co-erce ko-ers vb co-erced; co-ercing 1: RESTRAIN, REPRESS 2: COMPEL 3:
–co-er-sion -er-zhen,shen n –co-er-cive -er-siv adj rape ^r`ap n 1:
a carrying away by force 2: sexual intercourse by a man with a woman without
her consent and chiefly by force or deception; also : unlawful sexual
intercourse of any kind by force or threat
As if the line between normal and acceptable consensual sex and rape
wasn’t thin enough already, there are those out there that wish to make it an
even narrower, less defined and more twisting line to stay on the right side of.
It seems as though somehow, somewhere, someone decided that the two terms
defined above are in some way related. However, in the manner of logic which I
possess, they are not. The debate now is rape, and what constitutes that once
horridly thought of crime. In the opinion of some, rape is no longer just a
physical act of violence that accompanies uninvited sex. Rape, as defined by
some, can occur even when the two parties involved agree verbally or otherwise
to have sex. This to me, seems absurd. In the most basic terms, and with the
simplest definitions, no means no, and okay, yeah, yes and please, all mean yes.
The term “NO” is not very complicated, and is probably the word that was
repeated to us the most as children, so we should all get that one right. But
still, how can yes mean no? Apparently through a term known as “verbal
coersion,” which allows a large grey area to form between these simple answers
to sometimes complicated questions.
“Verbal Coersion” is not a term you will find in the dictionary, at
least not in any of the ones I own. In an article by David R. Carlin, Jr., he
states that as he interprets this term “rape can occur even when consent is
given, provided this consent is influenced by external pressures and is not
simply the result of internal desire.(12; par.3).” I find this to be an
acceptable definition of coersion as it relates to sexual situations, although I
feel strongly that under no circumstance can coersion constitute rape, once the
coerced has consented to full physical acceptance of sexual advances.
Although coersion can be exercised through many different approaches, I
contend that the entire idea that verbal coersion can constitute rape is
inadequate on one main principle. In order to coerce someone, that someone must
allow the coercing to occur. If a man who is trying to gain sexual favors from
a woman attempts to seduce her through flattery, promises and so on, doesn’t end
up getting what he wants, no coersion has taken place. His attempt has failed.
This is true only because the woman hasn’t allowed herself to succumb to his
charms. But if this is all that occurred, in no sense of the word has he
attempted to “rape” her. If a man has a girlfriend or wife who is not in the
mood for sex, and the man threatens to go find sex elsewhere or threatens to
leave her, this is, in a way, coersion. This is not just a simple coercive
statement though. It is coersion through blackmail, and is unkind and immoral,
but again, it is not an attempted rape. Nor is it illegal.
I think that Camille Paglia is probably a good example of a person who
would not allow herself to be coerced. In her essay “It’s a Jungle Out There”
she exhibits a massive general mistrust of the male gender as an entire group.
She argues that “Hunt, pursuit, and capture are biologically programmed into
male sexuality(637; par.10)” as she attempts to warn young women about the
perils of behaving with naivety in the presence of young men, who have but one
thing on their mind, and, supposedly, are willing to go to any lengths to get it.
I truly doubt that this woman, or her younger counterparts who share this
attitude, would willingly follow an intoxicated member of a fraternity up to his
room, an expect nothing would happen. I doubt that any form or amount of
coersion could change this, for their attitude is too defensive. They would be
distrustful of anything a young man might do or say. In order for this type of
woman to have sex with a man, she must first truly desire to, and all women, in
my opinion, are capable of being this strong and self-reliant.
Coersion, as I see it, is a practice as common for most people as
brushing their teeth before bed. I think that we are all guilty of being
coercive, for in our society coersion is the ladder on which we stand to reach
up and get that which we desire. We coerce others to see things our way, do the
things we want to do, and to aide in making compromises that will be found
acceptable to more than one party. Others coerce us for the same reasons, as
well as many more. Everyday, we are exposed to an average of over seven-hundred
advertisements which attempt to cajole us into buying a new product or
service(often through sexually oriented advertising), or to try out an old
product again. Coersion as I see it, and not as the dictionary defines it, is
any attempt to persuade a person into doing something they may not ordinarily do.
For that matter, it is even possible for us to coerce ourselves. We second-
guess our first instincts, we buy act impulsively, and we are all capable of
wanting things passionately. It is not irrational to expect that sex is one of
I do believe that phrases such as “verbal rape,” “date rape,” and
“acquaintance rape” do diminish the substance and impact of the word “rape”
itself, and I feel that they should not be used in these forms. I feel that the
word “rape” is designed to carry a powerful and shocking image, as is does as
defined at the beginning of this work. When attached to other words such as
“date,” and “verbal”, words that carry much different connotations and images,
the impact of the word “rape” diminishes. Apparently I’m not the only one who
thinks this. David R. Carlin, Jr., in his article “Date Rape Fallacies” writes
“… -even though I continue to be troubled by the use of the word “rape” to
cover the whole range of events. For no matter how true the new feminist
analysis might be, there still remains a world of difference between a smooth
talker on one hand and a man holding a knife to your throat on the other.
Calling them both rapists may be a fine way of highlighting the malignity of the
former, but it is also a way of trivializing the criminality of the latter.(12,
par.6).”I is very hard for me to compare a crime called “rape” against a
crime called “verbal coersion” and expect that I, or anyone else, for that
matter, would view them with the same degree of severity.
Although I have already stated that coersion of all types plays a role
in our daily lives, at no point is this more true than when dating. In my
opinion, dating is something that we do as a natural part of our existence as
social beings, and in this day in age, sex plays a part in a dating relationship
probably far too early. However, I don’t think that this is due to men getting
better at coercing women to have sex with them, nor do I think that women have
lost their ability to say no or to protect their so-called “sacred vessels
(Rophie 647, par. 7).” I think that this is due to the fact that it is finally
acceptable for women to want sex. No longer are women treated as outcasts for
wanting to have sexual relations on a first or second date. Women can now
initiate sexual contact without being nearly as embarrassed as they feel like
they should be. Also, women are now allowed to participate in the coercing.
Although they don’t as much, it’s always fun when the roles are reversed and
the man gets to try to hold off.
The preconceived notion that we all carry which implies that for men,
the goal of dating is sexual conquest is true, and I’m sure always will be. The
way that most men attempt to achieve these conquests is through coersion. As
Susan Jacoby says in her essay, “Real men don’t rape(644, par.19).” In my
opinion, though, there’s nothing wrong with trying to change someone else’s
opinion of you, or how that person feels about you. And that is coersion. And,
often times, it is sexually oriented. And, if it does lead to sex, that’s fine.
It should also be fine if it doesn’t. But either way, I think that it’s
unrealistic to consider coersion of any type to be a form of rape.
Category: Social Issues