Self-Victimization and the Need to Say No

Em Carpenter

If you haven’t read the story of the latest beloved public figure revealed to be an alleged pig, go HERE first. The long and short of it is this: a young woman went on a date with actor/comedian Aziz Ansari. He rushed through dinner before taking her back to his place, where he quickly got physical. She says he kissed her forcefully, stuck his fingers down her throat (what??), and repeatedly placed her hand on his crotch. She was uncomfortable, but went along with it, to the point of giving and receiving oral sex. She was increasingly uncomfortable and, in her words, giving “non-verbal cues” that she wanted him to stop.

She eventually found her voice and tried to slow things down, and while he at first seemed to understand, he quickly returned to his aggressive physical advances- at which time she went ahead and gave him oral sex again. Finally, after some other awkward, aggressive moves on his part, she left. She says she cried on the way home and was “shaken up” the next day, feeling violated by the experience.

Ansari, on the other hand, texted the following day to let her know he had enjoyed the evening.

What happened here? Did Ansari assault this woman, or was this simply a “bad date”?

My take: neither.

First, let me say I applaud this woman for coming forward. There is not much worse than a “good guy” who is anything but, the self-deprecating nice guy who really just wants in your pants. It seems that is who Ansari is, and kudos to the woman for outing him for it. But this is not a “me too” experience.

I think what happened here was a clash of expectations, and a failure of self-responsibility. I am not familiar with Ansari, but from what I gather, his public persona is that of a good guy who respects women, an “anti-bro”. This woman thought she was going on a date with a nice guy, as is evident by the fact that she met up with him at his apartment to begin the date, rather than the public meeting space one would expect if she was unsure whether or not to trust him.

Imagine her surprise and dismay when he turned out to be your garden-variety jerk, “acting like a horny, rough, entitled 18-year-old” and trying to get her in bed. It is likely that she was caught off guard, having an experience so different from the one she expected. Still, part of her must have been holding out hope for the date, and perhaps future dates. It read almost as though she was in denial that he was being as physically aggressive as he was, so she gave him chance after chance, apparently hoping to salvage the evening. Her inability to accept the defeat of her expectations is strikingly evident when she talks about how, at one point, after she finally gave up on “nonverbal cues” and used her words to express her discomfort, she thought that he would “rub her back or play with her hair” to make her feel better.

He didn’t; instead, he gestured for her to suck his penis. She did.

To be clear, Ansari is not blameless in this woman’s distress. As the article points out, he is not an 18 year old. Even if he was thoroughly clueless about the body language and “cues” she was using, he certainly would have understood her words, when she finally used them. At this point, a “nice guy” would have stopped his advances. But Ansari, apparently, is not a nice guy. So, instead of ending the evening, or even continuing the date in a G-rated manner, he took another run at her, bending her over in front of a mirror and pantomiming intercourse.

He wanted or expected sex, and was not going to stop trying to get it. However, the woman’s story gives no indication that he forced, coerced, threatened, or otherwise compelled her to participate. Granted, women know that in these situations a calculation is often made regarding the risk, if any, of saying no. Repercussions of a refusal sadly can vary from ridicule to violence, and I would never posit that blatant force or threats are the only manner by which rape occurs. I know better. But this woman’s story does not indicate that she had any reason to expect her rejection to cause anything other than Ansari’s hurt feelings. In fact, when she finally came to her senses and stated her intent to leave, he did not stop her. And judging by his text to her the following day, Ansari was apparently clueless as to her perception of what had happened.

Admittedly, the woman involved stops short of using words like “assault”, “rape”, or “abuse”. Rather, she says he took advantage of her. This is accurate. But of what did he take advantage? Did he take advantage of a scared young woman? An intoxicated young woman? An incapacitated young woman? No, not based on her retelling of events. He took advantage of her reluctance to say no.

Ansari is an insensitive sexual opportunist at worst, if not simply oblivious and hopelessly inartful at seduction. His date that night was traumatized, not only because of his boorishness but also her own refusal to speak up for herself. Instead of attempting to protect herself with clear and decisive words and actions, she passively waited for him to decide to respect and preserve her autonomy.

She could have said no the first -or second- time he wanted her to go down on him. She could have left when he disregarded her verbalized wish to slow things down.This woman victimized herself when she refused to give herself permission to say “stop”, or to walk away from the situation, when all indications are that she had the option to do so.

She wanted him to respect her feelings and wishes, when she was not respecting her own. Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that women should not expect more from men than they expect from themselves.

Em Carpenter

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I write about social issues, politics, true crime, an occasional poem, and whatever else strikes my fancy. @wvesquiress.

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