To think that consent is the common thread that ties patting someone on the head and using a species as incubators to nurse another’s future generation together is something that my mind has been attempting to grapple with for the past couple days. Weighing in on what affirmation versus refusal to consent looks like, all boils down to two terms, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. For this post, I’d like to begin uncovering the true capacity contained within the two-letter nullification ‘No’ as it may be a heavier assertion than it may seem. Placed in the context of love, or of war saying ‘no’ can be a decision of many costs. Taking this a step further applied to the short fiction ‘Blood Child’ by Octavia Butler the concept of consenting to pay rent takes on a silent affirmative, despite the screeching “no!” from generations ahead.
Before consent can be affirmed or negated there is a vital step that needs to take place, something that is normally assumed, this is the opportunity to consent. In Butler’s short story, she highlights this vital step through the character Gan and his interaction with T’Gatoi, this interaction peaks in conversation about individual consent when Gan asserts, “No one ever asks us,” (23). This complaint to T’Gatoi is not a response to an offer of consent but rather a demand to be given the option of consent. Gan’s plea in this section of the work is an element of consent that isn’t normally considered or questions but rather assumed. Opportunity is essential in understanding another individual’s participation in an activity but once established the response can hold even more truth value.
With the ball in your court for responding to consent, denial- though an extension of individual sustenance- can prove to be just as destructive as not being given the opportunity highlighted above. Referring back to Gan and his request of being provided the opportunity to consent, when granted his response is a negation, “I don’t want to be a host animal,” (24). No. The significance hidden within this decision is not only its meaning to Gan but rather to those around him. By not consenting he has placed others in an unconventional and possibly problematic position- specifically his sister. He recoils his decision further in the work and chooses to affirm. This choice is cumbersome because of the extent to which it can become taxing on others, like Hoa (Gan’s sister), the future generation of Gan’s family, T’Gatoi’s family, even the Tlic and Terran agreement.
With all this being said we must remember what silent consent sounds like, what it can do and who is affected by it.