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October 27, 2011

Safe, Sane and Consensual

Consent in modern day life is pretty straightforward. If you do not get verbal or written permission from someone then you do not have their consent. If you do not hear a verbal invitation you do not proceed. If someone does not say “Yes”, tells you “No” or puts up a physical struggle during sex then it immediately becomes rape.

However, consent in Lilith’s Brood is far more complicated. These rules of consent I have just listed are human inventions — conventions that we have practiced socially for hundreds of years. But in an entirely alien environment the lines of consent are free to be redrawn. The Oankali appear to physically force themselves on humans many times in the novel. Although the ooloi do not have sexual organs as we would traditionally define them, their actions could still be misconstrued as rape. I believe that this would be a narrow minded judgement error.

As Nikanj points out  and Lilith is keen to observe through her critical anthropologists eyes: the Oankali do not have a penchant for lying and deception as humans do. They communicate in ways we do can not even begin to comprehend. They are familiar with patterns of scent and sensory experiences beyond our grasps. When the ooloi connect to their humans, they share some of this experience with them. Joseph would have never given Nikanj consent to bond with him a second time if left to his own devices. But Nikanj had already seen his mind. He knew Joseph better than he knew himself and he could sense that Joseph was just deceiving himself and Nikanj knew that he had his true consent — perhaps even his future consent — to bond with him. Although Nikanj’s actions then, as well as his actions when he impregnates Lilith, may appear non-consensual through the filter of human morals and mores we must learn to be more open minded. After-all, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Filed by at October 27th, 2011 under Uncategorized
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