Once upon a sexual assault … it’s not outrageous for fairytales to get a modern update | Stephanie Merritt

Sleeping Beauty’s roots lie in a story of rape – and when stories strongly shape children’s sense of gender role and agency then old tropes may need reimagining

•Stephanie Merritt is an author, and former deputy literary editor of the ObserverWhen is it acceptable for a man to foist himself on a sleeping woman? You may be thinking that the correct answer would be “never” – unless, of course, you are the father of former Stanford student Brock Turner, who wrote a letter to the sentencing judge to protest about his son’s conviction last year for assaulting an unconscious woman after a party.

The one other exception to the rule of not initiating sexual contact with women who haven’t given consent due to not being awake is if you are a fairytale prince and she’s trapped in a 100-year enchanted sleep. If you’ve just hacked your way through a forest of thorns, you can’t be expected to dither over the niceties of permission when there’s a wicked fairy breathing down your neck. And in any case, princesses are raised to be grateful.

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