The Luv Doc: A Hard “No”
It's not uncommon to have awkward, shitty dates
Dear Luv Doc,
My (women) friends and I have been going back and forth about the Aziz Ansari article published recently on Babe.net. Some of us think it is clickbait trash journalism trying to capitalize on Ansari's celebrity status and that nothing about his encounter with "Grace" could be interpreted as sexual assault. Others believe that even if it wasn't outright sexual assault, it was predatory and entitled behavior and hypocritical in light of Ansari's progressive, pro-feminist stance in his comedy. Regardless of our difference in opinion, we have all at least shared one or more similar experiences in our dating lives. We all know what WE think; now we want to know what YOU think. Is the Babe.net article an irresponsible witch hunt or a valuable addition to the #metoo discourse?
I am going to go with valuable addition. There is value in an open, public discussion about what constitutes sexual consent, and I think the blowback on this article has as much to do with varying definitions of consent as it does with what seems to be an obvious violation of Ansari's privacy.
Yes, however adorable he may seem, Aziz Ansari is a public figure, and with that status comes an expectation of more intense scrutiny, but Grace's detailed, cringeworthy, anonymous, public confessional just feels like a gratuitous violation of privacy – without the due process of responsible journalism. We get to hear a fairly detailed account from Grace's perspective, but we hear nothing from Ansari other than what appears to be a heartfelt apology. In the current political climate his response was a smart one: Just shut the fuck up and say you're sorry.
If Ansari is really guilty of sexual assault, who cares about his privacy or due process? Well, we should. We should be very wary of public lynchings – even if they're only journalistic ones. Ansari has a right to tell his side of the story. Undoubtedly the lopsided history of heterosexual relations will not work in his favor. Men have been trained to be insensitive assholes for thousands of years. Why would we expect Ansari to be any different?
Which leads me to the part about sexual consent: What the law allows is quite different than what basic human decency and gender equality demand. Do I believe Grace was sexually assaulted? Ultimately, no. Given the information we have available, she had every opportunity to get up and walk out of Ansari's apartment, but she chose to stay. Why she chose to stay is the larger, important discussion we all need to have. Grace should have felt entirely comfortable stopping Ansari in his tracks, but she didn't. Her reasons to stay might have been deeply personal and unique, but the backlash says it is not. The backlash says it's not uncommon to have awkward, shitty dates. Is it that we've trained women to be too passive, or is it that we have trained generations of men that anything short of a hard "No" administered in a bloodcurdling scream is a soft "maybe"?
One can easily imagine that becoming a successful comedian of Asian descent in America requires overcoming a lot of rejection, requires playing through a lot of noes. We can never truly know whether Ansari's persistence was born of relatively innocent learned behavior or sinister ulterior motive, but we can all agree that it is behavior that needs to change – and the only way that is going to happen is by discussing it openly. That said, is having that discussion worth unfairly accusing someone of sexual assault without due process? I would argue no.