Arousal, Orgasm, and Rape

Psst! I have a confession to make that I think everyone needs to hear. I am really embarrassed to admit that I worked as a domestic violence advocate and rape crisis counselor for a while without knowing that a rape survivor could experience arousal and orgasm. Yep! That was shamefully left out of my training. I learned it from a more seasoned colleague.

I am taking the time to tell you this because I am not sure how many other professionals and survivors still don’t know this. When I have a really tough case of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to sexual assault, arousal and/or orgasm is almost always a factor. It’s usually because the victim can’t face the shame of lubricating, feeling aroused or experiencing an orgasm. It can feel like they were betrayed by their body.

So, let me set the record straight. Rape is sex where one of the people does not consent. This could be because of mental or physical incapacitation, such as mental retardation, being underage and lacking the maturity to consent, being substance impaired, passed out, or comatose. The definition does not include gender or age. It does not depend upon whether or not someone was aroused or had an orgasm. It doesn’t require force or violence. All of those things are immaterial. Rape is sex without consent. Period.

The body functions in predictable ways. If you are tickled, you laugh. When you cross your legs and strike below your knee cap, your leg will kick. If I pinch you, you will feel pain. If you hold your breath long enough, you will have an irresistible desire to inhale. That’s how the body was designed to work. The body is also designed to become aroused when stimulated. While under extreme stress, this can be protective.

So, arousal during sex is perfectly natural. When someone experiences this, it’s because the body is healthy and performing as it was designed to. It has nothing to do with consent.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the male rape victim. The common perception is that a man can’t be raped. If he’s not aroused, there can be no penetration, right? Wrong! Male rape is shockingly common. According to a 2013┬áNational Crime Victimization Survey, thirty eight per cent of rape victims are male! Forty-six percent of the perpetrators are women.

Rape is not about gender. It’s not about whether or not your body responds. It is about violence. It’s about power and control. Rape is always wrong. And it’s never the survivor’s fault. If your family, friends, or a professional ever tells you anything different, they are ignorant. Find someone else to talk to until you get someone who understands. Even professionals can be wrong.

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