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This past week, in response to a Babe.net piece on a young woman who had a beyond-bad date with actor, comedian and Hollywood darling Aziz Ansari, the entire internet appears to be asking the same question: Does that really count as sexual assault?
So, this local love legend — a year in the game is long enough to call yourself a legend, right? Wait. Don’t answer that. One question at a time… is giving you some answers on Ansari and dating etiquette and how to treat others.
I’ve read several articles, essays and tweets on the subject of Ansari and a woman Babe.net refers to as Grace who alleges he had sex with her despite her nonverbal and verbal cues that she wasn’t ready to go that far with him. Flash forward to now and this poorly-written Babe.net piece (Pro-writer tip: Don’t write about sensitive matters in a salacious manner) and the entire internet is sharing its sometimes nuanced, layered opinions and sometimes releasing a flood of ignant shit.
I don’t think I have enough space to dance through the gray area of: Is this, or isn’t this, sexual assault? So, let’s just keep it simple and say regardless, it’s in clear violation of the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you want to be treated.”
For a moment, if you can, I want you to forget about sex. I want you think about your soul. Like what does it do for your sense of self to violate another person in this way? To know that this was not something they wanted and then send them out into the world afterward to process that violation on their own? To do this over and over, surely there’s some internal part of you that is so degraded it leaves you feeling incredibly uncomfortable with who you are.
Ten years ago, I was in a weird relationship-nonrelationship with a man I’m still friends with to this day. Our friendship was probably one of the most romantic relationships I’ve ever had, but this man never wanted to do anything more physical than holding my hand. One night, frustrated, as I dropped him off at his apartment, I climbed into his lap and kissed him. At first, he tried to turn his head away, but then he settled into the kiss, returned it even. I let my desires override my respect for someone I cared about. And you know what? Afterward, I didn’t feel satiated. We still weren’t a legit couple — that kiss changed nothing. We’ve never talked about that night, but I’ve thought about it frequently. I’m sure he didn’t fear me, the way I’ve feared men who were stronger than me who’ve done the same thing, but I can’t imagine it felt good to have someone he trusted disrespect him that way. And it certainly didn’t align with who I am as a person and my values.
So, why behave that way and why fight for the right to continue to do something that harms someone else and doesn’t actually fulfill you in anyway? Every time a man I’m trying to have a conversation with pulls up my skirt, after I’ve pulled it down several times or lunges across a car to shove his tongue in my mouth after I’ve repeatedly refused his offers to go home with him or something much worse happens… I think about that time I crossed the line and I just can’t imagine they aren’t doing damage to their soul. How can you consider yourself a whole person when you’re blind to the humanity in others?
Also, it’s disappointing is to see so many other women disregard this woman’s experience because it’s so basic and every day. It’s like a badge of honor for straight women to survive this treatment from men through our 20s and 30s until we find us one that respects us enough to treat us like a person and not a warm vessel for their every desire. Women expect men to exhibit bad behavior on dates. We’re warned, we put rules in place to protect ourselves like only meeting men in public places and not drinking too much or dressing too suggestively or going to his place. But does that mean that’s the way the world should be or has to be? Fuck no. There’s a difference between expectations and acceptance. We can expect this behavior without accepting it. The status quo changes all the damn time.
Growing pains only stop hurting when you stop growing. These conversations are going to keep happening and we’re going to continue to be forced to see ourselves and our actions in different lights, but we’ll be better people and better as a society because of it.