Archive for the ‘Labels and Roles’ Category

Rape Play (Part Two)

Some fantastic comments on one of my last posts have led me to think about the topic of fantasy rape for a lot longer than I’d originally intended, and specifically about the issue of terminology.

To summarize my last post: the term “rape play” has always troubled me, mostly because of what I perceive as an internal contradiction in the phrase. That is, rape is inherently nonconsensual, and BDSM play is inherenly consensual; even if rape play might look like rape to an uninformed observer, the very fact that the scene is consensual means that it actually has nothing to do with real rape, and using the word “rape” to describe it is just inaccurate. The problem that I saw in the term “play rape” was that when we wrap something in qualifiers instead of calling it something different entirely, we make the error of inherently associating what we do with that other activity—and we don’t want to associate consensual sex with rape, because that gives fuel to the idea that women who are raped actually want it, etc.

But Dev made a great point in her comment on my last post: “The truth is that we do things, consensually and in love or play, that are negative in other contexts [and] that humans have done to each other abusively. [….] 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.”

That is: it isn’t an error to associate rape play with real rape, even if we would never want to actually rape or be raped. They’re not the same, which is why we do need a qualifier, but they are certainly related—and calling it something other than what it is is simply an attempt to shield ourselves from the negativity and fear generated by the idea of actual rape. As Ranat said in her comment: “The abstraction [can] 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.”

I think one of the big problems I’ve had with this (and with the concept of BDSM “play” in general) comes from the dilemma of how to argue with anti-BDSM folks without resorting to “but it’s *nothing like* real rape/abuse/etc.” It’s an easy comeback—but it’s just not true. If it were true, if all we were doing was dress-up and play-pretend games, it wouldn’t be all that erotic…

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.

Subtle Differences

A few years ago, I thought of my kink very, very differently than I do now. Back then, I thought of myself primarily as a “submissive,” and assumed that everything I was into could simply be classified under that one term.

Now, everything I do is in shades of gray. Sometimes, my desires are purely masochistic: I crave pain, regardless of whether or not it’s part of a scene, regardless of whether or not I’m bound or on my knees, whether or not I’m submitting. Sometimes, those desires come more from a sense of a challenge and self-testing, rather than strictly erotic desire; that is, sometimes I crave pain even when I know it’s going to be “bad” pain, while at other times I want only the “good,” high-inducing pain.

Sometimes, I like forced submission: struggling and being subdued, saying “no” and not having it respected, being seduced and persuaded, or just simply being forced down. I like the feeling of struggling against ropes, in particular, and feeling the confining tension of them, the sensation that I couldn’t resist even if I wanted to. When I get this way, I often feel like it’s a way of releasing tension and giving up responsibility, for a moment—I can be angry, I can curse and rage, and it’s met by his calm firmness, keeping me safe.

Sometimes, I drop into an intensely submissive headspace in which I simply want to give my body over to be played with and used; at these times, pain is not pleasurable, but is a means of remembering that my pain does not matter, that it is something I must endure in order to be of service. It’s both endurance-testing and a way of practicing patience, self-control, and humility. At times like these, the last thing I want is to feel resistance between me and my partner; I want to give up control, not have it taken from me.

…and then there are even smaller differences that I can tease out between different styles of submission. Generally, I’m not interested in service submission, or submission done in order to please. Instead, my kink tends to fall on the side of ownership — I do this not necessarily because I want to please him and be of use, but because I am his possession. (And then: am I a human slave, one who actively performs tasks for my master? Or am I a pet — something to be kept for amusement — or a toy, something to be used?)

It’s mind-boggling, when you stop to think about it, how complex this stuff can be…