The question is in the very early morning hours of June 13th, a Tuesday (we know this now thanks to Prof Dussinger), did Lovelace rape Clarissa, as she dimly recalls somewhat later, actually in view of the women in the brothel.
Rape is a controversial subject; courts are in transition; law is in transition; juries must decide admit a hotly debated non-consensus. If we are frank, we will have to confront this one. Maybe we should wait 'till we get closer, but since someone has brought it up, I'll spring and say I define rape most centrally as assault, full frontal (and backwards) attack, an attempt to destroy. Two real cases I personally know about I'll use to explain what I refer to when I use the word rape. 1 many years ago: an older woman in NYC, going into her apartment house, allowed a man without a key to the front door of the building to get in with her; he raped her at knifepoint; physically hurt her; never caught. Another, 6 years ago: an 18 year old student wrote in a paper she had broken off with a boyfriend, went to a dance where he was, did not grasp the emotions of the situation, and got into a car with him and allowed him to drive her into the woods; among other things, he broke her arm in 2 places; more than one lawyer advised the father not to go to court; so no suit. Both rape. That is not to say that animal lust is not involved. I'll say I think it clearly is, because one could skip the sex and just chop the individual to pieces with a knife, as the notorious Los Anegles couple's case whose details & ramifications have been the subject of so much discussion & TV coverage--sex itself was not the object that night. Not a rape, but it's first cousin, murder.
To return to Clary, if Lovelace wanted sex, he could go elsewhere. So it's more than just animal desire. It also has to do with an obsession with one person, here Lovelace with Clarissa. And when Lovelace's letters begin (at long last, it seems to take a while, meanwhile we are put off with more tantalizing references to Clary's quasi-clandestine letters with Lovelace), maybe this will be explored. But--and here goes, I know people will get enraged--no by no means always means no. We communicate by far more than words; we don't know ourselves very well. No-one in any deep relationship (think of children and parents) ignores past history; thus my 10 year old daughter expects me to act today the way I acted yesterday; in fact, she depends on it for her tranquillity of mind &c. Reciprocity is also part of a relationship, and each relationship is in various ways unique. Without citing cases this time which will cause quarrels, in Clarissa, is not this the whole question Anna and Clarissa have debated through the long serpentine movement of Volumes I, II, and III: does Clary know what she wants?
Finally the ambiguity of the situation comes clear if one thinks that Richardson has Lovelace drug, tie down, and humiliate Clary so we will be sure to define the final scene as rape. The issue was therefore not clear in the 18th century either.
Also I have sometimes wondered if the people who say they prefer Lovelace would not define the events of June 13th as rape. One could cite the modern instance of Wm Kennedy Smith where the jury said he was not guilty of rape.