The issue of consent has been at the forefront of my mind since I’ve learned about the parameters of what free will is and what force is. Nashwa Khan in her article “What’s happening in the Mindy project is Not Okay”, she discusses how important consent is but how it is undervalued in the show The Mindy Project. I too like the show and have heard problematic things be said on it. This episode was no different. I had realized that Danny; Mindy’s boyfriend, did not ask to penetrate her in that manner but I did not realize that he never formally apologized for his actions as the episode progressed. I also did not see that the excuses he made were so typical of our society that sometimes leaves men unaccountable for their actions.
This sparked in me the persistent nagging of how consent is treated in Fledgling. In the book when Wright and Shori were engaging in intimate activities, either would initiate then wait for the other to participate. If neither wanted to participate they would make it known. But, with the venom working in the symbionts’ system, I think consent can be precarious when there is the inclusion of a drug like substance. Like in Khan’s article she mentions the high frequency of drug use to facilitate nonconsensual intercourse. This can be seen in the episode when Mindy asks Morgan; her co-worker for a prescription for something that will make her physically not feel any pain but also in her words, “what she legally needs to be awake for.” Mindy had ended up in the hospital because she had unfavorable side effects since Morgan essentially prescribed her a rohypnol like drug. In Butler’s work, this phenomenon can be seen the first time Shori bit Wright. At first when she bit him, he exclaimed at the surprise and I’m sure, at the slight pain. But eventually he seemed to mind the act less and less as she proceeded doing it. In the book, Wright said, “It doesn’t hurt anymore… It feels good.” (17) The use of both substance alter the takers’ state of being and leaves anything they may agree to questionable.
Though a wonderful aspect Shori exhibited that Danny seemed to lack, was her willingness to talk about her behavior and if it made anyone uncomfortable or unsafe. For instance, when she was speaking to Martin Harrison; Joel’s father, when she said, “I really want you to tell me if I’m in the way or if I’m being too irritating, because I can’t always tell,” (209). She constantly worries about the wellbeing of her own symbionts and others around her. She worries that some of her actions may hurt them. For example she always told everyone she fed from the dangers of the act. In the book she had said to Wright “it might hurt you to lose more blood so soon. I don’t want to hurt you.” (24) This showed a level of compassion that seems alien in perpetrators of unconsensual sex.
As I type I just came to the realization that there may be different taboos in each society. In human society anything sexually intimate with someone that looks like Shori would be pedophilia but in Ina culture it isn’t bad. It’s just pointless since she cannot get pregnant at that stage in her life. This idea was supported when Shori and Wright first met Iosif at her mothers’ village. Iosif said to Wright, “You’ve been hiding her…lest someone think you’re having an inappropriate relationship with a child. Once you’re with us, there will be no need to hide. And to us, there is nothing improper about your relationship” (74). Though to Wright this may have driven away any guilt he may have been feeling in regards to the implications of how Shori looks, to some readers their sexual activities may have still been uncomfortable to read about.
As for other contrasts in taboos between human and Ina societies, there was only one major taboo mentioned for Ina people. In the book, it mentioned that if a female Ina bit a male Ina before their union, it’s unacceptable because this leaves the male Ina infertile in regards to mating with other Ina females. In human society, having any intimate relations with someone outside of any legal union doesn’t leave one impaired in relations to others. Additionally in the human world the use of drug like substance to affect people‘s judgment is seen as bad while in Ina culture, the use of their venom seems like an adaptation to make sure they can survive and their symbionts enjoys it as well.
I think this was an example of one of the things Butler may have hoped her readers thought about more, like there was more to the issue than what was shown at the surface. One can argue that there was a lot of nonconsensual acts being done but another could argue that the actions were justifiable because it was a survival mechanism between humans and Ina that was symbiotic in nature.