Rape Play / Forced Submission

(This is something I wrote months and months ago, and forgot about…)

I’ve never really been a fan of the term “rape play.” To me, it’s a self-contradicting term; “rape” describes a non-consensual sexual encounter, while “play” describes a consensual one. In the past, I was also averse to the term because I didn’t feel that it really described the sort of play that my partner and I have talked about and engaged in. As he’s described them to me, my partner’s fantasies of “rape” have always included the knowledge that the other person actually wants it and is really turned on by it, or rather that he’s making the person want it. It’s the “no…no….YES!” fantasy.

In a sense, yes, this is quite similar to a lot of real-life rape scenarios. The rapist’s idea that “aw, c’mon, she really wanted it, even if she said ‘no'” is a cliché at this point, and quite a lot of rape starts out looking like seduction, especially when the person being raped is confused about what she wants and what she SHOULD want. But in a “rape play” scene, of course, the person being “raped” knows what she wants beforehand, and knows, on some level, what’s going to happen in the scene. Is it really appropriate to use a word like “rape,” then, to describe something that’s negotiated, consensual, and (hopefully) mutually enjoyable?

I usually prefer the term “forced submission” to describe the sort of rough sex that usually takes place between me and my partner, a submission that he has to win from me. It’s a fight, a struggle, and a defiant attitude throughout; I swear and bite and curse him. Or, alternately, it’s “seduced submission,” a shyness, with him teasing me and slowly forcing himself upon me, my protests growing weaker as he shows me that I’m really enjoying myself.

On the other hand, some of my experiences with this kind of play has really pushed my boundaries of consent, because such scenes can drop me into a headspace in which I really don’t know what I want. In those times, the play can sometimes seem very real. I start to struggle in earnest, as if I really didn’t want to be touched. It’s when I reach that space, that just-a-little-too-real space, that I get the most turned on. But it’s also when I come dangerously close to breaking down, to getting hurt. I have reached the point, a few times, when I’ve felt for a second like I was actually being forced against my will, like I actually had no choice. Those are the times when I think that “rape play” might actually be a very accurate term. When I think about it, it’s probably more “edge” than anything else we do.

…yet I’m still not comfortable with the term. There’s a nagging feeling I have that using it somehow lessens the meaning of the word; that it belittles the experiences of those who have been raped to say that what I do for pleasure is somehow similar enough to someone else’s traumatic experience to use the same word for it. It creeps me out, a little.

11 comments so far

  1. Wendy on

    I’ve just started reading your blog and this recent post struck a cord with me. I have worried over the same thing myself. How can I enjoy a rape fantasy when I am fortunate never to have been raped while many many women have suffered it, often with violence and murder as well?

    I did think about it a lot and brought myself close to tears in the process. I guess it’s not rape if one is fantasising or submitting to that which they desire anyway but the term still weighs heavy on the mind.

    I can’t really offer and answer but I can say you are not alone with that one.

  2. ranat on

    Rape fantasies have been with me for a long, long time, and they’re one of the hardest things for me to talk about (in fact, I don’t think I have before now). Certainly they’re one of the hardest things for me to think about (outside the fantasy), because real rape is such a horrible thing. They’re also one of the things that still triggers my feelings of, “Shit, this can’t be right, this has to be wrong, I’m sick, I’m crazy.”

    My rape fantasies have almost exclusively dealt with the rape of men, and as the conductor/director of the fantasy, that makes me the agent rather than the victim of the violence, which brings with it its own ton of baggage.

    When I first saw the terms “rape play,” “rape roleplay,” “rape fantasy,” I definitely felt an enormous relief. If someone else came up with the terms, then it wasn’t just me. In certain subcultures I’ve seen the use of “non-consensuality fetish,” often shortened to “non-con,” which divorces the term even a step further from “rape.” I find it worth remarking that seeing others were into “non-con” did not relief me as much as it did to see others were into “rape roleplay.” The use of the word “rape” was unequivocal, blunt, just there.

    I definitely feel you on the sentiment that the use of the word “rape” could belittle the experience of people who have actually been raped. I’ve had similar reservations about calling myself a sadist, or calling sadistic play torture. And yet I keep coming back to the fact that there’s really nothing else to call it. I could say, I’m a “person who enjoys the stimulation of nerve endings in others, resulting in involuntary sounds and body-language, including to and past the point of discomfort.” The abstraction could go on and on, divorcing me more and more from the “bad word.” For me, with the abstraction comes an unspoken apology that I’m still trying to convince myself I don’t need to make.

    Though I don’t qualify the terms “sadist” and “torture” as “consensual sadism” and “consensual torture,” consent is the qualifier. For “rape play” or “rape roleplay” or “rape fantasy” the qualifiers are “play,” “roleplay,” and “fantasy.” They make it something distinct from actual rape.

    None of this is to bash the term “forced submission,” which I think works equally well if it describes accurately what you do with your parter. I like the term, though for me it might means something different.

    I think part of the issue with finding words that make our consensual activities and desires distinct from the negative and unhealthy acts that they seem superficially resemble is a lack of vocabulary. There is a BDSM lexicon, full of words mashed together and used differently and subjectively, and this is largely because we borrowed the vocabulary from other lexicons that already had ownership of those words. It’s a limitation of the language (of most languages, I would think), because the languages had no reason to evolve to include many of these concepts.

    The languages did, however, evolve to include concepts of the actual negative, unhealthy acts, which is why I hate civilization. Hmm… Something to think about. Does English have a word for positive pain? Of course not! Does it have a word for negative pain? Of course! Could that be because empires of the English language used pain as a threat and act of punishment…

  3. ranat on

    Oh my God, my comment is as long as your post. I’m sorry.

  4. violacious on

    your comment is brilliant, Ranat.

    I share the same ambivalence and I also cast around for some different terminology, until I realized that English doesn’t really even have a verb that means to be penetrated. Well, aside from the obvious.

  5. subversive_sub on

    @ranat: Yeah, my response to your comment here was getting way too long, too! I’m working on a second post, now… 🙂

  6. devastatingyet on

    I don’t feel like the problem is really with language. The truth is that we do things, consensually and in love or play, that are negative in other contexts. And anything that is negative is something that humans have done to each other abusively, whether it’s extortion or rape or beatings or torture (all of which are eligible for bdsm play) or whatever.

    I hate that people are non-consensually forced to experience anything, but especially the things I do as part of sex with my partner. The last thing I want to think about during a torture scene is that real people get tortured. It’s horrible.

    But…that is just endemic to the things we do, and it’s part of their power. Rape play doesn’t just happen to resemble rape – it feeds off of our ideas of rape all the way.

    I don’t think it’s wrong to play this way and I don’t think it’s wrong to use the simplest words to describe it. Of course, I’d be very sensitive about context, but…yeah. That’s my position.

  7. Wendy on

    ranat, you dealt with the word itself brilliantly. Thank you. But then I was left thinking about it far too much again for my own good perhaps. And yet, if I suffer in my thoughts for something I got turned on by then I deserve it, knowing the truth which I can’t ignore, for the sake of all those poor women that have suffered it for real. Perhaps that is what we are all doing, sharing the grief in the form of guilt?

  8. […] Rape Play / Forced Submission […]

  9. […] just realized something else about the slavery fetish, is that it normalized my rape fantasies. Because, you know, if they’re slaves, you can do whatever you want to them. The law will […]

  10. […] kinky people do for fun. Florentine flogging? Very fun. Used to torture people in real life? Yes. Kinky people doing it for fun is not the same as those real abuses. It is not a mockery. Kinky people suppressing their desires and not doing it for fun will do […]

  11. […] control. What I read were books that described torture, breaking, enslavement, interrogation, and rape. That’s the way things were. That’s the only way pain and control and dominance and […]

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