If Aziz Ansari’s Guilty, We’re All In Trouble

I feel sorry for Aziz Ansari. I gotta say, I’ve never said that about a celebrity before. In general I think, you’re rich and famous. Buck up and deal with it.

But Aziz Ansari is on our side. His artistic work calls men out on their inappropriate behavior. It challenges us to think about sexual assault, feminism and consent, and he uses his own character as a way to bring these issues to light (watch Ladies and Gentlemen, Season 1 in the TV show Master of None if you don’t believe me).

Now we have allegations of him misreading verbal cues. Not sexual misconduct—in the interview with “Grace,” (https://babe.net/2018/01/13/aziz-ansari-28355) she revealed that she went on a date with him. She claims that he moved the night along too quickly, acted kind of weird, and “didn’t read my non-verbal cues.” That’s a direct quote. And somehow he’s ended up the villain.

The thing is, Grace never accused him of anything besides acting a little strange. But in the media shitstorm that has followed, the #metoo movement has become polarized, with some people using this as a chance to dive into the subtleties of tacit consent (I’ll give you a hint; there is no such thing. Consent is not the absence of no, but the presence of yes). The other side is using this as a chance to gain traction against the movement. And as upsetting as that is, they have a point.

Aziz Ansari, as far as we know, straight from the victim’s mouth, is guilty of no more than miscommunication. That’s really all she accused him of. And she’s allowed. I have the sneaky suspicion that she was confiding in someone one day, “God, I had this date with Aziz Ansari and it kind of made me feel creeped out,” and her listener went, “Oh yeah? That would make a great story! Tell me more!” And from that, sexual accusations were born.

Really it seems like Grace did a shitty job of communicating her needs, and Aziz did a shitty job of guessing. Maybe there is more to the story, but that’s all we know, and that’s all that Grace told us. I personally have misread verbal cues before. I’ve had people later tell me that I hurt their feelings, or that a joke I never intended to be mean came out wrong. I have been duly horrified and apologetic. I’m 100% sure this has happened to you. And that’s all we know about here. No-one said sexual misconduct, but our trigger-happy movement has decided to turn an ally into an enemy.

We can’t just leap to conclusions, folks. Ten women accusing somebody of sexual assault? Okay, that looks pretty damn suspicious. One bad date? Not so much. I have spent a significant portion of the last decade working with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and educating against the same. I’m currently working on a book that will hopefully shed even more light on the topic. I am for re-socializing consent norms and outing perpetrators of sexual assault. But this entire topic is just alienating those people who could help us make it happen.

So if there is anything to learn from this entire disaster, it’s that men need to check in and listen better, and women need to speak up and step away from the norm that dictates that men make all the first moves and drive the situation. Since this occasion involved two reasonable people who were not intentionally depriving one another of consent, this could have happened. There was no power imbalance or threat to safety making that impossible. It was just two people on a date, and they could have both made it better.

If that had been the case here, if both Aziz and Grace had worked to challenge social norms to make their night better, there would be no story. But that is a responsibility that we have as a society, folks. It’s not Aziz Ansari’s fault. Like I said, I feel sorry for the poor bastard.

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