Why Women Have Ravishment and Rape Fantasies

We wrote a post here a while back about research into men’s and women’s fantasy lives — and in particular, how often this sort of research is willfully misinterpreted. That got us wondering what other new fantasy research might be out there… and we came across a fascinating study about why women have rape fantasies — or ravishment fantasies, as we prefer to call them (more on that issue below).

Previous research into this topic found that between 31 and 62% of women have rape fantasies. The authors of the new study posed the following question: “To be sexually aroused by such an imagined scenario represents a psychological mystery. Why fantasize about a criminal act which in reality is repulsive and harrowing?”

The researchers, based at the University of North Texas and the University of Notre Dame, studied 355 young women. In one of the exercises, the women’s arousal levels were studied as they listened to a ravishment fantasy scenario over headphones (gotta love audio erotica!) — and we say ravishment in this case because the scenario was pulled from the kind of story lines typical to romance novels… i.e. it was very clearly an erotic fantasy and not an actual account of a real-life rape. The women listening were told to imagine themselves as the woman in the narrative.

So why are women turned on by this kind of scenario? In the past, the theory went that women didn’t want to be perceived as “slutty” for enjoying sex, and so rape fantasies were a way to avoid taking blame for their sexual desires. We’re delighted to report that the researchers of this new study found no such thing! (Though they say that this theory may have held more water in the past, when attitudes toward women’s sexuality were more uptight.)

On the contrary, in fact: this new study found that the less repressed women said they were about sex and the more positive attitudes they had about sex, the more likely they were to fantasize about rape or ravishment. It makes sense, when you think about it: these women are more open to fantasy in general, and are less likely to feel guilty about their fantasy lives.

According to the study, women who reported frequent rape or ravishment fantasies were also more likely to enjoy fantasies about “overpowering or forcing a man to surrender sexually against his will.” Oh yeah, and they were also more likely to fantasize about being a stripper. And just in case that doesn’t completely shut down the slut-shame theory: women who reported more rape fantasies were more likely to have high self-esteem.

So, back to the rape vs. ravishment thing. A reader once called us out for our use of the term “rape fantasy,” claiming that “no one actually wants to experience what actually being raped would feel like. … Women might have fantasies about someone taking control (generally someone they find attractive and of course should trust) but as far as I believe, never about someone forcibly using their body against their will. If anything it should be called a “ravishment fantasy” because the word rape, especially in context with women, creates a greater possibility for people to take rape less seriously and disturbing as it is, to take the idea that women have “rape fantasies” to mean that it’s okay to rape someone. … Find a new language to speak about this kind of fantasy.”

Some readers responded positively to that comment — one man said that he’d feel much more comfortable using the term “ravishment” to explain his fantasy to his girlfriend. But some women said, no, this isn’t true for all women, and “ravishment” is too romantic a word for what I fantasize about.

So clearly there’s a broad range of rape and ravishment fantasy. Some people want the romance-novel style fantasy, and others want something much darker… but the one thing these scenarios all have in common is consent. So we understand why the word “rape” offends people — especially when a reader of our site writes, “My fiance raped me. It wasn’t play, wasn’t a scene. It was rape. But, the police didn’t believe me because of such things as rape fantasy. They told me that it’s not his fault that the fantasy got out of control and to just calm down.”

The last thing we want to do is prescribe rules for people’s fantasy lives. After all, the sex you have in your own head is the one time you get to break all the rules — rules of law, rules of morality, of monogamy, of hygiene, of gravity…

So if you want to fantasize about the kind of rape that would be more fitting on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit than in a romance novel, then go right ahead. And if, in the privacy of your own bedroom, you want to call it a rape fantasy, then go right ahead with that, too. But understand that when you’re talking about these fantasies outside the bedroom, the language you use has consequences. Sure, “ravishment fantasy” might sound a bit too purple-prose for your tastes, but if it helps preserve the rights of actual rape victims in the real world, we’re sure you can suck it up.

(And if you’ve got a better idea for a replacement term, please do let us know!)



  1. “rape fantasies were a way to avoid taking blame for their sexual desires”, however deeply psychological this assumes to be true, there’s a simpler version established by natural commonsense rather than research:

    Males were created physically stronger than females. Males were created with greater sexual volition than females. The former is like the dominant rat while the later is like the attractive hole. Presuming they’re pieces of the life puzzle, how should they fit? Do the math… The fact is – during the earlier evolution of man, there was nothing like dating, introductions, ‘getting to know someone’ and so on. At that time human language was minimal while their senses were very strong. The strange male simply read the signs of heat on the strange female, ‘took’ her, then she would submit and naturally adapt to being with him while he made it a life duty to protect and care for her. It was that simple. Though thousands of years of evolution and civilization has eroded much of that reality from our societies, we still have those instincts “A man is an animal”…

    Therefore, while I’m here having the same ravish fantasies to grope a woman, suck her breast and eventually fock her while enjoying / ignoring her subtle female resistance, a woman is out there hoping someone like me to do the exact same thing to her. So why are we not getting on with it? Why are we not exploring and enjoying these very natural desires? Read on…

    1. The lack of volition by the female, as I mentioned; due to her inability to control / predict the outcome especially with the ‘perfect male stranger’. This is mostly caused by thoughts of the violent elements that have come to be associated with this, and / or her uncertainty that this experience could remain a secret.

    2. “Political correctness” advocated by Feminists (lesbian butches and their wussy male supporters). They even have a legal term for it “rape” which scares everyone even more…

    Luckily I found an online project that helps us all explore these desires. With so many thousands of members it lets us understand that this desire is not nearly as weird as people deem it to be. They’re absolutely natural and they can be explored secretly and safely. In fact, as instinctive as it is, every human should experience this at least once in a life time, because it helps with self-discovery and better understanding one’s sexuality. I hope this helps

  2. Awesome article. I am a super confident woman with good self esteem, and I have ravishment fantasies. I’ve been fortunate to have trusted partners to enjoy them with, but they are the one and only thing that I feel like I cannot talk about with my friends. But maybe I will now; thanks for putting my experiences into context.

  3. I think ravishment fantasies are not always so much about wanting someone else to take charge, but are sometimes a metaphor for letting sexual feelings fully possess and travel through you. At any rate that’s the only way they make sense to me (not saying they can’t have quite other meanings for other people — obviously they do). But then I’ve never understood the whole dominance/submission dynamic at all except in the most intellectual way. If I were going to do BDSM of any kind, it would be totally about the sensations, not the psych stuff.

  4. This reminds me of Nancy Friday and her discoveries that a majority of the women she surveyed had fantasies about either rape/ravishment or at least a tall, dark stranger (that they wouldn’t have to deal with later hahha).

  5. Based on the headline, I was expecting a quite different article here. The “why” of rape (or “ravishment”) fantasy is hardly explored at all, aside from putting to bed some inaccurate notions about the people who have them.

    I’d be very curious to read the article that matches your headline, though, if you write that one.

    1. I agree, Eric. That’s what I was interested in too.

      I am willing to call it ravishment, for the sake of victims, but let’s come up with some other words with fewer syllables.

      I too am a woman with good self esteem and I have ravishment fantasies, though my husband isn’t into the acting job that’s required! I also have fantasies of being the ravisher with both men and women.

      So, yeah, we all know it’s a thing, but getting into the WHY (which some animal scientists have written about in great detail) would be problematic from the standpoint of trying to present and future rape victims. It would tend to substantiate that rape occurs in nature.

      It’s an interesting topic but it might fall into the category of things you can’t study without endangering your career.

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