The Power of Consent

Cover graphic of Blood of the True Believer by Brandann R. Hill-Mann, featuring the main characters.
Artwork by Dominique Wesson

“Yes. Anything you want.”
“No,” he rebuked gently, “anything we both want. That’s how this works, right?”
She nodded, as it always had been. “Are you implying that I’d ever not want to?”
“I won’t ever assume you want anything. Just because you don’t say otherwise doesn’t mean you still want something. It has to be an active choice.”

Blood of the True Believer

Consent plays a large role in The Hole in the World series. This was an intentional choice, because consent is such an important thing to understand for young people as they grow up and venture into the world as independent people. Consent covers an array of life topics, from bodily autonomy to sexual activity. While there are elements of sexual encounters in The Hole in the World series, particularly in Blood of the True Believer, it’s important to understand that consent is not exclusive to these things, and that is something I’ve tried to make clear in my work.

From a young age, children need to understand how consent works. We teach them that people should never touch them inappropriately, but we as a society often fail to back that up in practice. Little things like forcing a child to hug or kiss relatives, tickling when a child clearly is not having fun, and (in my personal opinion) corporal punishment are all examples of times when we teach children the cognitive dissonance of words versus actions. If children understand their own bodily autonomy, they will learn and understand how that transforms into other areas of life as they grow older.

Throughout the stories of my series, Kahrin and Innes demonstrate some of the intricacies of consent. How it must be a mutual respect. How it can be withdrawn at any time. That the lack of a ‘no’ does not indicate a ‘yes’. The trust between them is predicated on the understanding of knowing and respecting each other’s boundaries. And, of course, I touch on various ways that not respecting consent can be harmful.

One of the best resources I could recommend for teaching and understanding consent is Scarleteen, founded and run by Heather Corinna, a skilled and lauded sexual education champion. They define consent, in a wonderful piece “Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent“, as:

An active, mutual process of willingly and freely deciding and negotiating sex of any kind with someone else. It’s also a shared responsibility for everyone who wants to engage in any kind of sexual interaction with someone. When there is a question or invitation about sex of any kind, consent has only been been mutually given or affirmed when the answer, on everyone’s part, has been a clear and enthusiastic yes.

So why do I emphasize consent in a YA/NA fantasy series? If you haven’t figured it out yet, I think it’s important for young people to have depictions of healthy relationships of all kinds, sexual and non-sexual alike. Kahrin and Innes blur the line of sexual and non-sexual, and exist in a type of open sexual relationship. As the series moves forward, I hope to build upon that, making sure to emphasize the gravitas they give towards equal want and willingness, as well as give examples of sexually active teens and new adults being responsible for their choices. Like anything else, media can impact how we see ourselves, and I hope that some young reader might take away a positive idea of the importance of consent, not just in sex, but in all areas of their lives.

I encourage you to read Corinna’s full piece, linked above. Scarleteen is an excellent resource for teens and young people, and includes several resources for parents/guardians as well. They are a judgement-free, fact-based, comprehensive site for all. If you’re looking for causes to support in this season of giving, I cannot recommend them enough.

Also, if you’re interested in reading other stories which feature respectful, consensual sexual relationships between young people, I recommend C.L. Walters’ The Stories Stars Tell, which approaches sexual agency from a Christian perspective, and Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan.

And, of course, my own series, which you can purchase in my store, or wherever you buy books.

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