Friday, April 10, 2015

The Perfect Victim



Did you know that according to Popular Science, roughly 5% of women who are raped experience an orgasm during the assault? And that’s actually a pretty low statistic because I’ve read other studies that that statistic at a much higher percentage.

I personally know for a fact that it does happen simply because I've worked with some very confused women in my groups that have suffered through that experience. These women have had a really difficult time being able to deal with the trauma of their assault, due to the confusion that comes along with experiencing what is usually perceived to be a pleasurable thing during such a traumatic experience.

These women typically take longer to move past their trauma because they are even more unsure of the roll they played in the situation than the women that didn’t orgasm. Even in the most violent of attacks, the cases that 99% of society would call a "clear cut rape case," if that women experienced an orgasm during the attack there is a high probability that she will carry more shame about the attack than if she didn't orgasm and the rape was less clearly defined.

That right there is incredibly sad because studies have proven that an orgasm during rape is due to the brain confusing the adrenaline rush of fear with the adrenaline rush of pleasure, and when you add in the fact that there is manual nerve stimulation taking place, sometimes the body just does what it’s designed to do regardless of what we want it to do.

So if a woman has an orgasm during a rape event, does that make her any less of a victim? Does that make her trauma any less real?

No, of course not.

Sometimes things happen during trauma that are difficult to understand, but a lack of understanding does not discount the trauma, but for the victims, they often don’t know that because no one talks about stuff like this. 

Women who have experienced situations like this often don’t feel comfortable talking about it because if a victim wants to remain a victim, then she had better look like a victim, otherwise we might deem her "not actually a victim."  

In fact there is so much sad truth to that statement that orgasm during rape has been used as a rape defense countless times over. I read a case study not long ago where the judge dismissed a rape case saying that because the woman had an orgasm, that at some point she must have started liking what was happening to her.

When the police were interviewing me about my rape, they asked me if I had an orgasm and I couldn't understand the relevance of the question until I realized that they were trying to gauge how "rapish" the rape had really been.

That is the exact reason why women don’t talk about stuff like this, because you are apparently only a victim if you look exactly the way that people believe a victim should look.


Apparently I’m the wrong kind of domestic abuse victim, or so some of you seem to think.

According to some of the emails I received and a few comments on the blog, I am a disgrace to “real” abuse survivors, the ones who escaped their abuse and tended to their wounds with drugs and self harm, not with a happy-go-lucky blog. Those are the real victims, those are the ones that were really hurt, but me, nah, it couldn’t have been that bad if I am as perky as I am.

Sorry, but I’m not buying that.

I’m not accepting that for myself and I’m not accepting that for the millions of other women out there that don’t look exactly how people think a victim should look.

I could see from the comments section of the post “The New Government Conspiracy” that some of you were appalled by what I had done to my husband and simply couldn’t understand why, if I had been so abused, was I poking fun at my husband? One commenter (who was actually very sweet) said that as an abuse survivor she felt offended that I was portraying domestic abuse victims in the way that I did, basically said that she felt destroyed by her own abuse and didn't understand how I could not be. I got a few emails of the same variety and so I wanted to address this topic, because really, what does a domestic abuse victim look like?

We’ve already talked about how hard it can be to spot the victims, how oftentimes we are shocked to find out that who we thought was a strong, happy woman, was actually being abused.

So if we can’t see many of the victims, then how do we know what they look like? Is there some kind of checklist that we should pass out to women who are being abused, letting them know how to act so that we can find them? Maybe a pamphlet we could mail out to homes across the country so that we would have an easier time spotting the victims?



Would it look something like this?

Must be covered in bruises all the time
Must be soft spoken
Must be obedient to their perceived abuser at all times
Must appear unmotivated to leave the relationship or save herself
If she has left the relationship, she must remain traumatized 24/7 for an extended period of time
Must suffer from some form of depression, addiction, or other incapacitating mental affliction during her recovery period

That would be a little ridiculous, don’t you think?

And yet that’s what many of you have done to me, and that’s what many women just like me are going through on a daily basis due to the preconceived notions that society is forcing upon us.

My reaction to being abused was not always to fall completely apart.

Sometimes my reaction was to fight for control in whatever way that I could; even if that involved making my husband think his hair was falling out. (You also have to remember that my marriage and these events spanned ten years, it wasn't as condensed as it probably feels when you read about it here. There were times that were more or less abusive than other times meaning that there were times when I knew to shut the hell up and times when I felt like I had a little wiggle room).

Women like me, we hear things much like what many of you have emailed me. “If you were really that abused, you wouldn’t have been antagonizing him the way you did.” While I can accept that you will never understand how I felt, I can’t accept your reasoning.

I know why I did what I did. I know that there were times that I didn’t care if he killed me, I really didn’t. I felt too weak to take my own life, so if he was going to take it for me then the least I could do was have a little fun while I was going down. But mostly, I wasn’t about to give in to him completely. I couldn’t seem to get out, but I wasn’t about to lay down and die either.

So I fought to keep hold of myself in whatever way I could. I spent my days picking up the shards of my broken reflection and attempting to piece them together into anything that would reflect the person I wanted to be, and when I would finally catch a glimpse of myself, I would see a woman that I liked. I saw a woman that wasn’t giving up, wasn’t giving in, and sometimes, yea I found it in ways that I think are funny.


But to many of you, I was less abused because I decided to fight in my own way instead sitting down quietly or turning to drugs and self harm to soothe my soul.

Then when I finally got out, I think I was little further ahead of where I might have been if I had completely lost myself to him. Sure, as you have seen from this blog I have had a lot to deal with, but I came through it with at least a part of myself still intact with a willpower to gain control over my life, and I would like to think that I’ve benefited from that.

But apparently it makes me less of a victim because I didn’t completely die inside, which begs the question, "how do you measure how traumatic an event really is?" 

How can someone measure and judge how worthy the label of abuse is, if everyone reacts differently when faced with abusive situations?

If a woman’s boyfriend calls her fat, ugly, breaks up with her, and then 6 months later she commits suicide, did she suffer more abuse than the woman who was beaten, degraded, and sold as a sex slave for years until she was rescued, just because that woman was then able to pull her life together and work through a recovery?

Who was more abused?

We can’t really measure that now can we?

We can only measure abuse, by abuse, not by a person’s reaction to it.

Being told that I am a disgrace to abused women because I didn’t roll over and die is not only hurtful, but it's ridiculous.

This is the only life I will ever have and I lost 28 years of it to people that hurt me. Would I really be better off if I looked back and saw nothing but pain? Is it so wrong that I would want to hold onto the times where I laughed? Should I have never been able to recover from my life falling down around me? Is the fact that I was so traumatized that I started a nonprofit so that other women wouldn’t have to go through what I went through, not proof enough that I was deeply affected?

If another victim survives and then personally never helps another victim, does that mean she doesn't know how painful abuse is, or that she doesn't care about anyone but herself?

Of course it doesn't. Just as if she were to have a harder time than me in her life after abuse, that wouldn't make her any less of a survivor.

I know that many of you call me an inspiration and you also know that I’ve always said don’t look to me for perfection because I will fail you, I’m only human.

There is no right or wrong way to be abused just the same as there is no right or wrong way to recover from it. Hell look at the advice they hand out on what to do if you are kidnapped. “Don’t aggravate your kidnapper, just go along with what they tell you, you don't want to anger them. On the other hand, maybe you should fight like hell because you need to get away.”

That’s helpful, NOT.

While I’m pleased that so many of you have found guidance here, portraying a perfect victim was never what this was supposed to be about. I’ve said it from the beginning and every moment since then, that this is the story of a broken person trying - and sometimes failing – to build the life I’d like to have. This is my story and I’m not going to change it or sway it to fit some kind of societal agenda, because I’m tired of buying into the crap that society is selling. Yes, there are MANY victims that are much like what you would expect them to be, and then there are many that are not.

I just so happen to be one of those women.

This is my life, this was my past, and this has been the experience of many other women as well. I don't think trying to mold myself into being the "perfect" survivor is helpful to anyone because people need to see the entire spectrum of behaviors that accompany abuse, and sometimes they were exactly like what I did. When women are able to see that their behavior and reactions in no way discredit the amount of abuse they suffered, that has been the only way that many of them were able to start healing.

I’m not the perfect victim and I never will be. I refuse to mold myself into being who you think I should have been, just so that you have an easier time accepting that I was abused. I think greater harm comes not from you hearing things you don't want to hear, but from women not hearing things that they need to hear.

I’m not the one hurting victims, some of you are by further silencing them simply because you believe that if they didn’t react a certain way, then they really weren’t abused.


That if they had an orgasm, that they really weren’t raped.


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31 comments:

  1. I've been waiting on this post since we spoke in the other post's comments! This really opened my eyes, and you have made such a good point. I recently took a human sexual behavior course, which was actually really helpful to try to make some sense of some things that I went through. In the course they covered this exact topic. The body responds in only a physical aspect. There is no emotion response in rape as far as an orgasm goes. It also goes the same way for men. A lot of times people will claim a man wasn't raped (which actually can happen!!!) because he had an erection and/or ejaculated. In my opinion, this is totally unfair. The phrase that I hear people jokingly say so often is "it's not rape if you like it," and I feel like that is referencing a lot to what your post talks about. Ugh! Makes me sick. A man or woman being raped CANNOT control what their body is biologically programmed to do. You can't tell your hormones, "Hey. Don't work for a minute. This isn't the same. We're being raped."

    This totally relates back to how women respond to their abuse and the different ways they handle it. I still really appreciate your insight in your previous comments. I've been thinking a lot about what you said and I recalled something that I thought you might could appreciate. Back before the abuse hit its highest point, I used to chuckle a little to myself when my ex-abuser freaked out if I served his dinner on a paper plate. He believed he would, without a doubt, get cancer because eating off of styrofoam is detrimental to your health. Even after showing him an article produced by Harvard, he still insisted he was going to die if his food was anywhere near a paper plate. Sheesh. So I guess there were some moments of spiteful humor in the beginning, but as things got worse, I couldn't really find much humor in anything.

    I don't have an account on here, but might make one one day as a way to record my thoughts and progress throughout all of this. Until then I'll still comment as anonymous but sign off as "-S"

    Thanks again Eden. I really enjoyed this post!

    -S

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    1. The example of male rape victims sometimes ejaculating/getting erections hits the nail on the head...people seem to forget that involuntary physical responses aren't a sign of enjoyment.

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    2. Yep! Exactly. I noticed on your previous comments that you said you were a science buff, as am I. It drives me crazy when people think they can judge a rape based off of a biological response. I think people forget we are still mammals, and our bodies have instincts that happen no matter what. What really counts is if the person WANTED the encounter to happen. If not, then it's rape. No matter what.

      I think a lot of victims could benefit from taking a sexual behavior class like I did. And so could some of the knucklehead police officers (like Eden referenced to).

      -S

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    3. In the study that I was reading, I forget the exact details but it was something to do with porn and ejaculation and in the study they found that if they were to give an electric shock to men who either got erections or ejaculated, that those men were MORE likely to do both those things than the group of men not getting the electric shock. None of the men getting the shock reported the shock as pleasurable, but the anticipation and anxiety of pain heightened their sexual stimulation.

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  2. I think they're unable to understand what it's like living in constant fear of the next attack. It gets so bad that eventually you just do something to bring it on, because that's less scary than waiting. Newsflash, everyone: Sometimes, we do fight back. That doesn't make us any less abused. Don't judge what you don't understand.

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    1. Exactly!! For me it was just day after day after day sometimes and so really, I didn't care anymore sometimes.

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  3. Love the article, and the comments. People need to read this, and hopefully some of them will understand. The ones who don't--Well, in my opinion, there's no real help for them.

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  4. This is an awesome post. Sometimes It's almost like victims couldn't get up and go on with their lives. Which is not only very sad, but unfair.

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  5. Thank you for posting this, I really needed to hear this. Even though I was beaten unconcious, degraded, and raped, I've carried around (and still do) a lot of guilt (and confusion) because I'm not sure if this was my fault, I didn't always do what he wanted and I did my own fair share of yelling back. Now that I'm out, I'm having a hard time forgiving myself for what happened. Maybe if I had just been easier this wouldn't have happened. I don't know why I never shut up. I knew what it was going to lead to, I knew that it was going to set him off, and yet I could just never seem to shut up.

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    1. Please forgive yourself! What you demonstrated by speaking out was a totally understandable and human need to have some control over your life. Just as Eden has noted, sometimes the only control you have is picking the time of your beating.

      Nothing that happened to you was your own fault!

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    2. As Steven said, THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. I don't care what you said or did, nobody has the right to touch you, ever. If they feel like they are going to hurt you, then it's their responsibility to leave, and furthermore, you are not a sex toy.

      This was not your fault just because you "didn't shut up." His actions are his actions alone and whatever you did does not justify what he did.

      I'd love to talk with you, please email me at notmyshametobear@gmail.com

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  6. This really is a great post.

    Every single person on the planet is a unique individual, so how they respond to certain events is going to vary. There cannot possibly be one right way and one wrong way to react to whatever events are happening in a person's life. It's sickening how society belittles victims for either: A) Not fighting back; or B) Fighting when they shouldn't have. It's a lose-lose situation, and that makes me so sad.

    Some people who are abused are going to get out move on with their lives and and never look back. Some are going to get out and either volunteer to help others or start their own non-profit. Some are going to get out and never really get over the abuse and instead turn to drugs, alcohol, etc. Some are never going to get out. And some are going to do other things I haven't listed here. Every person is going to react differently and their experiences are their own, not other people's.

    I get it sometimes, too. The whole, "But you look so happy! No way did your parents ever do A, B, or C!!! If they did, you'd be miserable!" I have my miserable moments, yes, but I do what I can to be happy as often as I can.

    Apparently we are not good victims...or something.

    *hugs*

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    1. Yep, totally what I was getting at. The problem with these "good victims" is that the window is too small. This isn't a utopian society. Not all beautiful people are tall, thin, blonde models. Not all smart people graduated college, Not all victims are the same. Why we have embraced so many different types of people and yet boxed in what a victim should be is beyond me.

      Sad, very sad.

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  7. Everyone has to find a way to deal with a shitty situation. You chose a road walked by women through the millenia: small vengeances. It doesn't make you less abused it doesn't make what happened to you any less but it does keep your spirit alive. I was bullied maliciously in school and chose that route too.

    First I got sad and I was sad for 3 years. Then, I tried to get even in ways that I'd never get busted for. I got really aggressive during gym where we played soccer. As long as I was playing defense, I was applauded and if they tried anything they were pulled out of the game. They picked on my hair, I said snide things about their acne. It in no way equaled what was dished out on me but it kept me alive. It took being pulled into the headmaster's office with the bullies and the other victims to make me see it as an unequal fight. I seriously thought I was going to be punished for some particularly scathing remark I'd made about the nature of Catholicism (they were antisemites) since everybody seemed so upset with them for saying mean things to me about being a Jew.

    So, I get it. I'm still dealing with the psychological aftermath of that period in my life. Before I was bullied, I was a happy kid and now it's really easy for me to slip into a depressive episode. It's not the same, remotely, but I get what you're saying.

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    1. Well I hope you kicked their ass in dodgeball!!

      I'm sorry that you went through that but I am happy that after all these years you are still able to hang onto your little victories. As much as other people might not understand, they do matter, to us.

      I'm sorry that you still have some things to work through in regards to the bullying :( You'll get there, baby steps :)

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  8. Like most people I was bullied during elementary school and was, in turn, a stereotypically sad, introverted, insecure child. In middle school I realized that regardless of my reaction to those who bullied me, it was going to continue. I found passive ways t exact my revenge, small digs for every one they made. It made me feel great, like I had a small bit of control over my bullies. By the time high school came I was completely comfortable throwing insults back at those who has spent years bullying me viciously-- yet it didn't make me feel any better about the situation. My sadness and my need to "get back" at them combined with my own insecurities turned me into someone who was quick to be unkind, an unforgiving girl that said mean things to mean people. I didn't like that about myself--i felt like I'd become just like them bc need to say things back to them often ended with me saying things far harsher than any of them had ever said. Realizing it was a approach that no longer worked FOR ME led to me changing that aspect of my self. I stopped responding and if I felt bad I just removed myself from their presence. I noticed that they didn't want to bully me anymore bc they no longer got a raise from me. Sorta makes me sad bc a)bullying could've ended years before if I hadn't added to it and b)I missed out on what should've been years of happiness all bc I wanted moments of pay back.
    I share this not bc I Disagree but bc I COMPLETELY AGREE that what works for one person won't be a cure-all for another person and what works one day might not work the next bc people are different not only from one another but from themselves on any given day. I think everyone needs top do what's best for them and stop labeling everyone as this or that or not this or not that and just LIVE. Life's too short to worry about how other ppl perceive us.

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  9. I know it was a few months back, but I want to thank you for writing this article.
    The Popular Science article was actually based on the work I am doing on Reddit and much of the information was pulled from a discussion I held on arousal during sexual assault. To date, it is the largest online discussion of the topic and it led to a number of speaking engagements where I am able to discuss both the phenomenon, the science underlying it and its psychological ramifications for survivors in treatment.

    If you'd like to read it, it's at:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1w4d7m/orgasm_and_arousal_during_rape_or_sexual_assault/

    I help administer a few forums on rape and sexual assault there as well. Drop me a line if you come by.
    Good work!

    All my best!

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    1. Welcome to the blog! I'll check it out, thanks!

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  10. I was raped in the early 90's when I was 18. I have never called it rape before this very post, I always would say I was taken advantage of. I was visiting a friend at her college. We had hung out with her male friends all week at their room. The last night there I was drinking with everyone she wanted to go back to her room and I said I would meet her a little later. I kept drinking. I drank so much I felt sick so I went to the bathroom and splashed my face. When I got back to the room I must have passed out. At one point I came to and one of the guys was having sex with me. I passed out again. I awoke the next morning in the middle of having an orgasm and the other guy having oral sex with me. This time I was able to stay awake and tell him to get off me. I had never had an orgasm before or oral sex. I never felt like a victim because I had a crush on the one guy and wanted to get intimate with him, but not the way it happened. I was also messed up by having my first orgasm as a result of someone violating my body. I don't know if there were more guys or anything else that happened that night. The worst part of it was my friend called me a slut for not coming back to her room and our friendship ended.

    This was night was confusing to me and I blamed myself for years and thought maybe I was a slut. I never really talked about it, because I didn't feel scarred or afraid or men or no longer want to be intimate with future boyfriends. I did have an issue with oral sex for a while and didn't like it for quite some time.

    Lately this night is on my mind and I can't stop thinking about it. I remember the song that was on when I first passed out and I no longer like to listen to that song. I am not a typical victim I don't even like the word victim to describe myself. I am still not even comfortable with calling it rape but by all accounts and changing mentalities it is.

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    1. Aw, I wish I could hug you right now. If you were passed out, no matter how your body reacted or what you would have liked to have happen if you were sober, you did not consent and that is rape. I am so sorry that you had to go through that. :(

      Is there someone you feel comfortable talking to about this?

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  11. A woman can't orgasm if she wasn't stimulate or sexually aroused .Sexual arousal leads to vagina self lubricating leads to oragasm .
    You bloody hell can't climax if your mind says no . Your mind controls your body , your heart says it's so good, and your clit engorged , nipples puff up, you start oozing vaginal fluid . Then you orgasmed .
    No arousal no orgasm.Simple as that .

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    1. That is not even remotely true. There are a significant number of studies out there proving your statements wrong. In fact there was a big one done on male rape victims and how the brain can confuse fear/pain with excitement and cause the body to orgasm.

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    2. Anyone who would post that on a page where victims are talking about their experiences, is just trolling and there is no amount of logic and sense that is going to permeate their sadist brain. But for all the victims, YES you CAN orgasm during rape and it has NOTHING to do with being aroused.

      To the original poster of that disgusting comment, stop looking for excuses as to why the people you are raping aren't really victims and why you aren't really a rapist.

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  12. I appreciate this post so much. You are a brave woman, to survive what you have been through, society's misunderstanding and also to educate the public here. You make great points here!

    I also appreciate you talking about this. A lot of people can start to find freedom and break through the shame by reading this.

    The above comment by anonymous on how women who experienced rape during orgasm "wanted the rape" make me wonder. What would be someone's motivations for saying such a thing ? What kind of person would be motivated to say something like that ? What kind of person would such a statement benefit ? A rapist. Such a statement is specifically targeted to torture victims of rape.

    I have come to believe that many rapists specifically set out to make their victims feel orgasms or sexual pleasure from the beginning (this was the original intent) in order to torture victims. They know that this will confuse, torture endlessly and humiliate victims. They do this because they know that this will make victims feel pain all the more and be blaming themselves. Rapists love that torture. I would actually say that this is the whole point of rape, and why rape is so devastating and powerful. If rapists could not cause victims pleasure during rape, rape would lose its power and rapists would stop raping. Whether they say to the victim in words or not, "You enjoyed it" that is the torturing message of the rape. They know that this is the way to cause the most pain so they specifically set out to do that, to cause victims to feel some pleasure (and I don't think there is ANY rape victim that doesn't feel at least a hint of pleasure, most are just too ashamed to talk about it).

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    1. I agree that for some rapists it is about messing with their minds, but I don't agree that if rapists couldn't pleasure their victims that rape would lose it's power. Rape is about power, and often the victim's actual feelings are insignificant to a rapist.

      When rape with the intention of pleasure comes into play, I tend to think that when a rapist sets out to actually make the victim feel good, it's to make themselves believe that they aren't doing anything wrong. I also think that it helps their feelings of being emasculated when they can "perform like a man and make a woman feel good."

      It's so messed up!

      I would be careful though saying that there aren't any rape victim's that don't feel at least a hint of pleasure, because I can assure you I never did, and if I had, I'd have no problem adding that experience to all the other personal stuff I share on here. It's important that we remember that everyone had their own experience :) There's nothing wrong or bad about having a physical reaction to an action that is designed to arouse you, and there is nothing wrong if you don't.

      *hugs*

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  13. I think it would be interesting to see this topic of orgasm and rape addressed from the perspective of rapists. What do rapists' want ? What do rapists' aim for victims to feel ? How do rapists feel about victims' having orgasms ? Do rapists like that ? Is it fulfilling to them ? Does it benefit them or fit with their purposes ? Why do rapists choose to rape (doing something that has the potential to cause orgasm or other lesser degrees of sexual pleasure) rather than do another type of assault that would be totally painful (and have no potential for pleasure) such as beat someone else up ? Why is rape in particular so attractive to rapists' as a form of torture ? What gives rape it's power ? I mean after all a lot of rape is not physically violent. What makes rape sexually violent ?

    Thank you for sharing this. I think that there needs to be a very frank discussion about rape and orgasm. Many rapists would not rape if rape victims did not have the capacity to feel "pleasure" and orgasm during the rape. They know that if they can make victims feel pleasure those victims will be humiliated. The unwanted "sexual pleasure" is why it is so degrading and violating. The pleasure (and I think all rape victims feel some pleasure even it if is only a tiny amount) is really humiliating and the most torturous or traumatic part of rape. This is the whole entire point of rape to make victims feel this (and feel ashamed to talk about it or confused to talk about it).

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    1. I would be interested to hear this discussion as well. I bet it's out there on the internet somewhere!

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  14. Rapist aim for orgasm so their victims are ashamed

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  15. Many orgasm. Its just the body protecting itself; making lubricant and relaxing so no tearing.

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