I posted this question about Tess of the d'Urbervilles. My latest version read as follows:
The first part of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles ends on an extremely dark and sinister note: Tess, having allowed Alec d'Urberville to get her on her own in the middle of nowhere, ends up having sex with him. This event impacts her life far more than the immediate distress it causes her, or even than the short-lived child resulting from her subsequent pregnancy: it's one of the defining moments of her tragic life.
The big question is to what extent their sexual relationship was consensual. It was already established that he was attempting to seduce her and she, despite not returning his feelings, was too inexperienced to know how to deal with him. But did she allow herself to be persuaded to consent to sex with him, or did he actually force himself on her? Was she raped, or merely seduced?
The first part of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles ends on an extremely dark and sinister note. Tess is alone with Alec d'Urberville in the middle of nowhere. Tess falls asleep.
What happens afterwards is not specified. It was already established that Alec was attempting to seduce her, and that she, despite not returning his feelings, was too inexperienced to know how to deal with him. Although later in the story we learn that Tess gets pregnant as a result of that night with Alec's child, we don't get a description of the night itself.
What happened during that night?
Hamlet also asked me in chat not to make any further edits to my question, on the grounds that he "ha[s] a responsibility to make sure that we can discuss sensitive topics productively". I'd like to know how my question as quoted above fosters non-productive discussion.
Hamlet's edit makes several major changes which I feel are unnecessary. He's edited to say that Tess falls asleep (which I don't recall being stated unambiguously in the text, and would in any case be better stated in an answer than in the question), removed my statement that they have sex (which DOES definitely happen), and changed the main thrust of the question from the very clear "was it consensual?" to the vague and woolly "what happened that night?"
Is the first version quoted above acceptable?
If this issue is something that we, as a site, are unable to deal with, I'm willing to delete it. (Since entire academic papers have been written on the issue of whether Tess was raped, I'd say it's a valid literary question, but I'm not going to get into a mod fight over it.) But I'd rather not have my question edited so as to change its intent and, IMO, lower the quality of the question.