PROJECT OF MERIT
Dr. Betsy Nies, Dr. Nick de Villiers, Dr. Laura Heffernan | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of English
The rape scene has occurred and recurred in literature since literature’s inception. Though the function of this versatile trope is not always clear, its prevalence is undeniable. Often, these gruesome scenes appear as works of realism, presenting women’s harsh reality to the public to expose rape culture. In popular women’s fiction, however, the purpose of the trope is not as clear. Janice Radway, in Reading the Romance, and Tania Modleski, in Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-produced Fantasies for Women, address such occurrences in their critique of romance novels whose plots rely heavily on the rape or near-rape of the heroine. Now in the twenty-first century, case studies have emerged which focus not on the rape scenes which occur in novels, but on those that occur in women’s minds. The current study aims to answer the following question: what is currently known about women’s erotic rape fantasies, and how have these fantasies, and these women, been criticized? The study will explore what women, and particularly feminists, say and have said about rape fantasies. The study also aims to track how cultural changes such as the sex-positive movement have affected critical thought about this phenomenon. This initial literature review is preliminary to a wider study addressing the prevalence of both erotic and aversive rape fantasies in literature and cinema, their place in rape culture, and how a feminist approach might be taken to discuss these phenomena.