“How can you say she was raped when she didn’t struggle? It means she enjoyed it.” This is a wrong notion Of those who report their rape, around 5% also describe experiencing arousal/orgasm. This doesn’t mean they weren’t sexually assaulted.
Rape is not always violent. Some survivors surrender to protect themselves or their loved ones. Some are intoxicated, drugged, physically or mentally incapacitated, or in a position without power. Some are children. Rape does not always include penile penetration.
Some rapists are married to their victims. Some rapists are women. Some women rape men. And sometimes, in the middle of an act that is always a violation, a rape survivor will experience increasingly intense physical sensations leading to climax – an orgasm.
In a 2004 review paper, a clinician reports, “I (have) met quite a lot of victims (males) who had the full sexual response during sexual abuse…I (have) met several female victims of incest and rape who had lubrication and orgasm.”
Going through Reddit threads or article comments on this topic, you’ll find story after story of people who feel ashamed of being aroused when they were sexually abused. It’s not their fault!
How can a victim’s experience of rape include an orgasm? Some would argue that this means the victim enjoys the act so it means that there was a degree of conscious intention. This is wrong. Rape and arousal can happen simultaneously, and one does not exclude the other.
To most people, an orgasm, at least in popular understanding, represents a peak of sexual pleasure, a state of euphoria. In that perception, if someone is experiencing rape, shouldn’t pleasure be absent? Shouldn’t the body, you know, shut that whole thing down?
This is why people really need a better understanding of human sexuality and human physiology. Hundreds of years ago, some people also thought that rape couldn’t lead to pregnancy. We don’t need to say how funny that line of thought is and the same applies in this case.
Despite what many rapists would like to believe, arousal does not mean that an assault was enjoyable or that a victim was asking for it. So what does it mean? Put simply, our bodies respond to external stimuli (including rape) and sometimes this happens without our permission.
Our bodies respond to sex, fear, anything. Our bodies respond without our intention so an orgasm during rape isn’t an expression of pleasure. It’s an example of a physical response whether the mind’s on board or not, just like breathing, sweating, or an adrenaline rush.
Take tickling for instance. While it can be pleasurable, it can be a very unpleasant experience when done against someone’s wishes. However, during that unpleasant experience, the one being tickled will continue laughing even when they don’t like it. They just can’t help it.
Our control over sexual arousal is no better than our control over the dilation of our pupils or how much we sweat. The presence of sexual arousal during rape is about as relevant to consent as any of these other responses.
In violent assaults, intense physical arousal from fear can heighten sexual sensations in a process called ‘excitation transfer.’ In one laboratory study, anxiety from the threat of electric shock enhanced male erectile responses to erotic images.
Recent experiments also suggest that vaginal lubrication in women may be an adaptive response designed to reduce injury from penetration. The body is not enjoying itself – it is trying to protect itself.
Rape survivors who experience arousal and rape report confusion and shame thanks to this conflict of the physical response of arousal and its usual association with enjoyment. Some wonder with shame if it was something they subconsciously wanted. Again, it’s not their fault.
In conclusion, arousal during rape can happen but it is not a sign of guilt or pleasure. It in no way indicates consent. It is a just a sign that our bodies react, just as they do with a rapid heartbeat or an adrenaline rush. Only one person should be blamed – the rapist.
What do you think?
Leave your thoughts below…