IAMA sexual assault therapist discussing when orgasm happens during rape. AMA!
I did an AMA on this a few months ago and have received a number of requests to do it again.
The basic concept of experiencing orgasm during rape is a confusing and difficult one for many people, both survivors and those connected to survivors.
There are people who do not believe it's possible for a woman or man to achieve orgasm during rape or other kinds of violent sexual assault. Some believe having an orgasm under these circumstances means that it wasn't a "real" rape or the woman/man "wanted" it.
I've assisted more young women than I can count with this very issue. It often comes up at some point during therapy and it's extremely embarrassing or shameful to talk about. However once it's out in the open, the survivor can look at her/his reaction honestly and begin to heal. The shame and guilt around it is a large part of why some rapes go unreported and why there is a need for better understanding in society for how and why this occurs.
There have been very few studies on orgasm during rape, but anecdotal reports and research show numbers from 5% to over 50% having this experience. In my experience as a therapist, it has been somewhat less than half of the girls/women I've worked with having some level of sexual response. (For the record, I have worked with very few boys/men who reported this.)
In professional discussions, colleagues report similar numbers. Therapists don't usually talk about this publicly as they fear contributing to the myth of victims "enjoying rape." It's also a reason why there isn't more research done on this and similar topics. My belief is that as difficult a topic as this is, if we can address it directly and remove the shame and stigma, then a lot more healing can happen. I'm hopeful that the Reddit community is open to learning and discussing topics like this.
I was taken to task in my original discussion for not emphasizing that this happens for boys and men as well. I referenced that above but am doing it again here to make this point clear.
I was verified previously, but I'll include the documentation again here. (removed for protection of the poster)
This is an open discussion and I'm happy to answer any questions. Don't be afraid if you think it may be offensive as I'd rather have a frank talk than leave people with false ideas. AMA!
Edit: 3:30pm Questions/comments are coming in MUCH faster than I thought. A lot faster than the other time I did this topic. I'm answering as fast as I can; bear with me!
Edit2: 8:30pm Thank you everyone for all your questions and comments!! This went WAY past what I thought it would be (8 hours, whew!). I need to take a break (and eat!) but I'll check back on before going to sleep and try to respond to more questions.
Edit3: 10:50pm Okay, I'm back and it looks like you all carried on fine without me. I'll try to answer as many first-order (main thread, no deviations that I have to search for) questions as I can before I fall asleep at the keyboard. And Front Page! Wow! Thank you all. And really I mean Thank You for caring enough about this topic to bring it to the front. It's most important to me to get this info out to you.
Edit4: 2:30am Stayed up way later than I meant to. It kept being just one more question that I felt needed to be answered. Thank you all again for your thoughtful and informative questions. Even the ones that seemed off-putting at first, I think resulted in some good discussion. Good night! I'll try to answer a few more in the days to come. And I have seen your pm's and will get to those as well. Please don't think I am ignoring you.
Edit5: I was on for a few hours today trying to answer any remaining questions. Over 2000 questions and comments is a LOT to go through, lol! I am working my way through the pm's you've all sent, but I am back to work tomorrow. I have over 4 pages, so please be patient. I promise to get to everyone!
And not a huge Douglas Adams fan, but I just saw that the comments are exactly at 4242!
I'm sorry it took me so long to get to this. There's a lot of questions and I'm answering in order, then refreshing and going back again.
I am very sorry for your gf. It's sadly very common and I've heard this story more times than I wish. Yes, it would be SO good for her to read similar accounts, to see that it's not unusual and to have some therapy so she doesn't have to feel ashamed and dirty about what her father did. You're a great man to want to help her deal with this.
There are many of us who are "functional" who you would never know had this history. We learn to keep it inside, that people don't want to know or hear about this, that it makes others uncomfortable. This is one reason why I think this AMA is so necessary!
I'm a fan of direct communication, even when it's hard. I would have you do something along the lines of, "I remember what you told me and I want to help." Then show her this AMA and tell her you love her and leave the room. She'll either read it and have some thoughts of her own or she won't. If she's not ready, she's not and that's ok.
But it's usually a lot easier to be introduced to this with as much freedom to take it or leave it as possible. It's why sites like RAINN, Pandy's and ScarletTeen are so popular (and good! seriously, check them out).
You loving her and being ready when she is is the most important thing you can do.
So... my question is... how should I approach her and tell her that there's an AMA on this?
I'm not a therapist, but I believe I can help out by listing some ways NOT to approach her about it. For example, dressing up in a raptor costume and then covering yourself in Miracle Whip and chasing her into a corner will, most likely, not work out.
If you want more ideas, just PM me. Hope this helps.
Not sure why you're being downvoted. I completely agree with your ideas.
Think about being tickled. Some people hate it. Those people may be laughing when being tickled, but it is a deeply unpleasant experience for them. The body has certain automatic responses to certain physical stimuli. We laugh when we are tickled. It doesn't mean it is a nice experience, or that laughing indicates wanting it. It's just a thing the body does.
Yes, I use this analogy a lot with children. It helps them to re-think what happened to them.
I'm really glad you found this. Please let me know if you have any specific questions. I want you to feel good about yourself and enjoy all parts of your life (including the fun, sexy ones).
Definitely yes. It isn't so much due to having the physical response, but more to do with the feelings of shame and guilt around it.
I spend more time talking through their experience of what happened and correcting their negative thoughts about it. That they "liked" what happened, that it wasn't really rape because a part of them felt good during it, etc.
When talking to many of the women I have come to "know" over time, a good portion of them always tended to gravitate towards the idea of "rape" as one of their favorite sexual fetishes. Do these types of women fit into your studies some how?
Rape roleplay and forced sex are very common fantasies women have, it's true. But it's separate from the idea of really being raped. In one, the woman has total control over the fantasy or roleplay and can decide how she wants it to go. The whole idea of rape is to take power and control away from the victim and force them to experience something against their will.
So, in a way rape CAN lead to a desire to somehow "redo" what happened as a way of retaking control. It is one of the after effects I've seen, and it is more common in women who had a sexual response during.
Does playing out these fantasies help/hurt/not affect their recovery? It seems to me like it would do nothing but bring back memories but I guess that could be said about most sexual acts after a rape.
This is a HUGE It Depends answer. Under the right circumstances, IF the woman knows what she is doing and why and IF the man understands the purpose of it, then it CAN be healing. I hope that's enough qualifiers.
It can also be very damaging and reinforce the intertwining of sexual response with fear and pain.
There was a great article a reporter wrote on this concept from her personal experience. I'll see if I can find it.
"I'm Gonna Need You To Fight Me On This: How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD" by Mac McClelland
Yes, thank you! That was the article I was thinking of. Nice work!
I dated a girl briefly who claimed to have been raped numerous times when she was 13, (I didn't find out until a few months in) and she constantly wanted me to pretend to rape her, honestly it made me horrifically uncomfortable, I never did anything of the sort, whenever we slept together I just tried not to think about it and tried my best to make her feel good without hurting her. I confided in a close friend about it who understands, and he said exactly what you said, but it wasn't the same for her. Truth be told, it was horrible, and I hated it. It was 2 years ago and I still haven't quite gotten over it.
It wasn't until I found a partner willing to force me to have sex....with my consent, in advance...
That I was finally able to face and conquer all the emotions my attackers had given me. Medicine couldn't do it. Therapy couldn't do it. I needed to go someplace that wasn't safe, and I needed someone I could trust to be with me...
It saved my life. I'm not exaggerating.
I understand that it's a lot to ask of anyone, but please try to understand that rape play is a world apart from actual rape.
Yes, yes and yes! Thank you for putting your experience up here. Would you consider doing your own AMA? I think people could learn a lot from it.
I've had somewhat of a similar experience myself. Dated 2 girls who later confided in me that they had been raped (both a year or two within meeting them) and both girls were much more willing sexually. Willing to push the barrier further into territory I wasn't comfortable with considering what happened to them. I always thought of it as a coping mechanism but they both had never really recovered mentally from their attacks. Physically they also turned out to be some of the most promiscuous girls I know. They weren't like that before being raped.
I recently learned in my psychology class that a very common response to rape is becoming extremely promiscuous. It opened my eyes in a huge way because I did just that after being raped. I always thought I was just a slut until I learned that I had truly been raped. And learning that promiscuity is a common response to rape helped me heal.
I am really glad for you that you had that class when you did!
So many women stick with this idea that their rape ruined them or made them into "sluts" when really it was a totally normal response.
This is why I love having these talks.
I mentioned this before, but this isn't an unusual outcome of rape. It's not common; I don't mean to say that. But I've worked with many women who want to pursue riskier and more "dangerous" kinds of themes in sex after being raped.
Have you ever heard of a male convicted of rape who said that he thought the woman just wanted him to play out a fantasy of hers, and didn't really mean to take advantage of her against her will? If so, what do you think about this? Do you think rape fantasies should be contained, and not really acted out so that these issues do not become clouded?
I somewhat doubt that this is a common occurrence.
I also doubt this, but as he said, forced sex is a more common fantasy. I'm sure there has been cases where a man has accidentally raped a female because he thought he was playing out a fantasy. I'm not drawing any responsibility away from the male, but I was just wondering how often this really happened and how much it clouds things
Yes, there was a fairly well known case just a couple years ago.
I think it took place in Wisconsin. A man responded to an ad that was placed by a woman asking for a rough sexual encounter. It turned out it was really placed by someone else, an ex-bf maybe? He was sentenced to life in prison I think.
Anyone know about this case? I think it was on Craigslist because they got into trouble over it too as I recall.
You asked what I thought. I had very mixed feelings about this case. He did rape her, but it also seemed he had good reason to think she was the one who placed the ad. It was a difficult case.
Do I think rape fantasies should be contained? I don't think my opinion matters one way or the other. I don't think there is anything wrong with healthy fantasy between two partners. But I also know some women and men harm themselves playing out certain things without really understanding why they are.
- What is your opinion on the movement to reclassify rape from a "sex crime" to "violent crime"?
- How would this affect the public's perception of rape?
- Would this help the stigma associated with rape and how it often goes unreported?
I only know a little bit about this movement. I deal with the legal arena sometimes but not directly involved. My opinion is that changing it from "sex" to "violent" crime is a step in the right direction, but I wouldn't want to lose the connection that rape is a crime of power THROUGH sex. I do think that making it a violent crime, if that were common knowledge, would help a lot of survivors report more.
If reclassifying is a step in the right direction, what would be the step before/after that?
Education is the step before. Again, my opinion. But the more people are educated about what rape really is, I think the less it will occur and the more survivors will be able to recover from it faster. After? Not sure. I suppose education about the change in legal status.
OK, first off I have made a new account just to ask this question, because of the enormous hostility that even talking about this subject raises.
Is rape about power, or is it about sex? There appears to be a lot of research that I came across summarized in Steven Pinker's book 'The Blank Slate' which suggests rape is about men being primarily motivated by the thought of obtaining sex.
Meanwhile, the feminist movement seems to insist that rape is a crime motivated primarily by the need to violently assault women, perhaps because those men fear women's power.
I'm not asking you to come down one side or the other and neither am I for a second suggesting that either explanation minimizes the crime, but is it not important to try to genuinely understand the causes of rape? For one thing, understanding the motivation for crimes allows us to minimize their occurrence in the future.
It disturbs me that some feminists seem so anti-science in this regard. They have a feminist explanation for rape and refuse to consider other hypotheses.
Finally, just to treble underline my stance before quitting this account for good- Understanding behavior is not the same as excusing behavior. In no way am I excusing rapists or apologizing for them.
Edit: I should have been more careful to say that not all feminists take this stance. I'm not attacking feminism in general.
You're fine. No offense taken. I made this thread to talk about all this stuff.
I consider myself a feminist, but don't always align with feminist thought.
I consider rape to be a crime of power THROUGH sex. It's a way for someone to show dominance over another person in a very specific way. This is why it's different than stealing, bank robbery, car theft, fraud or other types of crimes that people want to compare it to.
If I had to compare it to anything, it's a sexualized version of how bullies will force a weaker kid to do something like eat grass or humiliate themselves in some way. Only in rape there is the added sexual component.
I don't know that I consider feminists to be anti-science, but there is a lot left out in many of those discussions, I agree.
Thanks for the break!
Therapists don't usually talk about this publicly as they fear contributing to the idea of victims "enjoying rape." It's also a reason why there isn't more research done on this and similar topics.
Along with that, do you think people avoid talking about "orgasm during rape" because it can potentially become a horrible ploy by the defense team? Especially in a very gray case, if the jury hears the victim had an orgasm and therefore, "enjoyed it", it could potentially swing in the defendant's favor.
Yes and also yes.
I've seen defenses employ this. It's why I'm very clear with clients when discussing this about the VERY small possibility that my notes could get subpoenaed and I could be called to testify on stand. Thankfully, this has never happened to me and I am careful how I document my notes.
I hope this doesn't come off wrong - rape is rape, I know that. But I'm a little confused - you said that you "talk more about the idea of physically responding or "feeling good" during the assault. So when I say orgasm I'm including pre-orgasmic feelings as well." So you are saying that there are women who are raped that experience physical pleasure leading up to an orgasm? Is this seen in woman who are, say, attacked while jogging or is this exclusive to women who are raped when a guy takes things further than she wants?
Okay, now we're getting into this. This is a difficult one. And no bad questions here, so thank you for asking.
We don't really know the difference in responses between intimate partner encounters (aka date rape) and stranger rape. There's thought that stranger rape might result in more orgasmic episodes because of what I call the "disengagement factor." I've had clients talk about this as "being caught off-guard." With an intimate partner, there's a disbelief that someone who cares about me would do this, so a greater chance of NOT having sexual feeling during it. But the range is so wide, it's really hard to know. First date versus 15th date. Total stranger versus guy you met at a party and talked for a few hours with...
In order for orgasm to occur, there is a normal build-up that has to happen. Lubrication, increasing sensation, stimulation and finally release. The pattern is the same regardless of HOW the orgasm occurs. So, yes, in rape there is a sense of physical pleasure leading up to the orgasm, but I don't think most survivors would describe it in that way. It's confusing and complicated, I know. Which is why people who do what I do would like to see a lot more research done.
I know it probably sounds awful, but, Are there often any cases of some form of "rape Stockholm Syndrome" after orgasm where the victim feels the need to find the rapist after the incident due to developed feelings? Thanks so much for this AMA it's been very informative.
Thank you (and everyone else!) for sticking with it. I did not expect this big a response and it's taking awhile for me to give thoughtful answers.
Kind of yes, is my answer. Not where they've had a need to find their rapist, but there has been experiences where there was a bonding that occurred. This is usually in extended rape-over-time situations where there was a kidnapping involved or a child molestation.
Much more so in child molestation cases than with adults.
In that one episode of the A-Team they drove the van through the base of this watch tower. The tower fell over and they guys drove off. Now I know the guys in the tower were bad guys, but it seems like a callous disregard for human life. What I am driving at is, what happened to the guys in the tower?
I agree it was cruel of the team to just drive off without checking to see if they were at least ok, but this was par for the course of a lot of what they did. Fortunately, in this case, the guys in the tower knew how to roll with the fall so they suffered minimal injury. (Happy?)
Thank you! I've been concerned for years.
She did say 'Ask Me Anything'...
What do you think having an orgasm during rape means?
It's really pretty simple. It means that the woman was stimulated enough that her sexual organs responded. To put it bluntly, the vagina and clitoris had enough friction to arouse and trigger the orgasmic response.
Did you mean beyond that?
Never having had a female orgasm, I'd have assumed that part of the response was psychological, and that the lack of relaxation and comfort involved in rape would make it very difficult to achieve. Clearly, this is wrong, but for what reason? Is the level of relaxation and comfort really irrelevant to an orgasm or is what is happening in the brain during rape enabling an orgasm in some other way?
EDIT: Fucking downvotes for admitting ignorance and asking reasonable questions.
EDIT2: Ugh. Sorry. I made that edit when I was like 1-6 and feeling a little hurt. Still pathetic, I grant you.
You all are asking really good questions! There is a lot of debate about the idea of having to be relaxed for the body to experience orgasm. This is why so many people think that orgasm during rape is impossible and that it must mean the girl/woman enjoyed it.
The fact is an orgasm or any sexual arousal is primarily physical. It is totally possible to have an orgasm without being into it or wanting to. That said, there IS an emotional piece to it which is why sex can bring people closer. But think of your typical one-night stands or casual sex. You can enjoy sex and get off on it without it having that close emotional impact. I suppose rape can be seen as many steps removed from that idea. It's a total physical stimulation without the emotional desire.
Does that answer your question?
As a woman who's never been raped, I'll just say that women are very different from person to person or even from day to day when it comes to orgasming. Some women can get off on just stimulation alone, while some need to get into the psychological aspect of it. Sometimes it depends where you are in your menstrual cycle (eg easier to get off while ovulating). Some women have really sensitive clitorises and/or g-spots, and if stimulated a certain way they will always get off. So, I can imagine that for many (but maybe not all) female rape victims, it really just was that they were being stimulated the "right" way.
Yep, very good point. Hard to have a general discussion without going into the "every person is different" concept.
Some people have suggested that women are attracted to dominant men.
For example if you look at the work of David M. Buss, and specifically his book The Evolution Of Desire, he talks about women being unconsciously attracted to dominant men.
Further, rape fantasies seem to be somewhat common among women.
So my question is; have you considered that rape can be psychologically (and involuntarily) arousing for the victim?
And to be clear I'm not saying that the victim wants or enjoys the rape. Just that the victim could become involuntarily aroused by being dominated and raped.
After all, as a man I have very little control over what arouses me. Some things that arouse me I also happen to find repulsive (ex. Kardashian, Paris Hilton).
Well, again this is a hard place to go without reinforcing some ideas I'm trying to get away from. But, yes, there seems to be this aspect for the girls/women who report a physical response during. Don't know if I want to go much farther with that idea here.
I would think this would seriously/conflict mess with a woman's concept of victimhood in a rape. Do they normally feel guilty if they orgasmed during what is a violent act? Do they think it diminishes the illegality of the rape, or the culpability of the offender, or (oddly enough) do some of them find themselves harboring secret desires for it to repeat itself, as awful as it likely was and as more awful as the next one likely would be? I would think some serious therapy above and beyond the "normal" rape therapy would be in order.
You are right in pretty much everything you said. I use a lot of what's called cognitive-behavioral work with survivors. Helping them to break down and examine their thoughts and feelings in detail so they can see where they are holding "false beliefs" about what happened. When orgasm is part of what happened, it often takes a lot longer to talk about. Even admitting that it happened is usually VERY difficult. I've had several clients where I thought we were close to finishing therapy and then they began to open up about this part, and it was back to the beginning.
Guilt is a common response and, yes, a lot of women believe that feeling pleasure during it means it wasn't really rape and that they shouldn't report it.
Your last point is always difficult to discuss, but I do want to have an open talk here. So, yes, there are girls and women who ingrain their experience at a very deep level, combining sexual feelings with their response during the rape. This can lead to a desire to re-experience rape-like situations or have significant others help them play this out. In actually can be very healing when done right.
There is a fairly common fantasy for women in being controlled and dominated in a rape-like way during sex, but I want to be clear that these are two different things.
There was a post on Reddit about a woman doing something like this. If I can find it, maybe I'll link it here.
This can lead to a desire to re-experience rape-like situations or have significant others help them play this out. In actually can be very healing when done right.
I imagine it would be very difficult for the SO of a rape victim to engage in this kind of roleplaying. The SO would be playing out the character of someone they probably despise for traumatizing their loved one (and forcibly violating the couple's monogamy). Because of this I'm wondering if couples' counseling is a big part of the process.
Yes! Good point. Secondary trauma with a SO is common as well. I have recommended for a spouse or boyfriend to get their own counseling. I've also invited them into my clients therapy when she feels ready or needs to address certain parts of what happened (liking having an orgasm during.)
Do you generally mention in your first session with a victim that some victims experience pleasure and/or orgasms and that this is normal?
I do a lot of what's called psycho-education about rape, what it is, normal responses and feelings, including guilt and shame. I let the client take it from there. It's not something I want to bring up right away. Here's why: the more shame or guilt I unintentionally trigger early on, the more likely my client is NOT to come back. It was already hard enough for them to walk into my office. I want to ensure they stay to work through what happened.
If I pick up that something like this did happen, then I'll gently introduce the idea and let them tell me.
Good question! I have no idea. Actually that's not true. We know the ability to orgasm and respond to sexual pleasure occurs from very early childhood. Children, even infants, are capable of self-stimulating and feeling what we would think of as sexual pleasure.
In working with molested children, I've seen the same thing occur, that they "felt good" during it and felt very ashamed because of that. A lot of these children had not masturbated or sexually stimulated themselves before, so they had no idea what was happening to them. Only that it was a mixture of scary and feeling good.
I would think the same is true for girls and women who are older, whether or not they have experienced orgasm before.
Vague answer maybe? Best I can do with what we know now.
It does happen. It's very painful and difficult. Especially if they were in a relationship when it happened. The "I got off on my rape but not with my boyfriend/husband" situation really messes with the survivor a lot.
I've seen two extremes. One, the woman closes in on herself and has difficulty pursuing sexual relations again, at least for a while. Two, she goes the other direction and seeks out a lot of sexual experiences, sometimes attempting to duplicate what happened. This is more rare.
The more typical response is somewhere between those two.
Although, I have to be honest that there is a lot that isn't known and since women have such a difficult time talking about this, it's hard to say if that 2nd extreme doesn't happen more than we know. There's some evidence in that direction.
Why are the percentage of women who have orgasms during rape so high when IIRC the percentage of women who have orgasms during consensual sex not that high? Or I just looking at everything wrong?
Umm, I'm not even going to address the other reply you got, which sounds like total BS. If you read what OP said in another response:
in treatment we talk more about the idea of physically responding or "feeling good" during the assault. So when I say orgasm I'm including pre-orgasmic feelings as well.
So their number is including any kind of pleasure during the rape, not necessarily the actual achievement of orgasm.
Consensual sex is reported in the 60-70% range and may be higher than that. Compared to what I'm talking about (10-50%), that's a lot higher.
Do you ever run into cases where the victim is, for whatever reason, not that traumatized by the crime, But still told that they should feel more violated than they do? How do you deal with that in therapy? Does the orgasm/no orgasm ever come into play in this case?
I dont want to downplay the fact that this crime is usually VERY traumatic, but I can imagine certain dispositions where rape is not felt as devastating or life shattering. And yet, sometimes in our quest for justice, we insist that the woman perceive the crime as the ultimate loss and devastation and that society is justified in perceiving that the victim is now irreparably damaged, impure, or corrupted, revictimizing the victim. This is admittedly getting a little out there, but I'm trying to separate a need for justice and punishment from the harm that was actually imparted on the victim. Seems like the physical response,during the act could complicate this disambiguation...
You're hitting on the idea that "rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman short of murder" idea. It's not. And the more we as a society reinforce this idea, the worse it is for survivors. Not that it isn't horribly traumatic. It is...for those for who it is. If you get my meaning.
It isn't for everyone. And, yes, I've had clients who have gotten very angry at the idea that they should feel more ruined than they do. Or been made to feel that way. It's a delicate balance though as there are those who deny how badly they were affected. My job is to help sift through all the competing thoughts, ideas, biases, feelings and get the person to accept what THEY really think and feel.
And for some, it just wasn't that big a deal. They equate it to being robbed and are able to let it go without accepting any fault or blame. I've seen this more with girls who were taught that rape and sexual assault is NOT the fault of the victim. This is why this kind of education is more important.
Also seen this more with girls who did not orgasm during their assault. That adds another layer of difficulty in making sense of it.
I see most questions are about female sexual response. I help care for a 12 year old boy that was raped by his father starting at age 4. Last summer his was raped again by a 16 year old neighbor.
He asked me two questions that I have a hard time answering for him. Why did it feel good if it was wrong? And why did it happen to him again?
I've tried to explain that it feeling good was just a physical response even though he was scared and hurt, but it doesn't seem enough. And I have no idea how to answer his second question.
Is he in therapy? If not, he needs to be. With someone who can help him work through those feelings and answer his own questions. Which leads to my answer which is: it is FAR more important that a survivor figure out answers for themselves than for someone to tell them. I think you're answer was good and went as far as it could.
We feel good during sexual assaults because our bodies respond when touched in certain ways. I use the analogy of someone gently caressing our arms. For most people, this will create goosebumps, whether you wanted to or not. If you tied a person down and gently caressed their arms, they would still get goosebumps from the touch. There's not a fault, a right or wrong there, it just is.
Why it happened again is a more difficult question because it leads into areas I'm not very comfortable going into detail in online. Short answer is that for SOME survivors, the way they learn to deal with the assault is to turn off some parts of their brain, the parts that make you alert/aware of danger. This makes them more vulnerable to future assaults. I won't try to make sense of it here, but just know it's true.
This is part of why rape survivors have a higher likelihood of being raped again that those who weren't raped. This is without treatment.
I can direct you to some good material that might help you support him. Courage to Heal is an older book for sexual assault survivors and still one of the best in the field. It covers what you're asking about. Other places to go are RAINN and Pandy's. They both have sections for supporters of those who have been abused.
As a survivor of rape, I want to thank you so much for doing this AMA. There is so much education about sex and rape that needs to be put out there, and you're doing a lot of good by spreading it.
Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.
In regards to boys and men being raped, what would you say to the argument that a male wasn't "really raped" when he was forced to penetrate another person because "he had an erection and must have been at least a little willing" or something similar?
I'd say that's bogus.
Claiming that having an orgasm during rape means that the victim wanted it is like saying that if you laugh while being tickled by a stranger it means you wanted them to do it. We can't control our bodies THAT well. "I'm not going to orgasm just so he knows how much I disapprove of being raped."
Yes, well said.
I actually feel sick writing this as I have never ever told anyone that when I was molested as a child it did feel physcially good. I still feel an incredible amount of guilt aboit that and for many years growing up I felt that because it felt nice I somehow deserved or was equally at fault for what happened. Thankyou thankyou thankyou for doing this AMA as I would never ever have realised this was something that other people felt. This is the first time an AMA has brought me to tears. I wish I could hug you OP
I have tears while reading this. I am so happy I could do something that connected with you so strongly.
Please consider talking with someone like me in therapy or, if you don't quite feel ready for that, calling a sexual assault hotline and talking to someone there. RAINN and Pandys.org are also good supports.
Please pm me if there is more I can do for you.
I'm Cyber-Hugging you!!!
Alright time to break out my first throwaway. First I'm really happy you are doing this AMA because I have some questions, and would love your insight.
As a child I was molested by a close family member. It was all very confusing and hard to understand as a child. At first it was showing me his member, I remember closing my eyes and hoping he would leave. After he went down on me, I immediately told someone (I mean right after it happened). I knew it was wrong and I knew it was just going to get worse if I didn't say something. I remember going to talk with someone about it, and had to point on a photo of where I was touched and with what part. I pointed to the crotch of the dummy, and the mouth.
I was so embarrased and ashamed of myself. I had an orgasm and that's what confused me most. I didn't know what it was and I felt disgusted with myself. I spent many years repressing the thoughts of it and when my parents asked me if I remembered 'an event long ago' I pretended not to know what they were talking about. I thought it would bring them pain to know that they failed to protect me as parents. (Years later I did end up telling my mother that I remembered what happened).
I don't recall the age I was, or other events that may have occurred although I do believe that was the only time touching was involved. I spent a huge part of my childhood trying not to think about what happened and really black out the memories.
As I got older, and started getting sexual with boyfriends, I knew I had to face my fears and really come to terms with what happened. I've spent the past few years telling that little girl in me that it wasn't her fault for what happened.
Now that I'm older (24) I have a hard time masturbating without afterwards feeling guilty that I had an orgasm. I also have a hard time allowing my partner to go down on me (it usually never happens). I also suffer from really bad anxiety (in general), and panic attacks (I'm not sure if it's related to being molested).
Every guy I've been intimate with knows what happened to me, and I think it's good to be open and talk about it for me to heal.
Mostly I just want to know if you have any advice on how to get over the shame and guilt I feel when I orgasm.
TL;DR was molested as a child, experienced an orgasm, repressed the event and now feel guilt when I orgasm (years later)
I'm so sorry you have to deal with this.
My best suggestion is to find a therapist. Someone you can open up to fully about what happened and how you responded...honestly. The key to getting past this is to FULLY accept that what happened was done TO you. The shame and guilt you have is all of those societal messages about what it means to cum and those being spliced together like string with what was done to you. You CAN separate those out, but you need support to do it because it means going back to that time and working through it.
A really good type of therapy for dealing with this is called TFCBT: Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Find a therapist trained in this. There are a number of good therapies like this, but that was has a lot of good research behind it.
Sorry for re-posting, but I wanted to make sure my comment went through...
I'm a 26 year old male, who has a couple of experiences that have been hard for me to get over, but I would love to have a professional's opinion. When I was a small child, I remember my my mom kissing me all over my body then I pointed to my "weiney," which she then kissed. That was a really awkward moment because I liked it and asked her to do it again, she asked why then didn't... but still, that memory had been burned into my brain and has been very awkward to deal with. ... anytime I receive oral pleasure from a partner, that memory pops up and it's incredibly off-putting. How do I get through this loop??!
Also, when I was 20, my older male homosexual boss invited me over to have a tour of his house. When we got to the last room, he stood there... then, ... I took off my shirt. I have no idea what prompted me to do this. He did not ask for this, but there was a tense quiet moment, so for whatever reason that's what I did. I had a beautiful girlfriend at the time. He then pushed me on the bed and proceeded to put my penis in his mouth... but I purposefully did not come. I zoned out, trying my best to ignore what was happening. After he jerked himself off to orgasm, I got dressed and left.
Was this rape? I always felt terrible because felt I initiated it, even though this was NOT something I was okay with.
I am straight (and know this because I have consensually experimented previously, and did not like the result).
Also, my father committed suicide when I was 15. and I am not sure if I was trying to get a male father-like figure to love me or something.
I feel incredibly fucked up sexually and have not been able to maintain a relationship for over a year since that time.
Thanks for your help...
I'm sorry, but I have to agree with harsh2k5. This is way more than I can be helpful on on a website. I strongly encourage you to seek out therapy and talk about these experiences openly. If you have a hard time talking about it, just print up what you wrote and bring it with you.
I would have to ask you so many questions and get a lot more info for me to be helpful in this context.
What would you say is a more significant side effect of a woman having an orgasm while being raped in comparison to one who did not have an orgasm?
Also, what does this research hope to find out about this, and how will it help in terms of future therapy for victims of these crimes?
The most painful and significant effect is the feeling of self-doubt around what happened. Some women try to classify what happened as not rape because of the idea that orgasms are something that only happens between people when they are enjoying the experience. When the reaction is very intense, it can make the woman question her experience.
I'm not a researcher, so don't know if I can answer this really well, but the more we know about the cause of orgasms during sexual assault, the more information we have to work with survivors. To help educate them about their experience. For example, we know now that having an orgasm does not equal enjoying the experience. When a survivor tries to separate the assault from how part of them felt during it, we can use this knowledge to help them understand what happened to them.
I'd think that they would feel more violated because of the fullness of the physical/emotional response that was forced upon them. An orgasm has an emotional component to it, and I would think that reaching orgasm reaches deeper into a person's being. I can imagine that they feel in a way "engaged" as a participant resulting in greater guilt.
Very well put. I'm not sure how much psychology to go into here as I want everyone to really get what I'm talking about. But a big yes to what you said. Orgasm and really any sexual response during rape or molestation can make the person feel like they were "involved" in it. This can create a huge twist in someone's sexual "psyche" that can make them feel connected to the perpetrator.
This comes up in a lot of child molestation work where, just as an example, the girl will feel like she's betraying her father for admitting what happened. This happens more in cases where the child had sexual responses and feelings during the molestation.
Several years ago I dated a woman that had not only orgasmed when she was raped but also became from pregnant from it. She was an awesome mom and didn't resent her daughter at all despite the father being someone she knew and her resembling him. She explained it to me as she felt that her body had betrayed her in a violent moment that she wishes she could forget.
Having sex with her was probably the hardest part of the relationship. It would always get up to the point of orgasm for her and she'd have to stop because it would bring back memories of her assault and completely kill her arousal. It made her feel very guilty and it kind of contributed toward my inadequacy issues (reasons behind that have nothing to do with her). There was one point where we tried to go past that point but couldn't and she got so upset that she had to lock herself in my bathroom for a bit. I eventually broke up with her for reasons unrelated to that or her daughter but I always felt kind of guilty about it because it's hard to dispel that accusation.
She'd never seen a therapist about any of it nor pressed charges but I talked to her a few years ago and she had been seeing a counselor. We're out of touch now (and I've been unable to track her down) but I've always been curious to see how she's doing. I'd really like to see treatment for this kind of ordeal more public-facing because it can hinder or even cripple future relationships for a victim and getting the proper therapy to patients is the best thing they need.
Kudos to you and I hope to see progress on this issue being made more public without victim blaming bullshit like "they enjoyed it because they orgasmed."
Thanks for adding your story!
You mention that you have male clients as well as female. What sort of percentages of each do you treat? Also what is usually the average age of a male client?
I apologize if the question seems a little weird, when I think of rape it usually never occurs to me that men are victims too.
Men can absolutely be victims. It's a common misconception that men can't be raped.
Percentage? 90% female, 10% male? or thereabouts. I deal with teens and young adults mostly. So 17-20ish.
You are a hero, honestly. Thank you :)
First time using a throwaway... Using one this time for obvious reasons.
My dad molested me from 4-7. It all started when I found penthouse magazines in his bathroom. I would look at them all the time, a couple times a week sometimes. He somehow figured out what I was doing, and one day showed me the magazines to read with me. Then started masturbating in front of me, then etc. etc. For the longest time I always believed it was my fault, for looking at something that didn't belong to me and then letting it happen. My brother had witnessed him doing things and when I tried asking about them more recently, he told me I brought it on myself. Which devastated me even more, since he had become a father figure to me. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is, people like you are the reason I am alive today. Thank you.
Thank you for being willing to share your story here!
Thank you for what you said about me. It's very appreciated, but I'll be totally honest here; I genuinely believe that it's the people I work with who are brave enough to walk into a stranger's office and spill their most terrible secrets who are the heroes.
I am sometimes overcome with the courage I know it takes for someone to reveal to another person what happened and what they felt like going through it.
You are very welcome and thank YOU for making what I do so worthwhile.
I was raped by a care taker from ages 11-14. He told me he was teaching me how boys would treat me in high school...that i needed to just get used to it. Years later I'm in a good relationship but I cant have an orgasm without thinking about how I was taught to have them and in turn my abuser.
have you heard of other women who experience something similar? I feel so weird.
You're not weird at all. You were molested and your experience is not unusual.
Yes, when I've worked with adults molested as children, this issue sometimes comes up. On a site like this, I can't really do therapy but my simple answer is: if it's working for you, good for you. If it's causing you discomfort and emotional pain, best to talk to someone about it in more detail.
I was abused by my 'babysitter'. (my mom worked after school till late and didn't want me alone after school.)
We would have sex/do sexual things every weekday after school, and sometimes more when my mom worked weekends (being a nurse, it was often). That stuff happened and I was "OK" with it, I was having sex with a pretty woman as a pre/teenager. She would buy me things and stuff just to keep me happy and loyal, too.
Then we moved to another house closer to the school and it stopped for a while. And I realized she was using me for sex and how wrong it was. (it really took a long time to figure that out).
So I stopped it for years, she would always rub up against me and stuff in order to get me to have sex and I would refuse. I wasn't her toy anymore, dammit!
She eventually got sick of this and drugged me when my mom was at work. I had sex with her hundreds of times and it was never an issue, but as I was edging closer to having an orgasm, I just felt like absolute and complete rubbish. Then it happened..all the times where I started to feel good about myself just vanished from memory as she kept going and going.
I used to love Thanksgiving, it was my favorite holiday. Not anymore.
I'm sorry she abused you this way. You deserved a loving caretaker, not someone to use you like this.
Thank you for sharing your story here.
How do you handle orgasm being sort of a vague umbrella term that can mean several different things to different people?
Is there any one experience that you consider to be an "orgasm"?
Well, in treatment we talk more about the idea of physically responding or "feeling good" during the assault. So when I say orgasm I'm including pre-orgasmic feelings as well.
An orgasm though is the full sensation of muscular spasms combined with the lightheadness or "euphoric" feeling that go with them. This can range from mild to very strong, just as in sexual stimulation.
Have you helped people whom have been assaulted by a member of the same gender? And if so, were these victims harder to treat than a victim who was assaulted by a member of the opposite sex?
Good question. When someone is assaulted by the gender they're not attracted to (sorry if this is wordy but trying to get across the idea), it can be better. There's probably a better way to phrase that, but hopefully my meaning is clear.
There is questioning if they are gay because of this (OR really straight if they are gay), but mostly a LOT more anger about it. In a way, it can be easier to work through as the person is more clear that this is something they didn't want, that they didn't "put out signals" and that their gender identity was violated.
In other words, if someone who is straight is assaulted by their own gender OR if someone who is gay is assaulted by the other gender, it can be easier for them to cope with as they were clear about where their attraction lies.
Hope that makes sense.
I thought it was very difficult to orgasm from penetration alone. Clitoral stimulation is usually required. How are ~50% of women getting orgasms from rape through penetration? It seems like the 10% number seems more accurate.
I'm not going to go with one number or another. That's a really wide range from several studies. And the general belief in my field is that it's really underreported, probably more so than rape itself, due to the shame around it. Personally, I'd probably go with around a 20% number.
There's some thought that since the "choice" was taken away from the woman, that her body is on a kind of sensory response and overload. That being disengaged in a way will trigger the orgasmic response.
I don't know how much time you spend on Reddit, but any time rape comes up, it is very popular for the comments section to devolve into assertions that women falsely accuse men of rape all the time, that people who accuse someone of rape who is then found not guilty should be punished, that "she probably just regretted it afterward", that people who are black out drunk can still consent, etc. Can you speak to these sorts of comments, why they are harmful, and maybe what better ways to respond to stories about rape might be?
Edit: also, what is your opinion on trigger warnings?
I really didn't open this topic to head down that road. And I don't know if my experience and knowledge will support the direction you hope I'd go in.
I will say that when a girl/woman accuses a man of rape and goes to the efforts of filing charges and seeking treatment, I have never seen one that I thought was false. It's a cruel accusation to make when someone who is hurt is trying to make sense of her life.
My general take is that legal charges and the need for support are two different things. There is no harm in taking someone at face value and giving SUPPORT, love and encouragement when someone says they are in pain. This doesn't mean you have to agree that what happened to them is how YOU would define what happened to them.
I hope that's not too nuanced for people to understand.
Does orgasming during rape just end up wrecking orgasms for the victim?
Yes, it can. Imagine the best feeling you can have being mixed up with being forced to eat a bowlful of shit (sorry for the imagery!). It would probably take some time for you to be able to separate those two things apart.
Do you think that female orgasm during rape could be a product of evolution? I could be wrong, but I always imagined that the further back we trace our species, the less "civilized" our approach to sex, meaning that sex among early humans was largely non-consensual.
Could rape-orgasms be something from those thousands of years ago? Similar to peoples desires to have multiple sexual partners (to spread genes more), Caring for our own children more than those of others etc.
A cautious yes to this.
There is evidence suggesting that rape has an evolutionary component and that the female orgasm is a part of that. But, honestly, the research is so little and scattered that trying to make a definite statement is not only premature but very harmful.
Will you talk about men's experiences with rape and orgasm during rape? Perhaps explain some of the unique challenges faced?
I don't have a lot of experience here. The most difficult part for those I've worked with has been the gender identity part (most were abused by men). For those abused by women (usually mothers), it's been very similar to what I see in women in terms of forming healthy relationships with the other gender. Lots of self-doubt and shame, "I'm not good enough, I'm ugly, I'm ruined, etc."
Kind of off topic, but what are salaries and job market like for social work nowadays in California? I'm about to go into occupational therapy, but I think I would enjoy the mental health field much more.
Mental health is always a good field. I won't say you'll get rich, but you will be paid fairly well and have a very satisfying career. Helping people, even when it's very painful and difficult, is extremely rewarding.
Salary, rough guess: starting from low to mid 40's, to close to $100,000. The high end is more for supervisors and directors. In private practice, if you have enough clients you can clear $70-90,000, depending on your area, what you charge, your experience, etc. Lots of variables. Hope that helps.
In your experience, has there ever been a case where the victim is so broken by the event that there is no hope for recovery? (what actually happens is of course something different, but I'm talking more like how a doctor can assess if a leg injury is damaging enough to have the patient never walk again).
Wow. I would NEVER want to say this.
I have had clients I've worked with for years and seen little improvement. I do have to say, those who avoid therapy or getting some form of help (and that's most!) are more likely to have ongoing problems.
Yes, I've had a few, thankfully very few who I would say were permanently scarred by what happened. There are those who commit suicide before they can get help. I've thankfully only had one of these.
I once made a TIL about this and got downvoted to oblivion. reddit don't like being wrong.
Sorry that happened. It's an important subject. But one a lot of people are afraid to talk about.
EDIT: Retracted to avoid side-tracking the conversation.
Oooh yeah, not really the scope of this discussion and I'd be afraid of going down a virtual rabbit hole. I don't want this to turn into a discussion of rape, its validity, who's side I'm on, etc.
Simple answer: I probably agree with your take.
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