In J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace, is David guilty of rape?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee, is a 1999 novel about a South African teacher whose actions destroy his life.

David Lurie's life becomes more and more complicated as he falls prey to his own desires. After losing his mistress, he becomes enamored with one of his students, Melanie, and eventually forces himself on her in an act described as:

...not rape, not quite that, but undesired nevertheless, undesired to the core. As though she had decided to go slack, die within herself for the duration, like a rabbit when the jaws of the fox close on its neck. So that everything done to her might be done, as it were, far away.
(Coetzee, Disgrace, Google Books)

Although the text explicitly states that the act is "not rape," it is rape in all but the character's internal thoughts. David assaults Melanie and she clearly does not want it to happen; however, instead of fighting back, she becomes compliant to avoid trouble. This is often seen in rapes, where the victim believes it will be easier to submit. Melanie later comes to David and stays with him for a time, submitting to his desires while never connecting emotionally; this is similar to Stockholm Syndrome, where a victim becomes sympathetic to an attacker. Strictly defined, David's original act is rape, as it is the forcing of sexual interaction by a superior (teacher) to an inferior (student) with implicit threat. 

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