The second line of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest carries a suggestion of patient rape on the ward. McMurphy’s climactic disrobing of the Big Nurse’s breasts has been accused by many of carrying the misogynistic suggestion that the way to gain power over a woman is to turn her into a sexual being. Also, any discussion of Kesey’s life will introduce students to the fact that one of the great novels of the twentieth century was largely written under the influence of LSD.
The issue of patient abuse, while delicate, can be an opportunity for students to discuss just how bad mental institutions were in the US. Tying the “sex acts” to the book’s critique of electroshock therapy and lobotomies can diffuse discomfort with the subject of rape, by situating it in the larger context of the novel’s attack on mental institutions.