Sarah Roberts spoke to Pavan Amara, who runs the My Body Back Project, about submissive fantasies after rape and why so many women blame themselves for having them
After sexual assault, it is very common for women to fantasise about ‘rape’ or submission. These fantasies are so veiled by guilt that nobody talks about them, which means that official statistics on the proportion of survivors experiencing them are non-existent. Anecdotally though, numbers are high. Often, women report fantasising about the man who assaulted them; in some cases, they are only able to reach orgasm by imagining the attack itself. Psychologists have shown that these kinds of fantasies are actually healthy steps towards recovering from abuse and reclaiming sexual pleasure – but because of the silence around the issue, they become a source of immense shame.
Pavan Amara runs My Body Back Project, which provides specialist healthcare services for survivors of sexual violence – as well as the project’s quarterly Café V sessions, which provide a safe space to talk about sex and masturbation after sexual assault – and all of the confusions, difficulties, and breakthroughs that come with it. Those attending are able to share their own experiences, and receive guidance on feeling physically and sexually autonomous after assault. Pavan started the project following her own experiences of sexual assault, and was struck by how often submissive fantasies came up in these Café V sessions, and the stigma, pain and confusion surrounding them. The first step towards dispelling that stigma, and reconceptualising these fantasies for what they are – natural and healing movements towards mental and sexual autonomy – is breaking the silence. Pavan suggested we have an open conversation about submissive fantasies after rape, considering so many women blame themselves for having them. What follows is extracted from that conversation.