For the last few months, Hollywood has undergone a purge as women and men speak out against those who have sexually harassed or assaulted them. This weekend, one of the men who has repeatedly spoken on behalf of the victims was accused of being a perpetrator himself.
Aziz Ansari, known for his role as Tom Haverford on “Parks and Rec” and as Dev Shah on his on Netflix series “Master of None” was accused by a 23-year-old woman of sexual assault.
In an interview with Babe, the New York-based photographer alleged that Ansari sexually assaulted her during their date last fall. The post, titled “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life,” recounts the woman’s story as she details going from a restaurant to Ansari’s apartment where he was persistent in having sex with her despite her discomfort.
Since the accusation was made about Ansari, the conversation about consent has been open wide. Some believe that what Ansari did was not inherently wrong as the woman never said “no.” Others don’t see it the same way. They believe consent is more than “yes.”
Jameela Jamil from “The Good Place” recently wrote a piece regarding enthusiastic consent. In a piece titled, “What We Need to Learn From The Aziz Ansari Clusterfuck,” Jamil spoke about the importance of sex not being just of two willing people but of them being excited for the act. Her piece epitomizes what the conversation of consent should be about, not just a simple yes or no, but earnest consent that really speaks to what one wants.
Tweets from writer David Klion have been circulating the web because they highlight the normalization of what Ansari did. Many men use tactics like those of Ansari, passing themselves off as men who understand and listen to women only to use those same tactics to manipulate women into sex that is only partially consensual, if at all.
The Aziz Ansari story is a good litmus test for who sees sexual misconduct as a strictly legal question and who is concerned about improving the overall culture surrounding sex and dating. It's also many times more relevant to the average person's experience than, say, Weinstein.
— David Klion (@DavidKlion) January 15, 2018
To get beyond this, we're going to need space for a more honest and open discussion about how men… not the most dangerous predators, but perfectly average, entitled, self-centered men… are socialized to think about sex, and about women.
— David Klion (@DavidKlion) January 15, 2018
The accusation lends itself to a gray area between sexual assault and miscommunication between two consenting adults. From the woman’s perspective, she was uncomfortable and did not want to have sex. In a text to Ansari, she said, “Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me. You ignored clear non-verbal cues; you kept going with advances.”
In his response to her, Ansari apologized for misreading the situation.
Responding to the claims of the woman, he said he originally believed the night to have been “completely consensual.”
But what matters’ here is not his belief. As Jamil said, you must be able to read the room and not expect the other person to have to push you away or say no for you not to force yourself on them.
“You want to enter them. You best ensure you are a welcome guest, not someone who just begged, pressured, guilt-tripped or harassed their way inside”
Ansari did not take the time to pay attention to what his date wanted or didn’t want. Instead, after seemingly understanding her need to take things slow, he persisted. He pushed his penis to her face. He kept grabbing her, requesting sex despite her earlier displeasure. He did not get turned down but he also never got consent.
Despite this, some like Bari Weiss of The New York Times will side with Ansari and others who have used similar tactics with women in intimate situations. According to her, Babe’s piece turns the #MeToo movement into “an emblem for female helplessness.” Her forum is written to other women. Weiss tells them that they are welcome to go home at any point in a date if they feel the way Ansari’s date felt. And it is true that the woman who was with Ansari had options but instead was silent and stayed. She gave off the feeling of being uncomfortable but was not verbal and did not take action to stop the date.
But saying no is not always an option. It is for this same reason that women in entertainment have started the “Time’s Up” movement and that women in and out of the industry say #MeToo. There is not always an option of saying no; instead there is fear. Fear of being raped, hurt or even killed. And while it may seem dramatic when speaking of this particular situation, that fear is innate when anyone is put in a situation like this.
Consent is not always black and white. It is not always saying yes or no to sex or sexual acts. Instead it is an agreement where both sides are equally invested in participating. And though Ansari’s statement concedes to him not knowing that there wasn’t mutual agreement, it is not enough. Ansari has long claimed to be a feminist. It is now that he must confront that and act accordingly. He has to apologize and openly discuss why this night of “consent” was less than that.