I have never been able to understand the idea of one person claiming inherent dominance over another for any reason, let alone for reasons such as race or gender. There should never be an instance where a person may hold control over a second person without the second person’s explicit consent. While the larger power dynamics of the world are so complicated that they often rely on tacit consent to claim dominance, be it in government, school or other established institutions, in issues of consent regarding sexual conduct, there should never be a middle ground. In the small scope of the argument are documents such as SUNY Geneseo’s own code of conduct which define the term consent and what it means to give consent using terms from state laws on the topic. While these laws governing consent are especially important in a college environment, it seems that people see a lot of grey area when it comes to the idea of consent, especially with the current “hook-up culture” that seems to have ingrained itself in college communities.
The idea of “hook-up culture” generally seems to refer to sexual encounters that occur during a party scenario and it is generally understood that both parties consent to the actions that take place. Yet Geneseo’s own conduct policy states, “Persons incapacitated as a result of the consumption of alcohol or other drugs…can never give active consent,” therefore an area is created where it is unsure whether such encounters are acceptable. Furthermore it is generally looked at as the fault of the male involved, at least in heteronormative encounters, when drunken “hook-ups” occur. Octavia Butler’s Fledgling however brings up a different take on this idea of consent under the influence; additionally it brings up the much more ignored problem of male sexual abuse.
There is no question that Ina venom is a type of drug, it is even explained that symbionts become addicted to the venom of their specific Ina. This admission that Ina venom is a drug, a highly addictive aphrodisiac according to the effect it elicits on those exposed to it, means that Wright had no choice in his relationship with Shori. Even when Shori gives Wright the option to leave her after she is shot, it is only a semblance of choice. The bond between Shori and Wright is already so strong by that point that it is unlikely that Wright would ever leave Shori. Butler even states for herself in a 2003 interview that, “The position of Wright is an interesting one…it’s not something he chose,”(Conversations 2010, p. 203). In the end not only has Shori used her venom to bend Wright’s will to her own and take away his free will, she has created an addict who never chose the drug she was supplying.
While I am in no way trying to belittle or ignore the experiences of female/non-male victims of sexual abuse, Butler’s Fledgling highlights that the sexual abuse of males is often ignored or belittled. Butler frames the story from the Shori’s point of view and the consequence of this action means that many readers may inherently be sympathetic to Shori’s actions, especially because she is seemingly a young female child. There is no question though that Shori does in fact use her power to take away Wright’s ability to consent and yet at first glance it seems that Wright is an abuser or a pedophile.
In a time where problems of equality are very much on the forefront of the public mind, Fledgling brings troublesome questions to mind. In terms of mutual intoxication, who is at fault, especially with the modern “hook-up culture”? Is it black and white? Or is it shades of grey? Where is the line? And lastly what can be done so that no matter the victim (race, age, gender, religion, sexuality etc.), abuse is taken seriously?