I will admit that I read the victim blaming/shaming Atlantic article before I read the full Babe.com expose about Aziz Ansari and his accuser “Grace,” and was livid. One particular sentence — “Apparently there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab” — particularly enraged me for its flippant generalization of women not knowing how to say no or remove themselves from dangerous situations. That mentality is so problematic because it places all the responsibility on the female and doesn’t account for how dangerous men can be. There are masses of men roaming our streets who turn into complete monsters when rejected (even politely!), and even an assertive female like myself can feel fearful of a man in an intimate situation, so I can only imagine the paralysis of fear a more passive woman would experience. Not to mention all the other psychological factors of how women have been taught to act in sexual situations, but I’m not going to delve into that now. So originally I was all, FUCK YOU! to anyone blaming this girl and saying what she should have done like it’s so goddamn easy.
And then I read the full article. And I was like, Oh…wow…ok. This is a messy one.
First of all, I will say this: I do not think the story Grace shared qualifies as “sexual assault” and I completely understand how women who have been raped/assaulted/Weinstein’d-in-the-workplace felt insulted by it, and they are justified in that. I don’t necessarily agree with Grace’s decision to do this exposé, and on top of that, I think Babe.com’s reporting and lumping it into the #MeToo movement was also irresponsible and a missed opportunity for a different, important conversation (and I encourage you to read this great Guardian piece about that if you’re interested).
But regardless, I’m glad for the conversation it has sparked around consensual sex and the discussion of the “gray area.”
I think what happened here is totally commonplace, but by no means does that make it ok. We have a starstruck, naive 22-year-old going out with a 33-year-old celebrity, and that ALONE should tell you who has more responsibility in this scenario. My take is that she went into this date with totally unrealistic expectations (again, naivety) and lacking the tools needed (like confidence and self-worth) to tell herself she didn’t deserve what was happening and to get out. It’s really easy for confident 30+ women to look down on this 20-something and shake their head condescendingly at her actions, but I think we do need to examine not only the age structure in this situation, but power structure as well. And we should never judge someone’s actions until we truly try to put ourselves in their shoes.
Grace had many opportunities to get out of the situation with Aziz, and without harm. From her account, he was acting like a total creep and sexual predator, but not dangerously. Her exit may have been awkward, but she would have left unscathed. It’s sad to think she felt uncomfortable but stayed because she was hoping for more (romance, a relationship, who knows), that was clearly not on his radar at all. I can confidently say I would never find myself in a similar situation at this point in my life — the second I felt uncomfortable, I’d be out of there. I’d like to think I would have acted the same way at 22, but I’ve never been in that situation with a celebrity who was 10 years my senior in his stunning Manhattan apartment….when just hours before I was picking out the perfect outfit he’d fall head over heels for me in. This wasn’t just a stranger from the bar. In fact, quite the opposite — this was one of America’s sweetheart comedians.
And that’s where I find so much fault with Aziz’s actions. He was a 33 (or 34) year-old man at the time. He’s famous. He’s not aloof. He has built an entire brand on love and relationships, so I don’t want to hear how his only fault is that he “couldn’t read her mind” (thanks NY Times!) — he’s literally THE GUY who should be able to assess an intimate situation. I find myself cringing at some of the details of that night from Grace’s end (ahem, blowjob), but find myself angrier at this famous man who seems to have manipulated a weaker partner in the name of getting laid. It’s safe to say he’s probably not the gentlemanly “woke bae” you once thought he was. I know people have a hard time accepting someone they thought to be a hero turning out to be a creep, but hey, time to get used to it, right?
So, let’s talk about the problem at hand. First of all, men need to get their shit together when it comes to sex. Honestly, you shouldn’t even be trying to pull out your porn moves with someone on the first date unless she has explicitly asked for it. I’m so sick of the male coddling and excusing — if you’re truly one of these “clueless” dudes who can’t tell whether or not you’re forcing something on a woman against her will, then you need to be EXTRA verbal in the bedroom/on the marble countertop (“Is this ok?”, “Should we move slower?”, “Are you comfortable?”, NEED I GO ON?!). I could give tips and tricks for not sexually assaulting women all day long, but I think we all know this boils down to entitlement, and that’s a bigger conversation the #MeToo movement has sparked and I hope every single father out there with a young son realizes he is responsible for addressing.
As for the ladies, I’m tiptoeing around this one because I don’t want to victim blame, but females need to stop accepting unacceptable behavior. Period. What happened between Grace and Aziz is a classic case of a girl wanting love and affection and a guy just wanting sex, and females need to be aware that (unfortunately) those situations are going to happen to them, and they need to know how and when to exit because they don’t deserve it. Parents need to instill these values in their girls, and stronger, more assertive girls need to build up their more passive friends. It’s a sad moment when you go out with a guy you were hoping to date, and realize they just want to fuck you, but we have literally ALL BEEN THERE, and we need to realize our own self-worth in those moments and decide what we want, what we don’t want, and speak up.
And just so we’re clear — I don’t think all men are dangerous/creepy/rapey, not even by a long shot. I have been so lucky to have had dates and relationships with guys who showed me the utmost respect and never once made me feel threatened. So thanks to those guys — maybe they should go teach Consent Seminars in Hollywood.