The definition of consent and what we mean by consent tends to be manipulated or misinterpreted. According to dictionary.com, consent is “to permit, approve, or agree; comply or yield.” Unfortunately what some may fail to understand is that you have the right to say no after having said yes or given consent. In Clay’s Ark by Butler, the idea of consent is often abandoned and manipulated by the disease. An example of this is with the sexual interactions between Eli and Meda. Although Meda had shown sexual interest in Eli, it doesn’t mean that she’ll give consent to having sex with him. Butler sets a trap for readers when she writes that “It was not just the passion or physical pain that caused [Meda] to scratch and tear at his body with her nails” (Seed to Harvest, p. 518). By stating that neither character could resist because of the disease, Butler invites readers to stumble over the obvious issues of consent in this interaction. On the one hand, people with the disease truly don’t have the capability to resist, and taking away their ability to have sex would deny them the right to live, but to accept the disease as a viable excuse for a lack of consent is to entertain the notion that a person cannot say no to sex after they have already said yes. Eli believes it would be rape if he had sex with the woman whose window he stands outside of when he first reaches Meda’s house, yet he believes that since Meda has already shown a sexual interest in him, he is not raping Meda by not asking for her consent again. The character of Eli frames the question of consent as a one-time ordeal and implies that a woman cannot change her mind after she has given consent.
Not only does Eli question the idea behind consent, but he also questions the meaning of intelligence. He claims that the microorganism isn’t intelligent, but can control what they do. Intelligence coincides with consent because if humans are intelligent enough to know they have been affected by this microorganism, then they should be intelligent enough to not reproduce or scratch people without their consent. Although Eli claims the microorganism isn’t intelligent, neither is he. He is easily manipulated by the microorganism to have sex with Meda. Back to the example in Clay’s Ark, as Eli approaches Meda’s house and he stands outside of a women’s bedroom, “his body demanded that he go to the woman. He understood the drive…he knew that if he let himself be drawn to the woman, he would rape her” (Seed to Harvest, p. 469). The term rape is used by Butler because the infected people attack and have sex with people that don’t want to be infected or have given consent to become infected. Butler uses Eli to demonstrate the difficulty with consent and how people can be quick to rationalize their actions. Eli rationalizes his sexual interaction with Meda by blaming it on his drive from the microorganism, but also based it off of Meda’s actions towards him before.
Overall, Butler demonstrates the lack of consent in several occasions due to the disease spreading throughout the city. Eli is one of the main characters that I impeded on and manipulated the true definition of consent, regardless of the disease he had that drove him to commit most of his actions. So back to the definition of what consent really is. Yes it is to approve or agree to something, BUT it should also incorporate the idea that it is the agreeance throughout the whole situation/action and not just at the start.