Pop quiz: At what age is a woman old enough to give consent?
D) Never, apparently.
If you're a far left regressive "feminist," the correct answer is D -- much to the confusion of baffled comedians Aziz Ansari and (to a lesser degree) Louis C.K.
See, Aziz trended all weekend after the hard-hitting journalists at babe.net (#sarcasm) posted screenshots and an unverified story that 23-year-old Grace* shared about her sexual encounter with 34-year-old Aziz.
Everyone's calling it "sexual assault." Having read Grace's own account, I'm calling it "bad communication."
Let's start with the screenshots of her texts -- which, I guess, are proof of guilt.
"When we got back to your place, you ignored clear non-verbal cues; you kept going with advances. You had to have noticed I was uncomfortable," she texted him.
Which is a little strange, I think, because in her babe.net story, she said that the cues were non-verbal and verbal. If that's true, why not say so in the text? I mean, sure, it's possible she only realized that she verbally resisted upon reflection, but if you're going to confront a guy, you'd want to bring your strongest evidence (verbal), not your weaker evidence (non-verbal), right?
That said, sure. Things can blur and get confusing. I'm going to go ahead and believe her, and assume that everything she said is true to the best of her memory. The data on false rape claims isn't nearly as damning as internet trolls would have you believe.
According to her story, here's what happened.
When Ansari told her he was going to grab a condom within minutes of their first kiss, Grace voiced her hesitation explicitly. “I said something like, ‘Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.’” She says he then resumed kissing her, briefly performed oral sex on her, and asked her to do the same thing to him. She did, but not for long. “It was really quick. Everything was pretty much touched and done within ten minutes of hooking up, except for actual sex.”
What, exactly, is "let's chill" supposed to mean? Let's stop sexual activity altogether? Let's do everything but sex? Something else? If, at 22 years old, you're not comfortable telling a guy what you are and are not comfortable with sexually... that's something you should probably work on.
I read her whole story, and I really don't see where she thinks Aziz went so wrong. Like:
When they walked back in, she complimented his marble countertops. According to Grace, Ansari turned the compliment into an invitation.
Okay, so, yeah. Maybe the guy is unfamiliar with foreplay. But... did he physically force her onto that marble countertop?
Isn't it reasonable for him to think that if he invites her onto his countertop and she hops right up, that she's consenting to his come-on? If I were in Aziz's -- or Louis C.K's, or Barack Obama's -- apartment and he invited me to hop up onto his countertop, I'd say, "No thanks," and then not hop onto the countertop.
She says Ansari began making a move on her that he repeated during their encounter. “The move he kept doing was taking his two fingers in a V-shape and putting them in my mouth, in my throat to wet his fingers, because the moment he’d stick his fingers in my throat he’d go straight for my vagina and try to finger me.” Grace called the move “the claw.”
"The claw" does not sound especially sexy to me, but Aziz isn't on trial for being a bad lover.
Typically, though, for future reference: when a woman doesn't find something sexy, she can show or tell the man what she does find sexy. She can use her words, or her hands and body parts, to show the man what she's into. Because the thing is, men aren't mind readers, and every woman is into different stuff, so you have to be a big girl and communicate with your partner if what he's doing doesn't feel good. (See also: The Orgasm Gap is Real, But Don't Blame It On 'The Patriarchy.')
The thing I found strange about the inclusion of this passage is that it does nothing to further the narrative. It's just a nasty little aside. If a man went to the press and said that Jennifer Lawrence was a terrible lover, and here's an intimate detail that demonstrates why, people would call it misogyny. But I digress.
Throughout the course of her short time in the apartment, she says she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was. “Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points,” she said. “I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”
Okay, so, call me a victim of "internalized misogyny," but I feel like a man has a right to know if he's sexually assaulting you or not. If you're "physically giving off cues" that you "don't think [were] noticed at all," the problem might be that your "cues" are shitty, passive, and unintelligible.
As I wrote in You Can't End Rape Culture Without Addressing Feminine Passivity, "Whether nature or nurture, female passivity is something that clearly needs to be addressed." Grace's story is far from unusual. Northwestern Professor Laura Kipnis’s new book, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, gives several examples of men engaging in what they believe to be a consensual sexual encounter... only to be expelled or arrested for sexual assault.
Moreover... it's not clear that her "physical cues" were all that clear. For example:
When she sat down on the floor next to Ansari, who sat on the couch, she thought he might rub her back, or play with her hair — something to calm her down.
So, typically, if you don't want to suck a guy's dick, you don't willingly suck his dick. If you're sitting together and the guy presents his dick to you, you simply don't put it in your mouth.
A good thing you could do with your mouth in this situation... is talk.
"Aziz, this has been really fun, but no. Not tonight. Maybe not ever."
"Oh, Aziz. Did you really think I would be that easy?"
"Sorry, I only do that with men I'm in a committed relationship with."
"Umm... have you even been tested for STDs recently? Actually -- don't answer that. That's not a relevant first-date question."
Or even, if you're feeling angry:
"Seriously? What about my actions up to this point makes you think I want to suck your dick?"
Two other things about this passage:
1. She expected him to do something to "calm her down." I'm not sure he thought she was actually upset. Or maybe he did. I don't know. But it's not like she's a child and he's her mommy. It's not his job to calm her down. One of the skills we're all supposed to learn in kindergarten is to use our words -- a unit Grace presumably failed. Another skill we're supposed to learn is how to regulate our own emotions. To be fair, most children don't master this by the end of preschool. But surely by adulthood?
(And, yes, a man should care about how a woman is feeling and be sensitive to her feelings. And vice versa, obviously. But learning how to calm someone down -- or even how to recognize when they're upset -- is something you learn to do over time. Maybe this expectation is reasonable for a boyfriend. But for a first date? I'm not sure. It's part of getting to know someone -- kind of like learning that the other person isn't into "The Claw" is something you learn over time.)
2. "I think I just felt really pressured. It was literally the most unexpected thing I thought would happen at that moment..." I almost did a cartwheel when I made it through this whole article without seeing the words "power," "power dynamics," or "power imbalance." There is a very strange feminist obsession with "power" right now, and it's rare to come across a sexual harassment/assault story that doesn't use the word at least once.
In some cases, it's totally justified. Monica Lewinsky, like Grace, was 22. She was an intern. Her hookups were with her boss' boss's boss -- the President of the United States. There was an obvious abuse of power there.
Louis C.K., on the other hand, was skewered for showing his penis to two adult women who consented to seeing his penis. They did not work for him. They were not on tour together. There was no "power imbalance" -- only feminine passivity. (That said, there is another woman who has accused him of repeatedly propositioning her while they were working together; this is clearly wrong and inappropriate.)
"Pressure," though, comes awfully close to "power." Like, pressured how? I really don't get it. It's a feeling that is definitely relatable to a large number of women, hence the virality of Cat Person, a short story in The New Yorker about a young woman who had unwanted sex with a fat, gross, older man.
Personally, I can't relate to feeling so powerless and unassertive that I couldn't not suck someone's dick. If you can, you should do some assertiveness training STAT.
Let's talk a little more about assertiveness, communication, and sexual agency. Grace says she gave clear nonverbal and verbal cues... but then she says things like this:
Ansari wanted to have sex. She said she remembers him asking again and again, “Where do you want me to fuck you?” while she was still seated on the countertop. She says she found the question tough to answer because she says she didn’t want to fuck him at all.
Okay... now I'm confused. If you don't want to have sex with someone, and he's like, "Where do you want me to fuck you?" why wouldn't you just say, "Honestly? Nowhere. Not tonight. It's way too soon for that. For tonight, let's stick to making out and over-the-clothes stuff."
Or, "At the St. Regis Hotel on our three-month anniversary. I promise it'll be worth the wait!"
Or, if you were me:
"Ew. STOP. Where do I want you to fuck me? That's the biggest boner kill of all time. I'm not some dumb slut. I should go. When you're ready to apologize and treat me with some respect, give me a call."
Because, believe it or not, some women want men to treat them with respect.
But I digress. The point is, if you don't want to have sex with someone and he asks where you want to have sex with him, the question shouldn't be "tough" to answer.
So, finally, there's this:
Halfway into the encounter, he led her from the couch to a different part of his apartment. He said he had to show her something. Then he brought her to a large mirror, bent her over and asked her again, “Where do you want me to fuck you? Do you want me to fuck you right here?” He rammed his penis against her ass while he said it, pantomiming intercourse.
"Ramming his penis against her ass" is obviously not hot. It's so not hot, it's almost comical that he thought it was. But, once again: Aziz isn't on trial for being a bad lover. The mirror idea was actually quite inspired -- though, again, personally, I would be concerned. The first time we have sex, shouldn't he want all of his attention to be on me? Does he really need the added stimulation of a mirror? Is he really that desensitized?
Regardless -- kudos to Grace for finally using her words to explicitly and clearly say what she was expecting from the evening! Think of all the shit that wouldn't have transpired if she could have mustered the courage before she was "bent over" naked in front of a mirror.
Clearly, Grace was very upset by all that happened. According to her statement,
“I cried the whole ride home. At that point I felt violated. That last hour was so out of my hand.”
But I don't think it's fair for her to blame Aziz. I mean, he clearly wasn't a very good lover. He may have been pushy, or he may have just been confused. But there's a line between "sexual assault" and unwanted (but consensual) sexual contact. This is the story of 'Cat Person,' not Harvey Weinstein.
(And, for what it's worth, I don't think he was just "using" her for sex, either. It seems like he actually liked her, and would have been willing to wait. He even texted her the next day to say he had a great time. If she was just supposed to be some drunken hookup, why would he do that?)
It's strange that "feminists" celebrate "sexual liberation," and then act as though women are passive recipients of male sexual action. Why not celebrate sexual agency? Why not encourage and empower women to voice their boundaries and desires in a clear manner, so that women like Grace don't go through encounters like this?
Aziz could have done better. Grace's "cues" were certainly confusing, if at all noticeable, but I find it hard to believe that after she spent five minutes in the bathroom splashing her face and agreeing to chill "with clothes on" while watching Seinfeld, he thought she would be enthusiastically down to have her pants removed again...
But Grace could have done better, too. Men aren't mind readers, and it's not fair to expect them to be.
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