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To call the Aziz Ansari date from hell sexual assault in an insult to survivors of sexual assault.

 

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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Street Harassment: A Challenge to Men

street-harassment

Once while crossing the street in Washington Heights a man screamed out at me, “Hey Sexy!”  I was wearing baggy jeans, a sweatshirt, a baseball cap and glasses with no makeup.  I looked a step away from a vagrant.  I didn’t respond.  Just then, I heard the same voice shout back at me, “Ya fat ass. Bitch”

I was crossing the street at the light.  Was I supposed to stop, walk over to the sound of the voice even though I had no idea what car he was in.   I knew the man was talking to me as there were no other women around, but I looked so grubby it seemed strange that he would call me “sexy.”  This same scenario plays out daily, sometimes several times a day no matter what I’m wearing or how I look.

In the worst examples I’ve been grabbed by random strangers.  They usually grab me by my arm and try to pull me into them.  It’s so inappropriate it borders on assault.  If a man did that to another man, he’s libel to get punched, pushed, shoved or slapped.  It’s just unacceptable.

One night while walking home from a comedy show a group of young teenagers walked up to me for no reason, and one of them pulled my hair and then ran away laughing.  It was near Union Square, the streets were quite busy.  My response was to immediately start screaming at the boys.  It ended with me chasing them down the block.  I did get some satisfaction when they finally decided to start running from me, the look of fear in their eyes gave me hope they wouldn’t try it again any time soon.

The infamous video that is making the internet rounds lately stirred a fairly heated debate among my friends.  When I watched the video, I saw a woman dealing with street harassment as she wore a t-shirt and jeans and did nothing more than walk silently through the streets of New York City.  What my friend saw was a racially biased video that portrayed black men as the primary source of this type of harassment.  Interesting how people from two oppressed groups can see the exact same footage and get something completely different perspectives from it.  The video did contain some white men who were harassing the woman, and a few voices were of undetermined ethnicity.  However the makers of the video did make a mistake by only using a white woman.  It would have been a better experiment to use women of various ethnic backgrounds.  Not only would the non-white women still get comments, they would probably get racist remarks on top of it.

Since I’ve lived in New York City for 13 years, I have friends from every background imaginable.  Street harassment is something that nearly all of my female friends complain about.  It doesn’t matter if they are white, black, Asian, Latina or some combination.  Every woman under a certain age regardless of size has experienced it.  Some women just block them out, but for many of us the remarks feel like acid, constantly wearing us down as we are just trying to get from one place to another.

I’ve had to deal numerous sexually charged incidents of violence over the years.  I would list them all here but I’d rather not.  I don’t really want to go there again.  A few of them were so bad though, that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  PTSD is normally associated with men coming back from war, but anyone who has lived through traumatic experiences can develop the disorder.  When I was 19 years old I got jumped by a guy after coming out of a bar.  I was thrown up against a wall and the man was trying to rip open my clothing.  I was too terrified to do anything.  Luckily someone else noticed what was going on and the man stopped.  But that incident left scars.  Now when someone grabs me on the street I explode.  I tend to start screaming, my blood pressure rises, my heart races, and I go into full flight or fight mode.  I struggle to control myself when this happens, but it’s as if a demon has been unleashed.  Luckily for me this usually causes men to immediately drop their hands, and back away.

To really prove this is a universal problem Hollaback should remake their video and show it happens to all women, and that men of all shades of skin engage in this behavior. I could see my friend’s point that it looked biased.  What troubled me instead were the comments that so many men were making regarding street harassment.

  • It doesn’t exist – women don’t really go through this
  • We should be happy to get such attention
  • If we don’t respond we are stuck up snobs
  • Women have nothing to fear from men
  • Men don’t mean any harm by these comments
  • Men can’t help themselves when they see women walk by
  • Women should just put up with this because it’s not harmful
  • If the guys were attractive we wouldn’t mind the comments
  • This is just how men act and we should accept it

Several women tried in vain to point out that this really is unwanted attention.  Why would women feel less safe when random strangers invade their personal space and try to force them to connect with them verbally or otherwise?  Why are we so guarded when walking down the street?  Why can a man just walk down the street without experiencing this?  Sure some women might make a comment towards a man, but women overall are far less of a threat to anyone’s physical safety.  About 90% of all murders are  committed by men, and 95% of all sexual predators are men.  Now this isn’t to say all men are violent, of course they aren’t.  Most victims of violence are men, and most victims also tend to know their attacker and be the same race as their attacker.  But the chances of a woman committing the same acts of violence is extremely rare.  Violent criminals tend to re-offend, so it literally is a minority of men who are the problem.  Because of this, women are far less likely to assume that every man who she encounters is going to be harmless.  Every day we have to judge if  “Hey Beautiful” just an innocuous statement or if it is the start to a physical assault?  Most of us have found that if we engage with men on the street, some will take that as an invitation for more contact.  In my own experience I’ve found even eye contact is an invitation to a few deranged individuals.  I’ve just been grabbed too many times to assume it won’t happen again.  It’s also sobering to note that according to a recent government survey 1 in 5 American women reported to be a victim of rape, or an attempted rapeAbout 80% of those women reported that it happened before the age of 25.  So any cat caller has about a 20% chance that he’s chatting up someone who might very well been a victim of a previous sexual assault.

Instead of logically trying to explain this to the men who don’t understand, I’ll simply say this.  If you don’t believe me, and you don’t want to read my stories then I implore you  to sit down with your close female friends, your sister, your girlfriend, your mother, your daughter, your niece or your aunt.  Ask them if they’ve ever been sexually intimidated by a man.  Ask them if they’ve experienced sexual violence.  Ask them if they had a man follow them down the street, block their path, or grab their arm when they were minding their own business.  I think you’d be surprised what you would find.

And if that still doesn’t get you to change your point of view then think of a young girl in your family.  Think how you would feel if your 8-year-old niece had to put up with the same comments.  I’ve seen girls who are clearly underage get lewd and creepy remarks from men in their 40’s and 50’s.  Think about what that does to their self-esteem to have a man older than her father treat her that way.  If you wouldn’t want your mother to put up with this, or your sister, your niece, your granddaughter, your daughter, your girlfriend or wife, then why is it OK to do it to random woman?

Among my circle of friends it’s usually harder to find the woman who hasn’t had some type of scary incident in her past.   I know one friend who was attacked with a hammer just last year.  She fought off her attacker but had to have staples put in her scalp to repair what he had done to her.  I know of another who admitted to being nearly raped by a man who held a gun to her head, and another still who was driven to a remote location and attacked by a cab driver. Most women have stories like these, the incidents are not rare, and it’s exactly why we are on guard when we are walking down the street by ourselves.

Sadly the woman in the video got rape threats in youtube comments.  Men trying to defend this as simple harmless behavior in the same breath threatened to sexually assault the woman.  It’s as if they are proving our point.  If it really was a compliment, “Hey Beautiful” shouldn’t be followed by “Bitch.”

So start a dialog.  Start it right now.  Talk to your trusted female friends and family members and see what they tell you. Ask your daughter if she’s ever had a man treat her like this.  We aren’t going to get past this with a simple “boys will be boys” attitude.  I’m willing to concede that a lot of men don’t realize that this is upsetting to some women.  Many honestly do think it’s complimentary or a nice thing to do.  Women we just want to live our lives like anyone else, and sometimes that means silently walking down the street without interruption.

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Steubenville: Poor Little Rapists

STEUBENVILLE - "I made it as a joke,"...

STEUBENVILLE – “I made it as a joke,” Pizzoferrato testified. ” (MARCH 17, 2013) …item 2.. Steubenville rape case: — victim had been urinated upon (SUNDAY, MARCH 17, 2013, 5:29 PM) … (Photo credit: marsmet523)

I have been debating if I should write about this.  So many talented writers and great minds have weighed in so I thought everything that could have been said, has been said.  Then I found out that one of the convicted Steubenville rapists was appealing his sentence based on the grounds that his mind is not yet fully formed.   It could be argued that because the convicted rapist is a juvenile and therefore does not have a fully formed brain, that is exactly why he is getting such a light sentence.  Had his mind been “fully formed” then he might be facing 10-15 years in maximum security prison.  As it stands he might serve a year or more in a juvenile institution.

What would be terrifying is the unlikely scenario of a judge buying this nonsense.  That would set up a precedent that rape is perfectly acceptable as long as the attacker is underage.  The brain of a child is not responsible for committing such a heinous act and the violent predator shouldn’t have to pay for his or her crimes.

Can we please remember the victim in this case is also a child?  What about her brain?  What kind of damage did this one act of violence do to her developing mind?  What did the subsequent harassment, bullying and death threats do to her psyche and self-esteem?  How will she be tormented, humiliated and scorned in her small community for years to come after this trial is over?  Will she have to relocate and change her name thanks to Fox news releasing her identity?  Her brain is also still not completely formed and the damage that has already been done to it is tantamount.

But what really makes me insane with anger is the fact that anyone would feel it necessary to lament the lives destroyed of these two young men and not of this young woman.  These boys not only violated this young woman, but then they bragged about it afterward.  They urinated on her and thought it was hysterical.  She was an object and a plaything – ridiculed and tossed away once finished.  Rape is a crime of violence.  Would another violent crime be treated the same?  What if they had beaten her?  What if they put her into a coma?  What if they had accidentally killed her?  Would the media lament their lost football careers?  How is it any different.

What if the situation were reversed?  What if the boys had been anally raped with found objects, urinated on and then dumped naked in a cold basement only to be photographed and humiliated on the internet afterward?  Would the issue of consent even be brought up?  Why is it that a woman or in this case a girl is somehow always available for sex?   What the hell is going on here?

According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network

  • 44% of all rape victims are under the age of 18
  • 80% are under the age of 30
  • Every 2 minutes someone in the US is raped
  • 207,754 are victims of sexual assault every year

I don’t need statistics to know the truth.  I know from my own experiences and from those of my friends – rape happens, attempted rape happens, molestation happens as does sexual intimidation and harassment.  In any group of adult women it is usually more difficult to find someone who doesn’t have a story to tell.  We are not all victims of course, but we have all had to deal with sexual intimidation or violence on some level.  If nothing else, harassment or intimidation is meant to put  us in our rightful place – sexual object and nothing else.

Those boys are responsible for their actions and if they have ruined their football careers they only have themselves to blame.  They may have only been 16, but so was their victim.  My heart goes out to her as this is only the beginning.  She will likely face more grief, ridicule and hatred in the months and years to come.  All because she had the nerve and strength to stand up to her attackers.

If nothing else this case has at least awoken our consciousness to the rape culture that is still so pervasive in this country.  A sixteen year girl was raped – that is the real tragedy.