Who is Aziz Ansari?
For those of you who don’t know Aziz Ansari is an Indian-American actor, comedian and filmmaker. He has won Emmys and a Golden Globe Award recently. A very successful man. A celebrity.
Feminism and #Metoo movement
We all know about the Metoo movement which was long awaited. Women have spoken up about sexual assault and rape all over the world. Most of these perpetrators have been men in power, having a direct influence on them.
A woman named Grace (not her real name) went on a date with Ansari. They went back to his apartment. He wanted to have sex. She did not. She gave a detailed account of what happened that night to a website called babe.net. She alleged that he violated her. You could read the whole story here. The story has received mixed responses. Some believe that she did everything unwillingly. But she did it. He did not force her. Others believe that seeing her discomfort, he should have stopped. You have to read the story to understand what happened. I do not want to paste extracts here as the content is very explicit.
Consent in dates
So much has been said about it already. On every website. I have read articles in the past couple of days on the topic, commented on pages, participated in online discussions that have turned into arguments. I saw a disturbing trend. Women gave an account of situations in which the man did not technically “force” them with physical violence, but nonetheless their meek no was ignored. Their lack of interest was ignored. Their discomfort, reluctance was ignored. They felt pressurized. They did things they were not comfortable with.
It reminds of a statement made by Tisca Chopra (which was criticized).
Unless somebody says ‘no’, and the kind of ‘no’ you say, and the manner in which you say it should convey that it is completely unacceptable to even ask this question,”. A tentative ‘no’, a polite ‘no’, a ‘no’ that means ‘maybe’ and worst of a ‘no’ that means ‘yes.. just push me more and I will relent’..?
Please note that in this article, I am not talking about women getting molested on the streets, or in parties or by completer strangers. I am talking about consent in the context of being with someone on a date.
I read an article where a woman said that she was living with a male friend of hers for a weekend. She was about 22-23. He wanted to have sex. He was a friend for hers. She trusted him. She knew him. She knew he would never force anything. He would never resort to violence. But she got tired of refusing him. It was exhausting. She also added that she could not leave his house because it was freezing cold outside and that she was too young (23?) to book a hotel on her own! So, they ended up doing “something”. Something she hated.
No matter how long you have known the guy (or not known the guy) there will be that date where you may “do it”. His place. Your place. Trip. Hotel. Friend’s place.
Men are expected to make the first move. That is the social conditioning. Ideally, it makes a lot of sense to talk about these things in advance. But does it happen that way? Some men are far more sensitive than others. They will understand your cues. They will be patient. Gentle. Your comfort, enjoyment , interest may be their priority. Others may not be so intuitive. Or maybe they don’t even care about your interest. They just want to get laid anyway. On the extreme of the spectrum are rapists. Who exert physical force and hurt you. Their intention is to hurt you. I am not talking about them. I am talking about men who will not hurt you with physical force. But they still want to do it. And you don’t. This may involve begging. Or convincing. Or making a lousy attempt at turning you on.
What do you do?
Now, imagine you are with a man in his place and it is late at night. He is trying to make a move. You are not interested. But at the same time, you feel like you do not have an option to leave. You feel that if you take a cab at this time, you will again jeopardize your safety. Might as well stay with this testosterone driven boy! You may not even be sure if you like what is going on. Maybe you like some of it. But not all. You may be confused yourself. You may also not be very swift in reacting. It would be great if the man went at the same pace as you. But it may not happen. Most of the times.
The “used girls”
I remember another girl who was younger than me by few years. She asked me if it is okay to lose her virginity before marriage. She said she loved her boyfriend. But at the same time, she wanted to remain a virgin until marriage. I had told her it is her choice. I really do not wish to make such decisions for others!
She met me after few days. She said she that was afraid of getting pregnant. So, they did “other stuff”. She did not like it. She regretted it. But it was consensual.
They broke up after few months. She got very depressed. She bombarded him with text messages saying how he “used” her.
I know another woman who had an abortion few months into her relationship. Two years later they were on the verge of breaking up. She told her near and dear ones about what was their “secret” so far. She accused him of ruining her life. The guy ended up marrying her.
I had asked this woman why they had not been safe in the first place. She had said that she wanted to be safe. He didn’t. In her own words, “He was very good-looking. She is average. She did not want to lose him.”
I hate the term “He used me!” I think women degrade themselves by using such a term. Are you a pair of shoes that you will get “used?”
Grace gave a graphic, detailed account of whatever happened that night. Her identity is being protected. Ansari was humiliated. If any man would give such details of any sexual experience with a woman? We would call him misogynist. Sick.
I read the article 3-4 times. Could he have behaved differently? Of course!! Was it unpleasant? Of course!! Bad date! Bad foreplay! But is it an assault? Is this the right way to speak up about it – giving details of intimacy on the internet? She had texted him letting him know how rough he had been. He had apologized.
We need to talk to men. We need to make them more sensitive. We need to tell them they are not entitled to sex. In any situation. We also need to talk about affirmative consent.
But we also need to talk to women.
I want to say this loud and clear to women. You do not OWE sex to anyone. You don’t have to feel presurized that you have got yourself in this situation. Now there is no way out. You are not having sex for your neighborhood aunty who will judge you and say, “Haww! Why else did you go to a man’s house alone ! Obviously you put yourself at risk.” You are having sex for yourself. Not liking it enough, hating it, feeling uncomfortable are very good reasons to not do it any further. It is okay to change your mind at any point.
Sexual choices have a very important role in the empowerment of women. Sexual experiences can be good, bad, unpleasant, great. Sometimes they make you feel good. Sometimes okay. Sometimes awkward. Sometimes you regret.
If you start making out and you don’t like it, please stop. Ask him to stop. If he still doesn’t stop, leave. If you are afraid of losing him, and you do it to “keep him” then accept it. Take up responsibility for your choice. Please do not play a victim later!
One of the core principles of feminism is equality. It also means that women are intelligent human beings with a functioning brain who can make choices for themselves. We do not need to be told what to do.
© 2018, Tanvi Sinha. All rights reserved.