At this point, you probably read the story of Aziz Ansari and his date gone wrong with the anonymous “Grace.” Last week, it was the only thing I saw on social media. The story had taken over my feed—people arguing from all sides about how to categorize it—and for good reason.
We’ve heard this story before, haven’t we? If it sounds familiar to you I can guess why: it’s your story too. This is the reality of dating. And it’s toxic. So, instead of fighting about whether or not it’s “bad enough” to be considered assault, let’s get to the root of the issue.
How do we fix this problematic dating culture?
People are avoiding the questions that matter because the big questions are the most difficult to answer. Aziz Ansari is not “as bad” as Weinstein. He’s not “as bad” as Louis C.K. Sure, I guess he isn’t at their level. However, if we look at sexual assault as a pyramid, then what he did is still on there! Probably closer to the bottom, right above men making rape jokes and catcalling women on the street. His behavior is inappropriate.
Most people who cannot recognize his behavior as assault are probably survivors themselves. No, Aziz did not hold down Grace and rape her. What he did was ignore her needs and focus on his own. That is the reality of being a woman. We have learned to accept this behavior and consider ourselves lucky the experience was not any worse. Why do we allow men to take advantage of us at all? If I go on a first date, drink some wine, and find myself back at his apartment am I asking for sex? No. There is no arguing this point, the answer is no. Perhaps Grace wanted to talk a little bit first. Perhaps she only wanted to make out. We do not know her wants, needs, or boundaries. Neither did Aziz, at least not fully. But the problem here is, he should have asked her for enthusiastic consent before placing her hand on his penis.
There was no enthusiastic consent to sex. She even told him she didn’t want to have sex on the first date very clearly. We all need to respect each other’s boundaries. Consent is important, why are we pressuring one another when the consent isn’t present? Dating should be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved and Aziz—a self-proclaimed ally to the #metoo movement, no less—should know better.
Whether or not you agree this is sexual assault is irrelevant. The story makes you angry, doesn’t it? You’re angry at Grace for sharing her experience because it’s your experience too. Perhaps you think she should have kept her mouth shut like you did, since it was a manageable bad experience. Just tuck it under the rug and move on. Right?
The problem with shoving things under the rug is that they are still present. These things will continue to cause issues unless we deal with them.
I think it’s about time, America, to sound our battle cry. We have a responsibility to empower and protect one another. This may be “normal behavior,” as many have argued. But it shouldn’t be. Isn’t it more fun when there’s enthusiastic consent? I, personally, cannot enjoy myself unless I know my partner is having a good time, even during one night stands. The fact of the matter is; her wants were ignored. Aziz focused only on his desires and that’s a harmful, predatory way to be.
Aziz Ansari is not the problem. He is a symptom of a much larger issue. We, as women, are taught to pleasure men. Men, in turn, are taught women are objects specifically designed to keep them happy. Is this the dating culture we want to keep for generations? If the answer is yes, you’re not getting the point. If we want to eradicate “grab ‘em by the pussy,” if we want to stop catcalling on our streets, and if we want to be valued as much as men, then we need to stand up and say “no” for all of the women who cannot say it for themselves.