Let's Not End Ansari's Career but Let's Talk About What Consent Really Is
On January 19th babe.net posted this article. An article that almost derailed the entire “Me Too” movement.
Let me summarize; this poorly written article details an anonymously named ‘Grace’s’ experience on a date with comedian, Aziz Ansari. They met briefly at a party, exchanged numbers and went on a date when they were back in New York. They went to dinner and went to Ansari’s apartment afterwards. He moved much quicker than she had anticipated. He got handsy real quick, moving her hands towards him and his all over her. She participated in oral sex with him but was reluctant and held back consent for sexual intercourse. She resisted his advances multiple times and when she left in an Uber, Grace felt violated and was tearful on her ride home. She sent the following text to Ansari, “I just want to take this moment to make you aware of [your] behavior and how uneasy it made me.” to which he responded, “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”
I was pleasantly surprised with the conversation I had regarding this situation this past weekend. We were able to discuss WHAT THE FUCK WENT WRONG HERE.
First of all, babe.net is a waste of space on the internet. Babe.net is “for girls who don’t give a fuck,” which makes sense because anyone who writes for them doesn’t give a fuck about journalism, decorum as a journalist, ultimately, they write to hurt other women without even a thought.
Second, my friend Luke brought up how they begin this article with Grace hero-worshipping Ansari and his work. I’m sure that the author was trying to show the juxtaposition of loving a celebrity then finding out that they’re super duper gross!!! Like we have been finding out about so many people in Hollywood these past few months. This literary device did not work. It only managed to make Grace seem obsessed with her date and an emotional wreck.
Stay with me...
Grace is not an emotional wreck. Grace was right to speak out about this and I believe that what she went through was traumatic. As my friend Ayesha said about Ansari’s official statement, “Aziz’s apology was empty. Meant well, but doesn’t hold the gravitas of a man who has learned from his mistakes and knows his position involved in rape culture, and is holding himself accountable.”
Ayesha and I are on the same page as we believe that this shouldn’t be the end of Ansari’s career, “I think he’s a great artist, and overall doesn’t have bad intentions from what I’ve gathered…”
Here’s what Ansari could have done with his statement; he could have 1) actually apologized, 2) opened up the discussion about why this confused him and WHAT CONSENT ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE
It seems to me that a lot of people are confused about what consent is. So here’s the dictionary definition of consent.
- consent to being tested
Here is ‘consent’ defined by RAINN;
“Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. There are many ways to give consent, and some of those are discussed below. Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries.”
This one, I like.
Obviously, RAINN’s definition is more detailed and it’s in regards to the situation we’re discussing. But, even with Merriam-Webster’s definition we can clearly read that consent was given only sometimes in the case with Grace and Ansari.
Per RAINN’s page on what consent looks like, it must be given every time partners engage in sexual activity. And consent can be taken back at ANY POINT. It could be mid-intercourse and you can say, “nevermind, I’m not okay with this.” And your partner MUST RESPECT THIS or it is no longer intercourse but it is assault. Consent is a conversation and understanding, not just one person deciding.
Grace consented at one point and then did not. Ansari pushed but never penetrated or assaulted Grace, by her own description.
This lack of understanding (on Ansari’s part) comes from, I believe, the cultural and societal standards that American men are brought up to believe. They often feel entitled to sexual gratification. They feel as though they deserve sex or oral or whatever because they paid for something or opened a door or asked if the woman standing in the subway wanted his seat. No one owes them anything.
Ayesha believes this is what we can take away from this case, “...Aziz is a mirror reflection of the modern American man. Just because he’s perceived as, “the good guy” as a celebrity persona he shouldn’t be held accountable for his lack of judgement...We also shouldn’t put a magnifying glass to the victims, and we should express compassion, yet we shouldn’t be [so] consumed by the pathos that it blurs the facts of the situation. It’s not about what Grace, “should or shouldn’t have done” and I think that takes away what’s important about this whole ordeal. It’s dangerous to fit everything into a hashtag, but we need to recognize how conditioned this irresponsibility is in our society and hold these people accountable for their actions”
Women are more often than not portrayed as objects, something that can be obtained, something that can be conditioned, something that can be sculpted or molded. Something. Never someone.
Mary* told him not to expect sex. And he tried anyway. When will we be believed?
“One time I was on a date with a guy right, and we were heading back to my place (this was our second date) and I told him to not expect sex because at the time I was virgin and I wanted to get to know him better if we were to have sex. He was quiet for the next five minutes. It was terribly awkward and I felt ashamed of my being virginal (even though there is nothing wrong with being a virgin!) I asked him what the big deal was and he was at a loss for words. He finally said that sex was extremely important to him, and tried later that night to have sex with me. I declined, and then when he left in the morning, he never spoke to me again.”
Raina was taken advantage of when she was intoxicated (i.e. not able to consent), she wasn’t taken seriously and she was blamed.
“I was at a party with my ex-boyfriend and we both got very drunk. His friend was in the bathroom “taking care of us” when my boyfriend blacked out. I was in the bathtub and his friend started touching me under my dress and underwear and whispering to me about how beautiful I was. He told me that if I was his girlfriend he would never let me feel bad and blah blah blah. The only thing that stopped him (since I physically couldn’t) was another person knocking...I remember them coming in...20 minutes later I told one of my boyfriends girl friends and she told me to “keep it to myself” which I thought was so ridiculous. I cried to my boyfriend all night and he was mad at me for a bit but then felt bad. His friend told my boyfriend that I was ‘dirty’ now.”
Now, what about the people who knocked on the door? What about the ‘bystander’? How many times have you seen something that your gut told you wasn’t right?
Beth* was on the Red Line in Chicago when she witnessed a very uncomfortable situation but Beth was not just a bystander.
“...these two guys were completely harassing this young woman. They kept asking her questions like, "I bet you've never kissed someone with big lips like me" and such. They kept going on and off for a couple of minutes while the woman was uncomfortably replying with forced laughs and one-word answers. We were approaching at the next stop so I leaned in and said "leave her alone. She doesn't want to be harassed by you" Beth continued to tell me, “ I just wish I knew if I made the situation better or worse. Because if I made it better, and made those men stop harassing her, then I will do that to literally every single instance of harassment I see.”
If you feel like the situation could escalate and wouldn’t feel safe saying something, just be near them, make them feel safer than they might have felt a second ago. My go-to strategy is to ignore the perpetrator and try to communicate with who is being harassed. Even a nonverbal, “you good?” is appreciate more than one realizes.
One of the best ways to help someone who is being harassed is to pretend you’re an old friend.
“Oh my god, Amy?! It’s been years.” This strategy is tried and true. So let’s do this. Let’s say something but to each other. Let’s say something to feel less alone. The perpetrators no longer hold the power over us. We will speak up and we will do it together.
If you’d like to get a deep understanding of what consent looks like, click here.
* Names have been changed per submitters request