The stories of women at Grant’s university and the affairs he and his peers have reflect changes in sexual mores in the second half of the twentieth century. Within the narrative of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” as post-World War II prosperity gave women more time and disposable income, married women began to come to the university to take classes for personal enrichment. The character of Jacqui Adams represents this period. Jacqui is a married woman whose affair with Grant has an emotional intensity as much as a sexual one.

The next phase of women presenting themselves in Grant’s office represent the sexual freedom of the late 1960s and 1970s, as indicated by Munro’s descriptions of their long hair and sandals. Grant sees the sexual revolution of this era as chaotic, a “whirlwind” and an “epidemic” that many of his colleagues rush into rather than away from. The affair that leads to his forced retirement comes in a later era, the late 1980s or early 1990s, when greater attention is paid to the coercive nature of sexual attention from authority figures. Grant finds himself blindsided by the new idea that an affair like theirs represents exploitation and emotional damage for the student, leading to damage to his own social and academic prestige. Having lived through a great loosening of rules around sex, Grant is unprepared for the idea that he cannot have everything he wants.