In today’s class discussion, the topic of consent was almost completely overlooked while discussing “Present 8” in Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler. I understand that the topic of consent may be difficult to talk about in relation to everyday life and situations where it is not given, however, in Clay’s Ark, I believe it is important to discuss especially as more people become exposed to the extraterrestrial organism. I believe that almost every character in the novel so far has failed to gain consent from another character.
In “Present 8”, being ‘boxed in’ drove my initial thoughts about the lack of consent that Blake experienced when Meda infected him with the organism. Blake did not give his consent to be infected or to be taken captive by Eli and his followers. Although Blake my not have given consent to be treated the way, he does act as a hypocrite when he orders Keira to take the car and escape. Keira responds by mouthing the words “’I can’t’” (Butler 502). Yet, her father persists her to and pushes Keira to obey him. The scene that Butler creates between Blake and Keira, resembles the skit that Professor McCoy and Evelyn performed in class on Monday about consent. As Evelyn played the role of student McCoy, and Professor McCoy played the role of one of her fellow students, the skit revealed both the appropriate and inappropriate ways to give and get consent. One of the inappropriate ways of attempting to get consent that was acted in the skit was continually asking someone for their consent after they said no. Keira is pushed by her father to escape although she does not want to. With Blake’s disapproval of being locked in a room and given the disease that he does not want, I find it interesting that he pushes his daughter to do something she does not want, after having experienced the same feelings. The argument can be made that Blake is seeking out what’s best for his daughter, however it is revealed that Keira wants to have control over herself when she touched Eli and infected herself (Butler 552). Yet again, there is no consent given by Eli when Keira touched him.
Gaining consent seems to be an issue in the novel. While discussing consent in the larger group, Maddie brought up the example that consent was not initially given by Eli when Meda’s family took him into their home, and reveals that the lack of consent started with the unaffected humans. Although it can be concluded that the lack of consent began from the uninfected humans, the ability to give and receive consent should not have any underlying affect on whether you have been a victim of improper consent or not. Using student McCoy for example, if student McCoy did not want to be patted on the head, but was patted on the head regardless, that does not give her the power to go around patting other people on the head without their consent. Furthermore, the conclusion that the uninfected humans began not getting consent, does not justify or permit Eli or any of his followers to infect anyone with the organism without their consent.