Bernie Sanders Essay: How Many Women Have Rape Fantasies?

Bernie Sanders (Crooks and Liars)

Bernie Sanders (Crooks and Liars)

Last week, “Mother Jones” found an essay that presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders wrote in 1972 for alternative newspaper “Vermont Freeman.” Sanders’ two-page essay observed sexual dynamics between men and women.

Here’s the part that got everyone talking:

A woman enjoys intercourse with her man — as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously.

Sanders was positing this as a general observation that held true about all women. But is he correct in this assumption?

There’s been some research done on this fantasy.

Last year, researchers at the University of Canada, Quebec asked territory residents about their sexual fantasies and published results in the “Journal of Sexual Medicine.” Though the researchers didn’t directly ask about rape fantasies, they did ask respondents if they agreed with the statement “I have fantasized about being forced to have sex,” which can be construed as such. Over 28% of women agreed with that statement, but it wasn’t enough to hit the “normal fantasy” cutoff (which started at 50% agreement from respondents). The study didn’t examine how often the women had these fantasies.

A 2010 “Psychology Today” article on women’s rape fantasies stated that nine surveys on the topic had been published between 1973 and 2008. Here’s what that collective body of data showed:

They show that about four in 10 women admit having them (31-57%) with a median frequency of about once a month. Actual prevalence of rape fantasies is probably higher because women may not feel comfortable admitting them.

A 2009 study done by North Texas University found that answers depended on what terminology was used. Fifty-two percent of college women said they’d fantasized about being “overpowered by a man,” but only 32% of women agreed when it was labeled “rape.” It’s interesting to note that this range nestles right in the range quoted above.

There also appeared to be an inverse correlation between the number of women who reported having rape fantasies and the frequency with which they had them: 25% of women reported having the fantasy less than once a year, and 13% had the fantasy a few times a year. So while it might be a part of some women’s sexual fantasy playlist, it doesn’t pop up in the rotation with much frequency for those women.

Though Sanders was certainly on to something with his claim, the fantasy isn’t nearly as pervasive (or self-reported) as he made it seem. But Sanders did recognize the desires that that specific fantasy taps into: a woman being overpowered by a man who can’t stop himself from ravishing her. No wonder he recently compared it to “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

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