What Does Consent Really Mean?
by Pete Wallis, Joseph Wilkins & Thalia Wallis
read in July 2017
release date: November 21st, 2017
I received an e-ARC from Jessica Kingsley Publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!
When I spotted What Does Consent Really Mean? on Netgalley, I was instantly intrigued. Often, people have good intentions while discussion topics such as consent, but it can also go wrong in many ways, e.g. by only discussing consent in allocishet relationships. So I definitely planned on reading this graphic novel critically.
Overall, I think What Does Consent Really Mean? is a solid introduction to the topic of consent. I loved that it also dealt with consent in relationships. The rape culture in our society is very difficult to discuss, even more so when we are talking about people who are in a relationship with each other. Therefore, it hit close to home. Though I don’t think it was perfect, I do want to hand it out to others so they realise how important consent is.
Right from the start, this graphic novels features a black character and a character wearing a hijab, which I loved. Unfortunately, due to the very poor formatting of this e-ARC, I couldn’t tell whether they were the ones who slut-shamed. I really hope that’s not the case, but I can’t tell: it was impossible to know who said what, because the text wasn’t included in the speech bubbles.
Once or twice queer people were mentioned, but only briefly. Furthermore, I can’t tell whether anything queerphobic was said due to the poor formatting. Every sentence was jumbled, so I probably had to skip half of this graphic novel.
Talking about queer people: I think asexual people must experience even more pressure to do things they don’t want to do. Some are sex repulsed and I can only imagine that if their partner isn’t ace, they might force them to do things they don’t want to do. Yet What Does Consent Really Mean? doesn’t discuss that. This is still very centred around allocishet people.
I completely understand the negative role pornography can carry. Yes, people are pressured into doing things they don’t want to do because of it. But, I don’t think we should blame sex workers. I find this very difficult to admit, because it’s something I struggle with. How can I support people that can cause so much harm? It’s not the individuals’ fault, rather than the industry’s. So when sentences such as “the girls [in porn] are just always up for anything” were said in this graphic novel, they rubbed me the wrong way.
Another discussing in What Does Consent Really Mean? that irked me, was the one about nudes. We shouldn’t frighten people into not daring to take such pictures. We should, however, make people realise that sharing someone’s nudes is wrong and shouldn’t go unpunished. I think that’s a huge differences, whereas in this comic, I got the impression that nudes shouldn’t be taken in the first place, because “my dad says that anything online stays there forever. Even if you trust someone now, you never know what they might do”. Which is true, but not the way we should be handling this issue.
Finally, the following sentences is very harmful and is not the way we should draw the line for what is considered consent and what isn’t:
“How do you know if you’re consenting? If you listen to your body, you’ll know.
You can e.g. get an erection while being raped, so when your body is responding in a “positive” way, that doesn’t mean you are consenting. So I thought this last piece of advice was very iffy.
What Does Consent Really Mean? is a solid introduction to the topic of consent and very relatable to someone who has been in a relationship with lack thereof. Because of the poor formatting of this e-ARC, I might re-read this graphic novel once the finished copies are released.