A couple of days ago a the website babe published an article entitled
“I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the Worst Night of My Life”. The premise of the article was about a young photographer referred to only as Grace who went on a date with the television star Aziz Ansari. I admit I don’t know much about Ansari’s work. Apparently he’s fashioned his image as some sort of woke male feminist.
As soon as the article hit the internet the outrage machine was in full force. People were decrying that Ansari was a rapist and that if anyone disagreed with them they were a rape apologist or supporting rape culture. The term “victim blaming” was thrown around quite a bit. I read and then re-read the article and kept coming to the same conclusion. This doesn’t read like sexual assault it just seems like a bad date.
When I posted my misgivings about the article on my Facebook page, a few woman I know shared similar views. Some even said they found it insulting as survivors of sexual assault themselves that something like this was being lumped in with real abuse.
I won’t break down the whole article beat by beat as I’m sure many others have done the same. What I couldn’t help but notice though with each re-reading:
- Ansari was overtly blatant about his intentions. He went for sex almost as soon as they entered the apartment. He mentioned a condom and performed oral sex on this woman within 10 minutes of them being alone together.
- The woman was playing coy. She had high expectations for this date. He was a celebrity. She had bragged about this date to her friends. She was under the impression that Ansari would be more like his stage persona, and less like the man who was acting like an entitled prick. She never really gives him a hard “No, I don’t want to do this” until after she’s performed oral sex on him twice, admittedly not whole heartedly.
From his perspective he’s not going to necessarily know she’s not into this if she has had his penis in her mouth twice that evening. Of course any woman at any time during a sexual encounter has the right to slam on the breaks and end it. Just because a woman agreed to make out with a man doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with him. Just because she might consent to oral sex, doesn’t mean she wants to take things further. What’s missing here is communication on both of their parts.
Ansari isn’t being subtle. If anything he’s being too overt. He’s acting like an spoiled brat who is used to having women throw themselves at him. He’s probably assuming this woman is a huge fan of his and this is just as exciting for her than it is for him. Ansari with all of his flaws is communicating nearly everything he wants. He isn’t telling this woman he’s madly in love with her. He didn’t bother with any pretense of wanting to get to know her better as a person. He wants sex. He wants sex immediately and keeps stating his intentions openly.
The woman is not communicating her needs as clearly. She only does so when things get so bad for her that she finally snaps. She moves away and mumbles, she tells him to “chill out” but she doesn’t tell him NO. She doesn’t use the one word that can’t be mistaken for any other meaning. The one word that he cannot misunderstand. She continues to make out with him and engage in sexual contact with him.
The real tragedy for me in this whole thing is not that she was sexually assaulted. I still don’t think she was sexually assaulted. Honestly if this really is the “worst night of her life” as she is quoted in the article then she has lived a charmed life. By the time I was 22 years old I’d had several bad dates like this one. I’d also survived molestation, sexual harassment, sexual assault and attempted rape. In all of those encounters I had no control whatsoever. It didn’t matter what I said or did, the men who were abusing me wouldn’t stop. I wish I could have started crying and asked for a cab to make it all stop, but no amount of tears or denials worked.
The real tragedy is that as a woman she’d been conditioned, probably since birth, to not speak up for herself in the moment. She somehow thought she could turn this horrific situation around by playing coy. She also thought that he might pick up on the fact that she “went cold” and stopped responding sexually. Again she was answering clear oral communication with vague non-verbal cues. She thouhgt she might change his mind by staying in sexual encounter but still stopping short of sex. She felt she had to “play nice” and not speak up for herself. The other tragedy is that Ansari had also been conditioned to believe that women can be coaxed into sex if men just keep pushing. Although her actions would be confusing to most men, when she finally said “Let’s chill out.” that should have been a cue for him to maybe ask her directly and bluntly what she wanted in that situation. Instead it was his turn to be vague and pretend they were really going to just watch television.
This was not an assault, it was a miscommunication of epic proportions with both sides making mistakes. I also honestly feel bad for the woman in this situation. I’m sure she was hurt and disappointed by all of it. He didn’t treat her well but sadly there will probably be far more dates like this one in her future. If a man says he wants to have sex 10 minutes into the encounter very little is going to dissuade him from his mission. He made his intentions clear early on. If she didn’t want to have sex with him, that should have been her cue to leave. Most women will find themselves in these situations countless times. At least Ansari didn’t mislead her, lie to her and tell her he had deep feelings for her, have sex with her and then never speak to her again. That move is also quite common and insidious with men of all ages.
If women want to be taken seriously as equal members of society we can’t pretend we are suddenly hopeless lambs without agency or power. If we don’t want to do something we have to say NO. We have to sometimes say no loudly, repeatedly and say it with purpose. Women don’t owe a man sex if he just bought us dinner, lives in an expensive apartment or is a television personality. We don’t owe a man a reciprocal blow job if he’s already gone down on us. If we aren’t comfortable we need to say so and not wait until the next day, ruminate over the whole thing and then decide we are violated. If a man has made it clear to us that he wants to have sex and nothing more, then we can make the choice to agree to it or not.
Honestly I fear that the article will be used by MRA (Mens Rights Advocates) who try to argue that date rape doesn’t really exist. That date rape basically boils down to women regretting their choices from the night before and then crying rape/sexual assault after the fact. Sexual assault is a vicious and ugly thing to endure. It robs people of control over the most personal part of themselves, their body and dignity. I don’t see that type of ugliness in this scenario. I see instead a young inexperienced woman who was still holding on to an idealized fantasy of how the date should have gone, and a entitled, immature man intent on getting laid. When she finally gave him a forceful NO he stopped. She went home and cried and he probably jerked off to porn. It was an awkward and uncomfortable sexual experience for both of them, not a criminal act.
This whole thing reminds me of a time when a friend of mine went out with another celebrity I won’t name. He was quite a bit older and also presented himself as a woke type who respects women. On their date after dinner and drinks he sat down next to my friend in her apartment and put his arm around her back. Before she knew it he was on top of her and had whipped out his erect penis. Now my friend is an athlete. She used to compete in professional pole dancing competitions. Before he knew what hit him, she shoved him off with all her force and screamed “GET OFF OF ME! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” His response was a meek “Sorry, sorry, sorry. I thought that’s what you wanted.” It wasn’t. They never went out again, but now my friend had a hilarious story to tell at parties. In her case he wasn’t a rapist either, just a clueless entitled idiot who backed down the second he got a hard refusal. These things happen, they’re called bad dates, not sexual assault.
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