Consent Shouldn’t Be a Survival Strategy
Did Aziz Ansari rape Grace? Absolutely not. Not legally anyway.
Reading Grace’s story, another recent viral story sprung to mind. Cat Person. These two stories deal with women who go out looking for a good night out, and maybe a decent sexual encounter. A few hours into the date, they both decide this is not going as planned, and somehow fail to successfully convey this message to their date.
Whether or not they were being clear about the message is not the point though. The point is, have we, as men, put women in a place where loudly saying “Stop!” could put them, at best in an uncomfortable position, and at worst in actual danger?
Most of the girls I’ve talked to have an Aziz Ansari story. A story that feels wrong, but technically isn’t (that “technically” is the proverbial fence on the #metoo movement. It’s very easy to justify and apologise for a “technically”). They have a story of feeling uncomfortable during a date, not sure how to stop it, not sure why their cues are not being understood, and telling themselves “if I just do this one more thing, maybe he’ll let me go home”. At times they’ve even felt in danger. Like saying “no” could end their lives. And to be honest, it could. That’s just what the background noise of most women’s lives sounds like.
There is this idea that the only way to turn down sex is by saying “Stop”. Men are conditioned to believe that as long as you don’t hear that ONE WORD IN THE ENTIRE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, it means that she’s just playing hard to get, and is looking for you to convince her. Which does happen, don’t get me wrong, but the signs for YES are much clearer than the signs for no. Unless the option of “no” is presented as a safe option, “yes” means nothing.
It’s time we men take a step further. If you’re still confused that she’s giving consent, she’s not.
There’s also something manipulative about asking the wrong question, to prevent a non-consensual answer. In this story, the comedian asks “Where do you want me to fuck you?” as opposed to “Do you want me to fuck you?”. It’s a small difference, but the first question doesn’t allow for a yes or no answer. The “no” answer is not even part of the options.
“But why didn’t she NOT blow him twice and got out?”
The reason, I think, lies between confusion and survival. Grace probably believed she’d given consent already, otherwise where the hell are these questions coming from, right? Maybe she’d agreed to it without realising, so she figured she would get it over with and go home.
Yet survival, I’ve seen it happen before. “I had to do it or he would’ve killed me”. “He gets angry when I refuse sex”. “He’s a lot bigger/more powerful than me”. There is a constant risk for women‘s physical integrity if they refuse sex, specially if they didn’t stop the proceedings at Bases 1, 2 or 3.
I see a lot of men throwing their arms up in the air going “It turns out it’s STILL not consensual after you’ve been given two blowjobs!”.
Well, yeah. I mean, everyone has the right to feel “off” at any point, and decide they want to stop. That’s just basic human behaviour. If something sucks, you stop doing it.
I also noticed a lot of people failing to recognise either Aziz’s or Cat Person’s fault in this whole narrative. Sure, they technically didn’t rape anyone. Hell, Cat Person even gave the girl multiple outs before she demanded they go to his house for sex.
And that’s when things got creepy. That’s where things started feeling off. To this day no one can tell me where were his fucking cats?
Let’s try a more extreme example. If the guy you’re going home to, after you’ve both lost your clothes, opens his closet, points to his hat collection and asks “Which fedora do you want me to fuck you with?”. Then you know you’re not in for a night of fun, casual sex.
We need to stop being fucking creepy to girls, man. Just because they agree to come back home with us doesn’t mean we can show them our lightsaber collection (not an euphemism) and expect them to still want to fuck us (happened to a friend of a friend). We need to ease ourselves into their lives, without expecting them to want to still have sex after you’ve spent the better part of the night lobbing insults at your ex, who isn’t (hopefully) even present to defend herself. We need to take more responsibility about the way we treat women.
That’s it. That’s all. We need to raise the bar. “Take me as I am” does not cut it anymore, we need to be better. We need to learn how to ask the yes or no questions and we need to read the damn signs. Cause for some people it’s just bad sex, but for others it’s a night where they felt their agency was taken away from them. We can’t have that anymore. Let’s stop taking power where power was never given to us in the first place.
I admit, Grace could’ve been more forceful, more assertive, more vocal about her not wanting to be there. But if that’s where we are as feminists, then the idea that only assertive, Type A, extrovert women are to be protected against uncomfortable evenings like these is leaving out the other half that has trouble saying no even on menial work related situations.
Sure, men are not mind readers. But we don’t need to be. If you’re not sure, just stop. If they don’t pick it back up, you’ll know.