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A Deeper Look At Coercion And Its Effects On A Person's Actions

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One of the topics that never fail to bring about some response from the listener is feminism and one of the strongest voices in American feminism is unquestionably Marilyn Frye. She was one of the founders of feminist philosophy in the United States and her influence on this subject can't be underestimated. One of the ideas she has weighed in on is the topic of coercion and what it really means to say that someone has been coerced. She challenges some of the traditional beliefs concerning coercion, namely the long held belief that choice and action can't take place without an immediate force being applied and that coercion presents the person being coerced with a single option. Some of her reasoning for this argument is quite reasonable and interesting and it's this supporting material that we'll look at in the preceding paragraphs.

One of the things that she points out is the misconception that intercourse isn't rape unless the act is physically forced and the fact there are still several states that currently have the laws stating such a thing on the books. The reason for this belief is that they feel that unless the person is physically forced then they are seen as choosing intercourse over the other alternatives and thus by definition their not being coerced. The problem that Frye has with this definition is that it's to narrow minded and that this interpretation of coercion results in the conclusion that there's no such thing as a person being coerced into doing something (317). This is an important omission because it's this weakness in the definition that she attacks in order to show that a person can be forced into doing something and that choice and action can take place in the absence of immediate force. This just means that a person can "choose" to do something under there own control or will and that the force involved may be at some distance from the person being coerced.

It's just such a situation that this applies to and is shown in the example of the case of armed robbery. Frye uses this example to show that a victim's choices are determined by their own perceptions and judgment and that the will of the coerced person must be engaged in the process if there is to be any kind of bodily movement. In this example the person being robbed previously had no intentions of handing over their property yet when confronted by the armed robber suddenly the best option available to them is complying and giving the robber their property. It's not like they still don't have other options besides complying yet based on there perceptions of the risks and their judgment on the best course of action they "choose" to hand over there property under their own will and steam. This is because you the robber have arranged things so that of all the available options the best one available or most attractive one was the one were the victim did the thing you wanted them to do (318).



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