Well, friends, it is (for me, anyway) a fine summer afternoon. I assume many of you are eating sandwiches, thinking about your weekends, planning your strategies for getting out of work early, and what have you. That means it is time for a little light entertainment. Such as A CHAT ABOUT RAPE FANTASIES.
Yes, RAPE FANTASIES. As Amanda Hess of The Sexist pointed out in a really excellent post this week, they can be found in romance novels for ladies! A lot! This is a disturbing statement about patriarchal sexual mores.
…Or is it? Perhaps, my friends, it is just an indication of the fact that people’s sexual fantasies are inevitably pretty disturbing! And people like them that way! Because we are all FREAKS! In this tastefully erotic edition of Sexist Beatdown, Amanda Hess and I venture into the wilds of human sexuality.
“The wilds of human sexuality,” by the way, contains at least one person with a fetish related specifically to the back rooms of Chinese restaurants. Also, someone who likes to simulate phone sex with Chandler Bing.
ILLUSTRATION: Could I BE any more aroused?
SADY: hi there! i’m glad we’re taking on something tasteful and uncontroversial this week. such as RAPE FANTASIES!
AMANDA: Yes, and furthermore, I believe that in order to fully haze Sotomayor this week, I think it’s time we create the New Litmus Test. The New Litmus Test is: Rape fantasies? Eh?
SADY: Well, I have to tell you that I really loved your take on the whole matter.
And this is tied to a personal anecdote about the first romance novel I ever owned. May I tell you my personal anecdote?
SADY: All right. So I had these two cousins, who were in their teens when I was about eleven. And they felt I needed to get a boyfriend, and gave me many romance novels in order to further my boyfriend-related education.
SADY: One of the romance novels they gave me had the following plot: a young woman is betrothed to a wealthy family friend, whom she has never met. She wanders around the city to process this, with a high fever, and stumbles into a BORDELLO, where she is given LAUDANUM. in this drugged state, a doctor comes, looking for a prostitute! he is sent into the drugged young lady’s room, due to an entirely understandable error, and they end up fucking like two wildcats, or, more accurately, one wildcat and one seriously drugged and basically unconscious young woman. then in the morning she wakes up, remembers none of it, and goes home to meet her fiance. can you guess who he is?
AMANDA: the doctor?
SADY: YES! AND THEY GET MARRIED!
AMANDA: but … she’s been sullied!
SADY: and she is like, “i don’t know who you are, Dr. Rapington, but for some reason I feel totally uncomfortable having sex with you.” but eventually she learns to love him and his prostitute-raping ways and also she gets pregnant and has his baby.
AMANDA: i see. and so, did you finally land a boyfriend?
SADY: um, i was never able to land enough laudanum, as a middle-schooler, to really make the scenario work. i had to try other methods, such as consensual makeouts.
AMANDA: do you remember, did a lady write that book?
SADY: well, yes, the name on the cover was a lady name.
AMANDA: sounds progressive then. So: i have a rape fantasy lit story as well!
AMANDA: in college, i worked for this “women’s fiction / erotica” literary agent. my job was to read the unsolicited manuscripts, which were not just any unsolicited manuscripts, but unsolicited manuscripts for erotic romance novels targeted at women.
SADY: oh, lord. you had the best job in the world, it appears!
AMANDA: i grew up fast that summer.
AMANDA: anyway, a lot of the people who liked to target their erotic romance novels at women were dudes. i remember one dude’s fantasy, err, novel, in particular: aman and a woman meet at a Chinese restaurant. they’re acquainted in some way
– maybe they work together. anyway, they eat some lo mein or whatever and one thing leads to another, and all of a sudden some old mystical Chinese woman is beckoning them into the back room, of course.
SADY: right, as you do
AMANDA: where they eat this magical Chinese herb, okay, and then the woman falls into some sexy trance.
SADY: this sounds totally realistic. i’m compelled to learn more!
AMANDA: so—paraphrasing here—he ends up with his penis inside her, and then his penis magically expands, until it’s this really long magical penis that goes through her vagina, up past her entire body and then pokes out of her mouth. thus raping her in two orifices, at once! and i thought, i wonder if this guy thought i would actually pass this on to a literary agent to consider it for publication? or did he just want the intern to read his bizarre one-dude double penetration rape fantasy? and i realized: it was probably both.
SADY: Yowza. I mean: leaving aside this dude’s one (RESTAURANT-SPECIFIC) rape fantasy, I get that people’s fantasies, in general, are weird. I knew a girl who worked at a phone sex operation and one guy would call her up, constantly, to discuss his fantasies about the cast of “Friends.” She would play Rachel, and sometimes maybe Phoebe; he would be Chandler.
AMANDA: wow. this guy fantasized about being chandler! chandler would make some hilarious ironic comment about this, were he here.
SADY: but, in your article about romance-novel rapings, you do touch on the fact that some women have rape fantasies. and they totally do! because people’s fantasies are weird! but what worries me is when the raping just (a) isn’t addressed as such, or (b) is in EVERY SINGLE ROMANCE NOVEL, which – it was a major part of the romance novels I read as a pre-teen, I’ll tell you that.
AMANDA: yeah, i think the world of the romance novel is an interesting space for discussion of the rape fantasy, because it’s a space that is a) largely written by and for women, and b) embracing (probably too much) of what is a very taboo fantasy for women to have. But at the same time, these novels are also c) EXTREMELY derivative and conformist, and one wonders what exactly they are conforming to.
SADY: right. like, at one point, i just did a study of romance novels, because they’re one of the only “acceptable” outlets (or were, for a while) of porn for ladies. and they follow a very recognizable script. like, the heroine is never “classically beautiful,” and she’s often though not always working-class, and they always have to hate each other at first, and etc. and when the rape thing crops up so often (along with all of the stuff about “taking” and “possessing” and etc.) it just seems like part of the script is that women aren’t sexual and men are and men have to “break them in,” as it were, so that they can enjoy sex. which is remarkably similar to many rationales of actual real-live rapists! what with the “she wanted it” and “she said no but didn’t mean it” business we all know and fear.
AMANDA: and yet … people, like, read these books. and supposedly identify with them. women-people.
SADY: yeah… that’s totally true. and i think we can talk about rape as a real-live thing that is unconscionably evil, and also own up to the fact that a rape FANTASY (which is pretty much within your control, seeing as it exists only in your head) is not the same thing.again: dude porn is almost always based on some kind of sense of transgression. so lady porn might be the same way, for similar reasons. maybe ladies enjoy this stuff because it’s one of the most extreme taboos in existence, if you are a lady-person.
AMANDA: yeah. ive always thought that “rape fantasy” was a bit of a misnomer, though i guess calling it “actively desiring someone to have sex with you while pretending as if you don’t actively desire it fantasy” takes some of the punch out of it
SADY: yeah, exactly. i mean, “rape fantasy” is such a contradiction in terms. but i think a lot of people’s sex fantasies are about (a) feeling that what you’re doing is “dirty” and (b) pushing past the feelings of “dirtiness.” and having a fantasy that is about losing control is a really easy way of just not feeling “dirty” or “guilty” in a way that inhibits your enjoyment.
AMANDA: and if the guilt extends all the way from your vagina, through your organs, and out your mouth: bonus.
SADY: well, you know: i suspect that dude is not someone you’d want to be trapped in an elevator with. i do give him credit, however, for not including matthew perry.