According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of consent is: compliance in or approval of what is done or proposed by another. Consent is a very important concept, and we all know that one cannot give consent when under the influence, or when they are unresponsive, but at what age is a person able to give consent?
Throughout our readings this semester, we ran into multiple occasions where the person giving consent was very young, so how do we know that they can make a decision that has a huge impact on their life? In Home, by Toni Morrison, Cee made a very big decision to marry Prince. When Cee agreed to get married, she was only fourteen years old. “Besides, Prince loved himself so deeply, so completely, it was impossible to doubt his conviction. So if Prince said she was pretty, she believed him. If he said at fourteen she was a woman, she believed that too(Morrison, 48).” This quote proves that Cee was taken advantage of by Prince. Perhaps if Cee was older and more mature, she wouldn’t have felt the need to rush into something with Prince and feel she had to marry him so soon. “But he never warned her about rats(Morrison, 52).” This quote is telling the readers about Frank, Cee’s brother and although he did his best to protect her, he never warned her about rats, Prince, in fact was the rat she was not warned about. At age fourteen, Cee was nowhere near being mature enough to make such a big decision, especially because Prince was the first man who gave Cee attention, so this probably had a big impact on her decision as well. Cee’s family was disappointed in her and upset that she did not have her car anymore since Prince took it and left Cee alone. When Cee returned home without the car, her family threatened to have her arrested, after this, Cee promised herself she would never return home. This is all a domino effect because Cee decided to leave her hometown and move in and marry Prince. Cee marries Prince, then he takes her car and leaves her, and because of this, Cee’s family is angry at her and basically disowns her. Although this domino effect does not stop with Cee’s family disowning her, it leads Cee to get a job with Dr. Beau. Cee does not have any money because she relied on Prince to take care of her, but when he leaves she knows she needs to make money. Cee hears about Dr. Beau and decides to go apply for the job, even though she does not know what the job is. When Cee goes to Dr. Beau’s house to apply for the job, there are some red flags Cee should have caught to keep herself out of a dangerous situation. Some of these red flags included, the books on Dr. Beau’s bookshelf, the titles were, Out of the Night, The Passing of the Great Race, and lastly, Heredity, Race, and Society. Another red flag included the word eugenics was brought up multiple times, Cee said she would have to look up this word but if she did she would have found out that it is: the practice or advocacy of controlled selective breeding of human populations (as by sterilization) to improve the population’s genetic composition(Marriam-Webster Dictionary). When Frank rescued Cee from Dr., Beau, she was unconscious and had little to no pulse. “But when she noticed Cee’s loss of weight, her fatigue, and how long her periods were lasting, she became frightened enough to write to the only relative Cee had an address for(Morrison,113).” This quote is from Sarah, she was also the help at Dr. Beau’s household. Sarah did not know what Dr. Beau was doing to Cee, but she knew it was affecting Cee’s health tremendously. Dr. Beau was experimenting on Cee and trying dangerous procedures on her without concern about what it was doing to Cee. Cee making one decision at such a young age and with little thought and not thinking about the consequences had such a huge impact on Cee’s life. This one decision caused her to almost lose her life. Cee agreeing to marry Prince had a domino effect on Cee’s life and had a negative impact on Cee’s life. Cee needed money because Prince left her and she was all alone, so she turned to a job that she had little knowledge about and caused her so much physical and emotional pain just so she could make money. In Cee’s case, the age of consent needed to be older than fourteen, Cee had no past experience to make such a big life decision, because she was sheltered for most of her life from men because of Frank, her older brother.
Another big controversy involved in the age of consent is in Clay’s Ark. The big question is whether Jacob and the other infected children can make decisions for themselves, or if they are too young to make them. The children were not even allowed to make decisions about their own lives, the adults of the community made all of the decisions for them. The kids did not get a choice whether or not they got to be infected with the disease, they were born with it. The children were not born fully human and had many cat-like abilities. A new species was born when these children were born but they did not get to decide if this was a life they wanted to live, they were forced to live a life where they looked different than other people and acted different. While reading Clay’s Ark, I started to question if I would be upset that I did not get a choice that made such a huge impact on my life. What is Jacob and the other children did not want to be infected with the organism, they didn’t even get a choice because they were born with it. “Disease-induced mutation. Every child born to them after they get the disease is mutated that way(Butler, 512).” This quote proves that none of the children get to make that decision for themselves, the parents made the choice for the kids, even if that’s not what they wanted. Blake described the children as, “not human” and had even questions, “Jesus, what are you breeding back there(Butler,512)?” This reminded me of another blog post I wrote about society judging people who look and act differently than what is considered “normal.” Here is a perfect example of it, Jacob and the other children do not look like Blake so Blake thinks they are “freaks” or “animals” as Rane had referred to Jacob. This could be another reason the children would want to decide whether or not they were infected with the disease. Although the adults infected do look different than other non-infected people, the children look completely different than either of them. “He stopped in front of her-beautiful child head, sleek catlike body. A miniature sphinx. What would it be when it grew up? Not a man, certainly(Butler, 524).” While reading this I was shocked that they did not even consider Jacob a boy, rather an it. Blake and Rane were not used to seeing children look like Jacob, so what would the rest of the world think when more “Jacobs” are made? The children infected such as Jacob, walk on their four legs instead of two. When Rane asked Lupe if Jacob could walk on his two feet alone, Lupe answered, “Not so well… He tries sometimes because we all do, but it’s not natural to him. He gets tired, even sore if he keeps at it. And it’s too slow for him(Butler, 523).” These children do not function like humans and other infected adults within the community. The children look more like animals than humans, which eliminates the children’s choice of living a life by normal standards. Do the parents have the right to make this decision for the children? Jacob was only four years old but was so much more mature for his age. “…but he was less clumsy with them than a normal child would have been. He was certainly much faster than a normal child, probably faster than most adults. All his movements were smooth and graceful(Butler, 524).” Since Jacob is so much more mature than a normal four year old, does this give him the right to make decisions by himself involving his own life?
While reading Home, and Clay’s Ark I found it very intriguing to compare Cee’s situation and how she was too young to make such big decisions, as opposed to Jacob and the rest of the children who were more mature and in my opinion, deserve to have a say in whether or not they would be infected with the disease or not. The age of consent is a very controversial topic in both of these pieces of literature so I really enjoyed unpacking both of these in regards to whether or not I agreed or disagreed with Cee making her decisions, and Jacob and the other children making their decisions about their lives.