I agree with this take:
sweet jesus. i cannot believe the number of quote-unquote woke, progressive people i’m seeing on here who feel that accusing aziz ansari, who has in large part staked his reputation on being a Woke Guy, of sexual assault, or even just of being a Shitty Dude instead of a Woke Guy, is Going Too Far. guess what. if you are a dude who thinks he acted like a “normal” dude, you too are probably very bad at sex. you too are likely guilty of treating your sexual partners like blow-up dolls. and ladies – ladies, ladies. ladies. please. you’re killing me.
FIELD GUIDE TO WHY DIDN’T SHE LEAVE
1. please, everyone, always and forever keep the words “why didn’t she just leave” out of your mouth.
2. for example i have been groped on the sly, repeatedly, in front of my friends/colleagues, by men with no concept of boundaries and with a sick sense of entitlement. i did not enjoy the groping. it made what was supposed to be a pleasant evening with friends watching live music, or hanging out at a party, or hanging out at a bar after an MFA reading – or, shit, even sometimes my day at work at a restaurant – very stressful and humiliating. in these instances i was – because apparently people think this matters (!) – not wasted on drugs or alcohol. i had my “wits” about me.
3. and yet only once, with one of those men, was i able, in the moment, to look at him and say, “stop touching me.” in every other instance i froze, or at best moved away – repositioned myself in the room. i didn’t leave. but i also didn’t want to be groped. the fact that i didn’t leave has no bearing on the fact that the sexual contact was unwelcome (and in fact constitutes assault).
NO BUT REALLY, WHY DID SHE ENGAGE IN ANY SEXUAL ACTIVITY AT ALL, HOW CAN SHE SAY SHE DIDN’T WANT THESE THINGS TO HAPPEN AFTER SHE FLIRTED WITH HIM AND WENT TO HIS HOUSE
1. it sounds to me like she was expecting some sexual encounter to take place, but at a pace that perhaps included her own arousal (!), and with some amount of skill (!). when he made it clear that he wasn’t about those things, she perhaps had second thoughts about continuing to have what sounds like objectively terrible sex. (not terrible because of his moves – terrible because of his complete refusal or inability to notice his partner and how she was responding.)
2. it sounds to me like she was also cycling through this kind of slippery-slope logic: “okay, this is just a guy who doesn’t pick up on social cues… okay this is bad sex but maybe it will turn into good sex if i can just communicate with him… okay this is bad sex maybe i can just get through it… okay, no, he’s going to force me to do stuff i don’t want to do.”
3. it is not hard for me to see how she would try to give him the benefit of the doubt – especially given the track record of his work, seeming to be woke, whatever – and had a hard time believing, in the moment, that it was going to be as bad as it was. the fact that in the middle of it she stopped, splashed water on her face, and said frankly to him that she was trying to basically reboot the night so she wouldn’t end up hating him was, to me, really impressive and commendable, in terms of active communication despite high-stress circumstances. so when he seems to go along with the idea of a do-over, and then commands her to go down on him – this was the real turning point of the horrorshow for me.
I KNOW BETTER / I TRY HARDER TO ‘STAY SAFE’ THAN THAT WOMAN DID
1. i too was taught not to get raped. don’t get raped! be careful! i learned that too. i also once gave a hand job in a car, parked outside my house, to a man who ended up stalking me for six months. you might know that i had a stalker in grad school, but you probably don’t know that part of the story. i have published two essays on this topic and i have never mentioned this part. the encounter began consensually and ended with me just trying to get through it and get out of the car.
2. i gave him a hand job in his car because i knew that if i let him in my house, as he asked me over and over again to do, that he would force me to have sex with him. i gave him a hand job so he would go home instead of raping me. i don’t tell that part of the story, because i know – i KNOW – i will have to deal with people – with women, which personally feels even worse – like a betrayal – saying, well, she did give him a hand job. i mean, why didn’t she just leave? she could have just gotten out the car, she could have told him no. and then he wouldn’t leave her alone, after she hooked up with him? what did she think was going to happen?
3. i hear your logic – if this woman didn’t like how aziz was acting, she should have tried harder not to have that shitty experience. i reject this logic. it took me years to hear how irrational we sound when we say it – try harder not to get raped. try harder not to have terrible experiences with shitty men. this is what i believe: i cannot – we cannot – try harder not to get raped. we try very hard already. i am trying as hard as i can. the problem is not that women need to try harder not to be sexually assaulted.
WHAT AN IDIOT, SHE IS AT FAULT FOR BEING STUPID
1. i’m currently reading this book called The Body Keeps the Score, which is about brains, bodies, and trauma, and you must read it. every page is mind-blowing. so i’m citing this book for you – this is what research shows: in high-stress situations, your limbic system, which is the oldest part of your brain, older than the part where conscious thought lives, takes over, and from there people have a range of responses to perceived threats (fight/flight/freeze) – while, in the meantime, some other parts of your brain literally shut down. and the parts that light up and shut down vary from person to person, based on their previous experiences of high-stress situations, sometimes dating all the way back to childhood, sometimes dating to episodes of major trauma (war, rape, car accidents, etc).
2. which is why there is just no version of reality where one can say “well, i was taught to behave this way, and someone who doesn’t behave this way should be held accountable for the differences in their actions versus my perception of the proper way to respond.” you don’t know what you would have done in that exact situation on that exact day with that exact threat, because what you are taught and what your lizard brain thinks you should do to survive are not necessarily the same thing. and you don’t know what experiences have shaped this woman’s brain so that she responds to threats the way she did that day.
3. but to focus on any of that, besides making the point that not one of us can speak to that woman’s account of her strategies to get through that experience, is wrong-headed. truly it is the part of the story that deserves the least amount of attention.
BUT WHY DIDN’T SHE LEAVE
1. there are a million equally plausible reasons that are all some version of “because we are trained to be pleasing to men; otherwise they might kill us.”
2. why did i give that dude a hand job? because i was trying to get through the encounter without worse happening. why didn’t i leave? well, actually, i did leave. i left after i gave him a hand job and before he could rape me.
3. so did this woman. she did leave. she left after he tried, yet again, despite all of the physical and verbal indications of his partner to the contrary, to take off his pants and fuck her. she had stopped him twice, said she didn’t want to be forced to have sex with him twice, twice he said “we can chill instead,” and then twice he tried again to fuck her. when he tried the second time, she stood up, he came at her physically again (forceful kissing), she said she was going to call a car, he came at her physically AGAIN (more kissing, hugging). then he called the car instead – i guess because he’s a nice guy (!) – and she escaped without being forced into intercourse. she did leave. she protected herself. she got out. after a harrowing, bullshit experience. who created the bullshit? aziz did.
WHO CREATED THE BULLSHIT?
1. aziz did.
2. aziz did.
3. aziz did.
GOING ON A DATE WITH SOMEONE WE’RE INTERESTED IN AS A POTENTIAL SEXUAL PARTNER DOES NOT EQUAL CONSENT TO BE RAPED OR OTHERWISE ASSAULTED
1. going on a date with someone we’re interested in as a potential sexual partner does not equal consent to be raped or otherwise assaulted.
2. flirting over the phone with aziz ansari does not mean giving up your sexual agency to aziz ansari.
3. going to dinner with aziz ansari does not mean giving up your rights as a human being to aziz ansari.
4. going to a man’s house does not mean that we, collectively, as a society, all agree this man should get to do whatever he wants to your body.
5. engaging in some sexual activity with a man, whether it’s a first date or your fiftieth anniversary, does not mean that this man now owns your orifices and can do whatever he wants with them, whenever he wants, for as long as he wants.
BUT YOU’RE PREDICATING THIS ENTIRE ARGUMENT ON PRESUMED VIOLENCE
1. wow, we really can’t win, can we. either we are too stupid not to see sexual assault coming from a mile away, and therefore we deserve what we get, or we are “presuming” an intention to violence that never actually happened, and our accounts should therefore be dismissed.
2. my story is one of actual violence, not a presumed intention to violence.
3. this woman’s story is one of actual violence, not a presumed intention to violence.
I AM REALLY “CONCERNED” BY YOUR TAKE ON THIS, I THOUGHT YOU WANTED WOMEN TO BE “POWERFUL” BUT NOW YOU HAVE TOTALLY STRIPPED HER OF AGENCY
1. i’m glad you know about agency. let’s talk about agency. actually, first, it seems you might have skipped all the points under every instance of WHY DIDN’T SHE LEAVE, including the points where i say – she did leave. she protected herself. she left after it got bad and before it could get worse. that’s agency. and focusing not on why she didn’t leave, but why she did – this honors her agency.
2. if you’re sharing, in earnest, that NYT op-ed about aziz being “guilty of not being a mind reader,” ask yourself: if you tell a man, out loud, with your words, that you don’t want to be forced to have sex, and he says, okay, i respect that, and then starts to unbutton his pants – who, in that scenario, is being required to read whose mind? that’s not a hypothetical, friend. that’s the woman’s account of how it ended. the woman said out loud that she didn’t want to have sex and she didn’t want to be forced to have sex. aziz is being lauded for “agreeing” with her. then aziz, in contrast to his words, removes his pants. the woman, it seems, reads HIS mind – reads his body language – assesses his behavior so far and determines he is not going to stop, no matter what she says – and she leaves.
3. saying that woman expected him to be a mind reader is an unbelievable load of bullshit. she said no, with her actual mouth, repeatedly, using multiple phrases. it is incredible, and horrifying, to me that people can read that account and then accuse that woman of not explicitly communicating. what does that mean for those of us who have experienced and will experience sexual assault? no matter what we say or do, people will literally rewrite the narrative of what happened to erase all the things we did to protect ourselves, and then blame us for not protecting ourselves? and people are coming after me like my take on this disempowers the woman, strips her of agency. get fucking real.
WHY DO WE KEEP SEEING THESE STORIES
1. my personal big takeaway from this story was that there does indeed seem to be something really sinister about power that corrupts people’s ability to act like a fucking human being. these stories of hollywood men behaving so egregiously have really consistently blown me away – i keep thinking, well, this new one is just going to be clickbait, they’re digging up any dirt they can find just to keep the news cycle going – and then i read it and it’s just another incredibly bad story, corroborated, of another celebrity acting like a fucking sociopath. the pattern is real.
2. so it’s either a) somehow only very sick predatory people are drawn to becoming hollywood entertainers (i find this theory unlikely) or b) people who amass power, wealth, and fame lose track of their entitlements, and when you couple that with the training men receive in a patriarchy, you start to see behavior like aziz’s in this story.
3. but also, everyone responding to this story like, huh? huh?? you mean this isn’t how everyone has sex?? people think aziz did something wrong??? – i’m sorry (or maybe i’m delighted) to tell you that this behavior may be common, but it is not right. it is not good. this is not good sex. if you think this is how “normal” people have sex, you need to do some soul searching and educate yourself. sex with consenting partners is much more fun than sex with people who are only there because they’re afraid that if they try to leave, you might kill them.
I DON’T BUY IT. THIS IS JUST BAD SEX. THIS IS A WOMAN WHO JUST REGRETTED HER ONE-NIGHT STAND. CALLING THIS SEXUAL ASSAULT DIMINISHES THE EXPERIENCE OF EVERYONE WHO HAS “REALLY” BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED
try this one, it seems to help: http://www.katykatikate.com/2018/01/not-that-bad_15.html
BUT WHAT ABOUT MEN, THE POOR HUMILIATED MEN, WE HAVE GONE TOO FAR, THINK ABOUT THE MEN
1. i’m pro-men. i’m pro- being on the same team as men. i’m pro- having sex with men. i’m pro- having sex on marble countertops with men. i’m pro- having sex with men when it feels good to have sex with men. i’m pro- the humanization of men. i’m pro- the redemption of men.
2. and i do not need – none of us need – to try harder not to get raped.
3. men need to try harder not to rape women. men need to listen more. boys need to be taught better, and we are all responsible for teaching them.