CN: First linked article contains graphic description of sexual misconduct and lack of consent.
As the #MeToo movement continues to grow, we have to reckon with the fact that many public figures we’ve admired will come under the radar. For me, that reckoning came with the news that Aziz Ansari was being accused of sexual harassment and assault.
I’ve always admired Ansari as an outspoken feminist and activist. He’s spoken frankly about the wage gap, the plight of people of color in America, and the importance of representation in the media. Not only that, he plays Tom Haverford in Parks and Rec, an [almost always] upbeat and encouraging show about the power of friendship, public service, and strong women.
So when I first saw the news break on Twitter and first saw the article on Babe.net, I wanted to come up with excuses for Ansari. I’m not proud of it, but I did. I wanted to talk about the fact that this didn’t seem to rise to “Weinstein” or “Trump pussy grabbing” levels. I wanted to do anything but face the humanity of an entertainer I enjoyed.
But as I read the article, I couldn’t help but notice how familiar the woman’s experience seemed. The date who seems less interested in getting to know you as a person than in getting to know how to get your clothes off. The date who assumes he has a yes, because he hasn’t yet heard a no. The struggle to gently and kindly indicate that you’re uninterested without flat out refusing (because we all know how poorly a straight NO can be taken). The date willfully ignoring or being too uneducated in consent to understand your nonverbal (and eventual verbal) cues that you are NOT into the sexual encounter. You going home in tears while your date assumes it was a [fairly] successful evening.
Who hasn’t experienced this? I saw a tweet after the story was published that said:
“I saw someone tweet something like, ‘If what Aziz Ansari did was sexual assault, then every woman I know has been sexually assaulted’ and like yeah actually.”
This is the problem. Not every woman has experienced a Harvey Weinsten, but almost every woman has experienced an Aziz Ansari. A probably well-meaning guy who has gotten the message from our culture that consent is just the lack of a no. A probably well-meaning guy who has gotten the message that no just means convince me. A probably well-meaning guy who just doesn’t get it and who needs to sit down and listen to women and femmes for a while.
This is why we need to talk about this. Not because we need to crucify Aziz Ansari. Not because we need to dissect whether or not this story deserves to be a part of the #MeToo movement (but a hint…it does). We need to talk about this because this type of sexual assault is common. Sexual assault centered around men and mascs willingly ignoring consent or being so uneducated that they don’t truly understand it.
We need to be teaching everyone that consent is active, enthusiastic, and ongoing. We need to teach that it is okay to talk with your sexual partners about boundaries, likes, and dislikes. We need to create a consent culture in which it is expected that you will ask, that it is sexy, romantic, and just plain mandatory to get verbal consent. We need to be teaching that No Means No is not enough. We need to be teaching that you must Get a Yes.
Its common decency and I’d like to be able to expect that from everyone.
If you’d like to read more hot takes on this story, I’d recommend checking out the following:
If you’ve experience something like this, or sexual abuse of any kind, there is help available. Contact us at 815.756.5228. We believe you and we are here for you.