Nonconsensual Fantasies

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May 1993

by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1993 by William A. Henkin

<Q> No matter how intense my play, my fantasies are heavier, clearly non-consensual, and seriously brutal. While I am clear on the distinction between fantasy and reality, the old fear – I'm too weird; there's something wrong with me – still crops up around this issue. I am curious mostly about whether or not these types of fantasies are common to others in our community – or am I alone? Is there a way to come to terms with and accept these fantasies as OK?

<A> You are not alone. (Eerie music and fingers of white light fill the screen.) And there's a reason SM is sometimes thought of as sexual theatre, complete with "scenes," "roles," "players," and "props."

If fantasies were reality our disputes with Jesse Helms would have ended long ago – one way or another – eh? And if extreme fantasies indicated that a person was "too weird," what would Sophocles have done for Oedipus Rex, in which a young man kills the father who tried to kill him, marries and sleeps with his mother, then puts out his own eyes in penance and remorse when he discovers what he's done? What would Greek mythology have been like without the gods and goddesses who are forever tearing off limbs, eating their children, and changing themselves, us, and each other into bulls, swans, trees, and other life forms in order to punish or to copulate with mortals? Are your fantasies are brutal as the non-consensual SM punishment Zeus meted out to Prometheus for stealing fire from the gods and bringing it to humanity? He chained the poor guy to a rock on a high mountain and had an eagle eat Prometheus's liver every day, allowing the organ to grow back every night so the punishment could continue. (I have a great college production photograph of myself chained to a papier maché rock at age 19 in the title role of Prometheus Bound: little did I know.)

Fantasies are like dreams in that they free us from our ordinary world where boundaries are in force, and leave us in an altered state where what we can be or do or have is bounded only by our imaginations. From fantasies come not only great SM scenes, but also great art, great literature, great scientific discoveries, great technological inventions. The most important way children learn is through play, and the whole premise of children's play lies in "What if..." or "Let's pretend...."

As I've said in some of the courses I teach, 'way back when I was about 10 years old I sometimes lay in bed at night imagining that I had taken over my elementary school with a crack paramilitary force. In my own homeroom I lined everybody up along two walls, boys on one side and girls on the other, and had everybody strip. Then I separated the kids I found attractive from the ones I did not, gave the latter to my lieutenants, and put myself to sleep having my way with anyone I chose. Doesn't compare with my fantasies today, but was it extreme for a 10-year-old? By day I sang in the glee club and was on the safety patrol.

Now, I can't speak for everyone – there are six billion people on the globe – but I've heard hundreds of adult fantasies that made mine sound like, well, like child's play: I've heard lots of brutal, non-consensual rape fantasies from people who neither wished to rape nor wish to be raped, and similarly non-consensual castration fantasies from people who neither wished to castrate nor to be castrated. And though I'm a great fan of Pat Califia's, these fantsies were not all from SM players, dear correspondent: like children, like you, and like me, the civilian in the street also thinks, now and then, in extreme terms.

The "safe, sane, consensual" motto by which the pansexual SM community is becoming known is not merely a token of politeness: it acknowledges that we need boundaries to tell us how close to our fantasies or someone else's fantasies we or they can approach. Speed limits, bedroom doors, and quitting time all do the same thing in their respective realms.

I think the first step in coming to terms with your extremities is to acknowledge them for what they are; perhaps it would help to discuss them with some receptive, neutral person who can help you gauge their emotional importance in your life so you can learn to stop fearing and/or resisting them. As long as you continue to know the difference between fantasy and reality, and as long as you don't try to actualize your fantasies in ways that are neither safe nor sane nor consensual, the boundlessly good time available in the theatre of your mind can be the source of both pleasure and creativity.

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