17 January 2018

I Wrote About That Thing Between Those Two People

I am so conflicted on the Aziz Ansari and Grace situation and my feelings change with every new opinion and article I read about it. Am I disappointed to hear this about one of my favorite actors and comedians? Yes. Do I feel as disgusted as I did hearing about sexual assault by another favorite comedian, Louis C.K.? No, that horrified me and I haven’t been able to look at him the same way since.

Is it possible the woman was pressured into an uncomfortable situation? Yes. Is it possible Ansari was an asshole? Yes. Is it possible she feels jilted about a situation that didn’t go as she expected it might? Yes. Is it possible that they are both humans who don't handle every single moment in life perfectly? Yes.

Wow, this isn’t black and white, cut and dry, is it? It’s nuanced and complicated.

One thing that’s bothering me is the calls from individuals and from media outlets that this woman should have done more. Should have done something differently. That this was a date gone bad and she didn’t do enough to get out of it if she wasn’t happy. But they’re quick to say they aren’t victim blaming. They are victim blaming, though, if they’re giving out armchair advice in hindsight about what she should have done differently. They also haven’t been as vocal about saying what Ansari should have done differently.

After all the support given to celebrities who came forward with the sentiments of, “Of course those celebrities didn’t say anything. Power positions, loss of work, etc,” apparently we are to expect every woman who is out on a date to be more powerful because it’s just a date, it has nothing to do with their jobs. Women can feel intimidated by men for reasons other than money and careers. Is it that hard to believe that a woman was so star-struck by a celebrity ten years older than she that she couldn’t voice every objection she wanted to during the evening? 

Now we are demonizing women for not speaking up more often, as if a switch has been turned on and every single woman and man in the country has magically changed their behaviors. Look at all the romantic comedies where a man doggedly pursues a woman until she gives in. It’s what we’re all told is romantic. If men and women have both been conditioned this way, what does it say that we’re now asking women to be bitches and turn down those advances without equal footing given to telling men to get the picture and stop making the advances? And without the patience to realize that this change isn't going to happen to every woman and every man at the same time. Cultural shifts take time.

A note on verbal and nonverbal communication: My husband and I have been together since 2001 and we still don’t get the nonverbal communication and signals right one hundred percent of the time so should we expect people who don’t know each other well to read those signals accurately? I don’t doubt that Ansari misread her signals but by her own account he called her a car when she said she wanted to leave and she also didn’t say the specific word, “No,” until quite a few incidents had passed. She says at one point that she moved away and mumbled something. If she mumbled, maybe Ansari honestly didn’t hear her. Maybe by not leaving sooner in the evening he was reading the signal that she was enjoying her time with him. Once he found out the next day that she hadn’t had a good night he apologized and didn’t bother her again. If we are going to expect men to read the signals I think it's fair to expect women to be more clear.

I could really live without all the commentary about what people should or shouldn’t do on first dates. On the fact that people think going back to a man’s apartment is a clear sign that sex should be expected. No one else gets to make those decisions for other adults so just STFU about it. Sometimes adults like to have sex on a first date and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it’s consensual. Sometimes adults like to have sex without a relationship, and that’s fine, too, as long as both parties (or all parties) are on board with it. If you bring someone back to your apartment you still have to talk about sex. Don’t assume sex will happen. Sometimes a woman might want to on the date, but then she sees that your bathroom is disgusting and gets turned off. (And that’s on you for not keeping your bathroom clean; don't be mad at her for changing her mind.)

Maybe what happened between them is assault. Maybe it’s a case of miscommunication. Maybe Grace was expecting Dev from Master of None but got Tom from Parks and Recreation. Tom often acted inappropriately but female characters usually called him on it or were charmed by it which apparently made the behavior acceptable. (Of course, let’s not forget these are characters and not the real Ansari.)

In a perfect world men will stop being assholes and women will be more vocal about their needs and comforts. I hope this is a cautionary tale for all people to be more vocal with their potential sexual partners.

P.S. As I was trying to do a final edit on this (I say "trying" because this is certainly not the last word in general nor my final thoughts, since they keep evolving) I saw a piece on tv where a woman was saying something along the lines of it's not sexual harassment if it doesn't have anything to do with the workplace. Fuck you.

*In writing this, I reread one of my earlier posts (https://whereintheworld-stephanie.blogspot.com/2017/10/what-are-you-doing-post-weinstein.html) to make sure I’m living up to the goals I set for myself. I think I am.

**This is about one specific coupling dynamic based on the experience of Ansari and Grace, a straight man and a straight woman. Communication is important in sex, for all genders and sexual partners.

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