Ownership and Consent

As a college student in particular, I feel like it is so important to understand the concept of consent.  I feel as though I have been put in many situations where my consent is something that I turn to knowing that I have a right to accept or decline a situation.  However, reading Octavia Butler’s, Fledgling, I have found myself struggling to accept the way in which consent works in the world of the Ina.  Keeping Clay’s Ark in mind, I have to remember that the Ina are not human, therefore their needs in terms of consent are different than those of humans.  Knowing that they need to feed off of humans to survive has been something I learned to keep in mind and accept, yet I realize that Octavia Butler is pushing me beyond my limits of what I am comfortable with.I find it difficult to grapple with the idea that when the Ina bite the humans, they are attached to the Ina and make choices that they might not have made without the venom in their blood.  Although, I realize I can only read this book with the perspective of a human, not an Ina, I often find myself not really wanting to understand the way in which the Ina operate. A section from the novel that makes me particularly uncomfortable is when the Brook discusses her feelings about how, “They take over our lives. They don’t even think about it, they just do it as though it was their right” (Butler, 161).  Wright also clearly expresses his feelings of a lack of consent in the relationship when he states, “We let them because we have no choice. By the time we realized what happened to us, it’s too late” (Butler, 161). Although the other humans made an informed decision about joining the Ina, there is no way for them to fully understand what they get into until they actually do.  I feel as though Butler makes it clear that once the humans become symbionts they lose a sense of individualism, as the Ina refer to the symbionts as “theirs.”  It can be repeatedly seen throughout the book that the Ina always discuss the symbionts with a sense of ownership over them, while the humans are put in a situation they cannot get out of.  Due to the ownership that comes along with the lack of consent, Butler makes reading this literature feel very uncomfortable.  For me in particular, I am struggling with the knowledge that the Ina are not human, yet they do something that would be wrong in the eyes of humanity.  Butler pushes me to think about what things would be like if my ability to consent and my individualism was taken away from me.  Much of this prompts me to think of issues of slavery.  Could this story have underlying connotations of slavery?  I feel as though referring to human beings as belonging to you or someone else belittles them, to the point where it forces me to question if the Ina view them as less than or as pets, in some strange way.

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