‘I May Destroy You’ rewires what consent looks like

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Laura Radford/HBO from Tribune News Service

Michaela Coel stars in her HBO series “I May Destroy You.”

Elyssa Reed, A&E Editor

Warning: This contains mature content

Creator and actress of I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel takes the topic of consent and twists it as a masterful craft. This show zooms in at the minute intricacies that blur the line between what consent looks like in modern day relationships. 

“This is what I call a theft of consent because details are purposely hidden from you so that you consent, but if you saw those details you wouldn’t consent,” Coel said during The Daily Distancing Show.

I May Destroy You follows struggling writer Arabella. One night, she goes out to a club, where she’s slipped a date rape drug leading to her being sexually assaulted. The show follows Arabella’s journey in the aftermath of her assault. 

Arabella is clearly a victim of sexual assault after being drugged. The lines are very clear about that. There’s no defending the assaulter and looking at it from another angle. Coel makes it clear that consent was nonexistent at the very beginning. 

Later in the season, Arabella suffers another account of sexual assault when a man removes the condom in the middle of intercourse without her knowledge. He then further gaslights her and makes it seem that it wasn’t that big of a deal. 

Coel takes two contrasting ideas of consent. In one assault, it was very clear that no form of consent was used. In the second assault, it’s a bit more murky. They both consented to engage in sexual interactions, but the moment he decided to make a decision without her knowing, consent was thrown out the window. 

When hearing the word consent, I think about the yes and no to engaging in sexual interaction. However, it goes deeper than just the bare minimum of engaging in that situation. What’s being done, how it’s being done and anything in between has to be taken into account. 

Consent is a very strong thing that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Arabella could’ve easily gotten pregnant by practically a stranger. In its own right, that can be considered sexual assault. He had no prior conversation with her about doing such things. 

It’s a scary thought because it’s as simple as just removing something without the other’s knowledge. Purely because someone is engaging in sexual interactions with someone, doesn’t give someone the right to make executive decisions on the other’s behalf.

The act of withholding information is as strong as never asking for consent at all. That’s the point that Coel effectively gets across with the two differing situations. 

I May Destroy You is an education of consent. It truly questions human nature and tests viewers on what they think they know about consent. It leads to an eye-opening experience that so many go through whose voices aren’t heard. I May Destroy You easily earns the title of a must-watch show.