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  • Three Stories on the Problem of Consent
  • Amanda Su (bio)

There are three stories.

The stories, respectively,

are about a princess, a prophet, and a girl.

In the first story, Budur, Princess of China, wishes not to wed.

In the second story, Hera has a dispute with her husband Zeus on the subject of whether women or men derive more pleasure from the act of sex.

In the third story, a girl knocks on the door of a dorm room.

According to Sir Richard Burton's translation of The Arabian Nights, Budur's lips are as blood-red as a sea anemone; her white breasts, like goblets of ivory.

Hera's epithets are "white-armed" and "cow-eyed."

The girl is from Taiwan.

A male djinn believes Budur to be the most beautiful being in all the world. A female djinn believes Kamar al-Zaman, Prince of Persia, to be the most beautiful being in all the world. [End Page 45]

Hera was once involved in an ill-fated beauty contest.

The girl has no such aspirations. She is in love with a boy from Yemen who does not find her beautiful. He's mentioned this to her on multiple occasions.

The only way to decide which of the two people is most beautiful, the djinns agree, is to whisk Budur from her bedchamber and deposit her in the bed of Kamar al-Zaman.

Hera believes men derive more pleasure from sex; Zeus believes women do. The only way to decide, they agree, is to consult Tiresias.

The door opens and the boy from Yemen comes out and embraces the girl.

The prince and the princess would each be awoken in turn. Whoever moved upon the body of the unconscious other with greater ardor would be judged less beautiful.

Tiresias is a man. Once upon a time, she was a woman.

The girl and the boy watch a movie in his bed. After the movie, the boy climbs on top of the girl.

Kamar al-Zaman awakens. He turns Budur over, parts her chemise, sees her breasts like goblets of ivory.

To Zeus's and Hera's question, Tiresias replies, Of ten parts a man enjoys one only; but a woman enjoys the full ten parts in her heart.

The boy does not kiss the girl. You don't kiss a whore, he'd said to her once. He moves on top of her rigid body.

As Kamar al-Zaman is about to kiss Budur on the mouth, he is suddenly ashamed before Allah.

Hera blinds Tiresias in a fit of spite. Zeus bestows on him the gift of prophecy. [End Page 46]

Afterwards, the boy feels ashamed and kisses the girl. It is her first kiss. He tells her that her lips are too small. She leaves before he wakes in the morning.

There are three stories.

Each of the stories is about the problem of sex as it relates to the problem of knowing.

Each of the stories stages a moment in which the condition of not knowing is inseparable from the act of having sex.

Although Kamar al-Zaman is ashamed, he decides nonetheless to place his ring on Budur's finger, to mark her as his own. He falls back asleep.

When Budur wakes up, she sees the ring and assumes herself to have been wedded in her sleep to the beautiful stranger beside her. She proceeds to caress and assail him fervently.

The marriage contract thus serves as a marker of blanket consent for Budur, one that obviates her unconsciousness of its terms, its agreements, its entitlements to his flesh and hers.

Likewise, the girl and the boy are both virgins. Both of them hew to Abrahamic religions that condemn the act of sex outside of marriage as a form of premature knowledge.

Both of them decline to articulate what they are doing for precisely this reason.

Their blanket denial becomes blanket deniability, one that obviates every unsaid yes, every unsaid no.

After the djinns deposit Budur back in her own bed in China, she mourns her vanished prince with a fearsome grief. She slays her chaperone for claiming that it was impossible for there...