As someone who has conducted some research on sexual fantasies, I was interested to read the letter from "Concerned Father" and your response to him. Dan, I think CF has reason to be concerned.

He shouldn't be concerned about his wife's rape/incest fantasy per se. Those fantasies are relatively common. In fact, past research shows that 31-57% of women have had rape/submission fantasies, and 9-17% of women say it is their favorite fantasy. The good news is that women who have force fantasies are typically more open to sexuality in general. They have a wider variety of fantasies, less guilt about sex, and have more positive feelings about sex. Also, force fantasies are more common in women who are more dominant outside the bedroom. That is, the female CEO of your company would probably enjoy being tied down and ravaged (I worked on this research myself, with Patricia Hawley at the University of Kansas). So they don't typically signal a history of abuse.

But some (very little) research does show more force fantasies in women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. And my concern with CF is that this is not just a father-daughter rape scenario; it's that the scenario involves HER father. I agree with your advice to CF. But if she enjoys this fantasy so much, she probably won't tell him if it is true—particularly if he has to sit next to Ted at Thanksgiving. So, I'd recommend that they shift the roleplay scenario away from her actual father and toward a generic father and generic daughter. This could lower the creep factor for CF. And if his wife insists that the father figure be "Ted," that could signal a history of abuse.

On another note, I have always appreciated your openmindedness to rape/force/submission fantasies. In teaching my human sexuality class, I have actually played a couple calls from the "Savage Lovecast." I find that your advice gives students a different way to think about sexuality that's less than mainstream. Remember the "elusive pie fight fetishist"? That call is a favorite among my students. So in addition to providing my addendum to your advice, I also want to thank you for helping me open some minds in Texas.


Sincerely,

Jamie Rentfro
Graduate Student
Department of Psychology
Texas A&M University

I wrote back Jamie with a followup question...

So if CF's wife was abused by her actual dad... and if she can indulge in these fantasy role-play scenes now without doing further harm to herself—meaning, "if she isn't traumatized by these reenactments"), is it okay then? Or is there simply no way for a person who has been abused to indulge in role-play scenarios with a trusted partner who assumes the role of her actual abuser without doing herself harm?

Jamie's response is after the jump...

•••••••••

I have to say that abuse isn't really my area of expertise (I am a social psychologist, not a clinical psychologist). I've read about abuse, and I've taught about it. But my own research is more normative—how typical couples respond sexually to particular circumstances, or what predicts individual differences in sexual interests or motives. I'm not sure if reenacting the abuse would further traumatize her. To the best of my knowledge, no research has looked at who the fantasy "rapist" is in force fantasies, and certainly not with abuse victims. Typically when abuse victims have sexual thoughts about their abuser, these thoughts are characterized as unwanted, negative flashbacks.

It's hard to say if CF's wife can indulge her fantasies without damaging herself. It may traumatize her, if she comes to associate her husband with her abuse. But it's possible that this may be her way of coping with unwanted and intrusive thoughts about her abuse. What I mean is, the role play may give her a safe place to process these flashbacks while knowing that she is in control. If CF and his wife have been married a long time, they've probably built up enough trust for her to feel safe. It is also worth mentioning that the wife may have enjoyed or wanted these childhood experiences (if they happened at all).

My concern for the husband is just that these fantasies are so specific. If he is unknowingly reenacting her abuse with her, he may unknowingly say or do something that triggers a negative reaction from her. It seems safer to say, "Honey, I really enjoy it when we role play the whole daddy-daughter thing, but it kind of freaks me out to play your real dad." At least that conversation would let the wife know that CF genuinely cares, that he is not like her father (allegedly), and that bedroom play does not characterize their whole relationship. Especially if they are acting out this fantasy more often.

The most important thing is that CF and his wife both feel comfortable during these scenarios. If she was abused but can reenact the experiences without harming herself, then it's probably not an issue for her. But it sounds like it's still an issue for CF.

Hope this helps,

Jamie