Spirituality and Sexuality: How Rape Fantasies Hurt Abuse Survivors

I read an interesting article yesterday, written by August McLaughlin, about how rape fantasies can help women heal. Initially, I felt this heaviness in my heart when I read just the phrase “rape fantasies,” but I tried to read and learn, which I often do when I read one of August’s posts. As August explains:

“Fantasies allow us to experience the outer limits of our imaginations safely, with no risk–and for some people, that includes fantasies of coerced sex,” writes Michael Castleman, MA, author of All About Sex.

August cites five reasons women fantasize about rape:

The thrill of desire.
Permission to experience pleasure first, without worrying about performance.
Permission to be sexual.
Societal teachings.
Adrenaline boosts.

August then explains that Dr. Laura Berman on her Showtime TV series Sexual Healing says the following:

The fact is a lot of women who have been through sexual trauma . . . have rape fantasies, submission fantasies…because it’s sort of a way to work through it . . . It’s kind of taking what was out of your control and putting it in control.

What I think is missing from this discussion is the all-important question of how fantasizing about rape can affect a women’s spirit, or soul. After all, we humans are not mere physical beings. We are of God, from God. And we have a mind; we have a body. But most of all, we have an eternal spirit that never dies.

The standard by which I measure whether sex is good or bad for us is in part whether it feels safe and good, and in part whether it helps our souls heal from whatever wounds life has inflicted on us. Again, we are not just a mind and a body. We’re a mind, a body, and most important, a soul.

Mere physical responses to stimuli involve just biology. As many rape and incest survivors will tell you, their damn bodies let them down. Or as Sally Lane Brookman cries out in anguish in I Run, when admitting how she was turned on just talking about her brother raping her:

I feel turned on. That’s how I feel, and I’m pissed off feeling it. “Fuck biology.” I laugh and try to soften my anger, and then I wish I would stop doing that. “I know it sounds childish, but I hate it. I hate that my body fails me like this.”

She explains again that it is just biology, but I’m not taking it in. I don’t, I can’t really hear her. There’s too much shame. I feel confused. And ashamed. I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to be here. I want to escape.

Our bodies and minds fail us in so many ways. Indeed, when I write about rape and incest, I often feel turned on. This is actually why I started drinking again while writing Ripple. I’d write the pervert’s scenes, feel this physical response, and feel this deep, awful shame. Alcohol numbed this.

My body and my mind have let me down sexually in so many ways. August asks the reader if she has experience rape fantasies. In my case, hell yes. For a good part of my life, I could only get off if I was being the dirty girl, the slut, talking dirty, wanting to “fuck” rather than make love. And the only way I could fuck or make love was when I was buzzed or high.

Whoa. Right? Does this sound healthy?El_aviator

I can tell you, quite simply, this mentality did not help me heal; indeed, it retarded, or stunted my healing. Being only able to perform when you feel like a whore is not a good thing. It’s just not.

Now, I am a big advocate of sexual freedom. I think God gave us sex as an extra awesome gift. For real. But there are good orgasms and bad orgasms. Good orgasms uplift you. Bad orgasms make you bow your head in shame, or discomfort, or just relief that you got off and can release your physical tension.

A word about my own healing. Through hard work in therapy and spiritual study, I no longer reenact the whore-virgin dichotomy in bed. I don’t have to feel slutty to get off. I don’t have to subjugate myself to the man I’m with; I don’t need to replay my sexual abuse over and over in some misguided attempt to make sense of it. And my bedroom is no longer a shackle. But the key to my newfound freedom from my past is letting go of being a victim, either in life, or in fantasy. At least in the bedroom, I am free of my past.

And for that, I’m truly grateful.


12 comments on “Spirituality and Sexuality: How Rape Fantasies Hurt Abuse Survivors
  1. I am a survivor; the experience messed me up badly enough that I sold my body at fourteen, thinking that that was the only way to connect with others physically, and my own sexuality was in flux for years.

    I am now wed to the woman God sent into my life….the memories of those events had no healing effect on me, and no place in who I am now.

    People who spout garbage like that need a good look under the hood.

    • Running from Hell with El says:

      Dear Alan:

      Big but gentle hugs (assuming you’re comfortable being hugged–it’s taken me years to be, which is another obvious effect of surviving abuse). I am overjoyed to hear that you are with the woman you should be with–that God sent to you, just as I am with the man God intended for me. Lots of love, my friend.

      El

  2. simplytrece says:

    Thank you, dear friend. As you were, so am I now. August’s 5 reasons SCREAM at me. I have so much shame about my body, my sexuality. I keep my head bowed (or at least avert my eyes) when speaking of sex. I try to reconcile the idea that God gave us sex for pleasure (not just procreation) with the whole idea of anything beyond missionary position heterosex. Just so much shame. I know I was molested as a child, and that I let men use me for sex; I am sure that has a lot to do with why I weigh 321lbs. at age 61.
    I am so thankful that God brought you and your words into my life.

    • Running from Hell with El says:

      Dear friend:

      I am so grateful you stopped in and shared your vulnerability on this issue with me. I get you. I understand how the wounds we incurred as children still affect us now, as grown women. I am so thankful God brought you and your supportive words into my life.

      Lots of love

      El

  3. I have huge problems with fantasies of coerced anything – sex included. The line between fantasy and reality is so easy to blur.
    And I love that you have fought for, and worked for your freedom.
    Hugs – of the gentle non-invasive cyber kind.

    • Running from Hell with El says:

      Thank you so much, dear Sue. And you’re so right–there is an easy blurring of lines between fantasy and reality. Aww I love hugs–thank you!! <3 El

  4. Thank you for bringing light to an invaluable perspective, El, and in such a compassionate, honest way. The fantasies certainly aren’t a potential source of healing for everyone (or even most people), and—as you well know—spirituality can play such a vital role in sexuality and healing of all kinds. I truly appreciate your insight, and regret having caused you any pain. Wishing you all the best, always!

    • Running from Hell with El says:

      August: you always have been and always will be a class act. As far as pain–you actually brought me a true gift, which is a chance to find some healing today, and for that I am so very grateful. I wish you the best as well!

  5. Smplefy says:

    Blessed are those without wounds, for their minds can play freely without fear of self-reproach.

  6. El, I love you and August both. I think the difference here is that August writes from the perspective of secular psychology while you write from the perspective of spiritual principle and revelation truth. God bless you, El.

  7. Years ago, when I was contemplating what eventually became THE LEGION OF NIGHT, these words came to me when I was journaling….

    Somewhere, lost children are driven to the edge;
    Can I not be the hand that leads them to safety?

    Somewhere, the predators tear the spirits of their victims;
    Can I not be the hand that strikes them down?

    Over the years, God has shown me that there are many ways to do both….what you, all of you are doing here is one.

    Silence is the darkness that hides the monsters, and stifles the cry for justice.

    Slainte, fellow children.

  8. Lisa says:

    El….You are so open and honest with your experiences! I admire you for that. I admire you for having the ability to talk openly about what others hide and have shame from. What I admire the most is that you are helping so many people. I believe that most survivors of sexual abuse have struggled with sex in one way or another. Either by their fantasies or their fears. I am also in this category. It is only through learning and accepting that our feelings and thoughts are ours and we should not be shamed by them, that we gain freedom from what has held us a prisoner in our life. We are all unique and made up of experiences that have made us who we are today. I thank you for being who you are!
    I love and admire you my friend!

Please tell me how you feel!

Buy Signed Copies of El’s Books
Books

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: