In the last two days reports have been flying around about Aziz Ansari being accused of sexual assault. The article accusing Aziz Ansari of sexual assault appeared in Babe in which the woman, Grace, recounts what she claimed to be “The worst night of her life”. While the original article has received a lot of support with thousands of women saying they too relate to the account, what she experienced was not sexual assault.
What Grace experienced was a coercive, uncomfortably sexual encounter with a man who chose not to focus on her desires but instead dogmatically pursue his own. And sadly that is not an uncommon experience. Almost every straight woman I know has experienced some version of this situation before.
Unsurprisingly given that, men I know also related to Aziz’s side of this situation. They realized that they too have acted in ways not too dissimilar to Aziz Ansari in the past and would, as well, have been completely dumbfounded by being accused of sexual assault the next day when they took part in, what they thought was, a consensual sexual interaction.
And that’s a problem. If we allow accusations like this to continue without discussing why or how these misunderstandings take place we’ll get to a stage where men will be too scared to ever try to have sex with a woman, lest they be accused of sexual assault the day after.
We don’t have to let things get this far though. As sexually liberated and free adults we can discuss what is going on, on both sides, like actual adults. We can’t keep copping out and explaining these misunderstanding away as just being due to the fundamentally different nature of what it is to experience the world as a man versus a woman. We need to start trying to help both sides understand what it’s like to be on the other side of things.
Just like, as women, we can help men be our allies by explaining to them that we have different fears for our safety than they do when going home at night and how their actions in those situations may have unintended negative effects, we can do the same with sex.
Before I carry on, so as to avoid misunderstanding, I need start this by stating that I am a firm believer in the tattoo analogy theory of consent. This analogy goes that just because you consent to get a tattoo, and even ask for one, if at any point you decide you no longer want that tattoo the tattooist doesn’t have the right to keep pricking you with his needle.
By this what I want to make clear is that I am a firm believer that consent can be withdrawn at any point during a sexual encounter and if the other party doesn’t abide by that withdrawal the encounter then changes from being a consensual one to sexual assault or rape.
For withdrawal of consent to take place however that needs to be communicated.
Since the #metoo movement and the increase in awareness that it’s not ok to victim shame though there has been a disturbing trend towards reports of sexual assault by woman who don’t appear to have exercised that right to withdraw consent. Instead they have expected the men involved to intuit it. And anyone who disagrees with the classification of their experience as sexual assault is then jumped upon for being a victim blamer.
But just because a man is pushy and persistent in his attempts to have sex with you, it does not make his actions class as sexual assault.
“Grace” lambasts Aziz the next day saying the interaction wasn’t fun for her and I don’t doubt that. Being constantly pestered for sex when you don’t want to have sex with someone is a horrible experience.
But does that make it sexual assault? No. Aziz didn’t force her to take part in any of the sexual activities and nor did he do so without any indication from her that she may want to have sex with him too. As an article in the New York Times points out:
“If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you.”
If Grace is over the age of 16 I expect her to be aware of that.
Aziz Ansari was being a persistent creep who just wanted to get his end away but that doesn’t make him a sexual assailant. He was not being a caring, kind and considerate lover who was thinking of his date first and therefore checking in to see if they were ok and enjoying things.
But there’s a big difference between a selfish a**hole and a sexual assailant.
There’s no doubt Aziz was being a creep. He should have been paying more attention to whether “Grace” was really, really into the interaction, or not, rather than just focusing on what he wanted. But is it also fair that he may have been a little bit confused since they were both hanging out naked? Yes
In the message the day after Grace chastises Aziz for not picking up on her “nonverbal cues”. But she also gave nonverbal cues to him by getting naked in his apartment and performing oral sex on him.
This is the text Grace* sent Aziz Ansari after their date which left her feeling “violated”. She tells Ansari how uncomfortable he made her feel, saying “you ignored clear non-verbal cues” and “kept going with advances.”
— babe (@babedotnet) January 14, 2018
Now before the anit-victim blaming squad comes out, those nonverbal cues that she gave him do not, in any way, give him the right to have sex with her without her consent. However they do hint to him that she probably does want to consent to that activity so unless she states otherwise how is Aziz supposed to know that’s she’s not down for all the sex and stuff?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know the answer. Her nonverbal cues that she wanted to have sex with him seem a lot stronger than her claimed nonverbal ones that she didn’t want to do so therefore I do have sympathy for how Aziz may not have picked them up.
Again it is completely her right to shut down that situation, no matter how many nonverbal cues she has given that she may want to have sex. Even if she had already allowed him to put his penis inside her, she would not have be “asking for it” in any way if she then, for whatever reason, changed her mind, communicated that to him and he didn’t stop. He would have raped her.
But communicating that to him is important because it is completely unfair to expect him to be a mind reader.
This is what it comes down to all too often. Women telling stories of having kissed men that they didn’t want to and allowing those men to continue kissing them even though that’s not what they want to be doing. But then also in the same breath admitting that they didn’t speak up to let the other party know that they didn’t want to be a part of that situation.
There’s blame on both sides that causes situations like this to keep arising which is why both men and women need to start changing their attitude towards sexual encounters and actually talking about what we can do to prevent this in the future.
Men need to change their mindset
If you look at what we’re told in most films and books the accepted societal norm surrounding sex is that men spend their time doing whatever it takes to make a women ok with having sex with them. I say “ok” as the focus isn’t on making the woman really want to have sex with that man, it’s about doing the bare minimum in order to get her to consent to having sex with him, whether she’s enthusiastic about it or not.
There’s no combined focus on the two of them both wanting to rip each other’s clothes off and go at it like monkeys.
That’s where the biggest problem lies.
Men expect to have to coerce and cajole women into having sex. I doubt I know a single straight woman who hasn’t at some point in her life found herself in a situation where, even after telling a man she doesn’t want to have sex, he keeps pestering and pestering and pestering, hoping to try to convince her to change her mind. And disturbingly a lot of the time it actually works, as the women involved get bored and tired of saying no so just give in. This then perpetuates the myth that women can be convinced into wanting to have sex with a man and so the badgering continues.
Men I need to tell you something now. And this is really important:
When you convince a woman into having sex with you, yes she has consented and it is not sexual assault or rape. However, she doesn’t really want to be having sex with you. It’s not your fault that she said yes when actually she really wanted to say no but that is what has happened. Unfortunately society socializes women to think that actually asserting what they want and stopping situations once they’re past a certain point is impossible.
She has said yes but she still doesn’t really want to be doing it. She has consented but she’s not really into it.
Any time you push and push a girl to have sex with you and then she says yes this is most likely what has happened.
In those situations you’re having sex with someone who doesn’t truly really want to be part of that activity. You are not assaulting her. But I can promise you she won’t feel good about the situation afterwards.
I’m telling you this because I believe that the vast majority of men are actually good men and so don’t really want to be f**king someone who isn’t as equally excited about doing so. Legally no one’s going to get into trouble for having sex with someone who’s not as enthusiastic about the situation as they are and to some extent it’s the woman’s bad for conceding but at the same time the question to ask yourself when thinking of cajoling a woman into sex is: is that really how you want to get laid?
Wouldn’t the sex be much better if you just instead tried to find someone who is actually really into having sex with you?
Next time you’re starting to try to pester a woman into sex ask yourself, do you really want to make a woman feel the way Grace did after her night with Aziz?
I don’t believe Aziz Ansari intentionally made her feel that way but that’s probably because no woman has ever explained to him what’s going for them when a man acts that way.
But now you know.
Anytime you badger a woman into having sex with you it’s very likely she doesn’t actually really want to have sex with you, whether she gives in and does so or not.
Is that what you really want your sexual encounters to be like?
Women need to take responsibility for their actions
It’s not just you guys though, it’s our fault too. We’re not paying enough attention to our role in these situations too and the nonverbal cues we’re giving out.
When you think about it, it’s actually really strange to, after having gotten naked with someone and performed oral sex on them, to then be surprised when they try to initiate sex.
In fact, it is a very reasonable assumption from the other party that if we’re both naked and already engage in a sexual activity that penetrative sex is probably on the cards. Unless expressly stated otherwise it would be entirely reasonable to assume that’s what will happen next.
It is called foreplay for a reason people.
That doesn’t mean either person can’t stop or shut down that interaction at that point. Of course they can. At. Any. Time. But given the natural thought would be that the interaction is leading to sex it needs to be expressed very clearly if that is no longer the case.
If I was naked with a guy and we’d just performed oral sex on each other it wouldn’t even occur to me that he might not want to have sex next unless he said something. If he did, if he told me he wanted to stop, I would of course respect that but I would need that to be said very clearly to realize if he were otherwise still kissing me and touching me.
If he told me he wanted to slow things down, rather than stop, I’d figure he meant he wanted to carry on with foreplay for a bit longer before moving onto anything else.
This story may seem farfetched, as this isn’t generally how male/female sexual encounters go down but this is exactly what happened in the Grace/Aziz encounter with the genders in reverse. Just as it’s reasonable for me to assume in a situation like that that it would be leading to sex, it’s reasonable for a man to assume so too and we as women need to be aware of it. If you say no in that situation and a guy still carries on he’s a rapist and that is not your fault, don’t get my wrong. But if you are in that situation and no longer want to be a part of it you need to be clear about that.
I personally won’t even go back to a guy’s house with him unless I already know I’m happy to have sex with him. I won’t do that because fending off repeated advances is boring and tiring and sometimes scary. But his advances would be reasonable and expected since going back to his house gives a “nonverbal” indication that I might like to have sex with him.
It doesn’t form a binding agreement but it does give a “nonverbal cue “and if we expect men to pick up on ours, as Grace did, we need to expect them to pick up on our ones as well.
For the women reading this, I then ask, why even enter that situation in the first place if you don’t think you want to have sex with that man yet? Why not just wait until you would like to do that then before going back to his house so as not to confuse him by giving off nonverbal indications that you would like to have sex with him when you wouldn’t? Or if there is some other reason that you would like to go back to his, why not state up front that you doing so doesn’t mean you will be having sex. There is nothing wrong with actually saying those words out loud.
We as woman have a responsibility in these situations too. We can’t expect men to be mind readers. We can and should expect men to care about whether we’re really into any sexual encounter we have with them and I would encourage you to walk away from any creeps who don’t seem that bothered about it. But at the same time unless we communicate clearly when we don’t want to be involved in a situation it may be that the other party doesn’t realize our discomfort.
It works both ways.