The now-infamous tale of Aziz Ansari’s clueless — and super icky — powers of seduction says it’s time we women put a little bit of “I” in our Me Too.
Let me be very clear: I am a fierce feminist, and a big ole sourpuss when it comes to pussy-grabbing, and the erstwhile scowling rape joke killjoy. I believe women; I stand up for women, and I never blame the victim. But like a lot of women, I know that often I’ve been my worst enemy, or at least right up there. It’s crucial that men enlist in the fight for gender equality and the war against sexual harassment. But while men are re-examining social norms and their own behavior, it’s also critical that we women look at how the same culture that encourages “bad boy” behavior guided us to the “good girl” behaviors that enable them.
The #MeToo movement means a lot to me, and like most valuable things, it’s worth defending and polishing. Early this year, an anonymous woman, calling herself “Grace” glommed on to the #MeToo movement when she went public with TMI-tastic accusations of predatory sexual behavior on the part of actor Aziz Ansari. The story goes that “Grace” went on a date with the celebrity, and after dinner accepted his invitation to come back to his place. Soon after arriving at Aziz’s fancy pad, according to the story on babe.net:
“Within moments, Aziz Ansari was kissing her. “In a second, his hand was on my breast.” Then he was undressing her, then he undressed himself. She remembers feeling uncomfortable at how quickly things escalated. When Ansari told her he was going to grab a condom within minutes of their first kiss, Grace voiced her hesitation explicitly. “I said something like, ‘Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.’” She says he then resumed kissing her, briefly performed oral sex on her, and asked her to do the same thing to him. She did, but not for long. “It was really quick. Everything was pretty much touched and done within ten minutes of hooking up, except for actual sex.”
Women all know this dance. Grace tells of giving off lots of “cues”, but Aziz remained cue-less:
Aziz Ansari also physically pulled her hand towards his penis multiple times throughout the night, from the time he first kissed her on the countertop onward. “He probably moved my hand to his dick five to seven times,” she said. “He really kept doing it after I moved it away.” But the main thing was that he wouldn’t let her move away from him. She compared the path they cut across his apartment to a football play. “It was 30 minutes of me getting up and moving and him following and sticking his fingers down my throat again. It was really repetitive. It felt like a fucking game.”
Throughout the course of her short time in the apartment, she says she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was. “Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points,” she said. “I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”
Whether Ansari didn’t notice Grace’s reticence or knowingly ignored it is impossible for her to say. “I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested. I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.”
Aziz Ansari wanted to have sex. She said she remembers him asking again and again, “Where do you want me to fuck you?” while she was still seated on the countertop. She says she found the question tough to answer because she says she didn’t want to fuck him at all.
“Grace” needed a break from her date’s dogged persistence…so she retreated to the bathroom, to splash water on her face and collect her thoughts. When she left the bathroom Ansari asked if she were okay, and she told him, “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.” Aziz responded sympathetically, “Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun.” Then he invited “grace” to “chill” over on the couch. According to babe.net:
This moment is particularly significant for “Grace”, because she thought that would be the end of the sexual encounter — her remark about not wanting to feel “forced” had added a verbal component to the cues she was trying to give him about her discomfort. When she sat down on the floor next to Ansari, who sat on the couch, she thought he might rub her back, or play with her hair — something to calm her down.
Aziz Ansari instructed her to turn around. “He sat back and pointed to his penis and motioned for me to go down on him. And I did. I think I just felt really pressured. It was literally the most unexpected thing I thought would happen at that moment because I told him I was uncomfortable.”
Halfway into the encounter, he led her from the couch to a different part of his apartment. Aziz Ansari said he had to show her something. Then he brought her to a large mirror, bent her over and asked her again, “Where do you want me to fuck you? Do you want me to fuck you right here?” He rammed his penis against her ass while he said it, pantomiming intercourse. “I just remember looking in the mirror and seeing him behind me. He was very much caught up in the moment and I obviously very much wasn’t,” Grace said. “After he bent me over is when I stood up and said no, I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this.”
At this point Aziz stopped pressuring her and said, ‘How about we just chill, but this time with our clothes on?’” They got dressed, then sat side by side on the couch while Ansari turned on an episode of Seinfeld. “Grace” told babe.net ‘that’s when the reality of what was going on sank in’:
“It really hit me that I was violated. I felt really emotional all at once when we sat down there. That the whole experience was actually horrible.” While the TV played in the background, he kissed her again, stuck his fingers down her throat again, and moved to undo her pants. She turned away. She remembers “feeling in a different mindset at that point.”
“I remember saying, ‘You guys are all the same, you guys are all the fucking same.’” Ansari asked her what she meant. When she turned to answer, she says he met her with “gross, forceful kisses.”
Pulling away from his aggressive kisses, “Grace” got up to call Uber. Aziz finally relented, called her a car, and gave her a hug before she left. Once on her way back to her apartment, she reports crying the whole ride home:
“At that point I felt violated. That last hour was so out of my hand.”
During her Uber ride home from Aziz Ansari’s apartment, Grace texted a friend: “I hate men.” She added: “I had to say no a lot. He wanted sex. He wanted to get me drunk and then fuck me.” When she got home, she texted another friend, “I’m taking a bath I’m really upset I feel weird.”
The next day, according to the account in babe.net, “Grace” enlisted friends to help her craft a message to tell Aziz Ansari how she felt about the date. But Aziz reached out first:
“It was fun meeting you last night,” Aziz Ansari sent on Tuesday evening. “Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me,” Grace responded. “You ignored clear non-verbal cues; you kept going with advances.” She explains why she is telling him how she felt: “I want to make sure you’re aware so maybe the next girl doesn’t have to cry on the ride home.”
“I’m so sad to hear this,” responded Aziz. “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”
Grace turned to friends for comfort after her night with Aziz Ansari. “It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault,” she told babe.net:
“I was debating if this was an awkward sexual experience or sexual assault. And that’s why I confronted so many of my friends and listened to what they had to say, because I wanted validation that it was actually bad.”
Seeing Aziz Ansari on TV at the Golden Globes, sporting a Time’s Up pin, re-charged Grace’s feelings — pain and pissed. “I believe that I was taken advantage of by Aziz,” she told babe.net. “I was not listened to and ignored. It was by far the worst experience with a man I’ve ever had.” “Grace” wrote the article; it went viral fast. Aziz Ansari released a statement (you can read in full here) where he acknowledges they “engaged in sexual activity” but “by all indications [it] was completely consensual.”
OK..here’s the thing. Did she have a bad date? Sounds like it. Did Aziz Ansari sexually assault her? No. Putting Grace’s experience in the same bucket as those women and girls who are raped and molested is not only unfair to Ansari, it is brutally unfair to those who were assaulted.
Don’t get me wrong: talking about sexual micro aggressions — and the bullshit “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” maneuvers that are so woven into our dating culture that it’s celebrated in song — is an absolutely necessary conversation. A conversation long overdue. But — it is NOT the #MeToo conversation.
Like many people, I am concerned about a MeToo backlash, and lumping in Grace’s bad date tale with sexual assaults, and packing Aziz in with the likes of Weinstein and Woody Allen, denigrates, and can ultimately scuttle, the movement. It also robs women of any personal responsibility or agency when it comes to dating. Just as Aziz Ansari had taken in all the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” lessons in persistence, Ms. “Grace” is a product of the Good Girl’s always-be-polite, always-be-likeable doctrine. At no point did Aziz assault his date, and at no point did his date get and and say, forcefully, “NO! I’m leaving, where’s my coat?” Even in this little exchange, she complains that Aziz Ansari didn’t offer her a choice of wines:
“After arriving at his apartment in Manhattan on Monday evening, they exchanged small talk and drank wine. “It was white,” she said. “I didn’t get to choose and I prefer red, but it was white wine.”
Um, you can always, oh, I don’t know, use language to say, “Actually I prefer red. Do you have red?” She also could have stopped using her arsenal of “non-verbal cues” and used a whole bunch of verbal cues. Maybe even words like “No!“, “Stop!”, “Asshole!” or “I told you to stop!” If her persisted, so could she, with a knee to the groin. But she played the polite girl role, hoping he’d be sensitive enough to intuit her reluctance — just as he persisted, playing the familiar role of the relentless suitor, hoping she’d, well, relent. And it worked.
Ladies, if you don’t want men playing the persistent “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” playah, don’t play the “I don’t want to alienate him or look bitchy” role. If he comes on too strong, time for you to stop being weak. I’m so glad we women are starting to own our experiences with men, but we also have to own our voices in the moment. We have to own our strength. If we want men to stop playing these retired tropes we need to stop playing ours.
Grace, I’m genuinely sorry about your upsetting date. But next time, use your voice not just after the date but during the date. Say “No!” Say “Stop!” Get up and get your coat. And next time, ask for red.