I recently had in issue with consent. Not in real life, but in a work of fiction I was writing. I’m going to be honest, it’s not something I’ve ever given much thought to in my work. When it comes to issues sexual relationships and consent, fiction has different rules than reality. Or does it?
In the first draft of my short story, the main character is on vacation, having a terrible time with her boyfriend, and ends up meeting a mysterious but sexy woman at the bar. The woman invites the main character back to her suite for what she described as a party. Once she gets to the room, she notices there is no party, only the woman from the bar and a man. The rest of the story involves the mysterious couple locking the main character in the room essentially holding her hostage, chaining her to the bed and forcing sexual acts up on her.
The main character ends up enjoying it, but I realized that is not the point.
I liked the story. I thought it was hot, and I thought my readers would think the same thing. But as I read it, I realized that if this were the real world, there would be serious issues with what transpired in that hotel suite.
I had a problem. I take the issue of consent very seriously in my relationships. But what does it say about me when I never even give something like that a thought when I write fiction? Should it matter? Does fiction have to follow the same rules as reality?
I didn’t know what to do, so naturally I took to twitter to see what the masses had to say.
As expected, the responses were varied:
Clearly, the one constant is there should never be any children involved, consent or not, which should go without saying. Let’s just get that out of the way and move on.
These responses led to me re-evaluate my thinking. Just because this story is fiction, does that qualify it as a “fantasy.”? Or is this just a story about a rape? Do I want to be a person who writes about rape?
In my own mind, the original story wasn’t rape, because I knew all along that the main character would end up being into it, therefore all’s well that ends well. But that’s not how life works. Just because I know how it’s going to end, doesn’t mean the reader does, and doesn’t mean the reader will be comfortable with what is going on and the events that lead to the conclusion.
Twitter turned out to be a great tool in figuring out where this story was going to go. I had to add an element of consent. Of course, doing this change what events occur and how the story plays out. Instead of kidnapping and imprisonment against the main characters will, the couple teases her and says that they’re going to do bad things, but she’s free to go if she wants. Since the main character is looking for excitement to break the monotony of a boring vacation with her boring boyfriend, she decides to partake.
Instead of immediately tying the main character to the bed, the three characters sit down and have a conversation about what they are into, and if it’s ok with the guest. The main character states that she is into it and willing to go through with what they have planned. They also establish a safe word, in case at any point one of them is uncomfortable.
The great thing about sex, and humanity, is that everybody is into something. Some people are into vanilla sex. Some people are kinky. Some people like group sex. Some people like rape fantasy. And it’s ok! The important thing with all types of sex is that it is crucial that all parties involved are ok with what is happening. Nothing is sexier than consent. Sex between two (or more) people who are all into what is going on is what we all crave, whether in life or in fantasy.