Jan 162018

This week Aziz Ansari’s name was added to list of most high profile hollywood celebrities embroiled in sexual assault allegations. Aziz was accused by a young photographer identified as Grace in a story published by the website Babe. In the interview, Grace accused Ansari of sexual assault and ignoring her verbal and non-verbal clues after they arrived at his apartment. Aziz apologized to Grace the next morning after learning of her trauma the night before, replying, “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”  

Most men don’t understand the power of desire, especially when it’s the result of a chance sexual encounter.  Every bit of sanity goes out the window when the guy involved in that sexual encounter is a celebrity and the girl is a charmed fan looking for the virtues of the character he’s played on screen. And so, Aziz Ansari’s behaviour on the date with Grace falls under that realm.

Most social reactions to the story say that Aziz Ansari is no Harvey Weinstein even though both cases reinforce the culture of sexual exploitation, irrespective of whether it amounts to abuse and harassment or not. It is here that we find ourselves at the crossroads of sexual liberties we’ve often enjoyed and what it means for how we (men), understand consent. We’ve been taught to pursue the woman we like and keep at it no matter what, to never give up unless she agrees to be courted. It is this culture that instills the sense of entitlement in us and it’s the same culture that is responsible for the kind of ‘chivalry’ some women drool over.

aziz ansari

There’s a need for an overhaul because most of us, like Aziz, do not know how to handle and live in a culture that de-normalizes forced intimacy. Most of us won’t acknowledge it publicly but they know exactly what Grace means when she compared the sexual encounter in the apartment to a football play.

“But the main thing was that he wouldn’t let her move away from him. She compared the path they cut across his apartment to a football play. “It was 30 minutes of me getting up and moving and him following and sticking his fingers down my throat again. It was really repetitive. It felt like a fucking game.” In short, Aziz just couldn’t understand why this girl he took to a date wasn’t actually going for it even though they had performed oral sex and that’s the dilemma that’s polarized the discussion around the issue on social media.

In an environment that demands more freedom for women to have a say in their sexual desires, we must understand one thing first; that everyone has the right to say yes to one thing and no to another. If a woman agrees to make out, it does not necessarily give us the license for sex. In fact, if at any point during a sexual encounter she isn’t comfortable, it has to stop. It cannot be emphasised enough that it’s only consensual when it’s enthusiastic and not regretful.

The problem in Aziz’s case is the lack of the basic understanding of the word ‘No’. What everyone across the board seems to agree on and demand is the recalibration of our ideas related to consent because if she feels violated, it’s a no; if she feels pressured, it’s a no; if you think you’re getting mixed signals, it’s a no; if she politely asks to take it slow, it’s a definite no.

aziz ansari

But this still doesn’t resolve the issue because what happens when a girl refuses to go for it ‘in the moment’? Can women expect us to be respectful of their wishes? Or should we just try and go for it even though they might not actually want it because that’s ‘okay’? Is goading your date into sex knowing fully well that it’s against her wish, a sign of a bad date or abuse? These are just some of the issues that need to be discussed if we are going to tarnish every Aziz with the Weinstein paint.

 Aziz exhibited all the traits of a typical entitled man and Grace found herself unable to do anything about it leading up to the eventual goodbye even though she clearly had the freedom to say no. But with so many conventions related to dating and sex being questioned since the #MeToo movement started, it’s really difficult to distinguish between sexual assault and sexual coercion. This particular case, however, warrants a deeper understanding of consent by men and a stronger will to say stand up and say no by women. Only if this is taken care of will we see some headway in the modern feminist movement.

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