I believe Aziz Ansari because I don’t want to have been raped again
I’m so fucking tired.
I’m tired of thinking about sexual assault. I’m tired of talking about it. I’m tired of waking up in a sweat racked with memories of when it happened to me. I’m tired of being treated like a helpless object moved like a chess piece around this global patriarchal shit-show we call the world we live in.
I have many ambivalent feelings concerning the #MeToo movement. I want so badly for this to make a difference. I want this to be the epiphany that makes the light bulb collectively go off over men’s heads. Like “Oh! I should make sure she’s 100% into this!”
I still have hope, but that hope is tempered by a campaign pockmarked by women attacking women from both angles, the uncomfortable presence of toxic white feminism, and by the fact that we refuse to have a nuanced discussion about sexual misconduct. Either he should be jailed, or she’s lying.
It’s not that easy.
I don’t like to call what I went through rape. I would feel like I was exaggerating. I was manually penetrated against my will. No fear of pregnancy there, and minimal fear of an STD. I often don’t feel that this earns the title of rape. Even though I screamed “NO” and even though I had to flee my own car into the dark for fear of being attacked further. This is not to say that another woman wouldn’t and shouldn’t feel differently; this is just how I look at my own experience.
Regardless of the fact that I would call this “assault but not rape,” it had a profound effect on me in the years after. I stopped dating. I wore baggy clothes. I was so raw that I would physically shove any man who even dared to brush my arm at a club or a bar. I didn’t trust that sex could be loving for a very long time.
When the news came out about Aziz Ansari came out this weekend, I was confused. After having read the account, my first reaction was: “This just sounds like a bad date.” I’ve had at least half a dozen accounts that line up with this one — that left me feeling foolish and vulnerable and kicking myself for having gone through with it.
The problem with my reaction is this: I don’t know this woman. My experiences are mine and hers are hers. I look online and see the very black-and-white conversation taking place. It’s either “this was assault” or “she’s lying.” But isn’t there more to it than that?
The one thing that seems to be ignored about all of this is that our experiences are cumulative. The anonymous woman who stated this account recalls telling Aziz “you guys are all the same.” When I read this woman’s perspective of his responses to her cues, it does make me feel sick — sick because I only know maybe two or three men in my life who I’m sure would never do this — who would never misread cues and be aggressive in this way. With every shit situation I was in, my expectation of men decreased. This, I came to understand, is how men are.
One notable response on Twitter to the allegations had me literally shaking. In that moment, I wanted to believe this anonymous woman, Grace, was lying. I wanted to believe that this is all going too far.
I wanted to believe because I don’t want to have been sexually assaulted again, over and over and over. I don’t want my history re-written as this legacy of abuse. I don’t want to have to tell my daughter that, if this is rape, I have been raped repeatedly. I want control over what I think happened to me.
I won’t say that Grace is lying. In fact, based on the detail of the story I’d wager every word is true. I’d also bet that Aziz Ansari believes what he is saying to be true. Until we can have an honest conversation about sexual aggression, and what has led us here, I don’t know that we will achieve the change we are hoping for. Until we start raising girls to feel as if they can say no without receiving anger, shame or even violence as a result of that word, we cannot achieve change. Until we teach boys that they need to make sure their partner is 100% consenting to a sexual activity, we cannot achieve change.
And I know what you MRA dudes are thinking: “Do we have to sign a contract now? How can we have passion and romance when we’re stopping every moment to ask if it’s okay?” To this I will say:
The healthcare industry has not managed to explain why the hormones in my body gave me cancer at 32 years old, but they’ve put everything they have into a pill that will give you a boner. I suggest you ask for consent until you’re blue in the face and the balls, and then use that pill if necessary.
I’m hearing a lot these days about the women who are reacting incorrectly to the brave accounts of assault, who are a traitor to their sex. To me, this is sort of like going to a funeral and asking someone why they are not crying. Women, like men, are all different, and we will have different reactions to the same injustice.
You can call me weak. You can call me a “bad feminist.” I’ve heard it all before. But my reaction is that I believe them both.
Because I’m sitting here, with my scrapbook of memories and looking at my incredibly kind and patient husband, whose head I’ve basically snapped off throughout the day as I’ve been stewing in this. I choose to believe that both accounts can be true because I don’t want to change my history.
I choose this because, damn it, I’m tired. And I don’t want to have been raped again.