I wanted to wait and let the dust settle before I wrote anything concerning the Aziz Ansari story and how it is being digested. I do believe his anonymous accuser was wrong in equating her experience with Ansari as one that is connected to the #MeToo movement. My initial response was like that of many who think that it is was wrong for her to state #MeToo. The problem is that you can’t categorize your experience as part of the #MeToo movement while one, not having had any power dynamic with Aziz and two, she appeared to expect him to pick up on her non-verbal cues when, by her own account, he was responding immediately to her verbal cues. Finally and most self-defeating for her stance is that she willingly partook and continued to partake in sexual behavior with her date even when he immediately would stop when redirected. For Aziz’s accuser and her supporters, I feel, they have focused on being categorized as Aziz’s victim and the rights that should be afforded victims. In this case, the lack of an outright refusal of sexual advances and the literal partaking of said advances blurs the accusers categorization of a victim in this case. What I think this whole, now public, experience speaks to is the power one has in a situation; you are not weak and you have the right and the responsibility to not be victimized. We can go there a little later.
So rightfully this nameless accuser was called out for the inconsistencies in her report and labeling the experience as she had. That being said, in an aggressive and defensive measure, some within the #MeToo movement began to focus their disgust on the accuser and seemed to leap to Ansari’s defense. Detractors of the movement used this as an example of victims who are becoming too reckless with their accusations. What ensued was a conversation in regard to the legitimacy of the #MeToo movement and the current trend of accusers trying and sentencing the accused in the court of opinion. What was lost was the fact ((if this accuser’s account is accurate) as of the publishing of this post it was not disputed publicly by any of the involved parties) that even though Aziz Ansari did not commit rape or sexual abuse, he was sexually aggressive, predatory and the kind of man that you would not want alone with any woman in your family or anyone you consider a friend. Now was he intoxicated? Was she as well? Is her account one that Aziz Ansari would dispute if he could without suffering further character assassination? These questions have answers that are yet to be answered but as things stand, Ansari was not a person with character in this moment that should be defended.
So where does that leave us in terms of digesting this scandal? I would teach my future sons that the obviously disgusting behavior attributed to Ansari is inexcusable, unnecessary, unacceptable and indefensible behavior. I would inform them that a gentlemen creates and savors the moment, why be crude and tactless if you believe the other person is in to you and the moment as much as you are? Finally, as a male and a black male at that, I would always preach that they should err on the side of caution as I do. As an underground artist and a person who has spent many years as a club promoter I can attest to wild nights, nights that started tame and became staple stops on memory lane. But what is true in the most placid moment is true in the most seductive, you must be aware of your surroundings and you must pick up on social cues. I don’t ever want to be in Aziz’s predicament, one where I thought a great night was had and I wake up the next morning to find that my dream was another’s nightmare – and this is where I take issue with Aziz in this story. His accuser is at fault too, lets make that clear. She could have left, she could have said no, she could have said there is absolutely no way that I will have sex with you and then not partake in sexual behavior. What his accuser DID do was state the following:
“I said I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you, …”
Up until this utterance I truly believe she has no ground to stand on. Sexual aggressiveness is crude when not invited but when it has been established that either party can stop or slow the pace of the sexual activity by verbally stating one’s desire to do so, you are no longer a victim in such a scenario. This was established with Ansari’s response of
“He said, ‘Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun.’ The response was technically very sweet and acknowledging the fact that I was very uncomfortable. Verbally, in that moment, he acknowledged that I needed to take it slow. Then he said, ‘Let’s just chill over here on the couch.”
The important thing is that stating “feeling forced” and the result of hating you after is not exactly subtle. At this point there is a line drawn, something wrong is happening if you proceed. Although your date is not using her power to verbally express herself clearly, she has stated that she is feeling uncomfortable and that the furthering of the current experience may induce hate. This is where I advise any man to call it quits. I have ended a night after the sexual tempo has changed awkwardly and have more than once been confronted with attempts and requests to restart things. No one should ever want to be accused of sexual wrong doing – AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE. This is where Aziz comes off as predatory. Now if both were sloppy drunk and inhibitions and responsibilities were somewhat muted it would add context but only if both got to that point together and then … so … what? Socially this is a very dangerous grey area. Again, I advise everyone to go home and wait for a partner that wants the moment as much as they do.
To my future daughters I would use this as a teaching lesson. I use to advise the young women I worked with as a social worker to be aware of their surroundings, to note exits, to notice what the ratio of men to women is and to take into account the time, the intoxication/inebriation of the crowd and the general atmosphere. Don’t leave your house if you cannot afford to get home on your own dime, charge your phone and carry a portable power bank. Notice your drug and alcohol intake and most of all never hesitate to be considered a bitch when the potential to be a victim arises. You are powerful and you have a voice, you are responsible for its use. Some people know the line so well that they will push and intimidate you right up to the legal limit. Some women have to decide between earning a living and unwanted sexual advances, others between increased physical harm (or death) and rape. If in comparison all you have to do is say the word no, then I would encourage my future daughters not to be intimidated into not exercising their power. I do believe that the anonymous accuser does feel abused and that if she was truly a malicious person, she could be accusing Ansari of far worse and or seeking a financial settlement. To that end I am always shocked at how reckless famous and rich people sometimes are with their reputation and the ever present threat of litigation.
The story of the infamous date with Aziz Ansari is an example of not only poor communication but an example of two people who did not act responsibly or safely and were lucky that the other person did not do worse to them when their actions left them vulnerable. We can all learn from this.