of consent or genuine powerlessness from assault: they are rape without the rape. Like a controlled BDSM scene with a trusted partner, pornography, including romance novels, “smut,” slash fiction, conversation and “sexting” can provide safe places to play out violent fantasies, which are different from reality in that the so-called victim—the submissive, or bottom—actively consents, sets parameters, makes choices, and can end the scene at any time with a safe word or by closing the browser window.

One woman in Atwood’s story tells a comical tale of fumbling her self-defense materials from her purse while the obliging would-be rapist holds it open for her until she can spray him in the eyes with lemon juice. Atwood’s story underscores the reality that women recognize, today and in Andrea Dworkin’s time: that the threat of sexual violence, particularly against women, pervades our society. We’re all capable of being seen as real, whole, dimensional beings by others, just as we see ourselves, and also of being seen as targets, not human beings. How does a woman deal with the helplessness of her reality? How do any of us?

IMPACT Training

Also out of the 70s is a form of role playing that used to be called “Model Mugging,” and is now called IMPACT training. In an article published on this site this week, a martial artist and self-defense instructor describes his role in one of these classes. Wearing full body armor, he plays out such convincing assault attempt scenarios with the women in his class (and they are usually women, though IMPACT also offers classes for other groups of people including the GLBT community and people with disabilities) that they feel the fear of a real attack and learn to fight from this state. By making the scenes as realistic as possible, engaging the women’s real fear and adrenaline response, and playing out defensive maneuvers under these conditions, the women in the class learn to fight when they’re afraid, and do it effectively.

BDSM

Pretending to be the victim of an assault, repeatedly, in which you reverse the attack and subdue your would-be attacker is one way to respond to the threat of violence. But people have other reasons for desiring this scenario, and some people find it so exciting that they want to incorporate it into their consenting, adult sex lives. It’s a different way of gaining control over an overwhelming situation.

Thorn writes, in the introduction to Violation: Rape In Gaming: “I have been writing and speaking about S&M for several years. As a feminist concerned with sexual assault, I have also been trained as a crisis counselor for assault survivors. Feminism and S&M may appear to be at odds, but they can be integrated by people with respectful communication skills and careful boundaries. In fact, feminism and S&M should be integrated, given that studies show about a third of women say they have rape fantasies.”

Video games

People watch horror movies, slasher films, they kill countless people in video games. We don’t censor much violence  from children, except for sexual violence. So these entertainments in which we do not actually hurt anyone, only pretend to: what function do they serve in preserving cultural values around violence and sex? What do children and adolescents learn from pornographic violence in video games, and is it healthy or maladaptive?

Acting out rapes in video games could help soothe feelings of shame, or it could just water the seeds of later violence. I just don’t know,” admits Ben Keeler, who studies the effects of mentoring on boys and young men. “The act of experiencing a hyper-realistic portrayal of a rape, in which a boy is the perpetrator in a virtual video game context, might actually make him realize how bad the act is in real life. I saw a talk from a video game designer behind all the Grand Theft Auto games, and he said that many players came up to him and told him how emotional it was for them to make a decision, at one point in one of the games, whether or not to execute a man in front of them who was pleading for his life.”

Such an education could result in more or less sympathy for the victim, and the research is unclear. On one hand, common sense suggests that viewing pornography increases actual violence toward women. But in fact, “in at least a couple studies, it had the opposite effect: soothing or managing destructive thoughts with an outlet, of sorts,” says Keeler. Another perspective is that “any time we inflame emotions through external stimuli, we’re just making it easier for those emotions to flare up later.”

It’s lousy sex ed

Our politics are formed by our times, and our feelings and lived experiences get channeled into the pathways available. No one in the 1970s was addicted to video games. Yet young people experience a world even more saturated with porn than I did in the 1970s. To see my first images of naked women, I had to sneak down to the garage to see Dad’s stash of Playboys. Today, any 12-year-old has access to countless internet images. That they’re unreal, or unrealistic, only means that before people are mature enough to develop ideas of what bodies and sex are like based on reality, they’ve developed them based on animated gifs in sidebars, and the top results of 12-year-old inquisitives on Google. The very soft porn I had access to pales in comparison to the categories of rape-oriented video porn available online today.

“I think pornography can be liberating —it can be a window into a new way of thinking about sexuality,” says Hugo Schwyzer in an interview with the GMP. “It can help end the isolated sense that our fantasies are uniquely perverse. It can open us to new possibilities for pleasure. There’s a lot of porn that’s fun, joyous, life-enhancing.

“There’s also a lot of porn that’s monotonous, exploitative, and unimaginative. At its best, good porn centers consent, mutual pleasure and radical acceptance of a wide variety of bodies. Most of the best stuff is found well outside the mainstream.”

An experienced lover watching a porn knows which acts are for the camera, and are rarely performed in real life. Just as young people today complain that their lovers seem to have learned their (ineffective, even misogynistic) techniques and patter from watching porn, if porn today contains depictions of rape in which prior consent is not evident, will young people assume that this is the normal way to proceed? Will they categorize rape, “babysitter porn,” and gang bangs as simple and essential categories of sex, including “MILFs,” “facials,” and every other fetish catered to by porn websites? Or will their world be so different from ours that they no longer care how affected their sex has become, or what new taboos fascinate them?

Where does porn cross the line?

Actors’ consent

It comes down to two factors, in the words of most of the writers in this series on Men and Pornography, intention and consent. “Porn made with non-consenting actors is unacceptable. That includes porn made with children, and porn made with people who have been coerced,” says Thorn. So what about depictions of non-consent? If you watch a video depicting rape, on the presumption that the actors are paid and consenting, does that make you culpable if the actors were underage or coerced? If Thorn and others agree that porn is, in Hugo Schwyzer’s words, “as much about the intent of the producer as the perception of the person who watches it,” then how can it be objectively judged?

Porn doesn’t always look like what we think of as porn. It includes smut, video games, even fertility goddesses. It includes worlds of sexually explicit “slashfic,” fan-created stories, much of it created and consumed by women. “This is why, when Gail Dines argues that the internet has made men addicted to porn, and influenced men’s sexual fetishes until they make perverse demands on women, who themselves never enjoy porn and thus are free of sexual fetishes, I laugh until I can’t breathe,” writes Noah Brand.

“I don’t see a big difference between porn and erotica, or between porn and romance novels for that matter—except that they have different target audiences. In that sense, I suppose that I think of ‘porn’ as ‘visual media showing explicit sex, which is usually (but not always) aimed at stereotypical heterosexual cisgendered men,’” says Thorn.

Thorn promotes “fair trade” pornography, including a growing industry practice of including post-production interviews with the actors in which they are evidently consenting to the action in the scenes they filmed. Does this essentially change the product? Is it still effective rape porn as well as being “good”? Or does it still promote suffering?

What if the victim isn’t even an actor, but was never more than pixels, imagination, and programming? Are anime porn and video games in which rape is a possible player action okay? Do we even know why people are drawn to depictions of rape? While a rape in a video game may be arousing, what thoughts and actions do they actually stimulate in gamers? What about porn addiction: does that count as suffering?

Hugo Schwyzer says “the issue is less how much is consumed or spent than it is how it impacts the user. As with any addiction, when it interferes with your life” is when you know you have a problem with porn.

Thorn says, “The bottom line for me is that I am unwilling to censor art, even if we don’t call it ‘art’—and yes, I think porn and games can both be art!” She thinks it would be great if more pornographic videos, but also video games and other media appended post-production interviews with the actors to demonstrate their consent (while acknowledging that even these can be scripted.) But at least this would bring consent into porn, even—especially—when the scenarios get their thrills from the image of non-consent.”

When porn depicts rape, identification with and sympathy for the depicted perp and victim remain complicated. Even a single viewer’s perspective may veer from one actor to the other, depending on the action and the viewer’s state of mind. The answer to depictions of rape in video games and porn is not to try to eliminate it, but to understand what it feeds in those who seek it out.

“I think that attempting to force sexual fantasies into a narrow, politically correct box is a mistake. I’m an S&Mer and I have zero interest in being told that I ought not fantasize about violent sex, or that I ought not consume media that contains violent sex. But at the same time, narratives and metaphors can have a genuine and important impact on how humans think, especially if people aren’t critical about the context. I believe we should find a middle ground through education and awareness.”

 

♦◊♦

The Men and Pornography Series on The Good Life


Porn Star Philosophy, By John Dwyer
What do porn stars communicate through their tattoos?

pleasureland, a Poem by Rick Belden
One man’s pleasureland is another man’s nightmare.

A LOLcat Perspective on Purr-nography
Marcat LOLliams iz in ur porn stash, hazzing opinions, taking catnaps, and chasing shiny spots.

A Brief History of Porn, By Noah Brand
Erotic art has existed throughout human history. (Even before the internet.)

Fear the Towel, By Nathan Graziano
What goes down when the towel goes up at male strip clubs?

Women in Porn, By Elle Lynn Stanger
Suburban wife, mother, and sex worker Elle Lynn Stanger talks about the women and men who make and use porn.

How to (Not) Become a Male Pornstar, By Chris Wiewiora
Ever watched porn and thought, ‘I could do this, easy’?

Our Porn, Ourselves
Charlie Glickman maps the sexist anti-porn arguments of radical feminist Robert Jensen.

Pornography Ended My Marriage, By Kristin S. Luce
Is porn a good thing?

Confessions of a Recovered Porn Addict, By Ben Belenus
To prepare myself for writing today I watched some Internet porn.

Would the Buddha Look at Porn?
The porn industry causes suffering, says Keith Andresen, on why he abstains.

Why We Crave Porn, By Josh Merel
Although we treat porn as a commodity, it is actually a deeply desired human interaction.

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About Justin Cascio

Justin Cascio is a writer, trans man, and biome. His most recent publication is a short memoir, "Heartbreak and Detox," available on Kindle.
You can follow him on Twitter, Google, and Facebook.

Comments

  1. “rape fantasies”

    This expression drives me crazy. I experience a viseral revulsion whenever I see/hear the word rape, especially when it is coupled with the word fantasy, yet it seems the majority of people do not bat an eye.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I feel the exact same way.

      I think there’s a distinction between being dominated and being raped. The inherent nature of the word “rape” is non-consent, which is distinctly separate from consensual domination.

    • Is it the term you object to, or the creation/utilization of simulations and depictions of non-consensual sex? If the former, what term do you use?

    • Do you feel the same over someone being beaten, killed, etc? Rape seems to get this special treatment as if it’s the worst thing in the world (it’s not, it’s one of them). Being beaten badly is just as damaging, being tortured is just as damaging, even hardcore emotional abuse is just as damaging. Yet rape seems to be worse for some reason?

      • I feel revulsion about rape, and I feel anger and sadness for other violence and abuse. I don’t believe rape to be worse than being beaten or killed, but different. I have different reactions because sex, something that I hold in high regard because it’s a way for one person to show another their feelings for them, and is therefore not just a physical act but also an emotional one, is taken from being something special and wonderful to something used as torture. Assault, abuse, murder, etc. has only one purpose, to harm.

      • Heisenberg says:

        “Being beaten badly is just as damaging, being tortured is just as damaging, even hardcore emotional abuse is just as damaging.”
        Not going to argue against your assertions, but just want to point out that unless you’ve experienced all off these (beaten badly, torture, hardcore emotional abuse, and rape) then your comment is kind of invalid.
        I would never say this: “In Iceland they eat fermented fish out of a can, which is just as disgusting as the embryonic chickens they eat in China.” I would not say this because I have eaten neither. Although the idea of both register as disgusting to me – just as the idea of all the things you list are “damaging” to you, we cannot assume any parity of scale until we have experienced them all.

        • Well we can look at the physical damage done. A bad rape without other violence will involve damage to a penis, anus, mouth, or vagina but a full body beat down can extend to far more areas, suffer internal bleeding, death, etc at a much higher rate. All violence is bad but some acts are more severely damaging to either our mind, body or both. So a basic date rape without vaginal damage can be very damaging emotionally but physically there isn’t too much damage, compare that to a violent beat down and the physical damage will be far far greater, broken limbs, nose, jaw, even the risk of death is far greater. Both forms of violence are both deadly serious and need to be stopped but the severity can differ. Physical fights I got into weren’t very damaging, but the emotional abuse n bullying I recieved left me with a decade+ long nightmare which was far worse.

          My point isn’t to say fights are worse than rape of course, they’re all bad, but I do notice rape is treated as worse than a fight when a fight can actually be more severely damaging, hell recently someone was punched once in Sydney, Australia and died from that punch. Yet it seems someone being raped is worse off? You can have 2 movies, one full of people beaten up in let’s say a real event like highschool bullying, another has people being raped, which is worse? I think they both should be seen as bad, neither is really better than the other but I can turn on my v right now and I’ll be guaranteed to see some form of violence on it in a tv show, movie, hell even kids shows but it’s rare as hell to see a rape. I’d say there are 1000 onscreen deaths per rape easily.

  2. So these entertainments in which we do not actually hurt anyone, only pretend to: what function do they serve in preserving cultural values around violence and sex? What do children and adolescents learn from pornographic violence in video games, and is it healthy or maladaptive?
    As a long time gamer I think its a matter of the intersection of sex and violence being seen as a strict no no even in the face of all the other types of violence. (Well the intersection of sex, violence, and women). As in there might be some justifiable reason to execute a person by chopping their head off with a meat clever or turning them into a pile of meat with a chain gun, but sexual violence is just plain wrong.

    Maybe some would argue that by introducing sexual violence into games they would allow for such flames to flare up later. But if that is the case then does that mean that they didn’t care about such flames when it came to the advent of other forms of violence that has been in video games since the early 90s?

    Hers is a side note that rings odd to me. When people talk about sexual violence they usually will reach for Grand Theft Auto, a game where pretty much the only sexual violence that occurs is stuff where the player actively goes out of their way to engage in it (which is the often quoted method of having sex with a prostitute and then killing her to get your money back). But when talking about nonsexual physical violence they won’t reach for the same game, where the player must kill scores and scores of men in order to complete it.


    “I don’t see a big difference between porn and erotica, or between porn and romance novels for that matter—except that they have different target audiences. In that sense, I suppose that I think of ‘porn’ as ‘visual media showing explicit sex, which is usually (but not always) aimed at stereotypical heterosexual cisgendered men,’” says Thorn.

    I wonder. Some folks I’ve talked to have said that the problem with trying to compare porn to erotica/romance novels is that while the latter is only written words the former involved actual people. If we took a mainstream porn scene and wrote it out instead of paying people to act it out, would they cease to object to it?

    • When you take a work of art from one medium to another, you fundamentally change it: you are actually creating something new. The book on which a movie is based is a different piece of art from the book. So if you write a book based on a movie, same thing happens. You might fail to create art, or your subject might not have been art, and yet you create art in depicting it. Then there is not only the artist’s intent, but the viewer’s. Did you intend for your story to arouse? Did it work as intended? I realize I’m arguing whether it’s art, but arguably, asking whether it’s porn or not is the same question. They both rely on the artist and beholder finding some accord in what they see in the work.

      • Let me try again.

        Something things of some sexual scene. They can either write it into a novel or film it into a movie (I’ll just call it a movie to skip the question of if it’s porn or not).

        Regardless of whatever form it takes it started off as some thought in someone’s head. With that in mind what I was getting at was the thought I’ve seen expressed (many times here at GMP mind you) is that what makes movies with scenes of people possibly being mistreated different or uncomparable in relation to written stories is that the former involves actual people.

        I’m trying to ask that if the person that thought of that scene zigged instead of zagged and wrote out a Harlequin book instead of turning it into a scene in the latest VIVID offering, the implications and depictions are still there. Even if no real people are involved there are still people are to be used for sex and nothing else and all the other implications that come along with a lot of mainstream porn.

        I guess I’m trying to ask this:
        If the very idea that people are useful for sex and sex only is such a bad idea then why is it that this point seems to only come up when talking about live action scenes? It’s almost as if in the extra concern of the real people involved with live scenes the critics who come from this stance seem to give the written word a free pass.

        • Heisenberg says:

          I think you’ve raised a really interesting question. Let me see if I understand it: is a porn scene harmful because of it’s implied content, or because it depicts actual flesh and blood people? So if we take a scene where sexual violence occurs and film it, is this the same as the exact same scene written out.
          I hope I’ve understood your point. Really good question.
          I think that many feminist critiques of pornography look to the treatment of the performers as a sign that the medium is wrong. I tend to disagree. Even though the concept of choice needs to be viewed in context – ie. 100% free choice is rarely present, and often humans make decisions because the alternatives are far worse – to preserve our sense of control and freedom, we need to respect everyone’s decisions as wholly their own. I would not relieve someone living in poverty of responsibility for robbing a house anymore than I would someone living in poverty who performs in a porn film.
          Thus the difference for me between the filmed scene and the written scene may come down to the manner in which it is interpreted. Do we take in more through sight and sound, than we would through reading? I would argue yes, but I honestly have no idea.
          My other reaction, would be that the idea of the scene remains constant, no matter what the medium. That is, a violent sexual scene is just as destructive in film as it is on the page. However, I have always remembered more from movies than I have from books.

          • I think you’ve raised a really interesting question. Let me see if I understand it: is a porn scene harmful because of it’s implied content, or because it depicts actual flesh and blood people? So if we take a scene where sexual violence occurs and film it, is this the same as the exact same scene written out.
            Yes that is what I am trying to get at. And furthermore I think a lot of people have already answered that question in the form of raising up over acted out scenes (“…depicts actual flesh and blood people”) in ways they don’t when its only written out.

            • John Anderson says:

              What about CGI porn? Is the problem that real people are involved or that the medium is visual? Remember the controversy when there was a rumor Tomb Raider would have a graphic rape scene. If the CGI character was based on an actual human model, does that make a difference? If a romance novel had a picture of the couple on the cover, does that make the written sex scenes unacceptable?

            • I don’t think the problem with the Lara Croft rape was the rape itself, but the fact that the threat of sexual violence was being used to develop a character and make her seem ‘stronger’. A lot of people have issue with this type of plot line, because it can be done in such a way that it seems cheap. It’s become kind of a negative trope: Need to make a female character seem strong? Have her be raped / attempted raped! Instant strong female character!

            • Heisenberg says:

              @John Anderson
              I would think because the medium is visual. There is a form of pornography called Pseudo-Child Porn (PCP) which uses adults made to look like children. In effect, they are representations, not the real thing. On the consumption side of things, this to me is just as bad. (Although I am aware of the research you posted the other day in relation to the Czech Republic, so I may guess at your response. That research is very interesting and I thank you for referring me to it, even though my initial reaction is skepticism.)
              So too, CGI porn. The production, of course, would be a lot more ethical, but I think the ideas behind are still there, so it may have similar adverse affects on those that watch it.

            • Sorry for missing your comment (I was out of town for the last several days) but Anjasa and Heisenberg make good points on this.

      • I think may not have gotten my point across. Regardless of whether the final form of a scene ends up in the pages of the latest Harlequin or on the latest VIVID dvd they started off as a thought.

        A thought that such a scene is a depiction (by word or by acting) of the idea that people are useful for sex and it is okay to use them for it to satisfy their own desires.

        From what I’ve seen people will get a little bit more riled up over the live action scene for the thought that its worse since it involves real people. However it looks like the criticism skips over such written erotica. I’m wondering why. They are both depicting the same dangerous idea.

        • Are you asking if written porn is still porn? Certainly. Slash fiction and romance novels are meant to be arousing, and many readers agree that they are.


          • Are you asking if written porn is still porn?

            No. The title or label given to the content isn’t what I’m questioning.

            I’m questioning this.

            Why is it that people who are overtly critical of live acted content under the premise that the scenes promote the idea that it’s okay to use people for sex while at the same time staying silent about written content that conveys the same unhealthy ideas?

            Let’s take an idea where we have a rich baroness that likes to take her stable boy out for a “wild ride” and only goes to him for sex and nothing else.

            If that ends up a scene written in a book it will just be written off as words and none of that problematic nature comes up.

            If that ends up as scence acted out by a woman and man on film that is when the pointing starts at how unhealthy it is to create media that conveys the idea that it’s okay to treat people like sex toys with built in life support systems.

            I’m trying to ask that if written content and acted/filmed content have are spreading a similar unhealthy message why does this only come up when talking about the acted/filmed content?

            • Oh. Heck, I can’t answer that. Why do people hold double standards? :)

            • To protect their egos.

            • Written content – especially erotica – has been getting more flak lately. Recently Amazon and PayPal have disallowed a host of topics in erotica including pseudo-incest stories. They’ve had to backtrack because of public outcry, but as erotica becomes more mainstream and more people are easily able to access it through e-readers, I expect there will be more pushback.

            • True. It seems to me that if the problem is with unhealthy ideas that there would have been more open criticism about written content than what we’ve seen, in comparison to criticism of filmed content.

    • Umm, in games you can beat people into submission. There is no decent reason for the majority of violence in games but it’s still done. Rape can be used to dominate, gain control of someone just as violence can. Why such shock towards rape and not towards someone beaten within an inch of their life? Or someone bitten by a vampire? Why is the most fucked up levels of violence ok but as soon as rape comes in it’s somehow bad?

      Take 2 people, 1 likes watching rape, the other likes watching violence of other forms (murder, beatings, etc). Which one is more fucked up?

      • On what grounds would you say they’re “fucked up”? Just by virtue of getting aroused by those things? Then your argument is, “people who are aroused by violence are fucked up because being aroused by violence is fucked up.” It’s entirely circular, and thus nonsensical.

        Or is it because most people don’t find violence sexually arousing? (A fact you pulled from reliable statistics, I assume.) In that case, your argument is, “people who are aroused by violence are fucked up because most people are not aroused by violence.” Do you really want to go down the majoritarian route when it comes to sex? Because I suspect you would get less agreement if the statement were, “people who aroused by people of the same sex are fucked up because most people are not aroused by people of the same sex.”

        Really, you’re going to need something more substantial to convince me that I’m “fucked up.” I live a peaceful life – my most heinous crime to date has been leaving dishes for someone else to do, and maybe a bit of jaywalking. The sex I have is entirely consensual; I even masturbate, more often than not, to porn where consent is obvious. I do not suffer any ill psychological effects from my rape fantasies, save for the occasional fit of fear that they’ll become public knowledge and I’ll have to deal with people I care about informing me that I’m “fucked up.”

        • Do you fantasize about being the rapist or rape victim?

          • If you’re asking me (and the comment tree isn’t clear anymore), I fantasize mostly about being the rapist, though occasionally about being the victim.

            • @Tobias, do you ever intend to do it in reality or is it just a fantasy like my gaming session fantasies of being an evil murderous bastard?

            • I admit, if my boyfriend told me that he fantasized about being a rapist, I’d find that very disturbing insofar as it “might” indicate he has some kind of repressed hostility or anger at women, and I do ‘t really need someone like that in my life. On the other hand, as I said earlier, a lot would depend on the nature of the fantasies and what they meant to him. I don’t think it is easy to generalize. I don’t know why people have violent fantasies except that I suppose people are violent creatures and we all have the capacity to think and do some pretty awful stuff.

            • @Sarah. I fantasize about violence, about stabbing, bashing, killing those who harmed me. I fantasize about being violent in video games too, I play very dark/evil characters. I don’t fantasize about rape though, however if your partner does I would think there is a good chance that he’d be similar to me in fantasizing about violence but never actually wanting to commit it. In video games for instance you can play as good or evil, it’s fun being the bad guy and you make decisions that go against everything you stand for, such as I might enslave someone in a game but never would I want a real slave. In porn you can fantasize about all kinds of stuff, I have had orgy fantasies, being tied up by a few women (yet in real life I doubt I’d ever let someone tie me up), being James Bond, etc. But I have no intention of ever wanting to do any of that stuff.

              I think a lot of violent fantasies are sometimes because they’ve been through abuse like me, so it’s vengeance. Sometimes it’s because they’re a good guy/girl so much that they wanna be the bad guy/girl for a while in the fantasy (which I do in gaming mainly), but most of my fantasies have no basis in reality and I quickly forget them. I’m not overly worried about those that fantasize about being a rapist, I am more worried about those that can’t identify any rapist tendencies, and real rapists. Someone who fantasizes about it can at least learn to control it or direct it to porn but even then fantasizing doesn’t mean they want it in reality. They might just like the bondage or rough sex elements, BDSM style rape fantasy like how many women fantasize about rape but it’s still in their control, he may want to roleplay the “rapist” though he wouldn’t be a rapist since she’d be consenting.

              My other guess is that those who fantasize about being a rapist may feel they have very little sexual power, or that they haven’t got much control so the fantasy is a way to feel some control. Maybe they’ve had women walk over them? I wouldn’t think it’s always about hating women but I do think it’d partly be a sense of powerlessness.

              But they’re only guesses since I don’t fantasize about rape, my fantasies are more about being hero or being desired a lot (yes because I don’t feel desired sexually at all).

            • yes, it’s very individual and hard to know anyone ‘s motivation for their fantasies. I loved “The Sopranos” even though it was often disturbingly violent. Doesn’t mean I actually want to beat a man to death in his kitchen like Tony did to Ralphie. But I admit that I enjoyed seeing that scene, because Ralphie needed killing. At the same time, it was disgusting to think that what pushed Tony over the edge was the fact that Ralphie killed a horse for insurance money, considering all of Ralphie’s other homicidal deeds. Yet Tony’s reaction also made a certain sense in Tony’s world. So ny enjoyment of the scene was tinged with contempt for myself over my identification with Tony and his motives. I often wondered about my enjoyment of the violence in the show. IDK, it is complicated.

            • @Sarah, For the record, I don’t just have rape fantasies about women.

            • @Archy, No, I don’t intend to. In fact, I have no urge to at all – the idea of bringing that fantasy into real life is utterly unappealing. (Not that I would even if I wanted to!)

        • This is definitely my biggest concern as well.

          I know myself – I know I’m not a violent individual, I know it’s a fantasy, I know there’s no way I could possibly desire the reality. My liking rape or other taboo erotica doesn’t have me concerned that I might hurt someone some day in the slightest.

          But I am highly concerned about the judgement of others, and is the primary reason that disclosing my fantasies is so difficult, despite the fact that many women admit to having rape fantasies (somewhere between 31-57% as an educated guess by http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201001/womens-rape-fantasies-how-common-what-do-they-mean )

          • This is a massive problem, women are judged and condemned so often for having any fantasies, admitting to more off beat ones becomes almost impossible. In the blog I linked to is the case of a rape case being thrown out because the defense brought up her gang bang fantasies. Very disturbing, but not rare.

            • John Anderson says:

              “women are judged and condemned so often for having any fantasies”

              That’s precisely where I’ve heard the rape fantasy for women stems from. Society judges women for wanting sex so if their raped by a man, whom they wanted to have sex with anyway, they would have the stigma of having wanted the sex.

              I think that why women watch Naked Boys Singing so they can trick themselves into thinking that they’re there to watch a play. Some women have admitted to me that they went to watch The Full Monty partly for the nude scene at the end. Some women have complained that there were no strip clubs for women, but there was one that eventually went coed and now features only female dancers. There wasn’t a market for it so maybe women need something besides the nudity or sex.

              I think it’s sad that women can’t enjoy sex for the pleasure of sex.

            • “I think it’s sad that women can’t enjoy sex for the pleasure of sex.”
              Oh plenty of us do, we just don’t often get asked to write for the GMP!

          • Do they want to rape, or be raped mostly? Is it worse if someone fantasizes about raping vs being raped?

        • I guess for me, the fear would be that someone would act on their fantasies eventually. Most people don’t act on their fantasies, but some do. Not sure I am wise enough to tell who is who in that regard. I suppose a lot depends on whether it’s someone’s only or primary fantasy and whether or not they can enjoy consensual sex or not.

          • The difference surely is not whether this is your fantasy, but if you want to act it out how you go about it.

            • John Anderson says:

              Some researchers look at porn use as a substitute for acting on it. I took that to mean that the porn use was their way of acting on it in an acceptable manner.

      • Would you say people into BDSM are fucked up?

        When watching an action movie I get endorphins, adrenaline and other pleasant hormones n feelings, as I get in porn too however I am not aroused sexually but I am still enthralled n entertained. What makes sexual arousal so different? Getting off sexually to violence vs getting off mentally? to violence? I get enjoyment from violence but in a different way to sexual enjoyment but still why is it so different?

        Although kittens or animal torture makes me angry, only violence I like is fictional or revenge to a point (eg a bully fighting back makes me wanna high 5 them to a point). Rape I find disturbing to watch but I can’t for the life of me understand why it should be disturbing when I’ve seen torture scenes based on reality (war films) that don’t make me cringe. The minute any violence becomes real though I cringe, even in bully fightback videos I feel bad for both of them.

        Why is one form of fictional violence acceptable yet others are not though? Even a relatively mild-level of physically damaging violence rape scene (and by mild I mean not like super hardcore extreme violent where flesh is torn apart but something like a date rape) is seen as worse than extremely violent dismembering torture where that body is in extreme pain, mentally n physically. Although it’s pretty difficult to even try compare them I do find it strange that one is seen as worse because of the sexual/rape element yet the other isn’t as bad. It doesn’t make sense, shouldn’t they at least be equally as repulsive?

      • Perhaps because society is a lot clearer about how unacceptable violence is. When we show our kids the Power Rangers beating up bad guys, we know that they won’t assume that behaviour is acceptable.

        Sex, on the other hand, is largely invisible. It is done privately, and it is rarely discussed. As such, pornography, erotica, or any artistic medium depicting sexual acts can be the only exposure some people have to sex – they become normative by default.

        I don’t think the question really is ‘Which one is more fucked up’ but rather ‘Are they both going to affect viewers in a potentially negative way, and how can we avoid this?’

        • That’s a pretty good point, thank-you. I’ve been trying to figure out why it was worse but that’s probably the first that makes sense.

  3. I admit, I have a lot of really mixed feelings about this.

    I’m a woman with rape fantasies. I’m not talking domination, I’m not talking hardcore BDSM or ravishment fantasies, or whatever. I’m talking I love reading erotica about a woman who absolutely does not want it, and I know I’m not alone.

    My lines are arbitrary, though. I can’t watch visual representations. Even watching a group of men talk about raping a woman, I get repulsed (such as in Battlestar Galactica). Give me a novel with a graphic depiction of a horrifying rape, though? It turns me on.

    For me, I think my fantasies are a way of combating something I feel very strongly about. I’m terrified of being raped in real life, and feel physically ill thinking about others being abused in such a manner. I think my mind warps it into a taboo fantasy just to help balance that negativity out.

    It’s not always easy to admit to, or talk about, but I force myself to because it’s a big part of who I am.

    • I think fantasies don’t always make sense, nor are they always logical or decent-if-real. Some people get turned on by the idea of vampires for instance, or even turned on by being the rapist but don’t ever want to hurt someone so they never would rape. Then the guilt sets in for those feelings because they know the reality is wrong but fiction is different.

      I enjoy playing violent video games, I don’t get off on it, but I do enjoy a good game of GTA or something with violence so crazy that it’s laughable to me. Does that mean I am a violent person? I never ever wanna see violence in real life, but in fiction? Bring it on. I regularly play evil characters because it’s roleplay, it’s something you don’t do in real life, you get a huge amount of power which itself is quite awesome. Games, fiction, usually don’t tug at my empathy strings. Seeing rape on screen in a movie though does make me feel very very awkward, but why should I be more affected by that than seeing Saving Private Ryan beach scene, or Star Wars with dismemberment?

      Some will think me a monster because of the violent games probably, but in real life I hate violence. How the hell does that work?

    • Anjasa, I am curious if you think that the written stories allow you to have a certain amount of control over the depiction compared to the live action version. I think that may go to the point Danny made about people having less problems with written stories featuring sexual violence versus live action stories. When you read the story, you essentially have control over how it plays out, whereas a film or video game does everything for you. It controls the pacing, the tension, the intensity, and so on. On that note, would you have the same turn-off factor if you read a comic book depicting sexual violence? In other words, is it seeing acts depicted that bothers you or is it seeing or hearing real people, even in a fictional setting like a TV show, talking about or committing sexual violence that bothers you?

      • Graphic novels can be fairly touch and go and does depend on a lot of the outlying factors such as intensity, so I suppose you’re right in that regard. I think that because visual media stimulates more of our senses, as well, that it becomes an issue. Reading about a woman crying and screaming is not the same as hearing a woman crying and screaming, I’d suppose. It just feels a bit too close to reality and quickly becomes my cut-off.

  4. Well after watching True Blood, which has a few rape scenes, a hell of a lot of violence, etc it does make me curious as to who gets off over that show or similar ones. The whole thing has this element of taking by force, whether it be sex, drinking blood or violence. But which is worse, being raped, or having a vampire drain your blood?

  5. Great article Justin.

    The biggest difference between porn on film and porn on paper is the eyes. I suspect that the classic money shot facial in porn is nothing more than a sexualized version of an Ingrid Bergman moment in Casablanca, plus the cum

    My own opinion on this matter is not stable enough to be written down with just words :)

  6. Sexual fantasies are sometimes weird and do not show what you really are. I’m straight guy but sometimes i got off fantasized being rape by guys. My most common fantasies are being brutally gang raped by bunch of scary, dirty, violent, and horrible guys in prison. Doesn’t mean i want to get rape by men ( And i don’t want to rape women ). And I’m not even gay.

  7. This is really interesting. I find that the human mind is weird, sometimes disturbing. There is to some extent the control of your mind and your actions.

  8. The area of rape porn is one that I have given quite a lot of thought too, I have myself written consent fantasies and had to reconcile this with being a survivor of assault, and a submissive in a BDSM relationship.

    I am anti any form of censorship, and truly believe people should be able to portray anything in fiction, but perhaps they do need to consider more deeply the words they use. Non consent fantasies are of course consenting, because the people involved have chosen the fantasy.
    http://itsjustahobby.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/how-to-rape-a-willing-slut/ If anyone is interested, this is the musings of a female with a wide and varied fantasy life on the subject.

  9. Adam McPhee says:

    Women may be somewhat condemned by having rape fantasies, as some posters have said, but a man who has a rape fantasy is infinitely more condemned. Women with rape fantasies are chastised for wanting to be “victimized”.

    I think men who have rape fantasies are chastised worse since if a man expresses it, they would then be perceived as someone who is going out to actively rape, not find a partner willing to assist them in indulging in their fantasy. People tend not to expect women, who fantasize about rape, to then try to go out and actively try and actually be raped, just controlled (which of course speaks against feminist discourse, and is likely the root of their condemnation).

    More interesting, I would like to hear about men who fantasize about being raped and women who fantasize about raping (as I don’t doubt that they also exist).

    • Absolutely. I really feel for men who have violent fantasies, because people are much more inclined to believe that they’d like to experience it for real. People might tut tut at my rape fantasies, but they won’t be afraid of me. They are afraid of men with those same fantasies, though.

      Again it comes with not understanding or trusting other people’s separation of reality and fantasy.

    • Never had rape fantasies but I have had dominant ones where she is submissive BUT WILLING. Submissive women in bed turn me on, but I also like women to take control too and dominate me a lil. I’ve felt guilty for having those feelings because I don’t want to control someone negatively, I want someone with their own mind n desires but I’ve known a few submissive women who got off on the thought of someone telling them what to do in bed and found that sexy.

    • winter_lights says:

      For that matter, there’s issues with the frequently-seen assumption that just because someone fantasizes about rape (or anything else really) that they would be interested in acting it out even with a consenting partner. I know there’s some things I fantasize about that I have no real interest in actually doing, along with other things I would like to but consider impractical.

  10. John Anderson says:

    There have been a lot of studies equating the use of porn with a reduction in sex crimes. There seems to have been a specific study done to determine if child pornography reduced the incidence of child rape and the researchers found that it did. They assumed that predators were using porn as a substitute for committing the actual crime. The researchers floated the idea that “child” porn could be created using adult actors.

    If the availability of porn, which has been supported in many studies, reduces the incidence of sexual assault and a specific type of porn reduces the incidence of that specific type of sex crime, I don’t think that “rape” porn should be banned. I’m still not sure of the “child” porn even with adult actors, it still seems creepy.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101130111326.htm

    • Child porn with adults seems far less creepy than child porn with children.

      I really feel we need to change how we deal with pedophiles. There is absolutely no support available to them if they’re attempting not to commit a crime. If they even admit to the fantasy to a therapist, the therapist has to report it to the police. The police then have to treat them as if they’re going to harm a child and remove any children from the home and take other ‘preventative’ measures.

      While this sounds good in theory, pedophilia isn’t something they can help. They were born with it, and they will absolutely need help to keep their desires in check. I mean, can you imagine having a lust for children that you can’t control, and can’t change? And you are cut off from talking to anyone about it, even a therapist who might be able to help you? It’s not going to make the feelings go away, it’s just going to make the shame grow.

      We definitely need to find better ways, and one of the ways that works is therapy prior to acting upon their desires. They can learn how to manage their fantasies and desires and live a normal life.

      Unfortunately I think a lot of people shy away from it because it seems creepy, but if they haven’t acted on it I think it’s far more important to try to teach them how to manage with day to day living with their fantasies.

      • Not that this will reach a whole lot of people, but I did want to correct the idea that paedophiles couldn’t talk about their thoughts with a therapist. I don’t know where you’re writing from, so maybe the laws are different where you are, but reporting abuse is fairly standard across the U.S. We only report when there is an actual suspicion or evidence of abuse. Someone talking about their fantasies or thoughts who have no intent to act on them is not reportable.

        I have a lot of thoughts about the topic, but I’ll have to come back when I have time to flesh them out. I can say I’ve worked with a number of rape survivors and themes of force fantasy is not unusual.

          • I remembered that article once I started reading it. It’s very good and highlights a lot of the problems we have in the U.S. around the plethora of “child protection laws” that actually work to create more harm rather than reduce it. I did a show on this very topic last year and was warned about receiving death threats just for talking about it.

            The Salon article is referring to laws in Canada, though, so we’re both right. A person with any fantasy can talk openly with a therapist in the U.S. and remain protected by confidentiality laws.

            • It’s a fantastic article. Again, I feel it’s something important to talk about because so many are reluctant.

              I’m based out of Canada :)

  11. John Anderson says:

    One of the weirdest fantasies I’ve heard was this woman who wanted her male friend to tie her to a bed blindfolded and bring in a guy to have sex with her. Her fantasy was that she’d never know who had sex with her and when she saw men on the street, she’d wonder if he were the one.

  12. Can you post evidence of this “fact”? Is it a case of the porn inciting more rape or are rapists naturally drawn to rape porn?

    I have some facts for you.

    ht tp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2032762
    “The results showed that in none of the countries did rape increase more than nonsexual violent crimes.”
    Basically in 4 countries they surveyed porn use increased dramatically, rape did not increase any higher than other crimes did, so basically porn wasn’t creating more rapists.

  13. Many women do fantasize about being physically forced into sex by a very gorgeous and dominant man. They fantasize about being treated roughly by such men.

    But that doesnt mean they want the same with the normal men they come across in their lives. It is very rare for a woman to come across that dream guy, she wouldnt mind being forced into sex by.

  14. John Anderson says:

    I think the rape fantasy for men and women are probably motivated by different things. For women, the rule of thumb was always that women weren’t allowed to want sex so a guy (whom they wanted to have sex with anyway) would be giving them what they wanted without the sigma of them admitting that they wanted it, kind of a rape without the rape. For men, the rule of thumb was that they were pervs, but I think it probably stems from men’s fear of rejection. If he rapes her, it doesn’t matter if she says no.

    As far as rape porn goes, it could be that guys just enjoy watching people have sex. When I was in my teens, I always eagerly anticipated rape scenes. It wasn’t the rape part of the scene that was attractive, but the female nudity. Even with the easy accessibility of porn, I still enjoy female nudity in film. I’m not 100% sure why I’d care, since there are 100s of places one can view the naked female form. It could be like they said in Seinfeld, if there are boobs, a man has to acknowledge them. Rape porn for some guys may be different from rape fantasy.

  15. John Anderson says:

    I think when people talk about rape porn they generally refer to a depiction of a man or a group of men raping a woman or group of women. I’m pretty sure that rape porn depicting male on male rape would get a similar response. It’s rare and probably still geared toward men, but I’ve seen rape porn where it was two women beating and raping a guy (not BDSM porn). If it were women raping men, would that make a difference in rape porn acceptability?

  16. As a woman who has worked as a web chat performer (yes, a live nude girl online) I have been requested by clients to do all kinds of things. There was one time where someone was chatting with me about this and that, as often happens in between private shows, when he politely asked if I did roleplaying. I said yes. He said he had a fantasy that a lot of women wouldn’t do, that it wasn’t something he’d ever do in real life, but if I was up for it, would like me to roleplay rape. I declined. He said, it’s ok, I understand. and he left. I do NOT believe that man was an actual rapist. However, there was the occasional man who never used the word rape but who said viciously bitter things about women and about violent things they’d “do to me” but never paid for a private show. Those are the ones I worried about.
    I can tell you, lots of people have very unusual fantasies who are otherwise very nice, seemingly normal people otherwise. They may not ever actually want to play it out in real life, or might be happy to find someone to play it out as a fantasy. I think most people can seperate fantasy from real life. The problem is those people who can’t, or who misinterpret it (like those who think women who have rape fantasies have them because women are inherently passive or actually want to be raped).

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