I’m not really unstable, this was just the “maddest” looking photo I could find of myself.
So many people have sent me every think piece written about the Aziz Ansari incident, asking my opinion. I want to scream ISN’T IT FUCKING OBVIOUS? But I guess not, so here it is.
This happens EVERY DAY and is not okay.
This is our culture. This is rape culture. If you want to be all like “but it’s not rrreeeeaaalllllyyyyy rape,” go for it. You could probably get away with saying that Ansari isn’t a rapist (I might agree with you sometimes, depending on my mood.) But what you have to admit is that the fact that we’re even parsing the details of it is rape culture. That many of us think it’s no big deal is rape culture. This is who we are.
So let’s not just make this about Grace and Aziz, let’s make this about our culture, maybe that will help.
Yes, the “date” with Ansari as described in that “article” (more like a sloppily written burn-book entry from a young woman who has not yet outgrown the narcissism of youth) describes something so common that many of us recognize it as “normal.” It describes about 20 years of sexual encounters in my life.
I wouldn’t look back at most of that and say it was a long parade of date-rape. BUT, I would not tell someone they couldn’t see it that way. Because perspective gives us new understanding. At the time, we were all just doing what we were taught to do. Looking back, ya, that’s coercive and rapey as fuck.
We learn as we go, ya know. Remember the “old days” when we thought slavery was just the way it is? That cigarettes were good for us? That mullets rocked? We learn. What seemed normal then is wrong as fuck now.
My entire “young” dating life looks really different to me now, and ya, I don’t like it either. I wouldn’t say the individuals in questions were rapists. I honestly see all of us as pawns in a game designed to harm as many people as possible. Not quite the Hunger Games, but some form of The Horny Games. Men and women alike.
We were playing a game. I discovered quite young that my body was an excellent piece of equipment in this game, and I used it thusly, because that’s what I was taught it was for. I could use it to get things from people. Rides! Free drinks! Magazines told me that was its job, after all, and so I learned.
Likewise, I encountered countless boys, and eventually men, who thought the way they prove their manhood is by seducing women. Men who believed that “no” meant “try harder.” Sex wasn’t about pleasure, it was about winning things. That you earned it by playing a part, and then sex happened at the end instead of applause.
I could, so fucking easily, look back at my early “sexuality” as learning how to accept the fact that my sexuality was never about me, but about pleasing others, getting things from them. I could look back at the sexuality of so many men I love whose early sexuality wasn’t about them, but about proving themselves to others. Scoring. So they could be winners. Games, prizes. Not relationships.
THIS IS WHAT WE WERE ALL TAUGHT. That is rape culture.
And when people I know and respect are saying “it’s not a big deal,” I just want to scream. But I get it. You don’t want to look back and realize that your youth, even some of your treasured memories, are part and parcel of the problem. I get it. It feels crappy. But it is. Those of you saying “that’s just normal” are literally why Ansari, and countless people like him, think this is acceptable behavior, BECAUSE YOU ARE ACCEPTING IT. Those of you saying “she could have just left” are just doing this generations verse of “she was asking for it, I mean, what was she wearing?”
The “she could have just left” people seem to think that all women are capable of all the same things they THINK they are capable of. Okay, so let’s look at some other examples.
How do you feel about those “No Excuses” moms who post photos of their 6-pack abs? What’s your excuse for not having a 6-pack? You should just do exactly what that mom did, and stop bitching at her for…. setting an unrealistic example. Enforcing a harmful societal norm. Not acknowledging her own privilege that she had the DNA and time and resources to achieve an arbitrary external norm.
So too with the ability to not “run” when you feel threatened. Many, if not most, of us were raised to believe that we shouldn’t ever hurt someone’s feelings. If you weren’t raised that way, you’re lucky. This society also seems to believe, for whatever fucked up reason, that celebrities have super powers of awesomeness that can be infused into us through osmosis. A date with a celebrity would be a little extra scary to most people, I think.
But beyond that, we know that feeling physically threatened and trapped IS scary for most people. It triggers fight, flight or freeze. Have you never frozen? Have you never had someone say something to you, but you didn’t think of the right response until the next day when you were telling a friend about it? SAME THING. Same exact thing. Only with the added feeling of being trapped and physically vulnerable. Most people – maybe even you – would have frozen.
Almost every woman I know has done fantastical real time calculations about whether it would be better to submit or fight, cuz fighting can be deadly.
For what it’s worth, I never said “no” to the man who raped me. Not once. I mean, he had a gun at my head and all, but still, I submitted immediately. I chose life and rape over resistance and death. Any woman who has found herself in the Ansari situation has done the mental math of “what happens if I resist?” And sometimes, that seems like it might be worse. They might get hurt. They might lose their job. They might…..
So there’s that.
But beyond that, “it’s just a bad date?” No. Having to defend yourself repeatedly until you surrender isn’t a date, it’s an attack.
When I was raising my daughter, I taught her to identify violence as any act that causes you to put your defenses up. (I’ve written about this often.) It’s easy to recognize violence when it’s a smack in the face. That smack is designed to control you. To stop you from doing something, going somewhere. Or to make you do something, go somewhere. You can see physically defensive postures in people: Arms up to protect their faces, sometimes they swing back, etc…. It inherently restricts the freedom of the person who now has to protect themselves.
Emotional violence is the same thing. It is designed to control your behavior so that the perpetrator can get what they want. Grace was defending herself. She may have felt frozen and restricted, but she said “no” in a whole lot of ways until he wore her down.
That is not “a bad date.” Dating isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a series of elaborate defense strategies that end in succumbing. That is predator / prey. That is not a date.
He was just wrong and gross and predatory and an attacker that night.
Is that who he wants to be? I have no idea, but I doubt it. Is that who he thinks he is? I have no idea, but I doubt it. But that is who he was in that account, and I’m guessing others.
The question we all need to be asking is WHY? Why did he think he had the right to have sex with her? Why did he think that he needed to in order for it to be a “good date,” or even a “good time?” Why did he think that “no” means “try harder?”
For that matter, if she didn’t want to fuck, why did he think he should at least get a consolation prize? Like “I hear that you are not interested in engaging in something potentially mutually enjoyable, so surely you’d like to just do the work to get me off, amirite?”
He thinks those things because society taught him those things from day one. That is what we teach boys about sex and dating.
So yes, on some level, all you “it was just a bad date” people are right. But that is so wrong. Again that sounds like 20 years of my young dating life, over and over and over again. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal, it means that it is a HUGE FUCKING DEAL and it’s long past time we deal with it. We have taught generations of people that sex and dating is an elaborate set of defense mechanisms. We have made predatory sexuality totally normal, so that when we see this situation, we’re just like “meh, I’ve been through worse.”
You guys, that’s insane!
What Ansari did was wrong. The fact that many of us have been through it doesn’t make it okay. The fact that he’s not as bad as Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein doesn’t make it okay. As I said to someone else: If someone punches me in the face, they’re still an asshole, even though they didn’t break my nose and pee on me. There can be varying degrees of assholery, and as a society we can agree that they all have to stop.
So, what’s the answer? It’s almost certainly more complicated than I can solve in a blog post. Obviously, right?
But how we talk about sex has to change. It’s not about attracting people, tricking people, conquering people, proving ourselves to people…. no…. sex is about one thing and one thing only:
Everyone involved should be having a fucking ball fucking. There should be joy, laughter, giggles, moans, groans and pleasure in so many ways.
So ya, I have a lot of thoughts about the Aziz Ansari piece, but most of them are sociocultural in nature. We can look at those two players all day long, and if we don’t step back and admit that they simply did exactly what society taught them, we’ll never solve any problems.
Change the names, this story exists in MILLIONS of names in millions of places on countless dates….. I don’t say that to diminish it. Far from it. I say that to remind you that most of us still aren’t dealing with how insanely huge this problem is.
Why do so many people in my generation write off these stories a
s “no big deal?” Because they mirror our lives exactly. We legit think that’s normal.
And it is.
But it is NOT OKAY. Not one more generation should grow up thinking that.
ENTHUSIASTIC JOY BETWEEN ALL PLAYERS, or else just watch Netflix and chill, for real.