Here’s a list of everything that's wrong with the backlash against Aziz Ansari’s accuser

We shouldn’t be expected to make a huge song and dance about how much we don’t want to have sex before being listened to

Biba Kang
Saturday 20 January 2018 12:43
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The comedian finds himself at the centre of a vital debate
The comedian finds himself at the centre of a vital debate

When Babe.net published an interview with Grace, the pseudonym given to an anonymous 23-year-old woman who recounted the details of her date with the actor Aziz Ansari, the ever broadening conversation about sexual consent was afforded yet another dimension.

Grace’s account of how the comedian refused to heed her verbal and non-verbal cues that she didn’t want to have sex with him has started a vital debate about when sexual activity crosses the boundary into sexual assault.

Many have come to Ansari’s defence. A widely shared op-ed in The New York Times had the title “Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.” Swathes of commentators are asking Grace the same questions. Why did you go back to his apartment in the first place? If you didn’t like what he was doing, why not just sock him in the jaw? Could you not have just called a cab, you have a PHONE don’t you? And the final, most frequent question, why didn’t you just say no?

Samantha Bee criticises Aziz Ansari after sexual misconduct allegation

Even though I’m not Grace, I’m going to try and answer these questions, if for no other purpose than to give an insight into why a woman who doesn’t punch a man in the face and jump into a taxi may still not want to have sex with him.

The decision to leave, or not leave, a date, isn’t like a referendum result. We’re allowed to change our minds. If a woman stays on a date beyond the randomly enforced “post-dinner cut-off point” we’re not, implicitly, consenting to sex. The restaurant portions might have been measly, and we’re hoping you have a well stocked fridge. We might just want to see how the evening progresses. We might want to have sex now, but later change our mind.

Whoopi Goldberg’s comment on the story was, “Whatever happened to ‘Stop, or I’m going to kick you in the nuts’.” While I admire Whoopi’s chutzpah, it’s important to remember that women who suddenly feel vulnerable in the apartments of men they hardly know don’t usually try to escalate the situation. Most women are worried that if they start a fight, they’ll lose. We often do. Of course some men would go, “Ow, what did you do that for” – and then we can carefully explain why before parting as firm friends but women can never be sure that a kick in the nuts isn’t going to prompt retaliation.

Some might ask, “Why didn’t she call a cab?” Fleeing a flat at 3am, I called a company which marketed themselves as having female drivers. When the car pulled up, it was in fact a man, who spent the journey home quizzing me about why I was getting in a cab so late, repeatedly saying that he hoped I’d just been with friends. I was terrified. In the wake of John Worboy’s release, it continues to baffle me that no one seems to have realised that getting in a stranger’s car, alone, in the middle of the night, can be a scary prospect for a woman.

Finally we get to the crème de la crème of bad questions: “Why didn’t you just say no?” Despite what centuries of literature have tried to teach us, women are not just cock-teasers. Sometimes, when we say “maybe later”, or “next time”, or “Perhaps we could go on a second date first”, we’re not just trying to turn you on. We saying “not now”, and we mean it. And if a man gets pushy, maybe not ever.

But we shouldn’t be expected to make a huge song and dance about how much we don’t want to have sex before being listened to. Also, blokes, surely you don’t want us to shout “I really don’t want to have sex with you!” Why not just stop early on, dignity intact?

I get it, this incident can be seen as a grey area. But let’s try to contextualise the apparently mixed signals that may genuinely seem confusing.

If I was a man, I imagine I too would be perplexed at why a woman who didn’t want to have sex wouldn’t just tell me in no uncertain terms, and then leave. But there are so many reasons why it’s not that simple. No one’s expecting men to be mind-readers, but maybe they could try putting themselves in our shoes.

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