Classic fairy tales have always been a big part of Western culture. In most American societies, educational institutions provide us with assignments that involve analyzing various fairy tales’ characters or their intentions. These stories have remained for a long time because of the messages they can communicate with both children and adolescents. This is explained by the fact that many situations that occur within the stories represent real-life dangers in the society of today.
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In this paper, the working thesis runs as follows: despite the fact that the tale of Little Red Riding Hood is typically viewed as a children’s story that narrates the perils of the phenomenon known as “stranger danger,” it should also be viewed through the scope of transitioning from childhood to adulthood and therefore be interpreted as a cautionary tale about sexual relationships and the associated threats that women and other vulnerable subjects face in today’s American society, such as sexual predators, stalking, and date rape.
Background and Context
The advancement of technology is changing society, business, and people’s lives. This progress explains why people nowadays interact, study, communicate and work differently. As a result, there are numerous behaviors that have emerged through ill-minded interactions with various types of technology, such as mobile phones and the internet. These behaviors include a phenomenon known as cyberstalking. Stalking is viewed as a behavior or a course of action towards a particular person, where the conduct is likely to instill fear and psychologically affect the other person (Catalano 1). Stalking can occur in real life as well, as persons may follow their victims in the physical world.
With the advancements in technology, communication is enhanced as individuals are now able to share information through devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets. Through this technology, individuals have the opportunity to share and exchange data through text messages, videos, and, most importantly, photos. With these specific developments of the given technologies, there has been a dramatic increase in cases of cyberstalking, which consequently has led to real-life stalking, in which the perpetrators access their victim’s information, images, and the most private information (Stalking Resource Center).
Then, they proceed to follow these individuals, usually hiding their identity and scaring the victim as a result. The example of stalking is present in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, as the protagonist is followed by a wolf throughout the course of events. The narrative of the story is relevant to this day as it describes one’s experience with stalking. While the issue of cyberstalking is not noted in the book, the current developments of stalking can be compared to the events of the story.
Counterargument to Weakest Reason
Despite the fact that cyberstalking has become one of the most pressing problems among those that emerged with the rapid development of technology, some people still argue that the actual danger posed by this kind of online behavior is exaggerated. They claim that cyberstalking is limited to the webspace and rarely crosses the boundary with the real world. In other words, it is much more common than physical stalking that involves physical harassment.
Cyberstalkers use social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, emails, and other means of tracking another individual’s personal life and threatening him or her (Gil). Also, many abusers use texting to express some sexual themes, also known as “sexting,” which intimidates their victims. Although their behavior is disturbing, they cannot do any physical harm to their victims unless the latter agrees to meet them in reality.
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The proponents of this view on stalking typically cite the argument provided by the Bedford University’s ECHO research that stalkers on online dating sites are a very rare phenomenon, accounting for approximately 4 percent of victims, which implies that the risks of being inflicted any physical harm is low (Maple et al. 14). Furthermore, it is rather easy to protect oneself from stalking by law enforcement if the situation seems to be going out of control. Thus, the issue of stalking, evidently present in the Red Riding Hood tale, is inapplicable to the modern society, in which such activities do not go further than the online space.
Refutation of Counterargument
As argued by Catalano, there are still many illegal or disturbing behaviors that are not based on cyberstalking or the development of technology (1). Such behaviors include spying or following the victim without his or her consent, sending harassing emails or other kinds of messages, making repeating and unwanted phone calls, spreading rumors and exposing victims’ private information online without their consent, and waiting for victims in identified places. Not all of these behaviors are physically harmless for the victim. However, they can cause mental distress and lead to other health-related problems.
The same behavior of stalking, in this case, can also be traced in the tale of the Little Red Riding Hood, where the wolf may be seen following the girl from the moment she came into contact with him in the forest. The wolf also came to her grandmother’s house to eat the girl. Thus, it supports the major argument of the paper hereof that the tale is cautionary as it outlines threats that women and other vulnerable members of the society, such as children, have to face on a daily basis.
Cyberstalking is also far from being harmless due to the presence of sexual predators online. Based on the fact that young people, including children and teenagers, have access to the internet, especially to social platforms such as Facebook, there is an increased risk of encountering a sexual predator who is able to access their profiles. Since many young people seek to share as much information as possible about their lives online, this has opened opportunities for sexual exploitation and abduction on behalf of sexual predators.
Young people engage in interactive online meetings with strangers, send personal information, visit related sites, and talk to unknown persons. As argued by Kelly, since in the 1990s, cases of children and teenagers being lured into sexual assaults by predators have been on the rise, especially online (26). Boss also agrees that many young individuals are likely to fall prey to online sexual predators (9).
In this case, it is argued that at least fifteen percent of young internet users between the ages of 10 and 17 are at a high risk of meeting online sexual predators due to communication with strangers online (Wolak et al., “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims” 123). Their willingness to get in touch with strangers makes them cross the boundary between the online world and the real one and agree to arrange a meeting with a predator.
Next Stronger Reason
According to Wolak et al., most young people become victims of sexual predators online because sexual predators have a tendency to hide their age and other profile details (“Internet-Initiated Sex Crimes Against Minors” 424-e12). Many ‘sexual predator’ offenders also entice their victims by seeking an opportunity to meet or through stalking. When such opportunities emerge, some of them abduct their victims. According to Wolak et al., at least five percent of the sexual predators tend to act as adolescents in order to solicit sexual acts from their victims (“Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims” 126).
In most cases, such sexual predators use emails, instant messages, and chat rooms to conduct their operations. Online sexual predators’ behaviors are also considered very complex to control due to the fact that they take place online, where victims are unable to recognize them. Across the United States, crimes committed by sexual offenders are regulated by American law. However, this law varies across states. In this case, the law acknowledges that youths of a certain age are too young to give consent to sex (Wolak et al., “Internet-Initiated Sex Crimes Against Minors” 424-e15). Thus, this problem becomes even harder to manage.
Many victims of sexual predators may suffer from different physiological and psychological problems. This can be attributed to the actions of their offenders. For example, many young people that were victimized by sexual offenders suffer from different types of health complications, ranging from stress and depression to such diseases as HIV and AIDS that come as a result of rape (Stalking Resource Center).
Although there are numerous first-time sexual predators online, several offenders are considered to be criminals based on incarceration, conviction, and subsequent arrest. It is a common case that victims of sexual predators easily fall into the traps of such offenders as they are inexperienced and naive. The fact that most of the perpetrators conduct their acts in isolation has attributed to more cases of sexual assault being reported across the United States.
The same issue of hiding one’s identity is clearly outlined in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, in which the wolf tries to gain the girl’s trust by disguising himself as the protagonists’ grandmother. In this case, the girl is unable to recognize a threat as it is coming from a familiar source. Therefore, the girl is subjected to abuse, not because of her willingness but the wolf’s deceitful behavior. The story of the book mentions this disguise for a reason as it shows that sometimes even the closest people cannot be trusted.
Counterargument to Next Stronger Reason
Although many young people are more likely to be exposed to the dangers of sexual predators such as physical harm and rape, questions have been raised on whether individuals, including the victims, have any responsibilities of contributing to such incidences. Although this argument has been viewed as controversial, there are still those who believe that young people are partially responsible for being attacked by sexual predators. In this case, the point of the argument is that online behavior is completely voluntary. It implies that children and teenagers willingly contact predators, send them their contacts, and meet them in real life, without ever being threatened or forced to do so.
Although many cases of date rape have been associated with strangers or online predators, there are also incidences connected with friends and current and previous partners. Over the years, date rape has been associated with numerous behaviors that can happen during a date with a friend or partner. In this case, date rape is mostly related to sexual assault. Across the United States, cases of date rape are becoming common among young people, especially students. According to Koss, rape, in this case, is viewed as any type of sexual force that may include different types of penetration that are based on the inability to give consent due to age, intoxication, use of force, and mental status (“Hidden Rape” 23).
Across the country, these behaviors have become common among the youth. In many colleges of the United States, numerous cases of date rape have been recorded. This implies that even by trusting close people such as friends or boyfriends, young women are still at risk of being sexually assaulted. It is alarming that most of these cases are associated with individuals who are in intimate relationships, which makes the issue even more complicated to resolve. As argued by Koss et al., at least half of these reported cases were committed by perpetrators who were familiar with the victim (164). This problem poses a threat to many people in a relationship as such cases have a high chance of reoccurrence.
The same can be attributed to the Little Red Riding Hood story. Numerous views have been shared on the possibility that the protagonist played a critical role in exposing herself to the dangers that faced her (Orenstein 18). Based on the fact that the girl agreed to go through the forest and sit on the bed with the wolf, it can be argued that the girl is to blame for her weakness and ignorance since she trusted a stranger and was not cautious enough. She is also criticized for not being able to disagree with the wolf or simply avoiding any communication with him. Thus, according to this point of view, teenagers that fall victim to sexual molestation or rape have initiated this by their actions on the internet.
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The issue of predatory behavior remains complicated as many people tend to blame the victims for their actions rather than focus on the person committing a crime. Moreover, the lack of control from adults is also an issue that is prevalent in the country. In this case, the story of Little Red Riding Hood can be considered relevant to this day. The mother of the protagonist, while being concerned for the safety of her child, does not attempt to protect her from harm. Moreover, she gives a simple warning to her daughter and believes that the girl will be able to avoid any problems of the way. The issue of child and victim neglect can be outlined as another parallel of real life with the story. Moreover, the dismissal of the problem as a whole is also one of the most highlighted themes of this book.
According to Koss et al., the scope of aggression and sexual abuse is astounding as it spans across generations (170). However, many of those cases go unreported as the victims are shamed and threatened not only by abusers but also by other persons. Moreover, the issue of rape being persistently avoided shows that people are unable to recognize the true scope of this issue. The example of Little Red Riding Hood reveals that just as the protagonist’s mother does not consider the risks of letting her child go through the forest without any assistance, people are often dismissive of the dangers that await some people in real life and online.
Stalking is a major problem that has been recorded in institutions, society, families, and relationships. Although stalking is commonly identified among strangers, the behavior has also been recorded among partners, roommates, neighbors, or friends. People often fail to realize that stalking and sexual assault can be conducted by individuals that are closely connected with the victims. Moreover, American society may not fully grasp the severity of the problem, as cyberstalking and real-life abuse are not connected in the minds of some persons. In reality, these phenomena often follow one another as some sexual predators meet their victims online and collect their information in order to assault them in real life. People’s ignorance towards this issue can be found in the story of Little Red Riding hood as well.
The tale of a girl whose closest relatives cannot recognize a threat and expose their child to the dangers of the world displays the main issues of the real world. This story is still relevant to the problems of contemporary society as it reveals the main flaws of people’s beliefs. The characters of the tale do not attempt to prevent the little girl from being in danger. In the same way, many individuals blame young people for being open on the internet and in real life instead of creating measures for their protection. In the end, Little Red Riding Hood remains a tale that portrays people’s inability to realize the danger of putting too much trust in people and desire to place the responsibility for a crime on the victim.
Boss, C. “Jail Not a Given in Sex Stings.” The Columbus Dispatch. 2007. Web.
Catalano, Shannan. Stalking Victims in the United States–Revised. 2012. Web.
Gil, Paul. “Cyberstalking: More Common than Physical Stalking.” Life Wire. 2017. Web.
Kelly, K. “To Protect the Innocent. Learning to Keep Sexual Predators at Bay.” U.S. News & World Report, 2005. Web.
Koss, Mary P. “Hidden Rape: Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Students in Higher Education.” Rape and Sexual Assault II, edited by Ann W. Burgess, Garland, 1988, pp. 3-25.
Koss, Mary P., et al. “The Scope of Rape: Incidence and Prevalence of Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Higher Education Students.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 55, no. 2, 1987, pp. 162-170.
Maple, Carsten, et al. Cyberstalking in the United Kingdom: An Analysis of the ECHO Pilot Survey. University of Bedfordshire, 2011.
Orenstein, Catherine. Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. Basic Books, 2002.
Stalking Resource Center. Stocking Fact Sheet. 2015. Web.
Wolak, Janis, et al. “Internet-Initiated Sex Crimes Against Minors: Implications for Prevention Based on Findings from a National Study.” Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 35, no. 5, 2004, pp. 424-e11-424.e20.
—. “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment.” American Psychologist, vol. 63, no. 2, 2008, pp. 111-128.