I recently had a conversation with a woman who said she was bored with her sex life. She mentioned that she'd always had gentle, consensual sex. But, she confessed, she had a lifelong fantasy about being the bottom in a rape scene. "It's a little embarrassing, though. I'm a very strong, intelligent woman, and I know this is such a cliché."

There's nothing wrong with that fantasy, I replied. Just make sure your partner knows your hard limits, and have a safe word in case it gets too intense and you need to stop. She dismissively shook her head. "No, that would ruin it. I want him to really do it. If I told him in advance what he could and couldn't do, then it wouldn't be a real rape scene, and I wouldn't enjoy it if it didn't feel real."

I walked away from that conversation feeling disturbed, and it took me a while to figure out precisely why. I'm not bothered by anyone (male or female) having a rape fantasy. And the apparent cognitive dissonance of wanting a rape fantasy to seem real is not hard for a kinky person like me to get over. It's normal for sexual fantasies to be more extreme than our real sex lives—that's their purpose.

It did worry me that this woman didn't seem sharply aware that what worked for her as a fantasy might not translate perfectly into reality. She conveyed a sense of "I'll only get to do this once, so I better make it good." That's bad strategy for something as emotionally freighted as a rape fantasy. As BDSM author Patrick Califia once said, "Fantasies are always hungrier than bodies." Better to start with small tastes.

I kept going back to her repeated use of the word "real." It puzzled me. Saying "real" suggests that something else is fake. Of course this woman doesn't truly want to be sexually assaulted. She wants her fantasy, an artificially created experience designed to make her heart pound and her adrenaline pump, the erotic version of a scary movie or a roller coaster. The whole episode must be fake, or else it wouldn't be okay.

Then I realized: She was using the word "real" to mean "designed by my sexual partner's wishes, not my own." By implication, a rape-fantasy scene that she took an active part in creating would be "fake." And that's what bothered me—not that a woman wants to give up sexual control within the confines of a fantasy, but that she feels that being the author of her own sexual adventure renders it invalid and thus unenjoyable.

Acting out a rape fantasy is not incompatible with being a strong, self-actualized woman. But don't discount your active participation as something that would ruin it. On the contrary—that's what makes it work. Because when it comes to creating your sex life, your arousal and pleasure are the realest things there are. recommended