7. 6/22 (due 6/25)

Interpretations involving Definition: How to Define Sexual Assault?

READ:
–Munro, “Wild Swans” (p. 69)
–Young, “Feminists Want Us…” (p. 143)
–Experiment with searching on 3 Research Resources; try to find an article related to your Essay 2

  1. It may seem obvious, but definition—the act of proposing what a word or idea means, does, or is about—is actually an incredibly powerful interpretative strategy. A definition is an interpretation. We have been working this week on close reading passages from the text you are interpreting for your Essay 2.  For this assignment, I want you to get practice defining words/ideas that are important to the text you are interpreting.  We are going to get this practice using Cathy Young’s “Feminists Want Us…” (a provocative—possibly offensive—article on the politics of defining sexual assault) and Alice Munro’s short story, “Wild Swans” (a rather twisted tale in which an ambiguous sexual encounter—possibly assault; it’s debatable–takes place).  First, I want you to read Young’s text and then respond with a paragraph describing what you think her view/definition/interpretation of sexual assault is.  Consider both what she thinks IS sexual assault AND what she thinks IS NOT sexual assault (saying what a thing is NOT is just as important to forming a definition as is the ability to say what it IS).
  2. Second, I want you to read Munro’s “Wild Swans” and write a paragraph summarizing the story that is focused on whether or not you would define its “main event” as a form of sexual assault. Be sure to include a close reading & analysis of one quotation from the text as well as your own specific thoughts about what YOU think the definition of sexual assault IS and IS NOT.

38 thoughts on “7. 6/22 (due 6/25)”

  1. Interpretations involving Definition: How to Define Sexual Assault?
    READ:
    –Munro, “Wild Swans” (p. 69)
    –Young, “Feminists Want Us…” (p. 143)
    1. It may seem obvious, but definition—the act of proposing what a word or idea means, does, or is about—is actually an incredibly powerful interpretative strategy. A definition is an interpretation. We have been working this week on close reading passages from the text you are interpreting for your Essay 2. For this assignment, I want you to get practice defining words/ideas that are important to the text you are interpreting. We are going to get this practice using Cathy Young’s “Feminists Want Us…” (a provocative—possibly offensive—article on the politics of defining sexual assault) and Alice Munro’s short story, “Wild Swans” (a rather twisted tale in which an ambiguous sexual encounter—possibly assault; it’s debatable–takes place). First, I want you to read Young’s text and then respond with a paragraph describing what you think her view/definition/interpretation of sexual assault is. Consider both what she thinks IS sexual assault AND what she thinks IS NOT sexual assault (saying what a thing is NOT is just as important to forming a definition as is the ability to say what it IS).

    I have to say I partially agree with Young. The main thing I’m kind of iffy about is the part where she’s saying all these “if it’s not a loud and clear yes it’s not consent” is a utopian idea (Last couple of sentences of her article”. I can see where she’s coming from, but that also means that every single law we have ever had is also Utopian. We have all these laws in place but there’s no guarantee that they will be followed at all. Hence, why we have the justice system in place, regardless of the fact that it’s also a broken system. Laws were made to act as guidelines to follow and if we don’t follow them there will be punishment. Raping someone should be punishable and that’s men and women. Men get raped too but because of this macho mindset that many still have, and for other reasons too, they don’t speak up. Women, on the other hand, don’t always speak up due to fear of what their families will do. In some cultures, women are (unfortunately) killed if they are unmarried and no longer virgins regardless of the fact that they were raped. Women get blamed and told, “well she brought it upon herself… if she wasn’t wearing…” But there’s a larger thing at play here. There’s a lot to say about this all and so many factors that come into play but to answer the question, here’s what I think she believes sexual assault is and isn’t. I’ll start with what it isn’t, “if it involves consenting adults —who can refuse sex without reasonable fear of harm— those adults should be free to make mistakes.” Basically, as long as they’re not in harm’s way, it’s not assault. From what I understand, if a person is repeatedly saying no and the other party is completely disregarding that and forcing it, it’s rape. And, if a person says yes because they fear for their life if they were to say no, it is also rape. It’s as simple as that, based on what I read.

    2. Second, I want you to read Munro’s “Wild Swans” and write a paragraph summarizing the story that is focused on whether or not you would define its “main event” as a form of sexual assault. Be sure to include a close reading & analysis of one quotation from the text as well as your own specific thoughts about what YOU think the definition of sexual assault IS and IS NOT.

    Ok, first of all, Woah. Second, Sorry if this is a really long paragraph. This situation is a little complicated considering all the factors but I believe despite all that it is still sexual assault. The man, uninvitedly, placed his hand on her leg. And we know that, in fact, he wasn’t asleep but faking it. He made sure to provide a security blanket for himself when he introduced himself as a minister, and again when he was “asleep” with the new paper shielding the world of what was happening beneath it. I think Rose was afraid of what could happen if she spoke up publicly. And although there were many solutions proposed in the story, she wasn’t able to act and do any of them because her body and mind were in shock of what was happening. Her gut was telling her his hand was on her leg but she couldn’t believe it. Before she was sure it was his hand, she ran through the scenario in her head mainly wondering “who could believe a minister who fell asleep reading his newspaper was touching me without my permission.” “Was Flo right?” But then there was also her sense of curiosity. Curious of what it’s like to be touched by a man, regardless of his age and who he was. Her belief that no one would believe her allowed her curiosity to cloud her judgment and therefore her actions this in combination with the shock she was going through led to the events that followed. I believe this is what kept her from making a scene. She was alone and there were no witnesses, and she genuinely didn’t know what to do. But when she realized that it was in fact his hand, she tried. She said, “Please remove this, she said out the window. Stop it, please, she said to the stumps and barns. The hand moved up her leg…Her legs were still crossed, pinched together. While her legs stayed crossed she could lay claim to innocence, she had not admitted anything.” Despite her effort to speak through her shock, she told him to please remove his hand and to please stop as to not make a scene and hope he would listen. But, when that didn’t work, she kept her legs “pinched closed” as a physical form of protest. Regardless of her curiosity and the lack of her moving his hand away herself, her body silently protested by keeping her legs “pinched closed”. If he didn’t get the message then, what more could she bring herself to do through her shock? It’s certainly a tough situation to be in when someone repeatedly ignores the fact that you are saying no. Your gut is telling you to run, get away, do anything other than sit there frozen… waiting for that impending doom that in your heart you know is coming. But you tell yourself, “no, you’re overreacting.” And then it’s too late, and you’re in a situation you’ve never been in before. You’ve read about it and seen it in movies but you just can’t bring yourself to do anything other than say, “No…Please…Please stop…” fighting back the tears so that you can appear strong. Unable to move your limbs and push them off. Your trust violated…and you’re left wondering if you can ever trust again.
    Sexual assault is having the word “No” mean nothing, and being told, “I thought you were just teasing me” after saying “No, I don’t want to have sex.” five times. Sexual assault is having someone say “ I won’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.” to you, and then proceeding to penetrate you, despite the line you drew because “ I thought we were in the throws of passion and I thought you wanted it.” Sexual assault is being penetrated immediately after saying “No” multiple times and then being told “ You can tell me to stop if you want me to” and then having to fight through the shock of being violated to tell them to “Please stop” when you shouldn’t have had to utter those words in the first place. Sexual assault is consenting to safe sex, only to be stealthed (Where the condom is removed at some point without the knowledge of the person being penetrated) and then told half-heartedly “it broke” to cover up the fact that it was removed in the first place. Sexual assault is being drugged and then penetrated, touched, etc. while you are unconscious. Sexual assault is being given alcohol to the point of oblivion where you can’t even stand up straight and then being penetrated, touched, etc. without the physical ability to speak and say no or push someone off. Sexual assault is forcing yourself on your girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband regardless of the fact that they said no, or they don’t feel like it. Sexual assault is saying “Yes” and then changing your mind and asking someone to stop and they don’t. It becomes assault the second you’re being forced to continue when you don’t want to. The list goes on and on. Sexual assault IS NOT drinking to lower your guard in the hopes of sleeping with someone consensually. It’s not being forced into anything. It’s doing sexual acts because you both want to and agree to without any kind of force whether it be emotional, or physical. It’s not sexual assault when you say “Yes! Keep going!” It’s not sexual assault when you’re asked, “do you have a condom?” or “Do you want me to put a condom on?. I agree with Young when she says that, “if it involves consenting adults —who can refuse sex without reasonable fear of harm— those adults should be free to make mistakes.”

    3. Experiment with searching on 3 Research Resources; try to find an article related to your Essay 2

    According to Google Trends, The Great Gatsby is very popular in Rhode Island lately. When I was looking up “classic crime stories” that showed up as a topic. But I don’t really find it helpful in regards to Essay 2. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?geo=US&q=the%20great%20gatsby
    When I wrote the Essay, I simply googled “the main components of classic crime stories” and ended up with five main parts on Britannica Encyclopedia! It offered me a breakdown and definition of the topic. https://www.britannica.com/art/detective-story-narrative-genre#:~:text=The%20traditional%20elements%20of%20the,the%20startling%20and%20unexpected%20denouement%2C
    I’ll most likely use Google scholar as a source, since I’ve used it in the past, when I do my revisions if I needed more information.

    1. Stefani,

      You really nailed it with Young—bravo. The only question I have for you there is to consider that we’re not yet in the context of set-in-stone laws regarding “no means no” and “yes means yes” (at least not to my knowledge—and not at the time of this article’s publishing in 2015). However, I think that in terms of the public discourse about sexual assault in light of #MeToo, which Young’s article responds to and anticipates, there is a loud insistence on defining consent in these sorts of black & white terms. If you revise, might you add a bit on how Young is trying to change the way we think (and write) about consent? It’s a related, but slightly different question to the one of what she thinks sexual assault is…

      Regarding Rose, consider that she probably DOES think that Flo will believe that the minister assaulted her. So I’m not sure her thought that she wouldn’t be believed is clearly linked to the way she handles her curiosity. The other main thing I want you to consider is the status of Rose’s “mind” in this passage (which you say, along with her “body,” are overtaken by “shock”). Is it possible that all of this takes place in Rose’s mind? The story is certainly structured to have us think this in certain ways. Can you address this aspect of Munro’s representation of this scene? Why does she render it so ambiguous—that is, whether Rose is fantasizing or actually being touched? What are the effects of this rhetorical decision?

  2. Crispin Thys
    09/25/2020
    ENG1121
    Prof. Street

    First, I want you to read Young’s text and then respond with a paragraph describing what you think her view/definition/interpretation of sexual assault is. Consider both what she thinks IS sexual assault AND what she thinks IS NOT sexual assault (saying what a thing is NOT is just as important to forming a definition as is the ability to say what it IS).
    I believe that Young’s view of sexual assault is that today we are increasingly forced to put things into black and white boxes, and I think that she thinks it is dangerous to fall into this trap. Young argues, that having sex to please your partner, when you are not particularly in the mood, is not considered sexual assault, but she questions why two seemingly enthusiastic individuals who are intoxicated is considered assault. She argues that if someone were to clearly say no, and maintain that no when pressured, and is forced into a sexual encounter, this would be classified as assault, but Young does not believe that if you initially say no, but change your mind later without explicitly saying yes, that this is considered assault. I think her view addresses the gray area and argues that things are not always a matter of yes and no.

    2)Second, I want you to read Munro’s “Wild Swans” and write a paragraph summarizing the story that is focused on whether or not you would define its “main event” as a form of sexual assault. Be sure to include a close reading & analysis of one quotation from the text as well as your own specific thoughts about what YOU think the definition of sexual assault IS and IS NOT.

    I would define the main event in white swan as a form of sexual assault. Specifically, when Munro writes, “Nevertheless, she would rather not. She would still rather not. Please remove this, she said out the window. Stop it, please, she said to the stumps and barns.” This was the only confirmation that I needed to know that this was, in my eyes, sexual assault. I believe that sexual assault exists when one party does not wish to partake in the sexual encounter. In fact, none of us should be forced to be placed in a position when we are uncomfortable. Even when it was simply a corner of the newspaper touching her leg, it should have ended there. The girl should have felt comfortable speaking up in this instance to say no, and it is unfortunate that she did not end it here. Even though she tried to say, “Please don’t” and she was unable, the minister should have been able to recognize her discomfort and stopped there.

    1. Great responses, Crispin–this is an excellent rehearsal of Young’s views. Can you add more about your own view regarding the definition of assault, though? …and how do your views align (or not) with Young’s?

      With regard to “Wild Swans,” I hear you and am largely persuaded by the case you make that Rose has been sexually assaulted. However, there are two things I’d like for you to address:

      1. In the story, we are given access to Rose’s consciousness via the third-person omniscient narrator who is focalized on her thoughts. Thus as readers, we can “read her mind” in a way that the minister presumably cannot. What that in mind, does the fact that Rose does not communicate her dissent to the minister change anything about your interpretation of this scene.

      2. The other main thing I want you to consider is the status of Rose’s “mind” in this passage (which you say, along with her “body,” are overtaken by “shock”). Is it possible that all of this takes place in Rose’s mind? The story is certainly structured to have us think this in certain ways. Can you address this aspect of Munro’s representation of this scene? Why does she render it so ambiguous—that is, whether Rose is fantasizing or actually being touched? What are the effects of this rhetorical decision?

  3. Prompt 4
    1. According to Munro and Young, sexual assault is an act of a man who commits sexual activities on a woman without any consent from the woman. It is also taking advantage of the weaknesses of the woman, and committing the act of rape. Munro’s definition of Sexual Assault, which a person have gropped the women’s legs in a public transportation without the consent of the woman. In this case, the woman cannot speak up because of fear. Young’s version is that there is no sexual assault that happened because she have changed her mind after the woman said no in a sexual intercourse, which she consented. Sexual Assault allegation in Young’s article is not a sexual assault, but rather is a consensual sexual intercourse that she have consented even though she have claimed at first that she do not want sex because of the fact that she consented her boyfriend. Young and Munro’s views about sexual assault are showing that there are grounds for an action to be considered as sexual assault and sexual harassment.
    Both articles are telling about the stories of alleged sexual assaults. But only one shows the true event of sexual assault, which is in The Swan by Alice Munro, which an assault have occurred, but the woman was afraid to say a word due to fear. Sexual assault is form of sexual violence that coerced a woman or children into acts of sexual acts such as forced oral sex, unconsented sexual touching on sexual organs, and sexually explicit contact. What is not a sexual assault is a a consented sexual intercourse.
    2. In the part when the minister has groped Rose, it made Rose feel uncomfortable because of the fact that the hands of the man have also touched the other parts of Rose. She cannot scream due to fear for her life. After when the train stopped at the next station, the minister left and Rose kept on remembering the message of Flo.
    What happened to Rose is a form of sexual assault that a man have touched her body without her consent, and she is afraid of what will happen next after the incident.
    “Please don’t” is when the fear has kicked in, due to the events, in which she was under the feeling of duress. But it have not bothered Rose after the event.
    Sexual Assault is when a person have taken advantage of the woman’s weakness either by force or by luring them into sex (ie drugs and alcohol).
    What is not considered as an assault if a person is not doing anything that can harm a woman and children. The person is at his best behavior in public that does not cause an uncomfortable situation to the woman.

  4. 1. First, I want you to read Young’s text and then respond with a paragraph describing what you think her view/definition/interpretation of sexual assault is. Consider both what she thinks IS sexual assault AND what she thinks IS NOT sexual assault (saying what a thing is NOT is just as important to forming a definition as is the ability to say what it IS).

    The way Young seem to view sexual assault based on her experience it seems that she’s trying to say about how many people wether is females or male fall into this trap of just having to please your partner which in my opinion it shouldn’t be because you want to feel 100 percent in the mood to actually wanting to have any type of sexual relations so you don’t feel like you are being forced on something that should be mutual, but I don’t agree on what she believes based of if you initially say “no” to the other person and later on change your mind its okay I personally don’t think its okay because maybe the person knows that you will chamge your mind if they keep begging or ask for it a billion times until you eventually say yes whichi it shouldn’t be because that person should be able to be harrasting the other person since we should have respect for ourselfs and when is says no mean no but also it comes from you if you in the beginning say no to something stick by it because changing your mind could imply on you regretting later and feeling bad on yourself. 

    2. Second, I want you to read Munro’s “Wild Swans” and write a paragraph summarizing the story that is focused on whether or not you would define its “main event” as a form of sexual assault. Be sure to include a close reading & analysis of one quotation from the text as well as your own specific thoughts about what YOU think the definition of sexual assault IS and IS NOT.

    The main event of this story is that Rose is always hearing Flo’s cautionary anecdotes about sexual seductions which it affects on her being sexually assaulted by the man in the train who was touching her body without her giving him permission to but she wonders if it is, in fact, the man’s hand that is touching her and muses that she often looks at men’s hands, wondering what they are capable of.  “Please stop” is more than just two words these words are the last thing someone being assaulted could say in reality wishing they will actually stop.

  5. Marcus Robinson
    English 1121

    1- Sexual assault is when you force someone to do something they don’t consent and or agree with against their will. It can be from a hard look or even touching someone inappropriately no matter the situation. The text states “foundation- built on the understanding that consent must be explicit and almost certainly verbal, not simply a “yes” but an “ongoing Conversation.” Verbal communication is key to consent and that’s what Cathy Young’s interpretation on what you need to do before anything sexual. Youngs view on sexual assault isnt, if initially say yes but then you later change your mind later without verbally saying “no” then thats assault.

    2- “Wild Swans” by Munro was an indirect form of sexual assault in my personal opinion. Just because no words were exchanged and there was no clear form of consent during the train ride doesn’t mean it wasn’t a sexual assault. During the start of the text, Flo always told and reminded Rose about dangers that could await her after going to Toronto by herself, not listening because she was young led her to become a victim of sexual assault. On the other hand, the older man in the text came on the train looking for enjoyment, not the kind who fights back but the young girls who don’t know any better. Flo states “Keep an eye on her, she’s never been away from home before.” Because of the new exciting nature of roses mentality from being away from home. Thus leading her to become curious and not know much of anything about life. During the train ride, Rose was quiet as she questioned the man slowly putting his hands in her pants. The idea of not knowing what will happen next kept her quiet and defenseless. On the other hand, the man next to her had pleasure and took joy in assaulting Rose. Towards the end of the text he said “Would you like help with your coat?”, he even smiled and walked away to never be seen again. Sexual assault IS sexualizing anyone in anyway without them you permission. Also forcing someone when they say no. For example If you stare at a woman’s breast and they know you are, you’re assaulting their personal space. Sexual assault is not a miscommunication between people.

  6. HW 7. 6/22 (due 6/25)- Indeevari

    1) Young thinks that “Despicable behavior is not always criminal”. She points out that we should distinguish between criminal behavior like sexual assault, and despicable behavior, which in its nature is not criminal. As an example of such despised but not criminal behaviour she paints a situation in which a woman pleasures her partner regardless of not being in the mood: “You could agree to have sex to please partner, despite not being in the mood, and get enthusiastic later”. Another example she brings out is one where a woman initially says “no” but later welcomes the sexual encounter without saying “yes”. Young refuses to classify such acts as acts of rape or sexual assault.
    Young thinks that if sexual encounter occurs forcefully regardless of woman’s repetitive rejection of the man then such act IS considered to be a sexual assault.

    2) “Wild Swans” by Alice Munro tells a story consisting of 3 main characters: Rose, Minister, and Flo. Flo is a socially-experienced waitress.. Rose is the main character, who falls victim to a creepy sexual assault. The Minister is an older, well-dressed gentleman who approaches Rose, and takes a seat beside her. As minister sweet-talks the young, inexperienced Rose, he gains her trust, only to take sexual advantage of her along the way. By introducing himself as a minister, he not only built up her trust towards him but also established himself as an authoritative, father-like figure. He used this position that he established, to later make her feel intimidated, and confused while he made his move on her. “She shifted slightly, moved as much as she could towards the window” – This was the indication that she does not consent to this,in my opinion, any more of his advances after that point would be considered an assault.“Please don’t. ?That was what she tried to say. She shaped the words in her mind, tried them out, they couldn’t get them past her lips. Why was that? The embarrassment, was it, the fear that people might hear?”. Although, this is not a typical case of sexual assault as one might imagine when hearing the phrase ‘sexual assault’, it is, however, a type of more sophisticated sexual assault, which can scar victims for life. Such sexual predators can ride trains all day long and psychologically damage dozens of innocent girls each day.
    In a general sense, any sexual advancement towards a person, without one’s consent IS considered a sexual assault, in my opinion,however, I also think, that sexual assault is not only possible in the form of physical bondage, but as this story illustrates, it can also be done by psychological manipulation.
    In my opinion, when both parties consent to the act then it IS NOT be considered sexual assault in any form.

    1. Thanks, Indee–your work on Young’s text is fabulous. A couple comments on your interpretation of “Wild Swans”:

      You bring up an interesting point toward the end of your response when you mention that “psychological manipulation” can play a role in sexual assault. Can you connect this to what you’ve identified Young as saying in her article, where she talks about one person going along with their sexual partner’s wishes even though they aren’t in the mood at the beginning? Do you view this as a form of “psychological manipulation”? Do your thoughts about “psychological manipulation” as well as Munro’s story lead you to agree/disagree with Young?

      Also, when quoting, be careful to introduce and contextualize each quoted passage. For instance, I lose you in the transition between your sentence and the quotation here:

      “This was the indication that she does not consent to this,in my opinion, any more of his advances after that point would be considered an assault.“Please don’t. ?That was what she tried to say. ”

      Try something like this to transition your thoughts into the quote more:

      This was the indication that she does not consent to this; in my opinion, any more of his advances after that point would be considered an assault. But, wait, there’s more. Here is how Munro describes Rose’s thought process later in the story: “Please don’t. ?That was what she tried to say…”

      Make sense?

  7. First, I want you to read Young’s text and then respond with a paragraph describing what you think her view/definition/interpretation of sexual assault is. Consider both what she thinks IS sexual assault AND what she thinks IS NOT sexual assault (saying what a thing is NOT is just as important to forming a definition as is the ability to say what it IS).

    – I agree with Young’s interpretation of what considers sexual assault and what does not. She says even if a woman or a male said “yes” but not clearly and confidently it classified as a sexual assault. Women can be put under pressure or fear to do something they don’t want to do. Taking advantage of someone who is not sober and cannot think clearly is also sexual abuse. Thus, if someone forces you to have sex it is always rape, and it does not matter if you are in a relationship or not. What is not considered as a sexual assault in Young’s opinion is to have sex to please your partner while not being in the mood. It is okay if that person is feeling confident to have sex in that situation. Young’s interpretation and view of sexual assault were based on her life experience and her own opinion.

    Second, I want you to read Munro’s “Wild Swans” and write a paragraph summarizing the story that is focused on whether or not you would define its “main event” as a form of sexual assault. Be sure to include a close reading & analysis of one quotation from the text as well as your own specific thoughts about what YOU think the definition of sexual assault IS and IS NOT.

    – The main event in the “Mild Swans” by Munro is Rose’s fantasy of being assaulted sexually. It all started when Flo warned Rose, “Watch out, Flo said as well, for people dressed up as ministers. They were the worst. That disguise was commonly adopted by White Slavers, as well as those after your money.” Rose’s head was only filled up with Flo’s words. When she sat on the train there was a man in his 50’s who sat next to Rose. This situation led Rose to turn on her imagination and fantasy. Munro writes, “Her imagination seemed to have created this reality, a reality she was not prepared for at all.” Later on in the story, a corner of the man’s newspaper touched Rose’s leg while he was asleep. However, she was not sure that he was sleeping and for some reason, she thought that it was his hand touching her leg. Clearly, Rose was uncomfortable. Rose was saying the following words, “Please don’t…Please remove this…Stop it, please…” However, she could not say those words out loud, “She shaped the words in her mind, tried them out, then couldn’t get them past her lips.” She was not able to say those because it was only her imagination. Perhaps, there was not any sexual assault. Rose got scared of Flo’s words. Thus, she could not adequately assess the situation because of her fear. I think the definition of sexual assault is when someone forcing you to have any unwanted sexual actions, when someone laying his hand on your body without your permission, when someone is taking advantage when you are drunk, etc. Not a sexual assault is when both partners agree to have a sexual act no matter if they are in a relationship or not.

    1. Thanks, Galina. A couple thoughts for revisioning this:

      –Careful with how you describe Young’s view in your opening sentences. You write, “She says even if a woman or a male said “yes” but not clearly and confidently it classified as a sexual assault.” However, I’m not sure she says this in the article; can you quote a passage where you understand her as suggesting this or consider revising how you’re describing her views here?

      –You rightly mention the key idea of “force” in Young’s article, but can you be more specific about the kind of force she thinks of as involved in sexual assault?

      –You offer a very interesting interpretation of “Wild Swans” by arguing that Rose has imagined the whole incident with the minister. The story’s ambiguity does indeed allow this, but there are some things to keep in mind (which you ought to address if you are to make your argument compelling): why does the minister lay out the newspaper across their laps if he isn’t up to no good? He could simply read the paper folded up in such a way that it doesn’t intrude upon Rose’s personal space. If he hasn’t done anything, then why is his face described as pink and sweaty when they get off the train?
      Again, I’m not saying I totally disagree with your argument, but it should respond to these questions if it is to be totally compelling (which I think it could possibly be!).

  8. In Cathy Young’s “Feminists Want Us…” Young’s view on sexual assault in my perspective is about affirmation. If a woman or a male says “yes” and it’s not clear this can be a form of assault. The notion of rape and sexual assault throughout society has been deemed as violent attacks on the individual. Forced attacks on the victim. Young asks the question “what about women who yield to unwanted overtures” which means what about women wo didn’t give a clear answer? The affirmation, a clear affirmation that you want to consent. In my perspective what she does not consider sexual assault is satisfying your partner even if they’re not in the mood.

    2.) “Wild Swans” by Alice Munro is a story about a young girl embarking on a journey. The young girl (Rose) is given advice from a more mature character named Flo. Flo has been around more situations and seen more crime since she’s lived in Toronto. She even warns Rose about predators called White Slavers. Rose is going on a trip to Toronto and takes the train there. On her journey a minister approaches Rose and sits next to her. He first begins to talk to her and reluctantly Rose was polite yet very nervous. Throughout the story Rose is what appears to be sexually assaulted by the stranger as he molests her legs without any remorse. I wouldn’t define the main event of this story as a form of sexual assault. I would define the main event like I did in a previous post as a mis-use of power. Rose appears to be a naïve impressionable mind. Who’s to say Flo didn’t mis-use her power by filling her head with all those stories from living in Toronto? Who’s to say Rose was even sexually assaulted? What if the stories from Flo pained a narrative for Rose about the prime minister? I thought that as I was reading the story.

    1. Thanks Brittny. A couple thoughts for revisioning this:

      –Careful with how you describe Young’s view in your opening sentences. You write, “If a woman or a male says “yes” and it’s not clear this can be a form of assault.” However, I’m not quite clear on what this means and am therefore not sure she says this in the article; can you quote a passage where you understand her as suggesting this or consider revising how you’re describing her views here?

      –Also, I think in your final sentence, you mean to say:
      What she does not consider sexual assault is satisfying your partner even if YOU’RE not in the mood.
      Am I right? 🙂

      –Nice work summarizing “Wild Swans”; however, you’re going to have to help me understand your logic here a bit more. You write:

      “Throughout the story Rose is what appears to be sexually assaulted by the stranger as he molests her legs without any remorse. I wouldn’t define the main event of this story as a form of sexual assault.”

      How do we go from the event in the story “appearing to be sexual assault” (sentence 1) to your declaration that it is NOT sexual assault in sentence 2? Also, can you explain more about how Flo’s “mis-use of power” connects to what happens between the minister and Rose on the train? How is it that Flo’s stories get in the way of our viewing Rose’s encounter with the minister as an assault? This is interesting, but please unpack it more!

  9. In the article named “Feminists want us..” by Cathy Young, the article brings up the historical and modern climate of societies perception of sexual assault. At California’s Occidental College, there was an educational pornographic video created to show the right way of consent during sexual encounters. For example, “Kend explicitly states that if you cannot have “an adult conversation” about sex, “you shouldn’t be having it”. The meddling turns starkly authoritarian when the “encouragement” involves potential penalties – expulsion from college or even criminal charges if affirmative consent becomes a legal norm ”. This quote shows the strict guidelines of consensual sex and if two people should be having sex if they are too uncomfortable to have a conversation about it. Young states, “Meanwhile, there is little regard for the preferences of people who like intuitive give-and-take rather than requests and directions. Sensual, playful or raunchy than requests and directions. Sensual, playful or raunchy bedroom talk is very different from compulsory questions checking for a clear signal that you’re not crossing a line”. She is saying that these harsh guidelines are not taking into the account of people who prefer rougher sexual intimacy rather than the usually soft and loving. So how could one consider that to be rape or nonconsensual sex if both people perfer the more dominant version of sex. Young believes that sexual assault doesn’t include temporary consensual hesitation because in a relationship, couples may not be in the mood to have sex, but later get excited about doing to when their already doing the action. As stated in the text, “You could agree to have sex to please your partner, despite not being in the mood, and get enthusiastic later. You could be sexually eager but emotionally ambivalent, or vice versa. You could be torn between passionate desire and ethical or practical reasons not to act on that desire” Young is saying that not all nonconsensual sex is rape and not all consensual sex is mutual.

    There are many layers and unique situations when having sex with a partner. In the next state, Young says “But if it involves consenting adults — who can refuse sex without reasonable fear of harm — those adults should be free to make mistakes”. She’s saying that grown legal-adults are more than capable of refusing sexual intercourse with fear of safety. In contrast, a Canadian college claims that ”…consent is invalid if it’s “muted” or “uncertain” rather than “loud and clear.” ”. The college is saying that a valid consent must be loud and clear rather than mute or quite. Young combats this common claim by saying, “This advocacy creates a world where virtually any regretted sexual encounter can be reconstructed as assault (unless the person who regrets it initiated it while fully sober) and retroactive perceptions of coercion must always credited over contemporaneous perceptions of consent — even though we know that memory often “edits” the past to fit present biases.”. Young is saying that one could take advantage of the strict guidelines of consent just because they regretted having intercourse with that individual, it could be used as a weapon to accuse someone of rape when both of them consented to sex.

    To summarize Alice Munro’s “Wild Swans”, Rose looks up to her friend Flo because of her experience with the people in the Union station since she was a waitress that worked there. Flo in the beginning of the story, gives advice to Rose to be cautious and wary of male predators on the train because Rose will be taking the train to Toronto by herself. Towards the climax of the story, Rose meets a friendly and seemingly harmless man that claims he’s a minister. They have a short conversation which transitions into the minister sitting down next to Rose on the train. As the minister takes out his newspaper to read, he then proceeds to supposedly fall asleep with his hand touching Rose’s lap. Remembering Flo’s intimidating advice, Rose tries her best to slide closer to the window to avoid his hand. It fails overtime because although the minister appears to be sleeping., his hand proceeds to slide up Roses thigh up to her belly and underpants. As scared as she is to say something, she keeps her reactions to herself instead of making a scene. The man gets off the train as it arrives at the designated stop. Rose speculates this man was faking his occupation to seem innocent and harmless to women, but she never sees him again.

    There’s a point during the interaction between Rose and the m sinister where the newspaper is touching her leg, but the author reveals to the reader that she is only imagining that it was the minister’s hand on her leg. Although her thoughts and sensory details were vivid and believable, I don’t think this particular scene could be considered sexual assault. I think Rose was very paranoid after her friend Flo’s advice discouraged and intimidated her on the way she perceives men in public.
    Even though the characters Flo described are very real in society and they would very much be the predators to watch out for, I think Rode was exaggerating what was happening in reality compared to her mind. I do believe the man was a creep, but there wasn’t enough real evidence to assume that he had groped her while sitting next to her on the train. For example, “Not asleep. Or if he was, his hand wasn’t…Please remove this, she said out the window… The hand moved up her leg past the top of her stocking to her bare skin, had moved higher, under her suspender, reached her underpants and the lower part of her belly”. Being that in the beginning she states that the pressure was coming from the newspaper that he was reading, I don’t see a reason why we should believe that based on her imagination that the minister’s hand would in reality be groping her.

    1. Jamal, great work with both Young’s article and Munro’s short story. A couple things to consider for revision, mostly involving quotation:

      –Early on, you want to find a way of gluing together your ideas with the quote from Young’s article in a way that transitions the reader into the quote with a knowledge of what you’re saying about it and what’s going on at that moment in the text. Here’s what you wrote, followed by my revision:

      At California’s Occidental College, there was an educational pornographic video created to show the right way of consent during sexual encounters. For example, “Kend explicitly states that if you cannot have “an adult conversation” about sex, “you shouldn’t be having it”. The meddling turns starkly authoritarian when the “encouragement” involves potential penalties – expulsion from college or even criminal charges if affirmative consent becomes a legal norm ”.

      My revision:
      Young reports how at California’s Occidental College an educational pornographic video was created to show the right way of offering consent during sexual encounters. In the video, it is stated that “if you cannot have ‘an adult conversation’ about sex, ‘you shouldn’t be having it.'” She goes on to comment: “The meddling turns starkly authoritarian when the ‘encouragement’ involves potential penalties – expulsion from college or even criminal charges if affirmative consent becomes a legal norm.”

      –Lastly, in your interpretation of “Wild Swans,” can you make it clearer how you yourself are defining “sexual assault”? And, finally, I’m not sure the quote you chose necessarily evidences that sexual assault did NOT take place; after all, in this passage we see “the hand” seeming to move its way onto and up Rose’s leg. There are other passages, however, that more clearly call into question whether this is taking place in reality or in Rose’s mind? Can you find one of those passages to quote and analyze?

  10. 1. After reading “Feminists wants us to define these ugly sexual encounter as rape. Don’t let them.” By Cathy Young, I partly agree with her perspective. In the text, she stated, “Despicable behavior is not always criminal..” and “..But if it involves consenting adults – who can refuse sex without reasonable fear or harm – those adults should be free to make mistakes.” I do not agree with this point of her perspective because from what I understood from these two phrases, she basically stated that as long as you are not in danger or have fear of being harmed, only then you should feel comfortable to say “no” or not consider it assault. I do not agree with this because if you do not feel ready or do not want to be touched then why should you allow it even if you are not in danger. To me as long as you do not feel ready or feel forced to have sex and not want it to happen, then it is still rape. However, she made a statement where she says, “..I didn’t have the nerve to say no. And the time I told a man, “Look, I’m not going to sleep with you,” and it was taken as, “Try again in a couple of hours.” He did, and it worked.” It is clear that she said no to this man but the man decided to retry and touch her, she let him do it afterwards. Although, I do believe that the man should have not tried touching her again if he knew she was uncomfortable. This would be a very complicated situation to go by in terms of differentiating it to rape or whatnot. When I said I partially agreed with her it was because of this statement she made like I mentioned above. She describes this bad behavior but she allowed it to happen to her. My father always speaks to me about these kinds of situations. If I let a man touch me or say “yes” to him, I am consenting to him. If I say “no” to him, and I do not let him or was forced upon then it is considered rape as I did not consent to him. In addition, Cathy young feels that feminists are going too far with these cases being considered as rape. In society, rape is something that others should be punishable whether you are a man or a woman. It seems she mostly cares about it being considered rape if you aren’t in danger.

    2. After reading “Wild Swans” by Alice Munro it made me think about a few things in regards to sexual assault. In the text Rose tells the minister, “Please don’t.” This is where the man should have stopped touching her. He did not, and it showed the vulnerability and weakness Rose had in terms of experiencing something that was not of her consent. Of course, it left her speechless and in fear as something like this has happened to her out of nowhere, and in public on the train with many people around. I consider it sexual assault if it’s either a man or a woman touching you in places you do not want to be touched, including forcing you to indulge in sexual activities. In addition, sexual assault to me is also when someone uses your vulnerability against you to get what they want like sex and forces you to act upon it either it’s by drugs, alcohol or even by harm. I do not consider it sexual assault if the man or woman gives you the permission to touch them whether you are in a relationship or whatever is the case, excluding children. You should be able to indulge in sexual activities if you feel like it or want to, not because someone wants to or threatens you because indulging in sexual activities is something that both individuals have to agree on.

    1. Kelly, hi. Thank you for your thoughts. Acknowledging that this can be a difficult topic to discuss (and also important to discuss, as a consequence), I’d like to invite you to send any thoughts about it you want kept private to me via e-mail. Not required of course, just an invite.

      In your opening discussion of the quotation from Young, I think that part of the issue is Young’s complicated use of the term “consenting adults”; by this, she indicates that she means adults “who can refuse sex without reasonable fear of harm.” It seems from your discussion of this notion of consent that you think she’s saying someone who doesn’t have “fear of harm” SHOULD say “yes”; I’m not sure of this though. I think she means that so long as both people feel able to say “no” if they have to then this sort of implies consent, I guess? Or maybe another way of putting it is that she questions whether it is right to level criminal accusations of sexual harassment or rape against someone involved in a situation where both parties were able to say no or walk away safely. But, wait, what do YOU think of this? How would YOU define sexual assault in light of these ideas?

      I have one thing that I’d like you to re-consider in your interpretation of “Wild Swans”: Rose does NOT ever say “Please don’t” to the minister out loud; she says it to herself, she says it to the trees out the window, but she doesn’t communicate this to him. You mention that she is “speechless” and this is true of the whole encounter with the minister; following their brief conversation, they do not speak. Does this change your interpretation of all? How do you factor Rose’s “speechlessness” into your interpretation? How do you factor in her “curiosity”–what influence does her “curiosity” have on the way the story unfolds?

  11. 1. It may seem obvious, but definition—the act of proposing what a word or idea means, does, or is about—is actually an incredibly powerful interpretative strategy. A definition is an interpretation. We have been working this week on close reading passages from the text you are interpreting for your Essay For this assignment, I want you to get practice defining words/ideas that are important to the text you are interpreting. We are going to get this practice using Cathy Young’s “Feminists Want Us…” (a provocative—possibly offensive—article on the politics of defining sexual assault) and Alice Munro’s short story, “Wild Swans” (a rather twisted tale in which an ambiguous sexual encounter—possibly assault; it’s debatable–takes place). First, I want you to read Young’s text and then respond with a paragraph describing what you think her view/definition/interpretation of sexual assault is. Consider both what she thinks IS sexual assault AND what she thinks IS NOT sexual assault (saying what a thing is NOT is just as important to forming a definition as is the ability to say what it IS).

    In the article “Feminists Want Us….”, I agree with Cathy Young’s view towards sexual assault. She stated that if a male or female say “yes” this can be clarified as sexual assault. Females can be pressured by the things that were forced to do. Taking advantage while someone is drunk is considered as sexual assault without the consent of the person. The things that were not considered as sexual assault in Young’s view is to have a normal conversation with your partner. I think that sexual assault is wrong, and you will have to face charges due to your actions.
    2. Second, I want you to read Munro’s “Wild Swans” and write a paragraph summarizing the story that is focused on whether or not you would define its “main event” as a form of sexual assault. Be sure to include a close reading & analysis of one quotation from the text as well as your own specific thoughts about what YOU think the definition of sexual assault IS and IS NOT.

    In “Wild Swans”, I think that the “main event” is a form of sexual assault because you don’t know what you are getting into. In “Wild Swans”, a man was putting his hands on Rose’s legs. Rose stated, “Please remove this, she said out the window. Stop it, please, she said to the stumps and barns.” She doesn’t like the feeling that she was being sexually assaulted by a man she doesn’t know. Sexual assault is the action involving sexual encounters with someone else without the consent from the partner.

    1. Victor, thank you for your thoughts. Acknowledging that this can be a difficult topic to discuss (and also important to discuss, as a consequence), I’d like to invite you to send any thoughts about it you want kept private to me via e-mail. Not required of course, just an invite.

      As for your account of Young’s article, I’m having a bit of trouble following it in certain places. I agree with you that Young thinks that *some* experiences that are “forced” are assault, but it is a question for her of what “force” means and what *kinds* of force are used. Can you be more specific about this?

      Can you explain more about what you mean when you suggest that “sexual assault” happens when “you don’t know what you are getting into”?

      Part of what is complicated about “Wild Swans” is that Rose doesn’t say “no” to the minister; she says no in her mind, says no “to the stumps and barns” out the window, but not to him. She says nothing out loud. Of course, she also doesn’t say “yes” with words either. Can you talk more about how these parts of the story contribute to whether it depicts a sexual assault (or not)?
      Thanks.

  12. 1. After reading Cathy Young’s text on “Feminists want us to define these ugly sexual encounters as rape. Don’t let them,” I agree with some of her points of view and I also disagree with some of her perspectives. She stated, “Sexual ethics based on honesty, respect and communication can be discussed without turning every lapse into a crime.” This passage stuck out to be because I partially agree with what she is saying. I believe that there should always be an open communication in a respectable manner when it comes to the conversation of sex. If a woman feels uncomfortable in any situation regarding sex, that should be taken seriously and if she is not being respected, than yes, it should be considered a crime. Forced sex is never okay, no is no. On the other hand as she stated, “In college communities, young people who feel wronged in sexual situations that stem from misunderstanding, pressure, or insensitivity could be offered support; remedies might include meditation or joint counseling.” I agree with this statement because I feel like not all situations are clearly rape, and someone regrets a decision they should be able to talk about it with confidentiality and be able to express how they feel about the situation.

    2. In “Wild Swans,” by Munro it made me think about what sexual assault meant. When Flo made the comment in the text about the police, “Oh, them! They’d be the first ones to diddle you!” that comment struck me because she is clearly warning Flo who is taking her first solo trip on a train that she must be aware of her surroundings and to not necessarily be naïve and trust anyone. I agree that in many cases you must be cautious of your surroundings and not always rely and trust everyone you think can help you. She even warns Rose about “white slavers.” Calling them predators. Sexual assault to me means contact or behavior that happens without your consent If you are consenting to any act, communication or behavior than this is not sexual assault.

    1. Melanie, thank you for your thoughts. Acknowledging that this can be a difficult topic to discuss (and also important to discuss, as a consequence), I’d like to invite you to send any thoughts about it you want kept private to me via e-mail. Not required of course, just an invite.

      I’m interested in hearing more on what you disagree with in Young’s article; can you be more explicit about this? I’m also interested in what you mean when you write that “not all situations are clearly rape”–can you say more about this?

      In your analysis of “Wild Swans,” can you discuss what happens later in the story–on the train–and consider the question of whether it amounts to sexual assault?
      Thank you.

  13. 1. According to Cathy Young in her article “Feminists Want Us to Define These Ugly Sexual Encounters As Rape. Don’t Let Them”, she describes sexual assault in her view. To her sexual assault is when someone forces another to perform a sexual act without their approval. But often, she will say what she doesn’t believe is sexual assault, as she talks about her own experiences, where she states how someone is not in the mood to have sex, it shouldn’t necessarily be considered as sexual assault. As she says,”Besides, I know that sometimes the roles have been reversed. There was the ex-boyfriend I thought I was seducing in the hope of getting him back—only to realize, the one time he finally said no harshly enough, that it had been more pressure than seduction”,(Washington Post, Young). Here she talks about how there was a time where she almost forced a man into pleasuring her, and he didn’t want to at all.
    2. “Wild Swans” by Munro is about a woman, Rose, who is told by here friend, Flo, to be aware of the people she will ride with on the train. When she’s on the train, she is accompanied by an off-duty minister and they have a little chat. While he’s reading his newspaper, it touches Rose’s leg. At first she does not think much much of it but wonders if it was the ministers hand. While he is supposedly sleeping, his hand traveled further up Rose’s leg. This makes me believe she was sexually assaulted. I mainly believe this as Rose, the main character, seemed uncomfortable as the minister’s “…hand moved up her leg past the top of her stocking to her bare skin…,”(“Wild Swans” ). In my view, sexual assault is when a person is forced to perform a sexual act unwillingly. This can apply to any person, whether drunk or sober. What it isn’t is when two people mutually agree without hesitation and are fully aware.

    1. Haziq, thank you for your thoughts. Acknowledging that this can be a difficult topic to discuss (and also important to discuss, as a consequence), I’d like to invite you to send any thoughts about it you want kept private to me via e-mail. Not required of course, just an invite.

      As for your account of Young’s article, I’m having a bit of trouble following it in certain places. I agree with you that Young thinks that *some* experiences that are “forced” are assault, but it is a question for her of what “force” means and what kinds of force are used. Can you be more specific about this?

      Also, after you quote, can you explain how you’re understanding the difference between two of the words Young uses in it: “pressure” vs. “seduction”? This is very important that you point this out, but please explain more here.

      In your reading of “Wild Swans,” can you acknowledge all of the uncertainty about whether it is the minister’s actual hand? Rose seems to question whether she is imagining things; how might this be important for understanding what goes on in the story and whether it is “sexual assault”?
      Thanks.

  14. Kwame Manuh
    Prof. Monroe
    Due 6/25

    1.From reading the excerpt of Young, sexual abuse only happens when one especially a female indulges in a sexual intimacy with a man which was forced. Example if a man forcibly moves on the girl and the man gets pushed away that is unwanted sexual harassment. Cathay thinks that, if a woman allows a man to have sex with her while intoxicated, it should be considered an unwanted mistake and that the man shouldn’t be charged with sexual assault. In the beginning Cathy explains her own personal story which she encountered while she was being harrassed. She personally doesn’t think that is the case but in the modern day society any unwanted advancement which involves physical contact or any sexual activities without consent is sexual assault. “The movements in the early 1990’s by anti rape activists got it right about sexual assault or abuse”. If an is there is a partial resistance or a lack of enthusiasm for sex even for people in a relationship and any sexual advancement is made it is considered sexual assault. For some reason Cathy Young thinks that even if there is a no and and it is not loud and clear it should be considered a mistake. I think that is absurd and in relating that to torture if she says a partial no and its not clear enough and she is torched anyway will she report that to the law enforcement or will she consider that a mistake.

    2. In Munro short story, is a form of sexual assault. This is because any unwanted contact made to any part of the body especially in a sexual manner is undermining the integrity of the girl. With someone falling asleep on the train is a normal thing but a moving hand by somebody who is asleep is very suspicious. Even after Rose tried to keep her leg tight, the man insisted and forcibly moved his hands up her skin and rubbed it on her belly. Even if we want to go by all accounts of chaty youngs excerpt on when no means no, clearly action speaks louder than words. In this story she screams out of the window and tells him to stop.” Please remove this she said” This is clearly a no but in this case her intimidation caused her dignity. I think that she could have been more assertive and not only that moment she realised that the hands were moving she could have moved her seat or woke him up. This is not to say that the man is justified for doing what he did to Rose. That is absolutely terrible and for that it is definitely considered a sexual assault.

    1. Kwame, thank you for your thoughts. Acknowledging that this can be a difficult topic to discuss (and also important to discuss, as a consequence), I’d like to invite you to send any thoughts about it you want kept private to me via e-mail. Not required of course, just an invite.

      As for your account of Young’s article, I’m having a bit of trouble following it in certain places. I agree with you that Young thinks that *some* experiences that are “forced” are assault, but it is a question for her of what “force” means and what kinds of force are used. Can you be more specific about this? Also, can you be clearer about what in particular you find “absurd” in this article and explain your own view of what ought to be considered sexual assault?

      Lastly, I want to encourage you to take another look at “Wild Swans.” If you read carefully, you will see that Rose doesn’t actually scream out loud. She remains silent while thinking many things. How does this change the way you understand what happens in the story–and whether or not you think it is “assault”?
      Thank you.

  15. In the article, “Feminists want us to define these ugly sexual encounters as rape. Don’t let them” by Cathy Young, she go to her own interpretation of what sexual assault is and is not. Young writes,“… adopting the “ yes means yes” approach. But this crusade against “rape culture” oversimplifies the vast complexity of human sexual interaction,conflating criminal sexual acts such as coercion by physical force, threat, or incapacitation- which should obviously be prosecuted and punished- with bad behavior.” Coercion isn’t a real thing if you can safely say no ,“Despicable behavior is not always criminal, just like getting guilt- tripped into giving money to a freeloading friend is not robbery.” She also believes that if you have done predatory things in the past as a woman you can not claim assault because it would be a “ blatant sexist double standard”. She also does not believe that any sign of reluctance should make a sexual encounter stop so “no does not mean no”. Consent does not have to be explicit and verbal and if someone is inebriated then it won’t count as an assault if you had been adamant and felt secure before the encounter. She also believes that being more vocal about consent in an encounter is unrealistic and will come from a fear of retribution. She also believes autonomous sexual adults are free to choose to make their own mistakes and that ensuring that sex can be free without pressure is IMPOSSIBLE.

    Apparently manipulation only exists in a physical way instead of an emotional and mental one. She believes that this new advocacy creates an unsafe world where every sexual encounter can be reconstructed as an assault and must be defined and gone over with a super fine tooth comb and that people may edit their perception of the encounter based on bias. She does not explicitly touch upon incidents where men are sexually assaulted by women and what that would mean. Only that when it is a man and women the sexual assault will be the men’s fault due to the intoxication.

    I believe she lacks coherence as she back tracks her decisions and makes the aggressor feel/be justified, which in the long run strips her of power. Yes people are multifaceted and sex can be tedious process in defining what is appropriate or not but stripping people of agency in terms of having an acute definition that all should and CAN adhere by which requires just a few extra seconds of being engaged emotionally with your partner should not be a death sentence to the “mood”. Respecting someone’s boundaries need to happen regardless of one’s sexual interest and their sexual capital. If people can not practice emotional intelligence then they should not be gifted with pleasure which can result in someone else’s pain.

    I read Munro’s “Wild Swans” and interpreted whether or not I would define its “main event” as a form of sexual assault. This story follows Rose who is traveling to Toronto for the first time. Before she goes she is warned by her friend Flo of the dangers of encountering white slavers who commonly disguise themselves as ministers of the Church. Ironically she does encounter a male who identifies as this,though not in uniform. Being politie she engages in quick conversation but does not go into actively seeking more conversation.The morning is cold so she covers her lap with her coat. The minister then falls asleep or appears to fall asleep. His newspaper lies on his lap, adjacent Rose’s coat. Rose becomes aware of the tip of the newspaper touching her leg just at the edge of her coat. She wonders if it is in fact the man’s hand that is touching her and admits to previously wondering and studying the hands of men. She then realizes it is his hand and wants to protest but does not. Munro writes, “ It was. It was a hand. It was hands pressure. Please don’t. That was what she tried to say. She shaped the words in her mind,tried them out, then couldn’t get them past her lips.” In addition, “ The minister’s hand was not, or not yet, at all welcome to her. It made her feel uncomfortable, resentful, slightly disgusted, trapped and wary.”

    Regardless of whether or not she enjoyed the sexual encounter, consent was never asked for or given. She centers the story around how she feels toward the situation in a positive way and multiple times centers the story around the minister’s identity instead of her own negative feelings and what would benefit her in the moment. I think the ambiguity of the story goes to show that much more needs to be talked about in terms of what defines sexual desire v.s. assault. Sex may not always be a 100% positive and perfect experience but it should NEVER be without the consent to engage with. There needs to be discernment with a thorough, well rounded, educated definition.

    1. Aravis, hi. Thank you for this rigorous commentary on Young’s article and Munro’s short story. I will comment on but a fraction of what you’ve written in hopes of stirring the conversation that you rightly call for in your closing lines. Please feel free to be in touch via e-mail if you have anything you’d like to share more privately about this. I realize this is a challenging assignment in many ways; it is a topic that clearly demands impassioned thought about how we define sexual assault. You rightly pick up on how Young is wanting to complicate this conversation; she uses her own ambiguous experiences with men she slept with half-willingly to question whether verbal consent is something to be universally sought after in sex (clearly it’s not for her, but how her preference is to be made into a standard that would apply to other women and men is another story…). Yet, as you also point out, her own definition of sexual assault seems rather impoverished, the primary take-away being that situations involving “physical” coercion be thought of as sexual assault. This definition of assault, however, doesn’t really speak to all the other more ambiguous sexual situations (ambiguous emotionally, verbally, etc.) that might also be counted as “assault” of some sort.

      I actually think you’ve started to add something to Young’s rather limited discussion of assault when you write about “Wild Swans” that Munro’s story shows how “much more needs to be talked about in terms of what defines sexual desire v.s. assault.” Should you choose to revise this, can you elaborate this thought about “desire” vs. “assault”? Perhaps you can do so through “Wild Swans,” which I think in many ways offers a much more nuanced representation of what’s at stake in the sex vs. sexual assault conversation than Young’s article. What is it that Rose seems to “desire” in Munro’s story? Or does she not “desire” anything? Many of us are accustomed to interpreting the behavior of characters in literature as an indicator of some sort of desire or motivation which stirs them into a particular kind of action (or inaction). But regardless of this, how do we account for Rose’s action (or inaction) in light of the way the story ends? Is “curiosity” (so emphasized in this story) a form of “desire” or is it something else entirely? And what to make of the scenery outside the train that Rose observes during this whole incident? This is a famous passage in literature for the way Alice Munro depicts her feminine protagonist’s fantasy. But is this a sign of Rose’s desire? Or is it an escape motivated by fear of some kind? A bit of both? I’m not sure, but I sure am interested in what you think of this.

  16. First, I want you to read Young’s text and then respond with a paragraph describing what you think her view/definition/interpretation of sexual assault is. Consider both what she thinks IS sexual assault AND what she thinks IS NOT sexual assault (saying what a thing is NOT is just as important to forming a definition as is the ability to say what it IS).

    I think Young’s view of sexual assault are based on the events and conversation that lead up to the act. Young makes it clear that she has been in situations that many women, or feminists, would consider rape or sexual assuault but she herself does not think so. Young states “ Was I a victim? Even in the first incident, in which the man knowingly pressured me into something I didn’t want, I could have safely said no to him” She then uses an example of behavior and how it is not always a crime. “Despicable behavior is not always criminal, just like getting guilt tripped into giving money to a freeloading friend is not robbery”. However, Young does make it clear that she does think sexual assualt is anything that is forced or used with “physical violence, restraint or threats, or being subjected to sexual acts while physically helpless”.

    Second, I want you to read Munro’s “Wild Swans” and write a paragraph summarizing the story that is focused on whether or not you would define its “main event” as a form of sexual assault. Be sure to include a close reading & analysis of one quotation from the text as well as your own specific thoughts about what YOU think the definition of sexual assault IS and IS NOT.

    After reading Wild Swans by Munro, I would definietly consider its main event a form of sexual assault. Throught the text Munro uses pathos, the appeal of emotion to the audience which causes the reader to feel pity for Rose and even disgust towards the “minister”. Rose has been told many stories by Flo about strange men and women who sexually assault women and children. Flo has always told Rose how to identify these types of people and how to avoid being in such a situation. While Rose takes the train alone one day, a man asks to sit next to her and begins to make conversation with her. Rose does not engage in the conversation but she does give little replies out of respect. The man later rests his hand on her thigh and eventually travels up to her bare skin and underwear. Munro states “The minister’s hand was not, or not yet, at all welcome to her. It made her feel uncomfortable, resentful, slightly disgusted, trapped and wary” (The Beggar Maid, Wild Swans pg. 64). I believe this is considered sexual assault for many reasons. One being that Rose did not consent to being touched by the man. Munro also expresses Rose’s uncertainty and how uncomfortable she was while it was happening, indicating that she did not want it. The way the man rushes off the train at the end also shows who he is and what his intentions were.

    1. Chelsea, thank you for this. I realize this is a very charged and important issue; please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or concerns about this text/assignment or my feedback.
      Your work on Young is really good; the only thing I really want more of is YOU. What do you think of her thoughts on sexual assault——particularly her questioning of “no means no” and her insistence that we use the term “rape” or assault primarily in the context of “physical” coercion?

      Also, in your discussion of “Wild Swans,” can I get you to come forward more clearly with YOUR own definition of what “sexual assault” is and how this shapes your interpretation of the text?

  17. 1. Young believes that sexual assault has been twisted to have a double standard which victimizes the female automatically and that this had been developed through the years by feminist rhetoric. Young feels that sex is a two person act and both parties should share the responsibility in taking part in this action or not and also feels that sexual assault is not supposed to include reluctant consent, persuading an initially reluctant partner into a sexual encounter because humans are indecisive and sometimes a little pressure might steer the way on both sides, this creates a world where any regretted sexual encounter can be reconstructed as sexual assault Young believes that sexual assault is indeed overpowering the individual into something they do not want to do and anti-rape prevention should be focused in law enforcement and criminal conduct.

    2. The story “Wild Swans” by Alice Munro was about a lady named Rose who was inappropriately touched without consent during a train ride by a man dressed up as a minister. Rose struggled to prevent this encounter due to fear whether or not the minister would stop or not and whether or not it was a hand. I think Rose was so scared and shocked that this was happening that she was finding every excuse to admit it was going on in the first place so she doesn’t have to speak out despite being disgusted and feeling defiled while going through this experience. In my opinion this is definitely sexual assault, making somebody feel uncomfortable with physical contact as stated in these quotes “Nevertheless, she would rather not. She would rather not. Please remove this, she said out the window. Stop it, please, she said to the stumps and barns. The hand moved up her leg past the top of her stocking to her bare skin, had moved higher, under her suspender, reached her underpants and the lower part of her belly. While her legs stayed crossed she could lay claim to innocence, she had not admitted anything. She still believed she could stop this in a minute. Nothing was going to happen, nothing more.” This is ideally sexual assault, the abuse and overpower of somebody vulnerable and the exploitation of their vulnerability to defile them physically, I don’t think sexual assault is something you question nor is it something with a definite meaning because it can come to you in different ways but the result is clear, men or women being taken advantage of. I think sexual assault should not be something someone goes back to as a mistaken sexual encounter but a sexual abuse in general which is done inappropriately.

    1. Thanks Miguel. Some quick thoughts for revision:

      –You have a bit of a run-on sentence here that leads me to become confused about how you are presenting Young’s view:

      “Young feels that sex is a two person act and both parties should share the responsibility in taking part in this action or not and also feels that sexual assault is not supposed to include reluctant consent, persuading an initially reluctant partner into a sexual encounter because humans are indecisive and sometimes a little pressure might steer the way on both sides, … ”

      Can you break this up into multiple sentences rather than ideas connected via commas? Also, the key part that confuses me is where you write “sexual assault is not supposed to include reluctant consent.” Do you mean something like:

      Young argues that we shouldn’t think of sexual interactions where consent was given reluctantly as forms of sexual assault.

      ? Does that capture what you meant? If so, feel free to use my revision in your revision. 🙂

      –In your interpretation of “Wild Swans,” I again get confused by a run-on sentence:

      I think Rose was so scared and shocked that this was happening that she was finding every excuse to admit it was going on in the first place so she doesn’t have to speak out despite being disgusted and feeling defiled while going through this experience.

      Can you break this into multiple sentences, with each one expressing one main idea?

      Lastly, I think it is important to try to define “sexual assault”—that is, give it a more or less clear meaning—given that it is a very serious issue, for both a person who is being assaulted and for the person being accused of committing assault. Both people’s lives can be ruined based on how this term is understood or misunderstood. With that in mind, can you be a bit clearer about what you mean in your discussion of this term: what exactly does it mean to be “taken advantage of”? What does it mean, to you, to behave “inappropriately” in the context of sex?

  18. Kerving Sosa

    Definition of the sexual assault, is when you are forced into intimacies while you’re still hesitant about the whole situation that is sexual assault. Man and a Woman must openly agree but if one says no in the beginning and later is guilted into it again we have to put blame on both parties because both people are consenting adults and know what they’re getting themselves into, There is a thin line of what is borderline sexual assault and every guy and woman should refrain from being anywhere near that line

    2) In the Wild Swans, the story starts off by explaining the point of view of how Flo had seen the world and she is explaining it to a girl named Rose who she works with. How when you’re travelling you must be cautious of strangers.The cops are also no help as well just as bad as the crooked strangers. Rose believes there are some good/nice strangers like one of the customers who buys at their shop. Rose didn’t believe entirely what Flo was saying but she did heed her warning as she is traveling for the first time by herself. Rose happens to meet a minister as he sits next to her. Flo had warned Rose that men dressed as pretend ministers are people to avoid. However this man wasn’t dressed up as one he was off duty in regular clothes. They had polite conversation about traveling and swans etc. The man eventually fell asleep or seemed so when Rose felt something on her leg. It was as the man’s hand slowly started to creep up her leg throughout the ride she wanted to tell him something but he appeared to be sleeping and didn’t want to bother and she felt worried of what the other train passengers would’ve thought if they overheard her. She eventually got off on her stop unharmed and looked for Flo’s friend Mavis who worked at a gift shop in the station. Rose was sexually harassed, in a sense she was sexually assaulted because sexual harassment or assault means that the touching was unwanted by the woman although she didn’t quite stop it right away that is because she didn’t know how to not because she didn’t want to. No man should force themselves on a woman even if it’s something subtle like that if it’s unwanted that’s a no no. Every woman should build or work on building the courage to stand up for themselves no matter the circumstance.

  19. 1. According to Munro and Young, sexual harassment is the behavior of a man who participates in sexual intercourse against an individual without the permission of an individual. This also profits from women’s vulnerability and commits rape. Munro’s “Sexual assault’ definition means that a man groped a woman’s legs without a woman’s permission in public transportation. The woman can not speak out in this situation due to fear. Young interprets that sexual assault has not happened since a woman said it has not changed her mind in a sexual experience which she accepted. The accusation of sexual assault in Young ‘s article is not a sexual attack, it’s a sexual activity she’ll consent to, although at first, she believed that her child’s approval implied that she didn’t want sex. Young and Munro ‘s views on sexual misconduct indicate that there is reason to consider an event as sexual assault and sexual harassment.

    All papers outline the story of the alleged sexual assaults. Yet only one reveals the real sexual harassment case in The Swan by Alice Munro, which happened as harassment, but the woman was afraid to utter a word because of fear. Sexual attacks are sexual violence that has forced a woman or a child into acts of sexual activity, such as forced oral sex, inconsistent sexual intercourse with sexual organs, and explicit sexual contact. Consented sexual intercourse is not an assault.

    2. In the section where the minister touched Rose, the fact that the human hands touched certain portions of Rose made Rose feel uneasy. For fear of her life, she can’t cry. The minister left, Grew, after stopping at the next station, continued to remember Flo ‘s post. Rose is a type of sexual harassment where a man has entered her body without her consent, and she worries about what is going to happen next after the incident. “Please don’t” is when the fear has kicked in, due to the events, in which she was under the feeling of duress. But after the incident, it didn’t bother Rose. Sexual assault is if a person either by using force or by luring them into sex ( i.e. narcotics and alcohol) takes advantage of women’s vulnerability. It is not considered as an assault if someone does nothing to hurt a woman and children. The guy is in public at his best and doesn’t make a woman uncomfortable.

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