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“Rape Fantasies”: A Text Worthy Of Study In The Eleventh Grade Curriculum

3028 words - 12 pages

To many, rape seems like a distant and remote problem, something that’s heard about from a friend of a friend or read about in a newspaper. Despite its ostensible distance, rape is a legitimate and serious problem, yet American society condones it through the widespread acceptance of rape myths and gender stratification. The short story, “Rape Fantasies”, written by Margaret Atwood, begins with Estelle, the narrator, eating lunch with her coworkers, receptionists and employees in filing, in the women’s lunch room. Her employment situation, as well as her lunch circumstances, immediately illustrates the power imbalance between men and women. They then begin to discuss their various “rape fantasies” which involve daring and attractive men coming into their apartment and having sex with them. Estelle quickly notes that these are not fantasies about actual rape, rejecting the myth that women fantasize about being raped. Estelle then shares her own fantasies, which all involve her gaining the upper hand in the various scenarios, suggesting that Estelle fantasizes not about rape, but about not being a victim. Towards the end of the text, Estelle, likely while talking to a man at a bar, muses on a women’s difficulty in living life fully while avoiding dangerous situations that society allows, further illustrating the unfortunate situation that women live in due to the gender power disparity in our society. Though this short story was set in the 1970s, rape remains a prominent problem today (Pearson 47). Through the discussion of this text, negative attitudes that many students harbor about rape and its victims could likely be corrected as well as diminish general rape acceptance. Furthermore, this story also reveals the power imbalance between men and women that allows rape to thrive in our current society. It is through the recognition of this gender disparity that the aspects of our society which nurture sexual violence could be rectified. In addition, this short story would provide a challenging experience for the student. The story’s format is comprised of anecdotal “fantasies” which, together, form biting satire. Additionally, the themes of gender, sexuality, power and victimization in this text will lead to open and rich discussion in classrooms regarding female sexuality as well as the status quo of America’s patriarchal society.
One of the primary themes of “Rape Fantasies” is rape. In our society, rape is a pervasive and malignant social problem, caused by a society which allows it to exist. Mary P. Koss, a professor of public health, family, psychiatry, psychology and community medicine at the University of Arizona, reports that according to a nationally representative phone survey in the United States, 17.6 percent of women have either been raped or suffered a rape attempt (65). This number is startlingly high. This figure is even more shocking as the majority of these victims were not yet eighteen when this act of injustice was...

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