I read an account in which a woman with the pseudonym “Grace” details a night of intimacy with actor Aziz Ansari on the website Babe. The account is one in which the woman agrees to go to his home after a short date. As the night progresses she indicates her discomfort with his actions, feeling pressured to engage in acts.
Granted, it’s not rape. It’s not exactly sexual assault. But there’s something not exactly healthy about the experience anyway. (Part of the account notes that he “wouldn’t let her move away from him.”)
Reading the article has the potential to give woman that disgusting feeling in their guts – a familiar feeling because of the common experience of many women.
And then The Atlantic releases an article to challenge the integrity of the women coming forward to hold him accountable by a woman-from-another-generation who essentially victim-blames Grace.
We’ve entered the gray area part of the #MeToo discussion that cannot completely be isolated from the #MeToo movement. The resistance of men to be self-aware of their behavior and aware of the verbal and non-verbal reactions of women is still a part of the consent conversation.
Reading the account in the Babe article made me uncomfortable – maybe because it’s not the most healthiest of experiences. Maybe because I’ve heard stories like this from others. These are stories that make your skin crawl, and the emotions that we’ve heard in this article are quite common.
When The Atlantic article was posted online, men AND women responded by slamming this woman for her account, engaging in the disgusting behavior of “slut-shaming” and “victim-blaming”. They are now questioning why she engaged like she did and why she didn’t leave his apartment.
If a woman has limited self-esteem, feels intimidated by her date, or really believes that things will turn around with the date, she may decide to stay. A feminist man can’t really be this way, can he? Could questions like this have been swirling around in Grace’s head?
And even more than any of these reasons – if the man is charismatic and is focused solely on his on sense of his own pleasure and feeling a heightened sense of (unhealthy) power by this experience, then he may be ignoring any verbal or non-verbal indications that she does not want this physical attention. Men often forget that they have an easier opportunity to misuse their power in sexual situations. In turn, women will forget that they have agency in the moment.
For this event, Aziz Ansari should not be fired or jailed. I still believe Ansari wants what’s best for women in his conscious mind. But he needs to be aware of his behavior and the reactions of the women with whom he is intimate. If he is going to wear a #TimesUp pin he must be willing to engage the ways in which he’s fallen short. All men need to evaluate their behavior as they become intimate with women, and all men need to be a part of this conversation. And this is why The Atlantic article is incorrect in their assumption that these allegations and the resulting conversations are “very, very dangerous.”*
If two people are physically intimate with one another – no matter if emotional and spiritual intimacy is present – the two need to connect somehow in the present moment to see how the other person may be withdrawing or how they may be hesitant. The space must be safe for all involved.
Finally, this conversation must take place alongside the #MeToo and #TimesUp conversations. It’s not a distraction from it. It’s not the movement going too far. And it’s not proof that the movement is a “witch hunt.” When women face violation and loss of agency in their intimate experiences, it’s more than a bad date. This may not exactly be rape or assault, but without a doubt a violation of trust.
*NOTE: One piece of The Atlantic article which I believe is worth commending is the way it questions the awareness of white women making accusations on brown-skinned men. Are we as rapid in responding when white males do the same? There are many times white males have acted in this way and the conversation goes very quiet by white women. We need to do better making sure white men are held equally if not more accountable and that they hear our concerns regarding this intimacy gray space. No matter what, we cannot stop talking about any story, and we must listen to experiences of our sisters of all races, socioeconomic levels, religions, and sexual orientations – especially women of color.
Would you like to know more about the Time’s Up initiative. Please go to https://www.timesupnow.com/