Let’s talk about Aziz Ansari
How the babe.net story is about you
By Amber McLinden, Features Editor
I have experienced what Grace has experienced. If you’re not sure what this sentence is meant to address, you must not have heard the news — our feminist pal Aziz Ansari has been accused of sexual assault, or breaching consent, or hurting someone’s feelings, depending on who you ask.
There are a lot of people to ask. Read the headlines: “Aziz: We Tried To Warn You,” “Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader,” “Rethinking Consent in the #MeToo Era,” “New York Times Editor Blasts Aziz Ansari Accuser: ‘It’s Called Bad Sex.’”
In case you missed it, which I’m not sure how anyone could possibly escape this story, an article was released by babe.net detailing a photographer’s account of a night with Ansari, anonymously referring to her as ‘Grace.’
You can read the piece yourself, but I’m going to tell you now: I’m not here to detail an argument about why Ansari was wrong (he was). I’m not here to tell you how your sexual encounters should work (consensually). I’m here to tell you what happened to me.
Maybe not in the same way it happened to Grace. And definitely not with Ansari. Hey, the details were different — I was drunk, she might have been tipsy. I wasn’t saying, “hey, let’s take this slow.” Actually, I wasn’t saying anything.
At least that’s what I remember, because it’s hard to remember what happens to you when you’re blackout drunk. But it happened. It was nonconsensual.
That’s the word of the day. Nonconsensual. What happened to Grace was a breach of consent; a lack of understanding about what enthusiastic consent is. No, I’m also not here to tell you what enthusiastic consent is either. Instead, if you’re someone engaging in sexual activity, I suggest you look it up. It’s rather important.
Just as Lindy West wrote in her article for the New York Times, “What’s not true is the suggestion that complex conversations about consent are new territory, or that men weren’t given ample opportunity to catch up.”
But yes, it’s happened to me. It’s happened to many women, more than we admit, more than men believe. This is what happens when women bring up issues of nonconsent. Unless the experience is explicit, is clearly rape, nobody sides with us. Even when the incident is explicit, we still rarely get support!
When I experienced what Grace had, I sat with that guilt for a year. For a year, I spent time convincing myself it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. We were drunk, that’s all. I should have said no. I should have pushed his hands away. I should have, I should have, I should have.
I lived with that guilt. I’m sure Grace lives with that guilt. Many of my friends live with that guilt, too. It took me over a year to finally look at the situation, in hindsight, and tell myself, “you didn’t do anything wrong.”
So it’s no wonder to me why Grace didn’t get up and immediately leave. Put yourself in her shoes. It’s embarrassing, it’s awkward, and we are constantly told to never make a man feel bad. We are socialized to please, no matter how strong, how feminist, how angry we really are.
Here is my advice, in the wake of Ansari and Grace and my own sexual assault. Be sympathetic. When I woke up that morning and opened Facebook after reading Grace’s story, to see the headline, “Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader,” suddenly, I was back to the place I was the day after it happened to me.
Imagine, when you say in casual conversation, “I don’t think Aziz did anything wrong,” who is listening. Is it another Grace? Another me? You know us. You’re friends with us. You see us every day, in your lives. Think about us next time you consider saying something, and spend time educating yourself about the topic. It’s not just an opinion, it’s somebody’s real experience.