Relationships

Why the Aziz Ansari Story Is Important

Aziz Ansari

My texting conversations with friends usually run all over the map, but this weekend they were 99% about Aziz Ansari…

Have you been following the story too? Over the weekend, a 23-year-old photographer writing under the pseudonym Grace told her story about going on a date with Aziz, which was published on the feminist website Babe.net. Last year, she and Aziz went to dinner, then headed back to his place and started making out, she wrote. But his behavior turned aggressive and made her uncomfortable: “He probably moved my hand to his dick five to seven times,” she said. “It was 30 minutes of me getting up and moving and him following and sticking his fingers down my throat again. It was really repetitive.” They continued kissing throughout and went down on each other, but she felt her non-verbal cues were being ignored. The next day, she texted him to say she felt “violated,” and he replied with an apology: “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”

With situations like Harvey Weinstein — who lures young women to hotel rooms for business meetings and then demands massages and chases them around naked — the horrors are more obvious. But the margins of sexual behavior (think: a pushy date, awkward sex, women feeling as if they’re acquiescing more than consenting, etc.) become more complicated. Yet for most of us, the margins are where we exist. How many times have you or your friends felt pressured when on a date with someone? How many times has it felt awkward or difficult to say no — or to keep saying no? (This is why the New Yorker short story Cat Person — about an evening where a woman wondered whether it was easier, and maybe safer, to let sex happen, rather than to attempt to stop it — went viral in December.)

I have to admit, I had complicated feelings after reading Grace’s story. Why was he so aggressive? Why didn’t he stop? Why did she keep kissing him? Why didn’t she leave? The reaction from around the internet has been fascinating and there are many thoughtful viewpoints. After re-reading Grace’s account, I read what others were saying, which tended to fall into two camps…

Some argue that Grace’s piece trivializes the #MeToo movement and that she shouldn’t have shared it publicly.

  • Grace’s story is “arguably the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement since it began in October,” writes Bari Weiss in The New York Times. “[Aziz] had no actual power over Grace — professionally or otherwise. And lumping him in with the same movement that brought down men who ran movie studios and forced themselves on actresses, or the factory floor supervisors who demanded sex from women workers, trivializes what #MeToo first stood for… There is a useful term for what Grace experienced on her night with Mr. Ansari. It’s called ‘bad sex.'”
  • In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan described Grace’s piece as “3,000 words of revenge porn” that was “intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari.”
  • Journalist Ashleigh Banfield delivered an open letter to Grace on CNN: “Let’s take a moment to reflect on what you claim was the ‘worst night of your life’. You had a bad date. Your date got overly amorous. After protesting his moves, you did not get up and leave. You continued to engage in the sexual encounter. By your own clear description, this wasn’t a rape, nor was it a sexual assault. By your description, your sexual encounter was unpleasant… You chiseled away at that powerful [#MeToo] movement with your public accusation… I hope the next time you go on a bad date, you stand up sooner, you smooth out your dress and you bloody well leave. Because the only sentence that a guy like that deserves is a bad case of blue balls, not a Hollywood blackball.”

Others think that while Aziz’s actions weren’t illegal, this kind of sexual dynamic is pervasive, causes harm and therefore is important to talk about.

  • “Ansari’s behavior was normal – and therein lies its true horror… We need a profound cultural shift in our sexual politics – and that means recognizing the smaller abuses of power, too,” writes Emily Reynolds in The Guardian.
  • “Grace’s story is not one of workplace harassment. But what she describes — a man repeatedly pushing sex without noticing (or without caring about) what she wants — is something many, many women have experienced in encounters with men… It is the sheer commonness of Grace’s experience that makes it so important to talk about,” agrees Anna North on Vox.
  • Feminist writer Jessica Valenti took to Twitter: “Why are so many people asking why this woman didn’t leave and so few asking why he didn’t stop?… We know the answer, of course: This culture expects women to be the sexual gatekeepers and men to doggedly pursue women despite signs of discomfort… The expectation is OF COURSE he would continue to pursue her even if she seemed unenthusiastic because that’s what men do. It’s an insulting model for both men and women… The biggest, most complicated, hurdle is finding a way to hold men to account while also understanding that many of them feel they’ve been following a normal sexual script.”
  • Also on Twitter, journalist Sady Doyle added to that: “Even men I trust and like have told me that they were socialized to believe that, if a woman says ‘no,’ you should test that boundary to make sure she means it. That ideology lays the groundwork for this four-hour “just checking” kind of assault… As @KateHarding has written, in NO OTHER CONTEXT do we expect adults to be incapable of understanding something like physically pulling away or saying ‘I don’t feel like it.’ If you hug someone or talk to someone after they stop responding, you know it’s creepy. But sex?… Yes, boundaries can be hard to suss out, but that’s why feminists stress affirmative, vocal consent. If you’re not sure whether someone is into it, YOU CAN ASK THEM.”

In the end, no matter what conclusions you draw about Aziz and Grace’s date (honestly, I’m still thinking deeply about it), aren’t you eager to revise our current cultural approach to sex? Weiss, in the The New York Times, ultimately agreed: “The feminist answer is to push for a culture in which boys and young men are taught that sex does not have to be pursued like they’re in a porn film, and one in which girls and young women are empowered to be bolder, braver and louder about what they want.”

What do you think?

P.S. On sexual harassment, and how to teach kids consent.

  1. Blake says...

    These seems more like a synopsis of viewpoints vs. a viewpoint – and no race analysis either that came up. Wonder if any of your close friends are women of colour? Not critical – just an observation.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes to both — as i mentioned in the post (maybe not clearly enough), i actually didn’t want to come out guns blazing with an opinion right away, in order to have a point of view for the sake of having a point of view. i was still thinking deeply about the story and reading a range of perspectives and my opinion was changing/shifting as i thought and read and talked about it. sometimes (not always, but sometimes) i think waiting and thinking can be better than being very vocal about a position from the start.

  2. Julia says...

    This article and discussion in general is so important. My view and judgement is unimportant either way. I grew up in a catholic family where we didn’t discuss sex, so my sex education came from peers, my Catholic school and Cosmopolitan Magazines.
    This situation has hammered home to me the need to educate my children, a girl and a boy, about what equates to consent. That changing your mind is ok; that asserting your decision clearly is good thing; and checking that your partner is consenting during your encounter is the right thing to do. I hope that if my kids find themselves in as either a ‘Grace’ or ‘Aziz’ or any other spectrum of interactions, their choices and feelings of their partners are at the forefront of their minds. Unlike my education, I will have open and honest discussions around sex and relationships, no matter how uncomfortable.

  3. Rachel says...

    I really have mixed feelings about this. But when I re-read “Grace’s” story, I focused on the moment after he stopped pushing her and they sat down to watch tv. She sat on the floor, and I quote, ” she thought he might rub her back, or play with her hair…” This would not be the thoughts of a woman who thought she was just being forced to do something she didn’t want to or was being sexual harassed. And if that was why she sat on the floor, she was not giving the right non-verbal cues. It sounds like she wanted a different kind of night, one where he was cutesy and playful, but one where he didn’t ask for sex. I agree with Caitlin Flanagan that Grace’s testimonial was an attempt to hurt and humiliate Aziz.

  4. Wowowowowow I really appreciate this balanced view point.

  5. Caroline says...

    I don’t know if any comments (so many!) mention the heart podcast. They did a series on consent that ask these very important questions by reflecting on personal experiences. Highly highly recommend it.

  6. First, thank you for approaching this particular piece of news in a really thoughtful manner.

    I thought this article from Jezebel was a really nuanced and important look at the reasons why the way this story was written were really problematic, and how Babe.net failed both Grace and their audience:

    https://jezebel.com/babe-what-are-you-doing-1822114753?rev=1516127284762

    One of the things that Grace’s story, and the reaction to it, has really highlighted for me is the way women are supposed to be either all in or all out when it comes to a sexual encounter. Either we are 100% I-do-not-consent uninterested and should get the hell out of there, or we must be up for whatever a partner wants. But Grace’s story really highlights the difficult situation that occurs when you are interested in sex, or some kind of sexual activity, but not the way your partner is going about it. How do you slow things down or get to a place where you feel comfortable, without stopping things entirely? “No, stop, I don’t want this” might not be exactly what you are trying to say… but “yup, I’m on board, full speed ahead” is also wrong.

    It can feel almost impossible to change a sexual encounter when it’s not quite what you want, especially when your partner isn’t really paying attention to what you want in the first place. And navigating that tricky territory becomes even more complicated when there are uneven power dynamics, such as one partner being much older than the other — which was the case for Grace and Aziz.

    Grace’s story also made me think of Cat Person. There are a lot of similarities.

    • Yes, this! You’ve said what I could not articulate.

  7. Kara says...

    (This has probably been posted somewhere in the comments but it’s good and deserves another mention…) To anyone saying “she should’ve said ‘no'” and “why didn’t she leave,” please read Sady Doyle’s Twitter response: https://mobile.twitter.com/sadydoyle/status/952527887013437440

    • MK says...

      I’m glad I saw this. This is exactly what I keep thinking- it’s not a more nuanced discussion, it’s the same garbage. It’s rape culture. It’s victim blaming. We’ve heard this all before, except now it’s coming from literally everywhere.

  8. KSM says...

    I will go one step ahead and suggest legal action on “Grace” and the writer and the publication. More than Grace herself the writer should be sued, this is a clear case of a journalist in hunt for her 15 minutes fame, riding the metoo movement and crossing the line. This is nothing but picking a easy target and humiliating him. I get that fame and money has taken over decency, but what laws allow people to slander someone in public. Why this isn’t a legal defamation case?
    If any lawyers reading this can explain, I will really appreciate it. As the entire article made me so uncomfortable and furious and just thinking what if this was my family member.

    • Kate says...

      Not a lawyer, but defamation cases can only happen when the publisher puts out something that isn’t true, with the a recklessness about it or they were aware it was a lie.

    • KSM says...

      Thanks. That makes sense.

  9. MD says...

    Wow, this discussion is incredibly thought-provoking. Setting aside the very reasonable argument that men should bear at least equal responsibility for ensuring that a sexual encounter is consensual (and mutually pleasurable), I am having a lot of trouble relating to the (apparently common) experience that women are too intimidated to clearly say “no” if they are uncomfortable, and to forcefully re-assert it if their partners persist. I’m in my early thirties now, but even as a younger women, unless I feared physical harm, I don’t think I would have trouble asserting myself in an uncomfortable sexual situation, and leaving if necessary. But this conversation has revealed that a lot of my friends (and lots of women generally) don’t feel the same way. I am curious whether the women who feel that way have close male friends or family members? I grew up very close to male cousins and brothers, and maybe because I have such positive reference points – really good men, but flawed like any other humans, I really don’t think twice about communicating with men about what I do and do not want in social or intimate settings. Just curious if others think that might be a factor in the diversity of reactions to this. Perhaps I have a bit more empathy for Aziz Ansari as a result of these relationships as well? For the record, I definitely have felt muzzled in professional settings when I experienced sexual harassment and felt powerless to stop it without derailing my career. I have also been raped, and for better and worse, there was absolutely no question about consent/use of force in my case. I just find the notion of intimidation in this kind of setting a little bit puzzling.

  10. MK says...

    This piece from Vox nails it on the head, and is a good rebuke to what Weiss is saying: https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/1/19/16907246/sexual-consent-educator-aziz-ansari

    “The need for affirmative consent education shouldn’t be taken to imply that perpetrators of sexual violence are just hopelessly confused. Studies show that most rapists are perfectly aware their victims aren’t into what’s happening. And social science has also clearly demonstrated that men (and women!) are perfectly capable of understanding social cues, even ones where someone is saying “no” without using that actual word.

    It’s impossible to know for sure what Ansari was thinking on the night in question, but this is a seasoned performer who knows how to read a crowd, and a “relationship expert” to boot. It strains credulity to imagine he truly thought she was excited about what was happening between them. What’s much more likely is that he didn’t care how she felt one way or the other and treated her boundaries as a challenge. Either way, his alleged behavior was dehumanizing.”

    • margalit v. says...

      I worry for this lack of imagination on the part of the Vox writer; it may prove an obstacle in her or his choice of career. I would also submit that human sex is not always a polite exchange and has once even been referred to as “the beast with two backs” by a writer with clearly better imagination.

    • margalit v. says...

      Furthermore, if science has shown anything is that there is a lot of individual variability in the ability to interpret verbal and non-verbal cues and one’s ability to do so can be affected by a variety of factors, sexual arousal being just one of them.

    • MK says...

      Ok- can you point to any research that says sexual arousal clouds ability to read non verbal cues?

    • margalit v. says...

      No, I cannot, MK, which does not mean it does not exist, of course. I should have written “sexual arousal being potentially one of the factors”. There is research on sexual arousal and its ‘clouding’ effects on decision-making: Ariely & Loewenstein (2006) comes to mind, but possibly more recent work exists. There is vast literature on individual (and possibly cultural) variability in interpretation of facial expressions and of more complex social interactions in less sexually charged laboratory settings (use Google Scholar or PubMed w/ terms like “facial expressions”). Even a superficial familiarity with autism spectrum disorders might provide a clue that such individual variability exists. But one’s ability to interpret cues is of questionable pertinence if/when the cues are inconsistent; although then another body of research comes to mind — on confirmation bias. Apart from questioning the assumptions of the Vox writer, however, I am not sure any of it is even pertinent to this situation: an ambivalent young woman, who could not at the time make sense of her own desires, and a partner who was not vested in making sense of them either.

  11. t says...

    My take is that porn is not THE problem or even A problem if used responsibly. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about “what porn does to to relationships, women, etc” but rather how to use porn responsibly (meaning talking to our our children about porn, mutually agreeing in relationships about porn use, only watching feminist porn, etc).

    You mention that you question why everyone is silent about porn and I was actually surprised how many times readers keep bringing up porn in these comments. I didn’t realize that so many people categorize porn as the problem.

  12. A says...

    The cynic in me worries that the idea for this article was planted to disrupt the movement. I worry that it is disrupting the movement, because unfortunately, the world and the internet at large is not a Cup of Jo comments section. I mean, everyone is not sharing thoughtful articles and quotes, educating themselves, and having thoughtful discussions. Many men are reading this article and probably thinking that it’s gone “too far.” The waters are muddied. I totally think Aziz was being too pushy for sex that night. And in a place like Cup of Jo, yes, we can have a thoughtful discussion about why he was wrong and how maybe society led him to believe that it was ok. But while we are busy educating ourselves not everyone is. Men now have to be paranoid about missing some non-verbal cues. Some women play hard to get. It’s very confusing for men. I believe Grace sent mixed messages. When you are on a date and enter your date’s home after dinner that sends a message. Of course I’m not saying that is the same as consenting to sexual activity but it definitely implies that there’s a possibility. Also the first sexual activity they engaged in was when he down on her. I don’t know how to say this without sounding X-rated but to a straight man having something like that in your face is like kryptonite. He’s definitely thinking with his small brain after that. Not to say once you start you can’t change your mind but that definitely sends a message to the guy that some more activity will follow.
    He ignored her non-verbal messages… of course he did. That reads like a joke. Also “Lets Relax for a sec, let’s chill” does not clearly say stop, it could be interpreted as slow down. Maybe in his mind he did slow down. I’m not saying he was totally in the right. He was too pushy. And his previous reputation as a feminist comedian makes his actions seem very hypocritical. I just wish the article had been written with more care.

  13. Carrie says...

    I married a man who was raised to wait for sex until after marriage. As a shyer person, I needed that, and we’re crazy happy together. I think the attention being brought to this article reflects that our culture needs to push the pendulum back at least a little. Not everyone believes in waiting for marriage, but I think women would be happier if they assumed they could insist that sex wait until a loving, healthy, happy relationship is established and men were taught that they should not begin looking for sex until they are in a loving, healthy, happy relationship.

  14. jen says...

    After reading about this situation I felt so angry and scared.

    Angry that we are living in a society where a person, using anonymity as a shield, should be allowed to make such damaging accusations and that the general public will just jump into the mob.

    Scared because I am a mother of two little boys, and what does this mean for their future? Will they ever be able to have sexual relationships without fear of retaliation?

    I have personally experienced sexual abuse of all types ranging from inappropriate comments at work to being drugged and raped. So I am most definitely sympathetic to the situation we women find ourselves in. But this story just feels wrong to me.

    I came across this article by Lucia Brawley that so perfectly and eloquently describes what I’m thinking/feeling about this. It made me relieved to know that I am not the only one with this point of view. I thought other readers may appreciate it too….

    http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/17/opinions/lets-be-honest-about-aziz-ansari-brawley/index.html

    Stay strong. Love yourself. Respect others. <3

    • t says...

      I agree the article was intended to be damaging but was it actually? I have seen more negativity thrown at the author and “grace” than I have at Aziz.

    • K says...

      T – I would say, yes, this is damaging for him in the longterm. In the current cultural climate, I’m sure there are some potential employers who immediately crossed his name off their casting list because they would want to avoid the heat he’s under, wouldn’t want to be seen supporting him in case anything more unsavory comes out. Same with some of his celebrity friends. It would be worse if he was an arrogant white man, but this casts a shadow on his image as a nice guy underdog and will lose him part of his Master of None audience.

      At the personal level, I bet he will be quite guarded in the future when dating women, as it could make anyone paranoid to feel that their sex life is being judged very closely.

  15. Lauren says...

    I think you hit on something at the end of your post when you mentioned porn. With so much porn available, and so many people watching it repeatedly (especially men), sexual encounters tend to dehumanize the partner. It is time for the #metoo movement to talk about what porn does to relationships, women, etc. Why is everyone so silent about this aspect of feminism?

    • t says...

      My take is that porn is not THE problem or even A problem if used responsibly. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about “what porn does to to relationships, women, etc” but rather how to use porn responsibly (meaning talking to our our children about porn, mutually agreeing in relationships about porn use, only watching feminist porn, etc).

      You mention that you question why everyone is silent about porn and I was actually surprised how many times readers keep bringing up porn in these comments. I didn’t realize that so many people categorize porn as the problem.

    • Carrie says...

      I can’t disagree more strongly. There is no responsible porn use. There is no feminist porn. We should be teaching the young to be angry that the porn industry is making billions while destroying their ability to relate to the opposite sex, have healthy relationships, encouraging men to look at women as sex objects, etc. Fighting porn should be a feminist fight.

      Please see:
      https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125382361

    • Honest question: have you ever watched porn for pleasure? I do. And I love it. I also do not think it has a causal effect but rather, the porn industry caters to what they believe their viewers will want. Because porn is not typically a social situation. When people watch porn, they are usually alone in a private area where they feel safe from judgement of others. In that moment, you’re free to watch anything you want, whatever gets you off. You are free from the pressure of having to “preform” or appear masculine or whatever other stigmas exist in society. For a lot of men (and a LOT of women) it’s rough, slightly degrading sex. And guess what? There’s no shame in wanting that. Some people like having slow, romantic vanilla sex. Some people like being tied up, gagged, spanked, and degraded. We should be promoting more openness and honesty about human sexuality. Less shame around porn. Let’s teach people how to talk with our partners beforehand about what we like (and no, I don’t believe that porn should start with two people having that conversation. Unless that’s a specific kink that gets you off)
      That would be empowering.

  16. Sherri says...

    Thanks for this clear-eyed post, COJ! I also feel it is such an important societal discussion to be having. One point that my husband brought up when we talked about this was something I hadn’t thought of or seen in other comments. The fact that Grace said Ansari’s behavior is expected/acceptable as an 18-year old is an indicator of how pervasive our “boys will be boys” mentality is. This is NOT acceptable 18-year-old behavior. If our 18-year olds are acting this way, then of course they will continue to act this way when 34. As the mother of boys, I want to be part of raising a new generation of men who will not only know this intrinsically, but be respectful in their every interaction with every human being. <3

  17. Adam says...

    I’m a 43 year old man, writing because my wife is a big fan of your blog. The story about Asiz Ansari got us talking. 

    I grew up with a feminist mother and learned about consent in college in the early nineties.  Good intentions were not enough to protect me from awkward moments, bad dates, and hurt feelings. I had bad experiences where I was too shy and left my date feeling rejected.  I also, regrettably, had some clumsy moments where I was too aggressive, and I didn’t pick up quickly enough that my date was uncomfortable.  I also had good experiences with confident, usually older women.

    Eventually, very slowly, I matured to the point where I was ready for a relationship.  When I met my wife in my thirties, I knew that she was special. The best advice I got was “just don’t be weird”.  

    Now we have a strong relationship, and we are lucky to have two young boys.  Like all couples, we have had our ups and downs, especially with the changes that come with young kids.  It’s been a comfort to hear about others going through the same things. 

    Recently, there have been stories in the news about emotionally stunted men abusing positions of power to hurt women.  It’s easy for me to condemn these guys because I can’t relate to them.  But the Asiz Ansari story is different. I don’t know Asiz Ansari, but I laughed watching his show with my wife, and we could relate to some of the relationship situations he portrays. In real life he may actually be a complete creep.  But the guy on the show seems like a sweet, somewhat lonely guy in his thirties trying to find love.  I can relate to that.

    I hope that he is actually good guy. And I hope that he meets someone who is willing to see the good and forgive the bad.  

    My advice to Asiz: try not to be too weird.

    • Em says...

      If you re-watch or re-listen to any of Bill Cosby’s work, he also seems like a really great guy. Chew on that a while. It’s damn depressing.

  18. K says...

    It sucks to hear that he’s either a selfish person when horny (as so many people are) at one end of the spectrum and worryingly aggressive on the other and I’m sorry that this woman had an experience that upset her. I’m also sorry that we’re judging them both now in the court of public opinion, despite her claiming there was no actual crime or charges she wants to press. At least she gets to be anonymous, this will probably affect every future date he ever has (be that good or bad.)

    They each could have, and definitely SHOULD have communicated clearly what they wanted and confirmed that the other was into it throughout. (Clear language could include: “Want to have sex?” “No, not tonight. Let’s just make out.” “Do you like this?” “Quit putting your fingers in my mouth, that’s gross.” or “Stop it. I think I’m going to leave.” ) She did describe him asking her about a few different things he’d like to do and though he should have put more weight into her hesitation or mixed signals, I’m sorry, explicit VERBAL responses are always going to be more effective than non-verbal ones such as mumbling, moving away yet not not moving far and whatever else she means by non-verbal cues. What’s the point of confusing your date by maybe, sort of kind of accidentally encouraging something you don’t like – just say outright you don’t like it! Or “accidentally” knock him in the nuts, that would kill his annoying erection pretty quick. Be an adult and call your own Uber if you’re ready to leave.

    They both failed by not clearly communicating, but she kind of hedges around her role in that by using hyperbolic language (“the worst night of my life!” “All men are the same”) which calls to mind click-bait and loads the conversation in favor of the current ferver for justice against sexual assailants.

    She (and he and we) as adults must use our voices to communicate and then get much better at listening to others. She felt capable of waltzing up to a stranger she had preconceived notions about to flirt, making sure to get social “evidence” of their date with the requisite boring photo of their meal and agreed to go back to his place knowing sex was likely, yet they didn’t share their true feelings until the next day, faceless and distanced by text. That’s a societal problem, not an “Aziz is a jerk” problem.

    • Kelly says...

      Excellent post. I totally agree with you.

    • Lina says...

      THANK YOU. This is the best response that I have seen to all of this.

      Thank you.

  19. K says...

    This comment is in no way intended to shame past decisions but to simply encourage future moments.
    Ladies listen to your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in any (work, dating, etc) situation listen to yourself. So often once we are finally out the door thinking back at what just happen we feel shame, confusion, numbness. If he’s not respecting you from the beginning, do not wait around to see what the rest of the night brings. Call/text a friend to come get you, make up an any excuse, do whatever you need to do to walk out the door.

  20. I think that, as a society, we could all benefit from honest and holistic sex education starting at an early age. Not just on how the mechanics of sex work, as that’s easy to figure out, but also how to practice grace and courtesy (a montessori term from a montessori teacher!) during a sexual encounter. If we could take the taboo away from it, and just make it a normal part of life from an early age (which it is anyway…), I don’t think this dynamic demonstrated in the “Grace” and Aziz story would be as rampant.

    I hope to raise my future children with a much more European/Scandanavian approach to sex ed. – open, honest, real, respectful. I was raised in part in Germany and loved how my friends’ parents dealt with and talked about sex especially at a time when a lot of my friends were engaging in their first sexual relationships.

    I don’t think what happened to Grace was assault. I think it sucks, but she didn’t use her agency, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from these comments and this story, it’s to continue to speak the fuck up, especially when I feel threatened.

  21. margalit v. says...

    Aside from the situations that involve actual physical force and threats, one reason why women may feel “compromised, unsafe, and vulnerable in these shared experiences” of physical intimacy is because it involves physical intimacy. Sex with a stranger, and it will always necessarily be a ‘stranger’ if it is happening for the first time, is about pushing and crossing boundaries. It is part of the thrilling nature of physical intimacy with someone new, but it also means that some proportion of time, the experience may be surprisingly unpleasant. By increasing the number of times one has sex with strangers, statistically speaking, one also ends up with an increased number of unpleasant experiences. Given the fact that indeed sex is often about being vulnerable (for all parties involved), it is no wonder that the subjective experience of ‘unpleasant’ in this context is so visceral. But a subjective experience of negative affect does not entail an objective reality of a catastrophe taking place. Reading many comments here, I am under the impression that many women would prefer to eliminate the element of surprise in sexual relationships, and would make all sexual behaviors to conform to one schema, because all other forms of sexual behaviors appear to them “repulsive” or “disgusting”. While I see no reason why these women should not exercise their right to police their own relationships in this way, I would object to having my own sexual life be sterilized by this approach. I am reminded of the time when I was a college freshmen; I was spending time with a group of boys, flirting, verbally and physically. I sat in someone’s lap and was enjoying their attention, when I heard a young woman exclaim: “He just wants to get into your pants!” And I recall my surprise that she could not accept a possibility that at the time this was a shared interest. I recall another time in my early 20s of being at a party with a then-boyfriend. I sat on a couch with a blanket over my legs and my boyfriend’s friend sat beside me. A few moments later, I felt his hand on my legs. Groping? No, caressing. I could have stood up. I could have moved his hand. But the thrill that I felt from this entirely ‘inappropriate’ situation was such that I let it continue. It was pleasant because it felt wrong. It was thrilling because pinches of shame and guilt were thrown into the mix. This episode is close to the margin of my experience. It was in part due to experiences like these during my youth that I learned where my own boundaries of acceptable behaviors lay. Importantly, as any learning — my experiences included both surprisingly negative and positive moments. As any psychologist will tell you — learning cannot occur without ‘surprise’, also known as ‘learning signal’. But it is the very same signal that, when positive, results in the release of dopamine in the brain, without which pleasure cannot be experienced. “Consenting”, when/if taken to an absurd extreme, with mutual checking and re-checking, eliminates this surprise and, irrationally, presumes that we know what the boundaries are before these boundaries have been tested.

    • Nora says...

      Best comment I’ve seen yet.

    • Suz says...

      Really appreciate this thoughtful, nuanced analysis. Thank you

    • Sophie says...

      Thank you. This was very thoughtful and an interesting perspective.

    • Boop says...

      The comment is far above the level of this discussion. Add to the complexity that dopamine is released in response to both positive and negative novel stimuli.

    • Thank you for this comment.

    • Venn says...

      This. Thank you for articulating it so well.

    • Erin says...

      I agree that pushing boundaries and having an element of surprise is part of what makes flirting, sex, etc. thrilling, but I worry about the assumption that asking for consent is unsexy. I’ve had experiences where I’ve been making out with someone and he says “I’m really into this. I’d love it if we kept going. How about you?” Having a partner who checks in in that way doesn’t erase the thrill of the encounter; knowing that the person I’m with cares enough to actually ask for consent makes me more attracted to him, not less.

    • Lauren says...

      YES. Agree. Thank you for articulating this so well.

  22. Kaela says...

    It is 41 degrees in Minnesota today and I had my coat unzipped so I guess the guy who harrassed me on my lunch break today must have misread the moment we didn’t have.

  23. Audra says...

    Thanks, Joanna, for this post. This story has also been on my mind all week, and I’ve had several conversations with friends and my boyfriend about the topic. I’m pretty shocked that the majority of comments I’m reading on here are so dismissive. The discussion about how men and women are taught to behave during sexual encounters is extremely important. Boys are told at a young age that they need to “convince” girls to have sex. Girls are taught that boys just want sex all the time and we should “let them down gently.” This sets up so much room for misunderstanding and lack of clear communication about sexual activity. Men SHOULD be able to tell when their partner doesn’t want to engage sexually (and listen when they say so!), and women SHOULD be able to set firm boundaries with their partners. I’m a strong feminist, and even I have had trouble telling men in my life that I don’t want to have sex at the exact moment they do. And this narrative that women need to be coerced is insane. We get horny, too!

    I loved Master of None and am a fan of Ansari. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore this story. I don’t think this dialogue is detracting from #MeToo…I think it’s adding a necessary component. Our sex culture needs to change. Calling out sexual harassment in the workplace (and everywhere) is important. But talking about the negative gender roles society has placed on men and women surrounding sex is important, too.

  24. Diana McNeill says...

    I keep coming back to this post to see if the Cup of Jo team has updated their wording to reflect the fact that “Grace” did *not* write the piece–it was written by Katie Way.

    In the aftermath of this article’s publication, Katie Way received criticism from Ashleigh Banfield at CNN/HLN and felt inclined to write a truly nasty email disparaging Asheligh’s looks and age. This is very troubling! The article about “Grace” and Aziz’s encounter is editorialized and I do hope you will consider revising your post to reflect the facts. This fact does not change the heart of the conversation, but it is important to report things truthfully.

  25. Why didn’t she leave? And why didn’t he stop? I think they are both at fault. It’s a thinker. It’s awkward to be vocal and say “stop” and I have no idea what he was thinking. I really have no idea where he can come out scot free for his actions. This is a difficult conversation to have! Who is at fault?

  26. Laurel says...

    I will admit that it is difficult to see an actor that I have enjoyed on screen in a negative way. My personal take away from the article is that while it may not be fair for a woman’s verbal and non-verbal cues to be ignored in any situation, I will work to always remove myself from a situation where they are. If we are in full control of our actions and have autonomy over our bodies, I will behave that way and not allow someone who disrespects that to interact with me. Additionally, I don’t like that situations that are seemingly resolved privately are still subject to public discourse. That’s not to say that victims shouldn’t speak out about their abusers, but I can’t see this situation in the same light.

  27. Caitie says...

    I think that Grace’s story has no place in the #metoo movement. And as a self-proclaimed feminist, I think that this idea that her story has anything to do with sexual oppression is incorrect. When two people are bring intimate and getting sexual, it is each person’s responsibility to voice what they like or do or do not want in order to have a pleasurable experience. That is each person’s job in this scenario. No one is a mind reader. When you are being intimate, continue to participate, and do not voice your preferences, how do you expect the other person to know what you do or don’t enjoy? I have sympathy for Aziz Ansari and that this story has gone public.

    • Michelle says...

      But don’t you think that Grace saying “Whoa, lets relax for a sec, let’s chill” is her making her preferences known? Isn’t her moving her hand away from his crotch a sign to him? Isn’t Grace saying “next time” when he asked “where do you want me to fuck you?” her telling him to slow things down?

      According to her story she even said “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.” It is surprising to me that a person would not hear that as a clear sign and take things slower or stop all together.

      I too have sympathy with Aziz since as well as Grace since this dance of “pursing a woman” is encouraged in a lot of tales of romance, but that doesn’t make what he did okay. And for these narratives to change you have to be willing to examine your own behavior, especially if you are proclaiming to be a feminist-as Aziz is.

    • Allison says...

      Caitie, that was my first response to this story as well. But then I re-read Grace’s account and it’s pretty creepy. The way she kept pulling away and he repeatedly pulled her hand toward his crotch. If a man did that to me, I’d be so furious. You can’t discount non-verbal cues, especially in an intimate situation.

      I agree that this doesn’t have a place in the #metoo movement, which I see as a sexual harassment movement. But I think it’s part of a separate, also important conversation about how men treat women in everyday interactions. Unfortunately, it was produced in a poorly-written format by a publication that I think was just trying to break a sensational story to get its name out there.

      I also feel bad for Ansari being exposed like this, but it’s worth exploring that a man who has made a name for himself for being “woke” to women’s issues is behaving an entirely different way in private.

    • Aneta says...

      YES!

  28. Rach says...

    This was a great summary of the response to this article, which has been confusingly contradictory. I was really surprised and find it a little strange that people are concerned about this article detracting from the #metoo movement. Illegal sexual assault in the workplace and uncomfortable sexual situations in the “gray” such as Grace’s are all part of the same system of oppression. They are all symptoms of sexism and I am glad the conversation has opened up to include the diverse ways this oppression plays out in our lives, including in the lives of cis men.

    • Rach says...

      Meant to also add that we are capable as a society of discussing all the nuance here, so we should.

    • Michelle says...

      I totally agree! I find it surprising that people don’t seem to think that this “gray” area is worth discussing openly, especially since the type of interaction Aziz and Grace had incredibly common. As Samantha Bee said “We know the difference between a rapist, a work place harasser and an Aziz Ansari. But that doesn’t mean we have to be happy about any of them.”

  29. Sarah says...

    This has definitley been an enlightening article.
    What about the Woody Allen story?

  30. Jane says...

    I think, if anything, this incident highlights the fact that topics surrounding sex, (whether it’s sex positivity, consent (affirmative or other), casual sex, even sexual assault – as this story proves.) are not as black and white as “yes means yes” or “no means no.” We are complex beings and we struggle to remain objective (or politically correct) in a world that is dictated by cultural norms and social faux pas. Definitely, some of those norms need to change in order to keep people from being oppressed. But while I don’t think this incident does much to develop the #MeToo movement, I do think it opens up a greater conversation about the ways in which cis men and women discuss their expectations about sex (particularly casual sex) and how those ideals are fueled by social norms that maybe don’t need to be norms anymore, such as women putting up with bad sex to satisfy a horny man or men being aggressive in order to impress a fickle woman. This is nothing new. We’ve seen this narrative in pretty much every Rom Com ever. Are these norms doing anyone any favors? Of course not. But they are here and they obviously need to change if we can no longer tell the difference between consent and assault.

  31. jen says...

    Well, this girl comes off as a groupie, to me. I’ve never been a groupie, but I’ve been in that situation with someone I knew and who asked me out suddenly decided (I thought it was sudden) that we were going to have sex, when there was,in reality, no frickin way. Walk away, girls, and yes, shove him away or whatever it takes. Her language–“we are going too fast” to me didnt sound like ‘no.’ That said, Aziz acted like a creep but not a rapist.

    • Jill says...

      Yes! My issue with this story is that it plays into this assumption that women must always be victims. Why was she not empowered enough to say no and leave??? Aziz was overzealous and inappropriate, but it seems like she was just annoyed that he didn’t want to take time to get to know her, so she wrote that piece to destroy him. I support the #Metoo movement but I am very uncomfortable with the trial by social media that seems to be happening. We can’t ruin men’s lives without there being any burden of proof. Of course, the whole thing speaks to our broken justice system which works against accusers.

    • Alex says...

      I agree that she sounded like a groupie. I saw this behavior a lot in college, directed at the star athletes—guys guaranteed to be drafted. So many women wanted their attention, and they behaved much like this woman did with Aziz. I’ll admit that I was that girl one time, at a party, and went home with the captain of the team. I was a freshman and of course was very flattered that this guy was paying attention to me. As I expected, we started making out, on his bed no less, but when clothes started coming off I said “um, I actually won’t want to have sex. Sorry.” I guess I didn’t have to apologize, but come on, I went to his bed to make out, so I think I led him to believe I would do more than kiss him. Well, luckily he just said “ok,” went to sleep, drove me home the next day, and never tried to take me home again, or take me on a real date. Shocker…he just wanted sex. I appreciated that he didn’t pressure me, but even if he had, I would have left. Adults can say no and walk away. It sounds like “Grace” kept going along with what Aziz wanted because she wanted to keep the attention she sought out and perhaps had hopes that he would suddenly turn gentlemanly. Girls should be tought to be assertive and walk away when their dates turn sour like this.

  32. Emily M. says...

    This is the article I’ve been waiting for. THANK YOU. Joanna and the rest of your team: If ever you experience a work day where you doubt the impact you’re making, think back to this moment and know that you are doing important work. xo

  33. I used to think that a bad date was someone who showed up really late, had poor table manners, or lacked conversation skills. I guess that was naive thinking. I have had a few experiences similar to Grace’s and they left me feeling angry. I don’t consider my “bad dates” to be my entry into the #metoo movement as I was never assaulted or harmed. But, I do feel that a conversation needs to happen because women feel compromised, unsafe, and vulnerable in these shared experiences. Ansari’s behavior is not equal to Weinstein, but chalking up his behavior to a “bad date” dodges the issues at hand.

  34. Kate says...

    By very virtue of this comment thread, I am incredibly disheartened that Grace’s story has driven this wedge in the #metoo movement. Whether you believe her story helps or hinders the effort, it undoubtedly has shifted focus directly to this anonymous woman instead of the thousands of individuals in a less-privileged environment which is the heart of #metoo. I hope soon the conversation will widen again soon.

    That said, there are points I have boiling inside I’d like to share in response to several of these comments. For record, I am childhood sexual assult/manipulation survivor (age 12-15), experienced workplace sexual exploit as a 22-24 year old, and currently, a very professionally-successful white single female in her early 30s in male-dominated industry who dates and sleeps around occasionally in New York City….

    1) By the very virtue of non-verbal cues, the public cannot state who was right or wrong in this specific encounter since this was a consensual act done in private between the two parties involved. In the moment, non-verbal cues are important to give AND receive, and must be adhered to by *both* parties (more on this below).

    2) In Grace’s own terms, she initially pursued him into a date and approached him (non-verbal cue of interest) multiple times at their initial meeting. The invitation to go back to his apartment after dinner, I believe, was a non-verbal cue provided by Anziz of his intent for a sexual encounter. Ignoring his non-verbal cues, Grace continued the date at which point she provides her own cues that the sexual activity is not wanted; Anziz should have ended his pursuit at that point. If Grace knowingly did not want to engage in sexual activity prior to the apartment, she should have recognized Anziz’s non-verbal cues earlier before ever sexually engaging. This provides safe (public) territory for both Grace and Anziz to avoid these mix signals.

    3) I fear this certain scenario is not a male vs. female power dynamic as some argue above; I see it as celebrity vs. non-celebrity inequality. Grace may have understandably been in awe of a date with Anziz (again, as noted in the beginning of her article) and lost confidence to properly exert her sexual rights until after the occurrence. Yes, she has sexual rights that should not be compromised by anyone of any status and Anziz appears, unknowingly, to have infringed on them at the moment. I commend her speaking directly to Anziz when she felt comfortable enough to do so (which unfortunately was after the fact) and I commend his response. Anziz, completely unprompted by public opinion or demand, acknowledged her concerns and offered a heartfelt apology.

    While an unfortunate scenario for all parties involved, I am happy it encourages dialogue between individuals in cyberspace who have felt pressured or uncomfortable in social situations as many of us have; it’s an important element of the general sexuality equality conversations, but I believe should lay separate from the #metoo movement. This was not an occurrence Grace held deep and afraid to share; she shared it immediately with friends. I do not believe this secondary outcry in the public forum does anything to promote the important conversation of pressured suppression and sexual equality.

    While I am deeply saddened for Grace that this was the worst night of her life, I have great jealousy that she has never experience an encounter that truly impacted the trajectory of her entire life.

    3) By sheer physical size, males will always pose a potential physical threat to woman, holding the power dynamic. I equate it to a large dog… a St. Bernese may never “pull” a small-stature dog-walker due to stellar training but he still maintains physical power to do so at will. While a silly comparison (and the ironic comparison a man to a dog is not lost of me), I believe it reemphasizes why the continued emotional education and open dialogue for both partners (of all sexes/genders/types of relationship arrangement) is such an important one. As a woman, I support this movement of equality wholeheartedly. Also, as a woman with a father, adult brother, nephew, and male best friends, I fear for them living in a world where they hold perpetual terror that they too may accidentally miss a non-verbal cue.

    • Jennifer says...

      Your response is wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to share such a well thought out opinion. I am so sorry for what you have personally endured and find your courage to speak so honestly about it to be incredibly brave.

    • Wuselbibi says...

      “While I am deeply saddened for Grace that this was the worst night of her life, I have great jealousy that she has never experience an encounter that truly impacted the trajectory of her entire life.”
      Wow, beautifully written.
      I’m sorry for the bad expieriences you had at age 12-15. Sorry, I’m not a native english speaker, so that might sound clumsy.
      But I appreciate your words so much and find them so fitting and right I just can’t but applaud.
      You sound like a strong woman knowing herself, standing in for yourself and that is wonderful. Especially when you had to endure sexual assault as a teen.
      All the best for you, love from Germany.

  35. Angela says...

    I’ve been truly saddened and angered by how many people have responded that this was just bad sex. This was not just bad sex! Bad sex is that it was physically uncomfortable and you didn’t orgasm. You can have bad sex with someone you’re in love with. I’ve been in situations that are only a fraction this bad and it was terrible. I too have enjoyed Aziz Ansari but it is in no way a surprise to me that he acted this way. There are a multitude of men who are on the same page as him, “nice guys” who feel entitled. Not only that, there is a HUGE power situation at play. It’s the same power situation that Louis C.K. referenced. He is a major celebrity, he is a man, he is much older than her. It’s absolutely outrageous that anyone would suggest there is no power play here. Sure, he can’t fire her but are we really so blind that we would consider that to be the only power a man can hold over a woman? I feel the same indignation that she did at the hypocrisy. In fact, to me this is what #metoo is all about. Everyone agrees that sexual assault is wrong and I would argue that is not what is really holding women back. The MUCH more pervasive issue is that every day, every time a woman is in a sexual situation with a man, she has to deal with this social indoctrination and the pain of feeling that sex is the goal and that she is the goalie. Worst of all it’s from our “advocates” the “nice guys”. Ansari liked to ridicule men who would send dick pics to prospective hook ups but I would argue that this is far worse. He pushed her and then didn’t respect her repeated responses. I don’t have much sympathy for him because he has shown several times that he’s only there for women in the way everyone is, he thinks rape is wrong. He’s not there for when it makes him look at himself and his own behavior.

    • I really agree with this, Angela. I think the #MeToo movement is about more than just workplace harassment and assault, and the majority of women are not in the entertainment business and are more likely to experience a “gray” situation similar to Grace’s, rather than encountering a Harvey Weinstein-type villain. I really believe that so many women are excusing Ansari because he plays a nice guy on TV. This situation also reminds me of the woman who accused Kobe Bryant of sexual assault and received a public apology from Bryant, though he never admitted his own actions.

  36. Alex says...

    He was a creepy jerk. She pursued him, went on a date with him, went back to his home, and repeatedly acquiesced to one physical interaction after another. It sounds like she wanted him to like her, and wanted so badly for him to turn out to be a chivalrous guy in the end, so she kept reluctantly saying yes with her body and never said no and did not leave for quite some time. And she left very disappointed with the date when it turned out that he was one of those guys who just wanted sex. But this was not harassment or assault by any stretch of these terms. She was on a date, not in a work or educational setting or even on a date with anyone from these settings who could have any power over her. I am not convinced that saying no and exiting this situation was so difficult for an adult. She needs to act like an adult. It’s just absurd to say that “there’s always a power dynamic” on a date such that any creepy guy who repeatedly asks for sex or tries weird sex moves on a date finds himself in the same category as Harvey Weinstein. Articles like this trivialize actual harassment and assault.

    • DIANA says...

      She said she didn’t want sex. She said she wasn’t ready. She said to slow down. She said she wanted to wait for another date to get physical. He pretended to care so that she would relax and stay. She relaxed and stayed until he got aggressive again.

      The point is that she is not calling for his head, she is calling out his hypocrisy for wearing that Times Up pin. So many men that are “standing with us” are a million miles away from the tenets of the metoo movement, mentally. Aziz obviously doesn’t give a shit about consent-focused relationships/activities and rightly got called out. THIS IS IMPORTANT TOO. It’s not at a Weinstein magnitude but ITS IMPORTANT TOO.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Diana, I think you put that really well. I agree.

    • jillian says...

      She gave him a blow job and did not leave, this sounds like an awkward “feels guilty and gross about it in the morning” kind of date. Not fair just because he is famous and she had an awkward time should he be lumped in with the entertainment industry sexual harassers.

    • Alex says...

      Diana: She said she didn’t want to have sex…but then later all he had to do was gesture to her that he wanted oral sex and she did it? He was a creepy, gross jerk, and his behavior is not ok, but why did she go ahead and give him oral sex? They were on a date and it seems he was nagging for more and more sexual activity and she acquiesced over and over. She isn’t a victim of anything other than creepy, nagging behavior. Her experience is so far removed from Harvey Weinstein’s victims’ experience that they should not be associated with one another; to do so cheapens actual victims’ accounts. Think about it this way: when women bring false accusations of rape, it makes society look at actual rape victims with skepticism. If this woman’s experience becomes part of the #metoo movement, society will view actual #metoo victims with skepticism. “Are you sure that he assaulted/sexually harassed you, or did you just do something that you regret? Was he just a rude date and you expected him to read your mind or decipher your body language?”

      I think it was the NYT piece (or Atlantic) that put it well: this babe article infantilizes women. She is a mentally stable (I assume) adult. She can say no and she can walk away. Moreover, some women need to learn the signs that he just wants to have sex with you and nothing more. Stop fooling yourself into thinking that this guy is interested in anything other than getting you in bed. It seems that she stuck around his home hoping against all reason that he would switch from trying to convince her to hook up with him to just hanging out. She seems to have wanted to badly to turn this into a get-to-know-you date when he indicated over and over and over that he just wanted to hook up. I have had friends who behaved similarly: went to a guy’s home (didn’t even go out on dates), hooked up, did this repeatedly, and then complained that the guy didn’t want to just hang out with them, take them on dates, or be a boyfriend. It took so long for them to acknowledge that all these guys wanted from them is sex; he is not interested in being your boyfriend, so stop trying to convert him by sticking around and giving him sex whenever he makes a booty call. If you want a relationship, and all he wants is sex, stop trying to force the relationship. Just walk away. And you’re a mentally stable adult. You can do it.

  37. Clara says...

    I am so very tired of people constantly telling me that in any interactions with a male there is always a power dynamic and it is always in favour of a man. I want to scream from the rooftops. Men are not evil. I am a strong women and I am tired of always being told I am the victim.
    I also have wondered about the way in which this issue was put forward on this blog. Would both sides of the story have been outlined if Aziz’s views on feminism were not so in line with Cup of jo’s views? If Aziz was a different race how would this post have been framed? If Aziz was not so open about his ideals would we treat him with the same fairness? If Aziz was our brother what would we think?

    • April says...

      Clara, I agree with you here. I am a feminist but I don’t believe all men are evil or wielding a power dynamic over us. Yes, there are things that need to change. Yes, this movement is important. But I do think there has been a shift and that this can all turn into a witch hunt rather quickly. Let’s not assume that men are always in the wrong. Women have fought long and hard for power and I know plenty who are willing and able to use it, both to protect themselves but also to hurt others.

    • Oh thank god someone has the strength to realize that they (as a women) are not always the victim. The woman in this story needed to stand up, flip him the bird, and walk away. We are not tragic Disney princesses who lay down and let men walk over them and then go home and write a sad sob story about how victimized and sexualized they feel, hoping that men will one day change. How on earth is that empowering? Take control women! Yes, there are creepy powerful men out there who will try to take advantage of you. But don’t wait for them to change. If every women that Harvey Weinstein took advantage off, decided that her dignity was above preforming sexual behaviors for a chance at fame and had the courage to walk away, he would get the message that women are not purely sexual objects. Men will learn that we are not docile creatures and they are not as powerful and untouchable as society has told them they are.

  38. Candice says...

    unless someone says, yes, do that to me more, the answer is no. I have read so many responses like the first half of your post, it angered me to tears. Thank you for posting the second half, I had not read those and it gave a voice to my perspective.

  39. Nigerian Girl says...

    I’ve been thinking about this situation since I first read Grace’s story days ago. I’ve read all the essays and think pieces and comments here and everywhere else. And I still feel the same way I did when I first read the story: it dilutes the power, the importance and the urgency of the #MeToo Movement because this wasn’t a case of sexual assault, but a case of a bad date along with an awkward, cringeworthy and uncomfortable sexual encounter which shouldn’t have taken place in the first place, and for which Aziz already apologised to Grace. Maybe that night was truly the worst night of Grace’s young life. Nevertheless, in light of the #MeToo Movement where women are sharing real-life stories of rape and other soul-crushing forms of sexual assault, her claim feels histrionic and overblown to me.

    There was no need for her to name and shame him publicly. After all, he never bothered her again after his apology. I’ve analysed and re-analysed the situation and whichever way I look at it, her actions still come across as petty, vengeful and mean-spirited to me. After his ungentlemanly behaviour on the worst night of her life, it’s noteworthy that she still kept the text messages and pictures as a memento of that night. Was Aziz an asshole? Absolutely. Should he have left her alone? Absolutely. I understand why she stayed even though she was uncomfortable with his behaviour. Women are socialised to babysit men’s fragile egos and to put men’s sexual desires before theirs. Women are taught not to say ‘no’ from an early age, which is why a grown woman can actually be offended and baffled when a grown man doesn’t respond to a ‘non-verbal cue’.

    Speaking of ‘non-verbal cues’, that expression needs to be left behind in 2017 or wherever it came from. It has only done more harm than good. We need to teach little girls (and grown women) how to say no and how not to worry about hurting other people’s feelings. It’s our responsibility to teach our daughters, nieces and other young girls and women in our circle that it’s perfectly okay to hurt a man’s feelings. When the tables are turned, men don’t care about hurting women so why on earth should we pander to their emotions? Women need to speak up and speak out and express themselves clearly in the workplace, in the bedroom, on the streets or wherever they find ourselves. We women are not otherworldly beings who get our message across without speaking. We have voices and we can and should be heard.

    Grace said she was driven to speak up after she saw Aziz wearing a Time’s Up Pin at the Golden Globes. I agree that hypocrites must be called out. I have no patience for those men who falsely position themselves as feminists and build successful careers on the glory of that. But, if Aziz hadn’t won a Golden Globe or worn the Time’s Up Pin, would Grace have gone to Babe (or vice versa) with her account of their encounter? If he weren’t a celebrity, would she have kept the matter between she and her friends or still gone ahead to make it public? Could she, perhaps, have called him out on his hypocrisy via private texting instead of going to the press? In my opinion he was a first class jerk, not a creep or a sexual predator, so I struggle to understand why the world needed to know the details of his sex life. I suffered from severe secondary embarrassment while reading about his bedroom (or living room) antics.

    Before anyone accuses me of victim blaming, I don’t subscribe to the idea that we women are guileless wallflowers who shouldn’t take responsibility for our actions and who must be believed no matter what simply because we are women. I find it insulting, patronising and anti-feminist. Women are capable of good and evil alike, just like everyone else. We are fully-rounded human beings who are capable of the full spectrum of human emotion. And with the obsession with celebrity culture in the United States particularly and the number of fame-hungry young women who are quick to sell vengeful stories of sexual encounters with male celebrities to tabloids, I do not at all feel guilty for questioning Grace’s behaviour.

    In Nigeria, when you want to call someone out on their bullshit, we tell you to “do it with your chest.” Which means you should be bold, you should go all out, and you shouldn’t back away from your stance. Grace didn’t do this whole thing with her chest. If you want to share an account that can ruin someone’s life completely, please don’t do it anonymously. Do it with your chest. Tell the world who you are unless you have solid proof that your life will be in danger if you do. I’m not thrilled with the idea of anyone losing their reputation and their means of livelihood because of an anonymous account on a website.

    One of the conversations to be had here is around teaching boys about respect and consent from an early age, teaching girls/women to speak up, and encouraging girls/women to walk away from unpleasant situations because we don’t owe anyone anything. Women can and should put themselves first. Our experiences and our feelings are as valid as men’s. I also hope that this leads to a conversation around the suddenly selective concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ because so far it hasn’t really applied in the court of public opinion since the #MeToo Movement began. Margaret Atwood expressed this sentiment eloquently in her brilliant essay in The Globe and The Mail.

    I like that deviant men are being publicly shamed, that deviant men are finally being held accountable for their actions, that some of my male bosses and colleagues here in Lagos are nervous about what will happen to them the day #MeToo gains ground in Nigeria (PSA: Only a handful of men in my country will be left standing). However, at the same time, if the public naming and shaming isn’t carefully handled, if the motives of both the accuser and the accused aren’t meticulously examined (especially in this case where Aziz isn’t Grace’s boss or doesn’t have any kind of professional power over her), it’ll only give rise to resentment among men and some women; but men, mostly. Men won’t be motivated to do better because they’ll have the impression that even if they change for good, and/or join the Time’s Up movement, and/or try to put men around them in check, and/or privately apologise to all the women they’ve ever wronged, their attempts to make amends will mean nothing the day a woman from their past accuses them of something because the whole world will surely believe her and turn against them. Nothing they’ve done to show that they’ve become better men since then would matter anymore.

    More stories like this are going to keep appearing. All I ask is that the nuances of each story should be carefully considered. In the pursuit of reparations, we must tell ourselves the truth and be honest with one another. It won’t be easy, of course. Tempers will rise and feelings will be hurt. But discomfort and anger have been known to lead to much-needed change.

    This is the longest online comment I’ve ever posted. Thank you, Cup of Jo, for hosting this uncomfortable but necessary conversation.

    • Katherine says...

      You nailed it, sister. This is everything I’ve been feeling, all the justice and outrage and conflicting emotions and is this right or is it wrong. Thank you for this thoughtful and respectful response.

    • Cara says...

      This comment is AMAZING and you so eloquently described what so many of us are thinking. It is sad, immature, and advantageous of her to publicly shame and ruin or certainly damage his career because she has morning after regret and was omg too feeble and weak to speak up, so now, she’s blameless? That is so beyond me. She has just sent us two steps back in this movement and if we start giving voice and power to all of the 23 year olds who regret a bad date the next day, where will that lead us?

    • Alex says...

      I wholeheartedly agree with your comment. On the “do it with your chest” comment, that made me think of the assertiveness that we must teach our girls to exercise in the moment. When a boy or man is making you uncomfortable, you have every right to speak up, say no, and put him clearly in his place, and if he won’t stay in his place you get up and walk (or stomp!) away! I have always been very assertive in these situations. Perhaps it’s because I was raised by a very assertive mother, so I learned that women can and should be powerful. One good example of this assertiveness: my response to creepy guys in the club who assume that because a woman is dancing she has invited you, yes you strange man, to come right up to her, not a word spoken, and touch and rub on her and call it “dancing.” I always turned around and said “No thank you!” in a loud voice with a finger wag. It was like their grandmother just scolded them on the dance floor. It always worked for me. And when guys touched/groped me or my friends—as in they didn’t even bother to pretend that they were dancing—I went to the bouncer to ask that they be kicked out. And they were. In hindsight, perhaps I should have also filed a police complaint. But that didn’t even occur to me because, sadly, groping in those settings is so common that I didn’t even know that I could report it as a crime.

    • Aneta says...

      You have so eloquently articulated everything I feel about this story. Thank you for taking the time to write this long comment – I have read it several times now and after every paragraph want to shout out a resounding ‘yes’.

    • cs says...

      YES! I am a feminist but I often feel that certain things in the movement make women out to be weak and and somehow reinforce that women are fragile and need to be protected. I’m am only two years older that Grace and think it’s ridiculous that her age is often used as an excuse for her unwillingness to end the encounter. If we expect women to be strong and equals we can’t make excuses that diminish their capabilities. I find it so frustrating that the people that are implying that her youth relieves her of some responsibility. Though it’s meant in a supportive and understanding way, I find it so condescending. I’ve made regrettable decisions and been uncomfortable before but fully accept and understand that they were my wrong choices. If my insecurity or my perceived lack of power kept me from voicing my desire to stop something then that is an issue within myself that I need to work on because at the end of the day unless I’m being threatened then I should possess the power to vocalize what I want and don’t want. The situation was regrettable for both of them but that hardly means that Aziz is guilty of anything more than being a jerk. I think if she hadn’t framed it as her being a victim, or naming him, it would be a worthwhile conversation to have but the original article just detracts from the very issues it’s trying to address.

  40. Ali says...

    I have to say I’m wrestling with this one, partly because it hits a little close to home. But just wanting to give a little perspective on why someone might stay, as someone who has.
    I stayed because I’d already said no many times and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. I stayed because I knew I couldn’t physically overpower him. He was a friend of my flatmate and lived a few apartments below us, i’d popped in to help him grab something to take to our place so I stayed because I didn’t have my house key or my swipe card for the elevator/stairwell and I couldn’t get back to my place. (i naively thought i was just helping him and would be back in 5 mins) . I stayed because in a situation where i felt completley powerless, staying and deciding to just give up fighting and let it happen ,as much as I didn’t want it too, was the teeny bit of power I had. And that may be completley flawed. And I may have questioned many a time why i didn’t try and make a run for it. But i don’t think the outcome would have been any better.
    So yeah, just wanting to say that its often so much more complicated than “she should have just left”

    • Anita says...

      I think that the vast majority of the people here recognize the complexity of “not leaving.” But it has left many of us thinking “does this make Grace a victim?” Or does this mean we should be asking: why do women do things they don’t want to do and how can we change that? In the Grace case, it seems she was really leaving it up to Aziz to make sure she wasn’t doing anything she didn’t want to do, and letting herself off the hook for participating in sex acts that she wasn’t into. Did he obstruct her ability to communicate? This is where we don’t really know the full story. Even if he did, Grace, and others, call this “assault.” Is that justified? Or does Grace thinks Aziz should have discerned and tailored the evening to her expectations, rather than pursuing his own? She did not owe him sex, but neither did he owe her romance (or whatever she was in it for). His “just want to get laid” behaviour was her cue to leave. This is not failure to recognize social conditioning but rather a feminist aspiration: know yourself, know what you want, be smart, be strong and courageous, don’t compromise yourself, resist.

  41. Ana says...

    There’s certainly a lot to dissect here, but one point that seems to be repeated not infrequently is that she should have been clearer, and provided an explicit and unequivocal no. And yet, what about any obligation of the man to seek an explicit, unequivocal yes?

    The argument against it, I suppose, is that it would remove some of the romance or excitement – that it would kill the mood to pause and ask for a ‘yes’ – but I’d beg to differ. My husband, not infrequently, when he initiates sex often pauses to ask me if I really want to have sex at the moment – to be sure I’m not too tired, or perhaps just not in the mood (but responding as if I am into it just to be kind). And, it is so, so sweet. The way he does it never ruins the moment; it makes me feel so loved and cared for, and when I am indeed in the mood it always makes it even better. And, this is coming from my husband – someone I clearly signed up for having regular sex with when I said ‘I do.’ And yet, he has still found it important to ask for a ‘yes’ (and I’ve never really asked him why he usually does this, and I’m certainly not insinuating all husbands should). But, it’s revolutionized my view of sexual encounters, and certainly colors my perspective here- why isn’t it expected that a man seek an explicit ‘yes’ before coming after a woman as aggressively as Aziz apparently did on that night? Or, at the very least, why don’t we expect the pursuit of an explicit ‘yes’ as much as we expect the utterance of a ‘no’.

    I don’t think her story harms the me too movement. I think it expands the entire conversation rather than diluting the existing one, and I am grateful for the way that it is forcing us all – no matter where our opinions fall on this story – to grapple over long-standing norms and how, whether and why they should or should not change in ways both big and small as we move forward with this movement.

    • molly says...

      Your whole comment is so thoughtful & I love the story about your husband – that really is so sweet. xo

    • Grace says...

      Gosh, it makes me ponder things so much. Like, I’ve always been a HUGE old film buff. Like Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable romance, etc. Now I know this isn’t on the same parallel as sex, but the forceful kisses in old movies made me swoon; I thought it was so romantic. No questions, just a man crushing a woman to his chest to kiss her.

      So when my bf of five years asked me at the end of our first official date if he could kiss me, I was turned off. Like, why did he ask? Where was my Clark Gable-esque no questions asked because that’s what romance is kiss?

      Sigh. Now I shake my head at it. And even now I STILL find those old movies romantic, which is problematic (and I mean that’s just one side of them) because what is romance anyway. But, see, I felt conditioned by those examples of what makes a man sexy; to love me so madly he’d do what I was waiting for him to do and kiss me like his life depended on it.

      My first kiss as a teen my bf did not ask if he could kiss me but I knew it would happen because it had built up to that inevitable point with hand holding, side hugs to frontal hugs (a big deal), etc. He asked me if I could stay an extra minute during passing period outside my bio classroom and I already knew it was going to happen. It’s a super sweet and innocent memory for me forever etched into my sophomore year agenda’s calendar. But, yes, knowing when the moment’s right and knowing when to ask…the simple answer is to ask because getting the moment right can be complicated. But, see, before the conditioned part of my brain would go, It’s not romantic. Now I see it differently.

    • shopgirl says...

      Hi,
      you are talking here about your experience of two people who love each other and share their lives together, who know what is right for them… It is difficult to compare this with some one night stand, where a woman goes into a house with a man whom she practically does not know, nor does he know her. In such situations it is very easy that date gets very awkward or for one side also unacceptable. But the problem here for me is more that if he was not a well known name, she would not make this bad date so public. I really believe that. This lynching and public exposure of someone’s intimate things is driving that movement into the wrong direction.

  42. Noone says...

    I agree that his behavior was common, and far from the realm of gentlemanly behavior we expect from men, (yet rarely teach them). I think this is a great example of the kind of ambiguous in-the-moment interpersonal dynamics that make sexuality so confusing for anyone who is not self-aware.

    People naturally want to respect/respond to the sexual desire of another (of their choosing) on a primal level, but only with a man they approve of, (Which is why it is so difficult to put a stop to it in the heat of the moment. Obviously men understand this which is why making women bear the brunt of the responsibility is ludicrous). Both women and men generally seem to have forgotten that dating is meant to be a vetting process.

    When a man that a woman feels they should be safe with (on a date for exmp), abuses the raw TRUST granted to him by a women on a date(essentially giving him a chance to prove his trustworthiness), it puts far too much responsibility on the woman to put a stop to things. Men must participate in this by remembering basic civilities of behavior. A date does not mean sex, unless that is where the woman wants to take it.

    That men have forgotten WHY behavioral protocols exist really is the fault of their parents, equally, for not teaching them about sex early on so that they understand why biology determines that women ALWAYS have the last word where sex is concerned, period. Literally. That is why rape is such a huge crime. Just because we have birth control and abortion does not mean that the STRESS of the heavy awareness of the potential responsibility of pregnancy is disposable for women. Men as a whole must begin to share the awareness of the emotional responsibility for the sacredness of the woman’s position in biology. Birth control or not. Birth control is no guarantee, as all women know!! The disrespectful behavior of pushy men is just unconscionable.

    If you are not teaching your sons about sexual behavior and respect, then in 2018 they are learning via FREE porn. So of course even normal, presumably ‘nice’ men like Aziz behave like thugs and are not even conscious that their behavior is not only rude but abusive.

    • shopgirl says...

      Yes, so thrue.

  43. Absmtl says...

    What troubles me about this is that we seem to be blurring the line between dickish behavior and assault. No doubt from what I understand the story to be, Aziz’s behavior was dickish and inconsiderate and entirely inappropriate and sadly I’m sure most women have had a similar experience but what seems to be missing from this story is the power imbalance and the related assault. While it’s essential that we have the conversation about why men can be dickish in this fashion and that we come up with better ways to address it (including the best way: walking away from them), we also need to be capable of nuance and master our own agency and be confident enough to walk away when we are not comfortable with how things are progressing. This is a story about male privilege, not assault, and certainly we need to understand why male privilege determines our sex lives and work to dismantle this but let’s not dilute #metoo by conflating things.

    • yes yes yes. talked about this tirelessly yesterday with husband, sister, and friend. your response is concise and a perfect summation.
      its a shame too because if “Grace” could have also taken responsibility for her own actions in the account (to put her needs before his and either speak up or walk out), it would seem like less of an attack and more of a story to contribute to the systemic issue of male privilege/ego being more valued than the female’s comfort/boundaries.
      Also, she gave a lot of very specific details as well to illustrate her account but it could be argued that she violated him in a way by sharing these details which were shared in a trusted, private, recreational environment.

    • Courtney says...

      This is beautifully put. Even if the word “dickish” is being used.

    • Holly says...

      I agree with you. I feel for this girl and I have had the same experience in my life. But there comes a times when you have to speak up as a woman. If you are not comfortable with a situation (no matter what it is) you need to speak up and let him know how you feel. I am not condoning what he did in the slightest, he truly took advantage of the situation and went in for what he wanted in the moment. But is all the blame on him? Yes, he was a major DICK… but if he was being pushy and she started to feel uncomfortable then that was her opportunity to get up and leave. We don’t have to be victims… we can stand up and say “No, I’m not ok with that”. Why are we being so accomodating and protecting his emotions? It really raises the question… why do we need to be so nice? Why do we feel the need to make every encounter pleasant for everyone involved (except us)? I’m glad that this is opening up a dialogue. This may not be a #metoo scenario, but it’s definitely something to talk about. We need to feel empowered… but with that comes accountability for our own actions and how we handle these situations.

  44. Nicole says...

    I really resonated with author Andie J. Christopher on Twitter when she said, “Even though I can be a bitch on wheels when it comes to fighting for other people, I have still found myself in the situation “Grace” found herself in–in my 30’s no less–more often than not because the socialization is THAT DEEP. This SHOULDN’T be a surprise though. Virtually everything in our culture reinforces that women are, above all else, to be pleasing to men–dating advice, high-end literature written by lauded men, movies, television. our families, EVERYTHING….And, instead of minimizing icky, bad, marginally consensual experiences, I think we all need to face ourselves.” My initial gut reaction to reading Grace’s story was disgust. We need to have a real conversation about changing the sex script in our society. This doesn’t dumb down the “me too” movement for me but reveals how complex this situation is.

  45. HS says...

    I feel both empathy and frustration with Grace. But a large issue I have is that she got to chance to speak with Aziz about her negative feelings regarding that night in a text, and received a heartfelt apology. Time then elapsed, during which Master of None tackled some very feminist material and Aziz gave very pro-women interviews. Grave states that seeing him wear a #MeToo pin set the whole article in motion, but my issue is…..why? She was able to lay out for him her grievances, she had an apology and proof that he was at least trying to further the feminist dialogue. Was a meaningful private apology not enough? She stated that she herself didnt view it as assault until her friends said she should. Did she want him to pay publicly as well simply because of his celebrity status? It’s hard for me to not see the release of this article as spiteful.

    • sarah says...

      This is a really good point. What was she looking for from him?

    • Emily says...

      100% agree. Excellent points.

    • Veronika says...

      good points here! a perfect example to miuse the #meetoo

    • Candice says...

      Heartfelt? Meaningful? These kind of assumptions (the man MUST have meant well) are why this story is so important.

    • Julia says...

      This is EXACTLY right! Thank you so much for providing clarity!

    • Alice McElhinney says...

      This is exactly my thought too. There’s something so upsetting about her revealing ver personal details when he apologized and was open to dialogue. Well put!

    • Heather says...

      AGREE 100%

    • Sandra says...

      I agree 100% too.

    • Ali Cuccurullo says...

      I disagree. His apology was more of an explanation and minimized her experience. He claims that he thought she was into it and that it was mutually consensual. It rubs me the wrong way that a so-called enlightened, informed feminist can do such a poor job at reading a woman’s body language during sex. Which is it, is he an informed feminist or an ignorant bystander? You can’t play both cards. That is what came across as hypocritical, to me, when he wore the pin of solidarity. I think that people ought to support victims by REPEATEDLY acknowledging their part, humanizing the narrative surrounding misogyny and sexism which directly contributes to sexual assault and harassment.

    • Jessica says...

      Totally agree! The court of public opinion was not an appropriate place to take this. We can all debate whether she should have said no or he should have asked for a yes (without even having both sides of the story, no less) but no amount of comment board chatter can replace real, live, VERBAL communication between the people involved – before, during, and after an encounter like this.

  46. Emily says...

    What I think has been surprisingly lacking in the intense conversation over this has been the CRUELTY of “Grace’s” method of starting an otherwise very important conversation in our society. There is real need for men and women to think about and renegotiate our ideas about how hetero sex is supposed to go down, and how it is leaving many women feeling used and unsatisfied. Men like Aziz Ansari – introspective, compassionate, willing to publicly grapple with nuanced issues – are our best allies in this endeavor. Men like Aziz Ansari would by all accounts be open to rethinking their socialization around sex! But Grace didn’t choose to assert herself in the moment and have a conversation with Ansari. She didn’t have a conversation with him afterwards. She didn’t write a think piece without naming him, delving into her personal experience. Instead, she publicly humiliated him in the worst way possible. We are all striving for more compassion and empathy in society. Where is the compassion here? Ansari is a well-intentioned man who messed up. He did not deserve to be so cruelly humiliated in the public sphere. How would we all like it if our awkward sexual encounter were described in excruciating detail for the whole world to read? This woman was immature and cruel and missed an opportunity to engage a real male ally who would be willing to change and probably still is.

    • Lily says...

      This. THIS!

    • It did occur to me that if a man wrote an article about a woman (even one who did something wrong) in which he gave details about her sexual preferences/moves and included her address and a photo of the building where she lives, people would immediately identify that as predatory behavior.

    • Sasha says...

      I agree. He did not behave well, but he gets thrown into a shitstorm and publicly shamed, while she writes a vindictive diatribe and gets to remain anonymous. He did not assault her and he did not use his position of authority over her. If you have had multiple sexual experiences like this, stop acting like a victim and re-evaluate how your non-verbal cues come across on dates. I support the #MeToo movement, but the solution is to reform the broken legal system, not engage in witchhunts where men cannot defend themselves.

    • Ali says...

      I have to comment on this because it was so disappointing to read. Sasha, you do not know whether any woman was sexually assaulted. Grace gave some details of the night, which is in no way the full picture. She felt distraught after and many close friends heard her story and advised her that it sounded wrong. You are deluding yourself into thinking Aziz, a character on TV who “plays” a feminist, is somehow more trustworthy.

    • Sasha says...

      Ali, I was just referring to Grace’s line in her story: “I remember saying, ‘You guys are all the same, you guys are all the fucking same.’” not to other women .

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES. This was great.

    • Teresa says...

      I also thought this was a good article. And as a woman, I feel I do have the power to change the way a sexual encounter is going through my actions and words, although I am older than Grace, who I think was understandly starstru k
      Part of being sexually free is owning our mistakes in not being honest.

    • Lael Dalal says...

      Yes to that article! I keep coming back to this. We all have had gross, bad sexual encounters that we feel some kind of way about after (or even during, as the short story brought up and described so well). Its not either we have amazing sexual encounters or we are raped. There is a lot inbetween and not all of it is sexual harrasment. I also keep thinking, we need to talk about predatory sexual harassment, like the metoo movement, but also need to talk about how women should learn to always take control and be verbal, clear, and strong when it comes to consenting to all kinds of sex. In this case, Grace did not act upon her feelings of I do not want to do this. She felt compelled to do things because he was so pushy, and did them, instead of deciding to leave. I want my daughter to know she shouldn’t do that, and she should act on her feelings. I think young women especially are more apt to go along with whatever in sexual situations because we want to be sexy, desired, wanted, and we don’t want the man to think otherwise. This has to change and that’s what this Aziz thing has brought up for me.

    • Cara says...

      Teresa- YES! Absolutely. Some of it comes with age (I, too, am older than Grace) but most of it comes with owning that responsibility and knowing that power from a young age. I can’t even tell you how many regrettable dates I had when I was 22, but I can tell you that I’d NEVER think of publicly shaming or ruining someones career over them, because I was regretful. It would be one thing if he had continued harassing her, but he also apologized (whether everyone wants to believe that or not) and discontinued any communication with her. He left her alone. Also, I’m sorry, it just seems advantageous of her, regardless of if she was anonymous or not. I cannot imagine how I’d feel if I were a rape or assault victim, hearing the media rip this apart and treat her as such. Not ok.

    • Alex says...

      Yes, yes, yes. Great article.

  47. Lyn says...

    It’s ridiculous to say there was no power dynamic in play here … in our culture, men have power over women. In any encounter between a male-identified person and a female-identified person, there is a power dynamic. We all need to stop buying into this fairy tale of the “level playing field.”

  48. margalit v. says...

    I am, or rather ‘was’, the kind of woman who liked to have her boundaries be tested. Who may say ‘no’ at first, but may be thrilled should the pursuit not end. I enjoy the ambiguities. I have experienced ambivalence about sex, about my consent, even about my partner’s. And there have been times when I felt that sex should not have happened. But I am a free agent with a will, meaning I am willing to accept responsibility for what I at first was ambivalent about and may now consider a mistake. Thankfully, I was never in a situation when I was threatened, physically, to have sex. My heart breaks for women who have been through this type of experience. My mother was one of them. I feel rage when I think of the person who hurt and scared her. I also sympathize with women who have had a bad sexual encounter. Something they were ambivalent about participating in at first and yet followed through, but in the present, ‘sobering light of day’, saw as a mistake. But mistakes, unpleasant as they may be, are not crimes of which men are guilty. They may be, however, a side-effect of general promiscuity. And by the way, I am stating it as a fact, not as a judgment on anyone. Sex has become casual in this society. The boundary for having it has been lowered. According to one theory (signal detection), by lowering a boundary, you will have more ‘hits’ but will also end up with many more ‘false alarms’. If one desires to revise current model of sexual dynamics, which are diverse enough to include women like myself, perhaps, going back to a more conservative society would indeed be the way? A more conservative society sets up a number of contractual agreements between parties before sex can happen, which is where the current model of “consent” appears to be going. As an aside, this “consent” is a mythical creature. Which one of us has not changed her/his mind a thousand times about someone, sometimes in the same five minutes? Why are we so intent on criminalizing what may be a clueless behavior of a man not interpreting verbal/non-verbal cues, when from this story it is clear that the woman herself was just as clueless about interpreting her own desires? If sex is a casual act, then let’s treat it as such, true criminal acts and behaviors aside. Then this story is about finishing a poorly prepared meal in a restaurant and later realizing that the meat was indeed undercooked. Regretful, upsetting, and may be worth writing a short story about. I do believe that sex is more meaningful and nuanced than “drinking a glass of water” and that the range of sexual behaviors does not lend itself well to legalese. It is never about a binary decision of consensual or not. It is a smooth (quite normal) distribution with some ends ending in places that are unpleasant.

    • Angela says...

      This was a really thoughtful comment. I appreciated your perspective.

    • Lael Dalal says...

      Yes!

    • Hannah says...

      I find this a very thoughtful and useful perspective. 👍🏻

    • Katherine says...

      This is perfect, thank you for this perspective.

  49. What the #metoo movement needs to succeed, what any movement of its kind needs, are those who are privileged in our society to step up and help the vulnerable. We don’t just need men to stand in solidarity with women, we need them to change their behaviour.
    The way Aziz and Grace behaved is such a perfect illustration of why our culture needs to change. She should have asserted herself when she was uncomfortable but like so many women before her for one reason or another she felt like she couldn’t. Sometimes it’s because they fear for their safety, which doesn’t seem to be the case here, but often it is because women have trouble being assertive in sexual situations. To change this we need to fight against what women have been taught and told since the beginning of human history.
    What is more important though, because it shouldn’t always be the women that need to do the heavy lifting, is he should have checked his privilege. Men need to realize that it is their responsibility to make sure their sexual partners feel comfortable. Affirmative consent needs to become the new norm. It is the only way we are going to seize this moment and move forward. It takes something as small and making eye contact and asking, “are you ok?” or “are you comfortable?” or “do you want to do this?”. Recognize that she might not be able to voice her concerns, especially given his obnoxious behaviour, and check in with her. If men really want to move to a place where women no longer feel victimized this is what needs to happen.
    I like Aziz. I like lots of men in my life that have behaved in similar ways because it is possible to like people that sometimes behave badly. That is what makes this so hard, but we need to have the hard conversations. We need to look at what’s normal and what’s expected and talk about it so we see real change. Based on what I know I do not think that Aziz Ansari is a sexual predator. I think he behaved in a way that our society has led men to think is acceptable, but that time is over.
    I find myself wondering what Aziz is thinking now. Is he asking himself how easy it would have been to see if the woman he was trying to have sex with was uncomfortable? Did he think about the pressure he put on her when he put on his #metoo pin and dressed in black at the Golden Globes? Was he willing to examine his own behaviour and confront how he needed to do better? I hope he is willing to join this conversation, to say I was part of the problem and I want to contribute to the solution. Only time will tell but I am rooting for him. I hope he decides to become an ally because we need all we can get.

    • Liz says...

      Great thoughts, I really appreciated what you had to say and am emailing myself this to reread. I want to teach my son (who is almost 2) exactly this: to check in with his partners, to make eye contact and ask “are you ok?” to always make sure everyone feels safe.

    • Angela says...

      I recently saw Billy Bush on Stephen Colbert talking about how he thinks we need something deeper to come out of this #metoo movement that will ultimately educate the average man. In his situation he was talking about how to shut down a conversation you’re uncomfortable with. While we’re jumping on every new person who commits sexual misconduct we’re all agreeing on the same thing. We all know that rape and sexual coercion in the workplace is wrong. The important thing here is that we obviously don’t all know that what happened here is wrong. It is wrong but the reaction shows that we aren’t to a place where we are actually making progress. Male introspection is important, female introspection is important. No, this isn’t criminal behavior but it is wrong that we look at this and say, “she should have just left”. Yes, I wish that she would have left but why didn’t she? She didn’t leave because she was with an older man that she admired and who was also a celebrity with a stellar reputation. He manipulated her and used several “good guy” tactics. He ignored her discomfort. Why aren’t we talking more about how this dynamic, while not criminal, is clearly wrong and damaging? Do we really want this to be the norm? Ansari is even further in the wrong by saying it was consensual rather than examining the situation objectively and realizing that he should change his behavior and check his entitlement. I have always liked Ansari but I’m not surprised, he has the exact characteristics of an insincere advocate of women. I’m not saying he can’t change but we can see that he is very self centered and that goes a long way.

    • Liz thank you so much, it is a testament to you as a parent that you are already thinking about how your son can be an ally to the women in his life. We need a million more Moms like you, xxx.

  50. Lauren C. says...

    This reminds me of an argument that has been made about the #metoo movement – that women run the risk of being pegged as delicate, fragile beings that can’t stand up for ourselves. This doesn’t apply to the overt sexual abuse that’s been dominating our news cycle, but I’d argue it does apply here. Sady Doyle said, “Even men I trust and like have told me that they were socialized to believe that, if a woman says ‘no,’ you should test that boundary to make sure she means it. ” In this situation, she didn’t say no. She may have pushed a hand away, but she also continued to make out with him. I would argue that there were mixed signals happening here, and that most women have been in a similar situation – that feeling of “no…but also yes” – that battle between propriety (what we think we should be doing to not be considered a slut…another conversation entirely) and desire. Essentially, there’s a difference between a man forcing a situation upon a woman and a man suggesting things continue to move forward sexually. I’ve definitely pushed a few hands away, and sometimes I’ve stopped it entirely, but others I’ve decided to take things forward as well. And it wasn’t because I felt forced to, but because I’m an independent woman and was taking my time to decide how/if I wanted things to progress.

  51. DIANA says...

    I think we need to introduce some nuance to the conversation surrounding consent-based sex and the #metoo movement.

    First – GRACE wrote this piece in reaction to Aziz wearing a TimesUp pin at the Globes, to HIGHLIGHT the hypocrisy that several men “standing with us” are mentally miles away from what the movement preaches.

    To read the article is to wrestle with it. No one is allowed to weigh in until they’ve read the whole article- it 100% changed my mind from reading the headline to the article.

    AZIZ PLAYED NICE GUY to calm Grace down and convince her to stay. When Grace said “slow down” he did. She was relieved that he reacted this way and stayed. He started up again and made her uncomfortable, she went to leave, and he stopped, promising that they would just chill. Then he started up again. THIS IS MANIPULATIVE AND DANGEROUS BEHAVIOR AND NOT ACCEPTABLE and while ITS NOT RAPE, no one wearing that f’ing pin is allowed a pass for rapey behavior THAT IGNORES CONSENT.

    The article states: “I stood up and said no, I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this.”

    THAT SHOULD HAVE ENDED THE ENCOUNTER! ESPECIALLY BY SOMEONE “SUPPORTING WOMEN” DURING THIS DAWN OF ZERO TOLERANCE OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

    The problem is not Grace sharing her story, it is the world’s kneejerk, wide-brush outrage at male behavior. Aziz should not lose his job, but his behavior should be noted as shitty and highlighted for the world to know that this is not ok and a HUGE part of the problem.

    • Nicole says...

      YES!

    • Elle says...

      Yes!

  52. There is so much to say about this whole issue. I’ve worked as a rape crisis volunteer and a human trafficking researcher, and these conversations are incredibly complicated and affected by everything: culture, economics, sociology, psychology, personal experience, etc. I read an article a few weeks ago where a woman interviewed rapists in prison. It was fascinating and speaks to many of the issues relevant to the #metoo movement in general and the attitudes/beliefs that foster sexual power dynamics. I’m not saying what happened with this Aziz Ansari story is rape or making a statement to that effect, in any way. I just think the article is interesting and relevant and thought I’d pass it along. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/12/16/570827107/in-interviews-with-122-rapists-student-pursues-not-so-simple-question-why

  53. Nina says...

    Thank you for writing this. I am still thinking about it, too. I don’t know of it’s because he’s funny. Or it was his place and he never stopped her from leaving. She could have left! Or that it seems really wrong the way she went about condemning hm so publicly and so much after the fact. It all feels bad.

    Havd I said no and men kept pushing? Yes. Did some stop? Yes. Did some not? Yes.

    Were there times in a relationship when a male said “oh I’m tired” or “I have a headache” and I did what I knew would overcome their objections? Yes. Am I a rapist? I would say no. If they *truly* said no, we didn’t do anything. But…am I any less bad than he’s being portrayed? Shrug

    My son is 10. When I ask him to stop tickling and he won’t I think “you must learn to stop when someone says no” and I try to teach him that without full on freak out “don’t grow up to be a rapist.” But we all have teased people, or tickled, or annoyed when someone says atop and we haven’t. Is it because it involves genitals that its not okay? I disagree with that.

    But take it a step further. As parents we force our kids to eat things they don’t want. Or get shots (or not like the FL boy who just died from rabies) when they don’t want them. So how to balance it all? Sexual predators argue, this is good for you…

    • Elle says...

      Sorry but I would never force my children to eat something (only when it comes to life and death, like wearing seat belts) nor would I not stop tickling them or hugging them if they say stop. I even ask firsts. I think it’s ridiculous to think that no means no only applies when genitals are involved. Of course not!

  54. Isabella says...

    Lots to think about in this situation. For my part, I believe that “Grace” raises several important and sensitive issues that are worthy of illumination and discussion — the way that women can feel powerless even in situations where they *do* have a choice and a clear opportunity to make their will known. The way that an awkward, bad-date situation like she describes can subtly become less and less comfortable, and the challenge of recognizing this and one’s own discomfort and need to assert oneself in the ensuing muddle of emotions and sensations and expectations and surprises. The fact that many of us have been conditioned to be “nice” and amenable even when others make us uncomfortable or offend us. Much to discuss, as women, as a society, as parents raising hopefully sensitive, attuned children. However, Grace could have achieved this without naming Aziz Ansari. She could have simply described the experience, left the man anonymous, and achieved the same highlighting of these issues. By calling him out by name when his behavior was, yes, caddish first-date behavior, but not in any way an assault or an attempt to exert power over her career or another aspect of her life, she simply drags his name through the mud and shames him, and dilutes the seriousness of the #MeToo movement’s current discourse on sexual coersion.

  55. Hannare says...

    It’s been insightful to read all the opinions on this.

    All the laborious back and forth (I’ve been glued to reading)is important, but has completely exhausted me!

    I’ve been in Grace’s position so many times.
    In my late teens/early twenties I was a walking soup of naïveté, profound insecurity issues, immature sense of self, desperation for affection, all of that. I didn’t know how to speak up for myself–I remember so many times when I literally could.not.verbalize, much less mobilize, when I was in a situation that felt bad, unpleasant, or unsafe. I always always gave guys this insane benefit of the doubt. And I always doubted my instincts, quieting them in the quest for some kind of good encounter.
    I was raised in a highly conservative religious environment(cult like!) where women were to be quiet, pleasing, and submissive(gag). You can imagine the disastrous results when I hit the dating scene in my ‘rebellious’ phase of (the horror) going off to college.

    I vacillate between berating my senseless naïveté, and anger at men who shamelessly took advantage of whatever they could get without a care for me as a person.

    When stories like this (and similarly ‘Cat Person’) first, I shudder and try not to retrumatize myself, and then start parsing it all, trying to find where to fit all the pieces.

    I feel like, on one hand, women ought to be utterly safe and free to verbalized and mobilize out of any situation that doesn’t feel right, fearless of any retribution.
    On the other hand, why is it always women’s job to leverage human decency, do the emotional labor of figuring out each situation and ‘making it easy’ for men to know exactly what to do?
    If we could find basic respect for other people as beings with souls, men and women, women wouldn’t have to be constantly laboring to mine the most basic respect out of situations. I feel like even the concept/rule of consent removes so much of the impetus of men to become more attuned to relati

    I think it(this story of Aziz’s behavior and Grace’s part in the situation) brings up more questions than it answers, but as tired as we all are, we should keep talking about it.

    • Hannare says...

      *relational basics. Respect goes even deeper than consent.

  56. MK says...

    Women can be as loud, brave, and bold as they want to be, and still get raped. The reality is, we have no idea what would have happened if she had given a more emphatic “No.” He may have just gone right ahead. We make an assumption about a man we’ve seen on TV as a nice guy, and think- surely he wouldn’t have if she had been more clear! We just don’t know that.
    Bottom line: More teaching men and boys how to not rape, and less teaching women how to not get raped. Because- you can do everything right and still be assaulted.

    • yoube says...

      How can you possibly argue that teaching women how to be bold and vocal in that situation is a bad thing? At NO point in Grace’s account did she say felt unsafe or that it would escalate. I am a woman and I have been there time and time again. Aziz acted sleazy and pushy and did not take the steps to ensure his date was comfortable. His actions and communication sucked. Her communication sucked as well. There are Weinstein cases and their are serious cases where a woman is at risk, this did not appear to be one of them. I have been there, you probably have to. Do I wish the guy would have gotten my non-verbal hints and not treated me like we were in a porno? Yes. Is that his responsibility? Without a doubt. But do I have no agency in the typical, not comfortable, but not unsafe dating scene? Hell no. I wish someone had taught me that long ago. That I didn’t have to fear disappointing or embarrassing someone more than letting my own self down. It’s bullshit. Teaching a woman to be bold and defend herself is not disempowerment and it is not victim blaming. You could get raped in your home by your husband, on a bad date, or walking through the mall- but if I could go back and teach my 15 year old self something it would be to stand up for myself against a guy who feels pushy but not unsafe. We all have to unfortunately make judgment calls like that. I can’t wait till we don’t have to, but I’d rather teach my son and daughters to obtain enthusiastic consent from their partner, pick up on verbal and non verbal cues and how to assess their feelings and intuition when it comes to a sexual encounter so as be to be able to enthusiastically withdraw consent in these situations than not.

    • Jo says...

      Did you read the full narrative? This was not rape nor assault. To label it so is a complete disservice to victims of sexual abuse (men, women, and children alike). Yes, there absolutely is a spectrum to what would constitutes rape and sexual assault but this incidence was definitely neither. Demonizing men and disempowering women won’t solve anything.

    • MK says...

      Jo, I did read the account, several times, in full. This was assault.
      Yoube, I think that the idea that if a women is just vocal enough, no harm will come to her, is damaging and untrue.

  57. Anita says...

    I really can’t stop thinking about this story now that it has been posted here with all these comments. I am definitely in the camp of disliking the name and shame aspect of the story. As others have pointed out, it is not helpful and just leads to discussion about who is more blameworthy. It is voyeuristic and peurile as reality tv. As a mother of 1 girl and 2 boys, who are still quite little, i would like to eventually talk openly with them about the pressures might feel with regards to sex that might lead them to being pushy and agressive or timid and uncomfortable in a sexual encounter. I think both sexes experience profound mixed messages about sex. A conversation about “consent” seems too narrow here. It assumes a self-awareness, and an other-awareness, about the kinds of sexual experiences they want to have in the first place. I don’t think that it is only the absence of ongoing consent seeking check-ins that result perhaps too often in the girl confused and questioning herself/boy confused and rushing because he might not know what the hell he is doing either scenario. I think that there should be more probing into what men and women expect from sex, particularly a casual sex situation. Starting at a young age.

  58. Sarah says...

    I went to a bar as part of a bachelorette party once, and a man repeatedly pushed his erect penis against me (without as much as a hello) . And… I froze. Said nothing… there were no words in my brain. I couldn’t think of a way to say it politely and not hurt his feelings. (How bananas is that? WHILE he was practically humping me, I was worried about embarrassing HIM. ) The truth is that we all think we would be a woman who will speak up, but everyone is different. ) this is a general comment about how ingrained the incorrect societal messages of shame and ‘niceness’ are in all of us as women, even if we know our worth. I don’t have a formed opinion on this particular story, my feelings are so complicated about it.
    In my case, I think I shouldn’t have had to say no. (Totally different circumstances, I know) I apparently have a lot of work to do in finding my voice. But I think so do a lot of people.

    • sarah says...

      I’m sorry that happened to you. It is stunning when something like that happens, so I can totally understand your mind going blank.

  59. Marlena says...

    I firmly believe that to be equal means to accept the same risks and responsibilities upon walking out one’s door that everyone else does. Outside of serious power inequalities (like if this woman was unable to speak or leave or was barred by threat from voicing her opinion) women who are free to act out their sexuality in any way they like (what feminism has fought for!) must also realize that they can no longer expect to be given special privileges for safety’s sake. We don’t need a paternal looking after. We are not children, we are grown ass women. If I teach my daughter anything before she leaves my home its that she can express her sexuality any way she chooses, but she must take FULL AGENCY of her body at all times, just like anyone else. There will be no special privileges for her just because she is a woman. She owns her body, no one else and she is the one in charge, no one else. This woman needed to speak the f!@# up and use her words. “I don’t like that”. I teach this to my toddler, it’s so basic. Own your body and your time and your space, ladies. Don’t wait for some safe space to magically appear or be given to you by some magical daddy figure. You are in charge of that. So if we find ourselves no longer enjoying something, say that! Rant over.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Well said!

    • Jessica says...

      Omg YES. Exactly how I feel about this. Well put!

    • Michelle says...

      Yes! Thank you.

  60. Nan says...

    I read her story and thought, like many, that she did have the option to speak up with an absolute no and leave before anything worse happened (she indicated that things went in a bad direction almost immediately). His actions were pretty repulsive. Something really bothered me about her account and her later emotional reaction and it dawned on me that she may have already had too much to drink before they went back to his apartment. Her responses were so delayed – to my way of thinking, nobody would enjoy someone sticking forked fingers in their throat repeatedly but a very tipsy or drunk person might have delayed or suppressed responses and be too disarmed by alcohol to stop that and other sexual activity. I can’t help but be haunted by a suspicion that he got her fairly plowed with alcohol BEFORE he took her back to his place, and that makes everything he did entirely reprehensible. That would not be a bad date, that would be disabling someone in order to assault them sexually.

    • Tari says...

      Yes, that would be bad. But, that is total conjecture. He has already been publicly shamed, and has been accused of assault. Now he’s being semi accused of forcing her to drink?

      Grace drank willingly, she performed oral sex willingly, and when she had finally decided she didn’t want to stay, she left willingly.

      As a feminist it worries me that some American women want to apparently go back to the Puritan days and claim women are frail, helpless creatures who couldn’t possibly be responsible for their own choices or behavior and especially if they have had alcohol.

    • Nan says...

      Replying to Tara: Alcohol is disabling, which is why it’s not legal to drive after a certain amount, and I didn’t semi-accuse him of getting her drunk, I wrote that I have a suspicion about this.

    • Angela says...

      Tari, how do you characterize “willingly”? She is certainly not wanting to do this but she feels the pressure. If you really are a feminist you should be aware of why she might do this even if she didn’t want to. It is extremely difficult to be assertive in a situation like this, especially if you’ve never been taught how to be assertive. Remember that she is very young and also much younger than him. I agree this isn’t rape but the description is bordering on assault. What is normal about sticking fingers down someone’s throat?

  61. Kelsey says...

    I will raise my daughters to have the confidence to say no with their words and to affirmatively leave uncomfortable sexual situations, but if I had sons, I would teach them that their potential sexual partners do not need to say no with their words or leave for a sexual encounter to be non-consensual.

    • Tari says...

      This is mind boggling to me.

      So you are teaching your son that if he has sex with a woman, she stays and didn’t say no, he could still have raped her?

      There is not an ounce of equality in this approach.

    • Lauren says...

      Tari, I think Kelsey is saying just the opposite–that even if their sexual partner doesn’t say anything, that doesn’t mean they are completely comfortable in the situation–that they should be aware of body language and non-verbal cues as well. That they should check in with their partner in any way they can to be sure they’re comfortable, and not just go off the words they’re speaking because they may not be reflective of their actual feelings.

  62. Cheryl says...

    There’s another thing. One night stands are hard to navigate and often disappointing. Who knows what an almost stranger’s idea of sexy is until you’re naked? When you’re in your early twenties you are still figuring all of this out. This naive young woman didn’t realize her boundaries until it was too late. Aziz allegedly pushed her boundaries but she takes no accountability for her own lack of understanding. He wanted sex and she wanted hang out as friends but you can’t go from oral to watching Seinfeld with your new friend on the same night. It’s naive. I’ve been in a similar situation with the pressure, I should be empathetic. I too was in my early twenties. But afterwards I took the experience and told myself not to participate in one night stands or stick around when a date gets weird. I vented to my friends who all had a similar story. I never called the guy back again. But he wasn’t famous so I didn’t have any reason to hang onto the situation except to live and learn. Experience is a great teacher.
    I have to wonder how to intelligently speculate on the mechanics of this bad date when we only have one side of a badly written story. I find that so irritating.

    • sarah says...

      +1

  63. justine says...

    I 100% agreed with Bari Weiss’ NYT piece.

  64. I had heard bits and pieces about the Ansari debacle, but thank you for enlightening me with the full story. While I’m so sad to hear Grace had an awful experience, I think there are many nuances to each situation that should be looked at seperately, rather than as a whole. In my honest opinion, this is not sexual assault but rather a bad date and (much like CatPerson) it reflects a lot on Grace’s inability to leave the situation behind. I can only assume she stayed because she wanted something else out of it – either a new friend in Ansari, a serious go at a relationship with him or was sort of interested in him sexually until it got uncomfortable. I do think the age difference has a bit to do with it (her 23 to his 34), but then I think of when I was 18, and I know how I was tested in certain situations and the options I had. While her youth is one factor, it’s up to you to decide what is right for you, where your boundaries are and what you would and wouldn’t do with whoever you are seeing. In fact, the more I reflect on this, the more I recognize when I put the kibosh on situations progressing and the ways I indicated no. Telling the person no and indicating your not interested should take all the energy and excitement out of the situation. Ultimately I would leave – there’s no reason to be wishy-washy if you don’t want it, but I think sticking around after you’re uncomfortable is the biggest mistake, and frankly your responsibility.

    To a lot of men, staying is an indicator that they’re still in the game. It’s crucial for Aziz to have read the signs, but I think having a woman come back to his apartment on the first date probably gave him the indication that she was interested and there for a reason. While he should have recognized she wasn’t into it, at the same time, I don’t understand why Grace stayed. It’s pretty clear when a man is interested in you as a whole or is interested in only having sex with you, and it sounds like he was only looking for sex. Additionally, other comments in the article about the wine choice, (“It was white,” she said. “I didn’t get to choose and I prefer red, but it was white wine.”) were strange. As if choosing the wine means he’s a dominant predator who doesn’t care what she thinks – to me this doesn’t sound reasonable.

    Aside from all of this, there’s this big issue I have with people trying to make sex this weird asexual thing that is nice, and we should all go around the room and make sure we’re okay at every moment. Of COURSE, there are boundaries and limitations, but I would ultimately lose the mood if someone stopped every few minutes and asked me if I’m okay. Sex is primal, it’s heady and intoxicating, and I think that’s okay too. If someone is in that state (which Ansari was), the other person should recognize that they’re not into it, it’s not what they want, and they should leave the situation that’s making them uncomfortable or unhappy. I would say the same thing with a man not wanting a woman coming on to him.

    I do feel bad for Grace being unhappy and questioning the experience, but I think there is some work for her to do about how she allowed someone to coerce her into something without feeling okay with it. This whole story feels like a real-life version of Cat Person.

    • MK says...

      Ok, but- what about him? Does he have any work to do?!

    • Definitely, MK! I think he should have read his date better and recognized that she was uncomfortable. His behavior sounds juvenile.

    • MK says...

      I’m sorry, it’s just that nearly all of the discussion here is focusing on her actions, what she did wrong, how awful she is and how naive she is, and virtually no one seems to be speaking up about him, dissecting his behavior or why he thought it was ok to act that.
      I think we need to ask ourselves why we’d like to place the blame on her. Why we have a million reasons that she caused this, and seem to have all but absolved him of any responsibility.

  65. Ellen says...

    I’ve spent almost all of my recent conversations with girlfriends talking about this. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for pointing to the nuance of the issue and providing a space for thoughtful discussion. Only in asking hard questions and providing space to talk through them can we ever come to parity. I hope to share this article and all of its comments with the men in my life.

  66. Kelly says...

    Why do you immediately put Grace’s age in the article but not Aziz’s age?

  67. t says...

    On a light note: I was at a bar alone and the guy sitting next to me was RELENTLESSLY hitting on me. He didn’t get my subtle ques and didn’t respect me when I repeatedly told him I wasn’t interested in continuing the conversation or listening to his advances (harassment).

    I really didn’t want to give up my seat at the crowded bar so I turned to the person on my right and begged ‘please save me.’ We got married two years later.

  68. Megan says...

    I have been home with the flu for almost a week. I am BORED. So yesterday, I kept refreshing your feed, feeling slightly annoyed that all I had gotten so far was bows. (Which I ordered, and I love Stella, but, I am SO bored, so I was crabby and impatient for more). But when this posted, all was forgiven. Such a thoughtful, thought-provoking piece. I miss real journalism. Stories about stories that don’t tell us what to think, but present all sides and ask us to think for ourselves. I’m still thinking. I haven’t quite decided how I feel. I might change my mind a few times. And for that I am grateful. ❤️

  69. Azura says...

    People just have to stop watching porn. As long as men watching porn , they will always think( conscious or unconscious) that women are an easy target

    • anne says...

      this is a totally ridiculous comment. women watch porn too. yes, there is bad shit out there, but no, porn is not the problem. fantasy should be easily distinguished from real life. anyone who says otherwise is delusional.

    • Jill says...

      This is an important point, Laura, thank you and I agree wholeheartedly! Rejecting porn in favor of actual (consensual, respectful, and ideally orgasmic!) sex is a clear step every man and woman can take to transform our sexually violent and exploitative culture into a safe one.

      Relatedly, January happens to be National Human Trafficking Prevention Month; there’s clear evidence of porn’s link to human trafficking, which certainly informs my complete rejection of porn.
      https://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-fuels-sex-trafficking/

    • Heather says...

      I have to agree that porn (minus some tasteful erotica that does exist) is a BIG problem, as a lot of young men watch it and get all the wrong ideas about sex, and what is pleasurable for women (not to mention all of the human trafficking going on behind the scenes!!)

      OTOH, you don’t have to watch porn to get all the wrong ideas about romance and sex. Just watch any “romantic” movie where a woman says “I’m not interested” and then the guy chases her car down the street and jumps on it (Hitch), or chases her through an airport (every single movie), or stands outside her window in the rain (Cinema Paradiso), or stalks her for effing half a century (Love in the Time of Cholera). OMG, I could go on and on. Girls are taught that they should be pursued, and men are taught that they should expect a pursuit. And girls are taught that getting a man’s approval is the apex of human validation. And men are taught that validation is theirs to give. You don’t have to watch porn, watching The Little Mermaid is message enough.

    • Lemmy says...

      This comment doesn’t seem rediculous to me. In porn men are agressive and women are very passive who just have stuff done to them. If you watch a lot of porn ofcourse it has an influence on your views about sexuality and intimacy.

    • Kirstin says...

      Porn is a huge problem – my friend who is a nurse said the number of young people who are admitted into ER with a torn or punctured anus is increasing – and it is because these people think porn sex is real sex. That is men and women.
      Also think about it – what if every day you went to work and eight men said “take this you slut/ You love my fat dick don’t you? ” – what do you think that is? Do you think that woman goes home and says ‘I had a great day – I feel great about myself?” – even if she has no issue with sex for money, the dialogue is degrading.
      Check out this wonderful movement for an interesting take on the issue. http://pornkillslove.com

  70. Lucia L says...

    Thank you for addressing this topic. One of the things that has made me so uncomfortable with this story is the public shaming aspect of it. I don’t believe public shaming and humiliation is a good basis for coming to mutual understanding. As I read the story, all I could think is both parties have a great deal to learn about being responsible sexually active adults.

    • Lauren Callaway says...

      Thank you! I have felt a lot of conflicting things about this, and this point really hit home.

    • t says...

      Agree regarding the public shaming but without it being public these conversations don’t happen on a large scale. Maybe I am wrong but I haven’t seen any true negative impact this “public shaming” is having on Aziz and his career.

    • Claire says...

      I just can’t come up with a comment – there are too many thoughts in my head that I am trying to sort through regarding this story, but I am appreciating the dialogue, and reading what other people have to say. But I have a question to ask, and a recommendation to pass along. My question- I have been married 20 years, so a lot of what is described is hard for me to relate to, and I am wondering if it is typical dating behavior nowadays that a woman would only have text message communication with a man before accepting a date? and then agree to go home with him when the date happens? Not judging, just curious. And the recommendation – related to communication between couples about sex – I have found Esther Perel’s books, and especially her podcast (called “Where Shall We Begin”) absolutely fascinating, with mind blowing insight into how people talk with each other- or not- about sex.

    • Stephanie says...

      @ T the conversations you think are happening are not. Men read the post and see nothing wrong with what Aziz did. Women read the post and are divided. Eventually, everyone moves on, except maybe one (disgusting sure, but also) unlucky comedian becomes the scapegoat for thousands of generations of men all over the world. Imho – Grace is just as much to blame as Aziz. He (presumably) peacefully resolved this issue with her when she brought it up with him a year ago – so why did she feel the need to bring this up again and in such a public forum? I have absolutely no pity for this girl and cannot truthfully even say “me too” to her story.

  71. Cindy says...

    As a woman that has been in this situation far too many times (shame on me!!) to count, I must comment on this. No matter who the man is, if pressure to perform any sexual act occurs, the woman has the option and CHOICE to leave the situation. If she chooses not to, and remains in the situation, it is not entirely the mans fault. The woman in the situation must take accountability and responsibility for her own choices and actions (or inactions!!) and live with them. There are plenty of women out there that are just as pushy as men when it comes to sex – I discovered this when raising my two sons in their teenage years – and just like women, men have the choice to leave the aggressive situation. One cannot blame another for one’s own bad choices or inactions. This was by no means a rape situation, or an “if you don’t do this you will go nowhere in this town” situation. It was a date where boundaries were tested and miscommunicated, and ultimately choices were made by both parties involved. “Grace” needs to start making better decisions for herself and stop blaming others for them.

    • Chris says...

      Amen.

    • Emily says...

      I SO agree with this comment. Mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors, friends, etc. need to all teach women and men how to not pressure, and when you are how to be in control. But have we ever considered that the person who is being violated might serve to be the best educator of all by saying “No, this is not okay” and leaving?

    • Cara says...

      Yes to all of this.

    • gina solon says...

      amen. I honestly can’t believe that this woman shifted the energy of this movement to her story. totally disappointing.

    • MK says...

      What about him? Does he need to make better decisions?

  72. CeeBee says...

    I read your excerpts from Grace’s account and thought that this was a case of someone not being clear on what was ok, and going along with things that later they regretted. But upon reading her account, and if we take her at her word, she repeatedly gives clear indications that most, if not all, of his actions are not okay. And it’s also clear she spent the last 25 of those 30 minutes in his apartment either deflecting him or trying to leave. He repeatedly bombards her with his body, the fingers in the mouth thing is a real ‘WTF’ moment (why would you put your fingers in someone else’s mouth on a first date?!?), and him propositioning her with alcohol after she has already declined sex. For anyone who thinks she didn’t speak up for herself clearly has no idea how disorienting being in the totally opposite situation you expected can be. Here’s a feminist man who hangs out with bonafide feminists, so it was probably shocking that he couldn’t go a minute without trying to put his dick somewhere in her body.

  73. Emily says...

    I am catching up on comments and doing some more thinking and while yes it’s 100% totally shitty that women have to be heinously clear about their consent, to me it’s obvious. Men are NOT going to suddenly learn how to respond to non-verbal clues and behaviors or read between the lines when a woman is consenting to oral sex that she doesn’t have an overall feeling of consent. I wish that they would. I really do. I wish change would just magically OCCUR. But the thing is, it is going to have to be taught to a new generation of boys. My 50 year old husband isn’t going to magically learn in a day how loaded it is when I am upset and he tells me to RELAX. Grown men, raised up in a society that encourages men to be hyper masculine, aggressive, and to push beyond NO to get what they want will not just magically educate themselves. It’s not going to happen. I wish it would, truly, but it’s not. And the fact is, with some exceptions, many women 30+ who are raising kids w/ straight men are also the people doing the brunt of the thought out parenting. We read the books and take the long view. So it will fall on us to raise a generation of men who do not act this way. And boy oh boy that is going to be ROUGH in this age when our president and so many men are in plain public view grabbing women and laughing about it. Sure, someone’s husband will be the exception to these rules but all told, the vast majority of grown men in this country are raised with notions of masculinity that run in stark contrast to the very idea of true consent. And sadly, b/c they’re also socialized to not participate as heavily in the THINKING about child rearing and in the EMOTIONAL LABOR part of raising kids, the work of changing this is going to fall to women. So we can go back and forth all day long about what she should have said or didn’t say or what she should have done. And that kind of misses the point here. Because though most of us understand she had signs of non-consent, the person who needed to TRULY get that couldn’t see it b/c he was wearing a very different set of lenses than a woman wears. As in most things, the real work here, the real change, will come in mothering boys and girls but I think really boys–it will come in mothering a new generation of boys about consent, raising them to have real emotional intelligence, and to care first, even in the heat of the moment when all they want is a blow job, about how the person across from them is feeling physically and emotionally.

  74. Isabel says...

    I agree this is a complex issue and, clearly, Aziz did not read Grace’s cues at all. That being said, I don’t believe his intent was to coerce or exert his power over her. Was he bad at reading the situation? Yes. Not attuned to her wants and needs? Certainly. Trying to force his will against hers knowingly? I don’t think so; though of course Grace believed it to be and that matters.

    I am truly sorry that she was scarred by the incident and applaud her courage in writing him the day after to communicate her experience to him. What leads me to conclude that this account does not truly belong in the #metoo movement is that he wrote back immediately expressing surprise, concern, and remorse about how Grace felt. That doesn’t redeem his poor behavior, but it removes him from the types of abuse of power and harassment that are alarmingly pervasive.

    I worry because many times sex and sexual situations can be awkward, especially when people are starting out. Yes, every party involved in sexual activities should be extremely attuned to the needs and wants of the other. Yes, women shouldn’t be the ones responsible for preventing a bad encounter. But men can be clumsy and clueless, too. So I worry. I worry that college kids might find themselves accused of behavior that is mostly due to their cluelessness and inexperience than their desire to overcome the other. And I worry about the consequences. For all.

  75. Ashley W says...

    Agree with all those saying that the issue here is the pervalent pushy behavior, and that children need to be taught to read signals and empathize with others, and speak up for themselves without worrying about how it comes across. I am trying to be conscious of what I’m teaching my son especially through my own behaviors.

    That said, excuse me for a second so I can rant:
    I’ll be honest and say that 10 months post-partum my primary struggle with sex with my husband, whom I love, is consent. I understand he wants to be close to me, make me feel good, etc, but when we have an hour or so long conversation about why I don’t want to have sex (which always goes: I’m drained because baby has been: sick, teething, growing, etc, plus my pro-lapse or whatever else has been worse, plus I really just need to effing sleep, and sex really sounds like the last thing I want to do) and how I’m getting sick of the constant advances, jokes, and guilt trips, which is day after day of puppy-dog-eyes and attempts to seduce me… he finally understands where I’m coming from. And then he jokingly asks “so now we can have sex?” to which I respond with “whatever makes you happy” just so I can catch a break from all of it for a week or two until it comes around again.

    I really try to make him understand the culture of it all, but somehow he doesn’t conprehend how it can still happen within our marriage, just because he loves me. I hate that I encourage the behavior to some degree, but I just don’t have the energy to “fight” it every day with the person I love. There are times I’m up for it, but when I’m not, I’m REALLY not.

    Part of the issue is all of the emotional weight I’m carrying for others. The way I tried describing it to him recently was: you’re supposed to put the air mask on yourself before you can help others. But, I can’t find my air mask, so I put the baby’s on because he can’t do it on his own, then you’re asking me to handle your airmask, too, but I don’t have time to deal with yours because I still need to find my own so I can just BREATHE. Find your own frickin’ air mask!

    Ugh. He is so supportive in so many ways, but reading signals or even straight up LISTENING is not always his strong suit.

    • Jen says...

      So much yes. This is an ongoing issue in my relationship too.

    • Sadie says...

      I really hear you. Can I recommend a podcast? There was a two-part series on “The Longest Shortest Time” called “The Parent’s Guide to Doing It” that really helped me when I was in a similar situation. It just really helped re-frame the conversation from “can you have sex with me now please?” to “what does it take from both of us to make the magic happen?”

    • t says...

      First of all, Ashley – hang in there! You are in the thick of it and it is so hard to be a parent (and a spouse); you are doing great!

      I do, however, I think this is another gray area and maybe he also isn’t feeling listened to. I too am battling this is my own marriage (5 years post partum). I am so drained from my job and my kids and bills and life and what schools and activities and family vacation planning, what to pack for lunch, etc that I don’t want to have sex. In fact I don’t want to do one more damn thing for anyone else nor can I truly let go and enjoy it because so much more to think about. And although I really love my spouse (I do) right now life is too hectic to be in love with them. And I am valid in that thinking.

      But so is my spouse in feeling rejected and mislead about what our marriage would look like. Just as I have certain expectations for what my spouse should do (for me it is participate in house work, contribute financially, be kind, parent, etc) so does my spouse and that includes physical intimacy. And that isn’t unreasonable regardless of whether I want to or not (obviously physical injury, illness, etc doesn’t count) just as my spouse can’t say every day that the days are to busy and stressful and back pain, etc so dishes are not going to get done.

      For me what worked (and it isn’t easy) is that we have to carve out a bunch of time where I can feel relaxed and not have other things on my mind. For example, we try to send the kids away for a night every couple of months and then we take a kidless vacation once a year. During those times (and they are not frequent) I still don’t really want to in the moment but once I relax I can get into it and really enjoy it. I don’t really have any advice. Just acknowledging both positions.

      I have a feeling that many won’t agree with what I say about physical intimacy sort of being part of the deal of marriage (unless it mutually isn’t) but this is just my take.

    • K says...

      T and Ashley–your comments both hit home for me. I’m only a few months post-partum, and am really struggling with this and it’s good to read about how other women experience it or deal with it! I totally agree with T insofar as both my feeling of wanting some breathing space and my husband’s wanting physical intimacy are valid, but it is so hard. I would love to read a piece about this issue on Cup of Jo :)

    • Paige says...

      10000% me too and yes this!

    • Anne says...

      YES. This. Women’s desire is so complicated, even within a solid, loving, respectful marriage.

    • M says...

      I would LOVE to see a post on this topic. I’m 8 weeks postpartum with my second child and have been experiencing the same issues since my first kiddo was born 2 years ago. I love my husband so much. He’s an incredibly involved, loving, and supportive husband and father, but… I just don’t want to have sex right now. It took awhile to get back into it after my first child was born and it wasn’t really at the same level/frequency that it was before we had a baby. I’m worried that the longer we go without having sex, the more we’ll get used to not having sex.

      Despite the loooong dry spell, he is persistent in his pursuit of getting our groove back. He’s also 100% respecting my “no” and all of my physical cues to back off, but at what point do I just suck it up and do it for the sake of our relationship’s intimacy?

  76. f says...

    I was just talking about this last night with my husband. He had brought up that the didn’t think this article was very valid and that he didn’t think Aziz did anything too wrong, other than a being a pretty, creepy bad date. After I had read it, I told him that I could relate to Grace and how she felt violated. He didn’t stop when she had asked him to, on a few accounts. Yes, she sent some mixed messages, but clearly, Aziz had an agenda for that evening. And though she wasn’t into it, he thought he could use his ‘sexual prowess’ or something to convince her. I didn’t relate her story to the #metoo movement per se, but I also disagree that it “hurts” the movement. It still brings up a valid and important topic of consent in day to day situations, with power still being at the core of this issue. And I was a huge Aziz fan and hopefully will still be! Disappointed and creeped out, but he’s a person who makes mistakes and seems genuinely surprised by Grace’s text and reactions the day after. Which goes to show how much more we need to educate our boys to respect women…

  77. Heather says...

    I was at a party this weekend (you know, one of those events where you are supposed to drink, and dance, and have fun), and spent 3/4 of the evening talking to different people about cultural norms around sex and romance. Because this is what I talk about all the time now with my friends – especially those with kids. I’m not fun anymore! We are not fun anymore! This topic has seeped into almost every serious conversation, and conversations often seem to veer towards the very serious. How to teach our children about consent? How to walk that line where sex isn’t EVERYTHING, but it isn’t NOTHING, either. And like water, it’s this wonderful thing, but also this terrifying thing. Oof, parenthood.

    The other morning on the metro, I was reading my twin daughters “Green Eggs and Ham.” As I read through the book, I started to feel deeply irritated with the message, and when I got to the end, I looked right at them and said, “It’s nice if you want to try new foods, but when his friend told him he did not want to eat the green eggs and ham, Sam-I-Am should have RESPECTED his wishes and walked away. Sam-I-Am should not have been putting so much pressure on his friend to do something he didn’t want to do. No means no.”

    • Holly says...

      Just here to say that I love your comment about Green Eggs and Ham. Definitely a great way to teach young kids about no meaning no, and I had a good little laugh out of it which is much appreciated, even though the topic is a serious one. Thank you!

    • Sadie says...

      Love this! I feel the same. Sam-I-Am is at best, extremely obnoxious.

    • I also recently felt this way about the book, it was being read to some children at a library I was in. It’s difficult because I think the key message is that you shouldn’t be scared to try different foods, etc. but taken out of that specific context it does come across very forceful.

    • KG says...

      YES! Sam is a jerk.

  78. Kate says...

    Ahh, I don’t know what I think! I agree with all of the above quotes from the article…while not necessarily a #metoo moment in my opinion, I think the experience sounds very similar to something we’ve ALL experienced as sexually active women, a sexual encounter that you’ve not so much consented to but acquiesced, for numeral reasons and some unknown.

    I don’t know. I like Aziz and I think he truly was sorry and is now perhaps more than a little embarrassed. But if this girl were a friend of mine, I doubt I would be feeling the same amount of sympathy for him.

  79. My head has been spinning with this scenario since I first learned about it, too. I’ve read op-eds and such on both sides, and I’ve poured over more comment threads than I’m proud to admit. Even before reading it here, I truly loved Weiss’s words: “The feminist answer is to push for a culture in which boys and young men are taught that sex does not have to be pursued like they’re in a porn film, and one in which girls and young women are empowered to be bolder, braver and louder about what they want.” It’s hard not to want to address/respond to every individual circumstance in the here and now; but I do wish that people could also become more comfortable with the conversation of how best to solve the larger issues long-term. I think a very fruitful and positive long-term goal should be more accountability. To raise men who are better listeners (with more than just their ears) we need to teach them it’s the largest sign of strength; and to raise women who stand up for themselves we need to teach them they’re strong enough to do so. While there are right and wrong sides and blamed and blameless in circumstances of wrong doing or indecent doing, from a utilitarian, long-term perspective, we ALL should be responsible and held accountable for helping to raise the bar; we ALL have skin in the game.

  80. Violet Emerson Proulx says...

    I want to thank you for using your platform as a means to discuss these incredibly divisive but integral social issues. A lot of bloggers are afraid to “go there,” but I truly admire your bravery and candor.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  81. Kelly says...

    I think…boys need to be taught from early life more emotional awareness in general, but especially around whether someone is reciprocating your sexy time moves.

    I think…girls need to be taught from early life that it’s ok to clearly say no I don’t want this, even if that might make them and you uncomfortable. And also, once yer clothes start coming off, it’s harder and more awkward to say no, so if you’re feeling ambivalent, take a pause before the clothes come off!

    I also think that my husband of 20+ years has not yet learned to read my non-verbal cues, nor my cues sent via interpretive dance, smoke signals, screaming fights, poetry or otherwise. What he does seem to respond to is direct and clear communication. To all people navigating all the tricky parts of your relationships: it’s better to work on communicating your needs clearly, than to wait around and hope someone is picking up on your cues!

    • I love this, Kelly. The last paragraph about your husband made me (and probably a lot of others who are in relationships with men) laugh, and it makes a good point. Is it safe to make the generalization that most men’s strengths do not lie in sensitively and correctly interpreting ambiguous cues? I think so. Does that make them monsters? I don’t think that by itself does, no. Be straightforward with them, ESPECIALLY IN MATTERS OF SEX, and mean it.

    • Cate says...

      This is so smart and so true!

    • L says...

      Yes to the husband non-verbal cues. Dude I just got home from the gym and took off my clothes because I need a shower and smell bad, not because I want to bone.

    • Angela says...

      This is just insulting. I don’t expect anyone to be a mind-reader but can you really equate this to what goes on with your husband? I think we can give anyone the credit for understanding that when you repeatedly put the hand of a first date on your penis and they recoil, it means they don’t like it. Why are we treating men like they are naturally predatory idiots? My husband can’t read my mind but he immediately recognized this account as predatory by simply the fact that Ansari put his fingers in Grace’s mouth, let alone putting her hand on his penis. Both of these cues were clear. Not only that she got up and SAID she was uncomfortable. If you think that your husband couldn’t read that cue you must think your husband is really dumb.

    • Kelly says...

      Part 2 of my advice is, if you’re not happy with how someone is reading your cues, then you need to exit. I think Grace was in fact giving some pretty confusing cues, and not picking up on Aziz’s very direct cues that he was mainly interested in sex. Should he have stopped? Yes. Should she have left when first decided the pace of the encounter was faster than she was comfortable with? Yes. Do I understand why, as a young woman who is still learning about herself and the world, she didn’t? Yes. I’ve been there myself.

      I have 2 young daughters. I hope all the boy moms out there are teaching their sons about consent and their partner’s enjoyment and all that good stuff. In case they’re not, I’m teaching my daughters to be in charge of their bodies and their decisions. Specifically, based on what I wish someone had taught me, I’ll be teaching them they can stop at any point in a sexual encounter – including after penetration – and walk away if they’re not into it. And giving them specific words to rehearse. But also teaching them they need to take ownership to be aware of where things are heading because it’s much easier to walk away in a public place than when it’s just the 2 of you in his apartment. And easier to walk away when you’ve got clothes on than once they’re off. And easier to control these situations when you’re sober versus drunk (not that Grace was – just saying this is what I’ll be telling my girls). I’d teach my sons the same things, if I had them – you’re responsible for your actions and in charge of your body.

  82. A says...

    My thoughts, briefly:

    – Regarding questioning why she even came back to his place, or why she didn’t leave: it’s likely that she may have been interested in sexual activity, but not in his super aggressive way of going about it — it just didn’t unfold the way she was hoping (slower? more romantically? She did try to ask for that), so she never felt that crossing of the line of an unplanned/undesired activity.

    – If the story is true, Aziz behaved in a horrible, jackass manner. If my boyfriend at 17 could pause and check that I wanted to continue fooling around, adult males should bloody be able to as well, and not try to coerce sex. Particularly when they’re older, famous, and supposedly feminists!

    – Third, this story should’ve stayed anonymous. If she gets to be unnamed, he should too. It feels revengeful. Unless there was actual assault and not just ultra asshole behavior, this should not be making the news, as it has the possibility of destroying a person’s life. But do I feel bad for Aziz? Not really. He wouldn’t have to worry about headlines like this coming out if he conducted himself in a gentlemanly manner.

  83. Diana McNeill says...

    The piece was actually written by Katie Way, not “Grace”. It’s an as-told-to piece.

    • Diana McNeill says...

      I thought it was worth mentioning because it reads as editorialized, to me.

    • Tari says...

      Great point. And the writer Katie away apparently wrote an immature, insulting email to Ashleigh Banfield of CNN disparaging her looks and age. Way to be feminist Katie Way.

      Not surprising. I do not think “Grace’s” story can be taken as fact or as real journalism. I doubt any reputable medium would have ever published the piece.

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5a5fadc1e4b0ccf9f121033a/amp

    • Diana McNeill says...

      Tari, thank you so much for reading my comment! I can’t believe how many people are incorrectly assuming that “Grace” wrote this article. I honestly cannot imagine any credible news source publishing what Katie Way wrote.

  84. Charley says...

    I am still struggling so much with this story, and really appreciate all of the different perspectives. I’ve been in a happy relationship for awhile, but spent a few years in the dating scene after my first marriage ended. When I did have sexual encounters during that time, I felt like the signals were clear and never once felt like consent, let alone mutual desire, was ever in question. There were a couple of times that I was told to slow down and I always respected that. I can’t imagine ever behaving in the way that Aziz did according to the woman who wrote the account. To be clear, I’m not trying to portray myself as a saint. There are no rewards for doing the minimally decent thing. But, I feel like we’ve discussed these issues in a far too simplistic fashion. I’ve heard many say that consistently casting women as victims hurts feminism, because it implies that women are fundamentally weaker than men. The counter-argument seems to be that women are only victims because of the patriarchy, and it’s up to men to change their behavior. Honestly, I see validity in both sides of the argument. The way we talk about things influences how we view them as a culture, and I’ve found that, among the people making the first argument, most are strong, independent women who no one could call apologists for the patriarchy. At the same time, we don’t want to accept the current sexual power dynamics as status quo, and men need to confront the way we’ve been acculturated with regard to consent. But, that leads me to another conundrum: I’ve noticed that the men who are genuinely concerned about this tend to be the ones who wouldn’t behave like Aziz in the first place. I can only speak for my circle of male friends, but we would be disgusted if we found out that one of us forced himself on a woman like that. By contrast, the men who behave like Aziz don’t give a shit beyond playing the “nice guy” in public. And, I feel like they further check out when the power and privilege discussion comes up. Many feminists are defiant about this and argue that it’s not their job to protect men’s feelings. I’m sympathetic to that argument, but I feel like it misses the point. The problem isn’t about hurt feelings. It’s about indifference. So, how can we persuade these men to be less indifferent. The easy answer is make them vulnerable to public shaming if they engage in misconduct. That will work to a point. But, there are a host of toxic side effects that go along with shaming, and I’m not sure we want that as our default. I feel like there must be more benevolent forms of persuasion that can help shape the culture of sexual power dynamics in a more constructive fashion.

    • Angela says...

      Such a wonderful comment. My thoughts exactly. My husband, who was no celibate, felt that this behavior was shocking. I knew he would because he was someone who always waited for consent. Why can’t we all agree that this behavior is despicable and made worse by the nice guy schtick? Sure, it’s not rape but is rape the ONLY thing we need to confront in terms of male/female dynamic?

  85. Carol says...

    Thank you for posting about this, and I love all the thoughtful comments. I think it’s a very interesting story and I have some conflicted feelings about it. I do agree with criticism of her story being labelled as part of the #metoo movement, because it was a date, so it wasn’t unreasonable for him to pursue something sexual unless that had been clearly taken off the table beforehand, and there was no power imbalance. My worry is that stories like this will provide fodder for those who wish to diminish the #metoo movement and the importance of addressing the issues raised by it.
    As for the article… Should Aziz have paid closer attention to the energy in the room and backed off? Definitely, but I don’t think that makes him a creep or a predator. I think Grace needed to take more responsibility for communicating clearly and verbally that she was not willing to continue, and then, unless she felt unsafe to do so, leaving. I do have empathy for her as I remember when I was her age and I had a few awkward dates where I didn’t have the assertiveness to express my feelings clearly, but I think that is more an issue with teaching girls in general how to be self-confident and advocate for themselves in all situations, not just sexual ones.
    I do wonder what the point of a name-and-shame article was. Could this story, told anonymously, still have added to the conversation without trying to destroy the career of someone who did nothing illegal or outrageously inappropriate, but was just oblivious and insensitive?

  86. Courtney says...

    I realize I am late to a very lengthy and important conversation, but I am interested in how people think race has played into this story and the public’s response. I can’t help but feel frustrated that this conversation was sparked because of an expose of Ansari’s actions, when James Franco was accused a few weeks ago of similar coercive behavior by multiple women. Maybe this has blown up because of the descriptive nature of Grace’s story, rather than the tweets posted about Franco. I’m not saying that Ansari’s behavior was excusable–it isn’t, but I think its important to consider how race, class, etc. factor into these discussions and our reactions to them.

    • Vicki says...

      I totally agree, I feel conflicted because I recognize that societal pressures plays into why she didn’t just walk out, but I can’t help thinking there is no power dynamic on this date – WALK OUT GIRL! So I want this to be an opening to a conversation about what we teach young people of BOTH sexes about consent and how to communicate what they want and don’t want – I worry for the young women I know and then also worry about my two boys who I will try my best to teach about consent, but also don’t want them to end ip in hot water because they misread a situation (Aziz is not all that innocent, but still )
      However because she is naming a famous person in what seems like revenge it just seems to play into the narrative of those who are looking to dismiss the #metoo movement, rather than opening a door to a conversatIon. I think this could have gone a different way if she didn’t throw his identity into the mix.

    • sarah says...

      I agree the article was terrible. The whole white wine complaint was ridiculous and kind of set the tone for the the piece to be mocked, which isn’t helpful at all. To me this seemed more like a bad date and not a #metoo moment.

    • Nicola says...

      I couldn’t agree more. The article was TERRIBLY written and some of the details like the wine comment and “it was a good outfit” just seemed so out of place and pointless and I feel really coloured my opinion of the person telling the story. I’m in the camp that yes his behaviour was poor, but she should have just left, there was no power dynamic there. Good on her for texting him the next day to let him know how she felt, and his response of concern seemed genuine and he apologized, and it should have ended there. No need for public shaming.

  87. MC says...

    The line that got me was: “When she sat down on the floor next to Ansari, who sat on the couch, she thought he might rub her back, or play with her hair — something to calm her down.” Just silly. Get up and leave! She expected him to read and respect her nonverbal cues but then clearly ignored his (indicating intent to continue pursuing sex), however creepy they may have been. Unfair and immature.

    • sarah says...

      Yeah, it’s really stupid to think someone you just met is going to know you expect them to rub your back or play with your hair. Why wouldn’t you just put on your clothes and leave after you came out of the bathroom? If a date is going badly enough that you need to go to the bathroom to splash water on your face and calm down nothing good will come from staying.

      Even if the sex stuff stopped right then what did she would happen? That they would become friends? Or somehow he would get better at approaching her for sex?

    • Chris says...

      Exactly! Also, if you are bold enough to approach a “celebrity” twice at an event where you are on a date with someone else, I think you’re bold enough to get yourself the hell out of there.

  88. Caroline says...

    Like many others, I have very mixed feelings about this, but the “non-verbal” cue thing is just so murky, especially since she also chose to stay. So much of dating and relationships is about boundary setting, and I think saying “I really don’t want to do that right now” is an easy enough way to make sure that your feelings are clear to the other person. I don’t know for certain, but I would be willing to bet that if those words had been said OUT LOUD (or, alternatively, she had simply left), this would have unfolded differently.

  89. Lisa says...

    I’m really torn on this because I really like Aziz’s work, so it can be hard to remove that bias when reading about this.
    Having read her account and his response, one thing that strikes me is how immature she sounds and to be honest – there is a sizeable age gap between them (10 years) which may also account for the miscommunication. I remember going on a similar crappy date myself (the guy asked if we wanted to “make out like weasels” what the hell?) where I felt rubbish afterwards but I wouldn’t class it as sexual assault.
    That being said, given how much older and more “woke” Aziz makes himself out to be, I would expect better from him and to ask about sex AGAIN after you’re all dressed and watching Seinfeld seems like he didn’t get it. But, I agree that this should have been dealt with privately. As much as I support the #metoo movement there is a risk of innocent men being taken down, and this is the risk here. What Aziz did is on no way the same scale as Weinstein. As far as has been disclosed, Grace’s job and career prospects didn’t rest on the outcome of this night and Aziz hasn’t crafted an entire system to be able to sexually assault women. He’s just not as gallant as he makes himself out to be

    • Lisa says...

      What this also makes me realise again is THANK GOODNESS for my husband. Poor guy – I was really back and forth about going out with him (nothing to do with him but fear of commitment for many, many reasons) so I sent the poor guy so many mixed signals and back and forth (snogging him like crazy one day, and just wanting to be friends the next). However, he never did anything that I felt uncomfortable with. We didn’t have intercourse until I felt fully confident about it, and even now, nearly ten years together, married and with two kids every single time we have sex he’ll ask “do you want to? Are you sure?” And not continue until I’ve confirmed that I am, even lying in bed naked together. He’s awesome

  90. Sara A says...

    First, go check out Consent Tea (you tube). A funny, but valuable message about sexual consent.

    Second, so many feelings. As I have read through the comments the common threads seem to be that he should have known to have (ask for) clear consent and she should have had the strength to say no and leave. These assumptions touch on deeply-driven societal norms. Girls get the message to not be promiscuous and therefore maybe they should say no to not give that assumption (playing hard to get?), which I think has perpetuated into many similar situations. Men get messages that consent to one thing (coming to my apartment, kissing, oral sex), gives open-ended consent. Even typing these things feels bad, but we need to recognize that we are in murky waters (systemically) about what our newly accepted norms will be for engaging in relationships and sexual acts. Previous generations of women had it bad! (ugh property of men) but at least it was clear. Women’s opportunities are growing in an optimistic way and with that growth comes the awareness of barriers that remain. We’re headed in the right direction but there are a lot of tough conversations (like this) that need to be had.

    I think the article in Babe could have had the same power without including his name (realistically without the wide-spread recognition though). I don’t think the situation crosses the line to the point of legal issues that should interfere with his job. Sadly, this is a situation MANY, MANY have been in and the important issue is we discuss ways to prevent it. To teach values and change norms. Yes, I understand the argument on the otherside. Obviously, he is responsible for his actions but even the text dialogue the next day represents some progress right?!?!

    I worry the messages of he said, she said and judging all accounts based on our new awareness and dialogue about this issue are missing the point. I really believe we cannot judge history by current values. Obviously, this does not apply to legal (Weinstein-type) behaviors. We learn, we listen, we support, we create avenues to address problems, but more importantly we talk and we teach. My conversations with my young (2,4) daughters will be very different than messages I heard. Is he guilty of unacceptable behavior? Yes. Are we all guilty of contributing to gender/sexual problems in our culture? Yes. I just don’t similar stories to turn into a question about diminishing #metoo. I want the stories to turn into #nowwhat #askbeforeyouact conversations that contribute to progress, not finger pointing.

    Thanks for reading my long rant, Sara

  91. Liz says...

    It is just as important to talk about these subtle and insidious behaviors, as any Weinstein story or other extremes of sexual violence. This is still a situation where power (age, experience, assertiveness, status) was mishandled. To what level must a situation escalate for us to take feelings of violation seriously, LISTEN to young women’s experiences (and their mistakes), and show people how to both act better and to speak up for themselves. This kind of grey-area exchange happened to me more than once as an early 20 something. I completely identify with Grace feeling weird/disgusted, but conflicted, and failing to be more direct or leave. I don’t feel personally compelled to call these men out, and I know nothing that happened to me was assault in any legal sense, but it feels grimy in the pit of my stomach when I think about the pressure and manipulation. There is built-in personal shame associated with that grimy feeling for NOT doing the obvious and saying “Get the hell off me. I’m leaving”- something I am fully empowered to do in my 30s. This story about Aziz is embarrassing, but he’ll be fine. You can be an otherwise decent person, but do the wrong thing. For better or worse, we can’t assume any actions will remain private these days. I hope he thought about his actions a little more than his statement would suggest to me. I hope this story doesn’t fuel a witch hunt mentality, or get dismissed, but is viewed as an example for everyone to reflect about their responsibility in a situation that should be enjoyable and consensual in an affirmative sense.

    • This is the best and most thoughtful response I have heard so far. You acknowledge that she had agency in the situation and didn’t use it enough and early enough in the situation. You’re correct, it’s a shame more women aren’t empowered to call out this crossing-of-the-line/manipulation/coercion earlier in their lives. They should know how to do it as young girls.

    • Tonia says...

      Yes, yes yes. So spot-on and well-put.

  92. Ale P says...

    I can relate to this story because I experienced something similar, twice in two separate dates. In therapy, what I discovered is that ‘I didn’t leave’ or ‘I didn’t fight back harder’ because I was afraid of the situation getting worse and was optimistic that at some point my repeated No(s) were going to me listened. As they finally did and I walked out. Yes, a bit traumatize and still in therapy. But I also appreciated the moment when a former boyfriend was kissing me and every time before going to next phase he will ask ‘d o you want this? Are you sure?’ and he did not continue until he could here for me ‘yes’. And the time I said ‘no’, he stop as a gentleman.
    I agree that #metoo movement is more about men using their power positions to do all kind of sexual depravations, as we now all know. But #metoo movement has to realize that they opened the door to have a broader debate: men feeling powerful and almighty (regardless of their job position, race, age) to push women to participate in sexual activities, in any type or form. That is the second cultural change, and perhaps the most important we need to advocate for: when we say no is not for them to ask again. It is for them to stop and respect that.

    • mara says...

      this woman used non verbal cues. you on the other hand said “no”. there is a big difference between you and this woman. this woman made it seem like “oh I’m a woman what was I supposed to do” which is completely ridiculous and insulting.

  93. Kate says...

    The is a power dynamic that exists between men and women and I think it’s hard to discuss these issues without being incredibly general about sex, preferences, and gender norms. We are trying to generalize a really specific situation by which a famous person was a bit aggressive (traditionally masculine) and a non-famous person was a bit passive (traditionally feminine) during a sexual encounter. Does this situation occur all the time? YES. But I don’t think it’s fair to say one way or another that this situation is “right” v “wrong”. It’s so nuanced, as is every sexual encounter on the spectrum from consensual to not consensual. I agree with the NY Times writer that this story disempowers women and suggests we have no say in sex. Some women like to get hit on and like getting told what to do in bed and because Grace’s preference (socialized or otherwise) was not, Aziz is now a sexual predator. I wonder who Grace is. What is her background? What is her history like with sex and men and dating? Why wasn’t she able to speak up? Again, we are extrapolating information by assuming it’s because she is socialized to respond passively, but I want to know the specifics of who she is so we can make actual meaning of this encounter and why it meant what it did to her.

  94. Carrie says...

    The mention of not getting to choose the wine…?? To me this article just comes across as a bit… immature. Not sure if that’s the word i’m searching for but i’ll go with it. She had the opportunity to speak in absolutes but from what I can gather from her story, she instead sent him many mixed signals. Women are not weak. We need to stop pretending or thinking or saying we are. In fact I think it’s safe to say that now more than ever we aren’t taking any shit, and we’re speaking (loudly) about the things that matter. We all know how important language is. For the benefit of all, let us use it, and in NO uncertain terms. This is what’s fair, for all parties.

    And on that note, I will say that I personally feel like her essay was unfair. “Mis-readings” occur all the time in sexual encounters. The ONLY way to remedy this is to SPEAK. Non-verbal cues aren’t enough.

    • Megan says...

      I agree. When I read Grace’s account, I was left with this feeling that without her actually verbalizing her wishes, who really knows what he knew or didn’t know, or understand about her feelings? There are so many situations when people read the same situation differently – but not many where it’s so important to be on the same page. I wish she had felt strong enough to clearly say she was not into the sex, get her things, and leave.

    • Liz says...

      I also paused at the comments about wine. I happen to not like white wine, so part of me was thinking “…Ew. I would have said- no, I’m having red.” It is 100%, on the surface, a petty detail. But the more I thought about it I realize that we as readers need to filter through the narrative to understand this immature “evidence” as part of how the author and Grace are processing their legitimate reactions to a chain of events. I can’t write this off as weak or unfair. There is no ideal reaction or controlled situation that we can hold her to, and it cannot be undone. There was shared responsibility in their dynamic. Unfortunately, for various reasons, Grace did not feel empowered to be more verbal, clear, and assertive that night. It doesn’t negate Aziz’s share, or her feelings about it after the fact. She learned something about herself, and about her date, the hard way.

    • I think that’s the problem with the entire article. It’s a reporter’s version of what an unnamed girl told her. So it’s hard to know if “Grace” was really hung up on the wine thing, or if she just mentioned it offhand and the reporter thought it would be good foreshadowing, or what. And of course we also don’t know Ansari’s side…maybe he wasn’t able to get to the store and white was all he had, or maybe he’s allergic to red wine, or maybe it was a special bottle that he wanted to share with her. Without knowing that stuff, it’s hard to gauge anything specific.

    • sarah says...

      White wine goes with seafood. A 22 year old should know that. With that said if you prefer red with seafood that is ok and you should just ask for it. But to accept it and drink it and then sulk about it later as a foreshadowing to what you are calling sexual assault? That is shitty.

  95. Tiffany says...

    I’m devouring Esther Perel’s new book The State of Affairs. This quote seems spot on to me: “The great gifts of contemporary Western culture- democracy, consensus building, egalitarianism, fairness, and mutual tolerance- can, when taken too punctiliously in the bedroom, result in very boring sex.” We want to be progressive and stress the importance of consent but I think it’s important to be honest with ourselves about the fact that for most people, eroticism is NOT politically correct. What I saw in the Aziz encounter was awkward sex that was the result of mismatched erotic imaginations, and both would have been better off if they had recognized their incompatibilities sooner and called it a night.

    • Amy S says...

      This! Thank you- you put this into simple straight-forward terms that I feel summarize the situation so well. Reading multiple articles and many comments about Grace’s story I keep thinking to myself that adding his name was unnecessary. The conversation around these ‘bad sex’ situations that many people find themselves in should certainly be a part of the #metoo movement and the social norms that need to be addressed to make men understand they should seek additional consent and work on learning to read non-verbal cues. And our society needs to empower women to feel they can say no at any time even if they’re naked and the condom is on- it’s never too late to change your mind and the person needs to listen.
      I don’t feel using Aziz Ansari’s name was necessary to continue the #metoo conversation into these murky waters.

    • Ashley says...

      Cannot agree more. Let’s not try to sterilize sex as a way to make sure those too meek to speak up for themselves never get disappointed.

  96. I think of myself at 23 and know I would not have handled the situation with better “grace” than she did. My mom used to tell me, “never go to a man’s apartment unless you’re prepared to stay there”. I thought it was uptight and overly cautious. But it probably saved me from a few awkward situations.

    • I think your mothers advice was sound, sane and realistic. This incident brings up all sorts of reactions and outbursts. My only real feeling is: you wrote about it. He hasn’t but I would very much like to hear both sides. Otherwise I am jumping to conclusions.

    • Heather says...

      I think this was one of the best articles I’ve read responding to the original piece, thank you for sharing!

      I also think Ashley C Ford is so right on: https://www.google.com/amp/mashable.com/2018/01/17/ashley-c-ford-thread-grey-areas-sex.amp

      There is truely an entire spectrum of harm that has come to women during romantic and sexual encounters courtesy of the patriarchy that we all live in.

      I acquiesced to physical contact I did not want when I was younger because I was so conditioned to value male opinions and experiences over my own. I didn’t realize until later exactly why I had, how fully messed up it was, or how deeply entrenched those ideas were, even though I identified as a feminist at the time. I’ve worked to undo that conditioning as best I can and I have sympathy for young women and girls who end up doing things they feel ambivalent about.

      I think some of the articles written in response to this story
      aren’t giving readers enough credit to understand nuance. I think we can distinguish this woman’s bad experience from the sexual harassment and abuse that the Me Too movement is fighting against while also understanding that the power and cultural dynamics between men and women that lead to rape, abuse, and harassment also lead to other bad, harmful encounters for women that also deserve to be discussed and changed.

  97. J.P. says...

    Last night my 5-year-old brought me a book for bedtime reading, a much-beloved, well-reviewed, liberal/non-religious intro-to-sex-and-bodies for ages 4 and up. We read several chapters together and I was struck by how applicable they were to this discussion.

    First, it describes sex as a “special kind of loving” between two adults. I agree wholeheartedly with this description and with the several commenters who have pointed out that when you reduce sex to essentially nothing but a physical act, with nothing “special” about it and certainly no “loving” involved, it is fraught with potential for misunderstanding, hurt, anger, and regret. I wonder why we typically include an aspect of carling/love/relationship when teaching children about sex, but then as a culture seem to discard that aspect for adults, normalizing hook-ups, first-date sex, “no strings attached” sex, etc..

    Second, there is a chapter on okay touches, not-okay touches, and it is crystal clear on boundary setting. No one is allowed to touch your “privates” or any other part of your body if you don’t want them to–full stop. Not someone you know, someone in your family, someone who is older, no one. If it happens, you say “STOP” or “NO” and you leave and tell someone. This is what I was taught as I child, and I carried those boundaries forward into adulthood and relationships with men.

    Again I wonder why we put such emphasis on emphatically, verbally refusing not-okay touches when talking to children, yet I’m hearing in these conversations that Grace shouldn’t have to say “no” because she was giving non-verbal cues. Would it be awesome if he had been more in tune with her? Of course. But how do we expect less boundary-setting and ability to refuse not-okay touches of Grace than we do of a child? I’m not teaching my 5-year-old to have healthy boundaries and to protect those fiercely just while she’s 5–I’m teaching her that with the hope that she will do it for a lifetime.

    • Liz says...

      Can you share the book title?! Thanks!

    • Regina says...

      Please share the name of this book!

    • Whitney Carter says...

      As the mother of a 4 year old daughter, this resonates deeply as I’ve felt very conflicted over this story, and yet, with my own daughter am teaching her to use her voice, her power, to have clear boundaries, etc. Knowing many other children are being taught this makes me feel hopeful that things will be different for the next generation. Can you share the name of the book? I’d love to get it. Thanks!

  98. M says...

    I don’t know that I have anything new to add to the (awesome and thought-provoking conversation). I have been trying to read all the comments so I can figure out where to land on this thing. I feel for Aziz (I would find the embarrassment crushing and don’t know how anyone is expected to pick up and move on after such a public play-by-play of this sexual encounter). But, while handled and written poorly, I feel deeply for Grace and I’m grateful for the opportunity to reassess my views and to try to instill greater compassion and emotional intelligence in my sons and a stronger sense of self-worth in my daughter.

    I have been Grace before, but to a lesser degree because I was taught to avoid putting myself in potentially unsafe situations (alone, with a near-stranger, at his home). I DO NOT think that Grace’s being at Aziz’s place entitled him to sex – or to ANYTHING – from her. But it would be naïve to say the expectation of sex of some sort isn’t there when you “go home with someone” (that’s why “going home with someone” isn’t code for having a tea or playing scrabble). While I think being smart about your own choices is important, I realize that even this thinking is problematic because it implies that women must necessarily consider their safety in all situations. I think Grace made foolish decisions exacerbated by a culture in which men are trained to chase what they want – especially sex – doggedly. Even in movies with a strong female character like in “It’s Complicated”, Alec Baldwin says to Meryl Streep, “Do you always have to say “no” before you say “yes”? I won’t think any less of you, you know.” This line has never seemed problematic to me, but now it does! We’ve been taught – both overtly and subtly – for so long that we should make men pursue us. But why?! Doesn’t that necessarily put men in the role of aggressor?

    Reading about Grace’s experience reminded me of the few times I’d been lunged at and kissed forcefully and sloppily and pursued aggressively. I felt uncomfortable with their actions, but I genuinely liked the guys. They were funny/likable/charming otherwise and I cared for them and hoped to be romantic with them – in time and in a way that made me comfortable. At the time, being young and besotted, I felt that’s just how kissing/dating/sexual encounters must be: uncomfortable and unenjoyable for me, but necessary to get affection from the guy I liked. To blame Grace for not speaking up more strongly is to ignore a whole lot of problematic issues at play. I’d like to think I’d have left Ansari’s place, but looking back on my past experiences, I can’t be too sure. And that’s without adding the complicated layers of celebrity or alcohol.

    My memories are being reframed and I can now see what I should have said to the few boys/men who showed me disrespect. I imagine this is what Grace is experiencing, too, on a much greater scale.

  99. Michelle says...

    I stopped reading the piece after it was obvious she wasn’t coerced and had chosen not to use her own agency to stop the encounter.

    What bothers me most about this is that she named the other person (and note that she didn’t use her own name). It makes me wonder: did she let it go on because he is a celebrity and she knew it would make a good story? How would we react if a man publicly complained about how a famous woman performed in a similar encounter?

    I’m not defending what he did; like many women I’ve had a similar experience, including the emotional aftermath. If the piece had been a blind item it might have added something valuable to the discourse. But the “name and shame” aspect is just sleezy.

  100. Cindy D. says...

    I just read this. I think ultimately it falls on her. He clearly misinterpreted her feelings and she did an awful job of sending clear signals. I understand for a moment how she felt violated, but then I read that she goes back to kissing him and giving him blow jobs. Sorry, but that clearly sends a message that you’re game for sex. If you were uncomfortable, then stop sucking his dick and hanging around. I really can’t understand that. If you didn’t like that he was kissing you or having oral sex and asking for it, then don’t participate.

    • Lillian Chang says...

      I was going back and forth too, but what you pointed out is the part that really made me scratch my head too – she actually gave him oral sex, that’s an obvious act of participation. That makes me feel like it ultimately does fall on her too.

      I’m not saying it’s right, but unfortunately, we do live in a society where men are taught that women’s “no”s are soft no’s. Maybe because sometimes women can send mixed signals and men think women are playing hard to get?

      If anything, this story makes me feel even firmer that we as a society need to start teaching women to be their biggest advocates and feel firm in saying NO. I’m not saying I’m better, by any means – I am a very “nice” girl who always accommodates. But in these critical situations, it’s so important to throw out the “niceness” and stand up for yourself! You’re the only one who can stand up for yourself.

      And also, again not right, but we have to understand the risks of the situations we put ourselves in. I’m not saying it’s right that these risks exist (I wish all women could feel safe in this world and feel able to dominate in it the same way men feel), but I think we have to understand the way the world works for now. We want to make change, and we are taking strides, but there are still risks out there that we need to be conscious of.

    • MK says...

      Consent can be taken away at any point in a sexual encounter.

  101. Sarah says...

    I’m a long-time reader of your blog and an active member of the CupofJo community that happens in the comments section. You could say that I’m a big fan and love the balance of serious subjects, design, humor, etc. However, I think you are doing your readers a bit of a disservice with articles like this. When you post about sensitive or controversial topics you seem to hold back. In this case, you have clearly given a lot of thought to the Ansari story, and you said you spent the better part of the weekend texting about it, but the above article gives very little insight into what exactly those thoughts are. You are a good writer, a great business women, and someone that thousands of women follow closely. Your blog gives us all sorts of insight into your relationships, kids, house, travel, etc. Clearly people are interested in you. I understand that you don’t want to offend or alienate anyone but this blog is your voice and people follow it because of you. Give us your opinion, loud and clear without apology. We are at a point in history where change is going to be led by women, with words, in a different way than we’ve seen before. You can be a big part of that. People will still like you.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you so much for your note, Sarah. I’m typically VERY happy to state my thoughts and viewpoints — my enthusiastic support for Hilary Clinton in the 2016 election, my support for LGBTQAI rights (which still, in this day and age, gets lots of kickback), my stance as pro-choice, my parenting philosophies, etc etc. In this particular case, I found it trickier. As I mentioned in a comment last night, I had strong thoughts when I first read the piece, and now they’re slightly changing. I’ve realized from many past life experiences that when it comes to complicated, nuanced issues, I like to read and hear and listen and try hard to understand different viewpoints before choosing a position, since my take on something can sometimes change/grow/develop. I didn’t want to come out guns blazing in this post just to have an editorial point of view, when I’m still learning and processing. Hope that makes sense. xoxo

    • Carrie says...

      I agree, I would love to know how she really feels, but then she also may not know precisely. I know for myself, I can’t help but try to see both sides of every situation making it hard for me to ever form a STRONG, clear opinion. It’s annoying :) Something I’m working on….because I think if I dig a bit deeper, I do have a strong opinion!

      But I’m not sure
      lol

    • Lindsey says...

      Hi Sarah,

      There is, and hopefully always will be, a place in this world for moderate opinions.

      In this age it seems like if you’re not outraged and screaming you won’t get heard. That is no way to communicate, listen, think things through. We don’t need to be polarized on every topic the minute we hear about it, I feel.

      I think the reason Jo is taking a moderate view on this topic, and seeing both sides really, is because she is a deep thinker and more importantly a wide reader (which you may be, too). I believe that wide readers know that characters have a truths we need to explore, empathize with, examine thoughtfully, and not always judge out of the gates often based on our own experiences and lens. And both of these stances, “pro” Aziz or Grace, have powerful arguments and long-standing lenses.

      I think Jo points out another topic with force, which is, how do we change the norms for our children? Because that is something we can all agree needs to change.

    • Cheryl says...

      I don’t think this account should be lumped in with the same feminist rhetoric surrounding the #metoo movement. This woman is young and clearly hasn’t defined her own boundaries. Maybe she hadn’t had enough experience with casual sex to say I don’t like where this night is going and so I should remove myself. That’s totally normal, unfortunately, I think that’s why there’s so many women that have had this experience. Inexperienced people tend to be more passive. People who don’t know what they want are easily led into uncomfortable situations. She didn’t like his vibe, understandable. So hopefully she learned late at night after a date, when the sex gets weird, you can’t just hang out naked. Sex just looks different from one person to another, you’re lucky if you get movie scene sex where everyone is wordlessly perfect.
      I’m not sure what was going on but to me it screams of a younger, inexperienced, passive woman who wanted to please a famous actor she admired. The next morning she felt differently but the blame lies in her own out of touch reactions to sex that she felt was a turn off.

    • Sarah says...

      Thanks for the response Jo. I guess the reason I felt that you were maybe holding back is because you have really put it out there with all the examples you noted. This story, and broader issue, is incredibly complicated and I completely understand not being clear on what your stance is. I feel that way too. I may have interpreted that as holding back when that wasn’t the case. Either way, my point still holds- please don’t ever be afraid to use your voice. There are clearly a lot of engaged and intelligent women that are listening.

  102. Kenda says...

    Like many, I feel that Grace’s story is relatable on so many levels. And that gives me so much pause. Pause for myself, the teens I work with, the daughter I am raising. And it feels empowering to embrace that this is my story too, and in doing so being able to start a pattern of change. So I am doing what I can, I am teaching texts that make my students think about gender norms, expectations, consent, politics and who they are becoming. It gives me the strength and practice to then teach my daughter to stand up for herself. The nuances of politeness vs empowerment are a tough chore for a 4 yr old but this is her life. I want to give her more than I had. So she can say no and not deal with the aftermath of feeling shame or guilt. A new norm in the making.

  103. One of my friends mentioned the ugly truth: miscommunication and awkwardness about intimacy HAPPENS IN MARRIAGE, TOO. What I think she meant, and what I agree with, is that communication is hard no matter how well you know each other — is a grimace some gas, or is it being “not that into it”? Non-verbal cues, even from the best of friends, can be misconstrued. Saying things out loud is difficult, moving your body is awkward and sometimes feels final, but that’s what’s required for people to understand one another!

    • This is really well put and made me think about it in a different way. Well said!

    • A.K. says...

      YES. These issues don’t disappear when you’re married. Sometimes you aren’t that into sex, even though you love your partner and are attracted to him. Maybe you’re breastfeeding (hello, low libido), maybe you’re tired, maybe you’re just stressed and distracted. In a marriage, if you declined sex every time you didn’t quite feel 100% enthusiastic (YES! I am so turned on!! Please continue to kiss me and yes I want to have sex with you!) you would miss many opportunities to reconnect with your partner. Your partner may also have a higher sex drive and feel like he’s missing out on a essential piece of the thing that makes a marriage a marriage— sex.
      So yes, sometimes you have sex even when you are so-so about it, and that’s ok. AS LONG AS ITS YOUR CHOICE. We need to own our choices. This is not a Weinstein situation. This is a mismatched sexual desire situation where both parties consensually took part. And yes. It felt icky afterward. Learn from that. Make a different choice next time.

    • JB says...

      So well said A.K.! There is a choice even in so-so sex and lots of different reasons for non-verbally consenting even if not totally into it.

  104. Nina says...

    I think it is so important that we as a society stand up against sexual harrasment, especially in an industry where it seems to be the norm. But the #metoo movement, like everything that is “popular” brings up stories and acusations that do not really reflect the intention of said movement. Being in an awkward situation, especially if it involves sexual behavior makes us feel vulnerable and maybe even violated. But there is a line between being pressured and being assaulted; yet every situation feels different to every person. I guess there are no easy answers to this. I personally think that there are times when you have to take responsibility for yourself – and that means stepping back from certain situations to maintain your well being. And it bothers me a bit that no one seems to talk about all the well paid women ( and men) that knew about the behavior of some of these predators, yet said nothing until some far less fortunate (and less rich) women stepped forward. Now we applaud all these people who back those stories? Where were they millions ago, when they already had the chance to get this out in the open? As i said, i support #metoo, and it is time to change, but honestly, I see no heroes in the Hollywood A list. And now everyone that has ever gone on a bad date seems to contribute to this. To me that takes away from all those who have been violated in a way that made it almost or entirely impossible to leave the situation. And while I understand that sometimes, we go on and realize later on that it was wrong, that means we failed ourself too. I’m not saying whe shouldn’t call these people out, but we might as well be honest to ourselves and ask : why didn’t I leave? Why didn’t I say then and there that I feel violated? Was i afraid of actual harm, or did it just go against my manners? Because often we feel like taking responsibility in these situations would come off as rude, I certainly did. And in these moments I failed myself just as much as the person in front of me. He misread, but I let him. If we could raise our kids into adults who know, that taking care of yourself can never be rude if we are respectful to one another, #metoo should be obsolete in the future.

  105. Kayleigh says...

    She said nonverbal clues. What does that even mean? She needed to speak with her voice to either a) make him stop or b) make him do what she actually wanted.

    • Katie says...

      Or maybe HE needed speak up and tell HER what he wanted. THIS is where the problem lies. Why are we considering his actions to be consented until proven otherwise? Thank you for shining a light on this very apparent double standard.

  106. Lauren says...

    The first time my boyfriend and I hooked up, he reached down unbuttoned my pants, stopped, looked at me and asked if I was ok if he took them off and if I felt comfortable. I laughed and said of course. I was 27 at the time and it was the first time in my life any guy had actually verbally asked for my consent. I thought it was goofy at the then. Until now when all these stories are coming out and I think back to eerily similar situations I found myself in in my early twenties. It can be such a confusing scenario for both men and women in the moment. I always chose to be disappointed in myself for my own actions, but that was just me.

  107. Anne says...

    Ooof, I haven’t sifted through the comments, but just wanted to say:

    Yes, men have been taught to be persistent to get sex, and need to learn no means no.

    Yes, women have been taught to be polite/comply to be liked, but also to feel safe, and need to learn to speak up, even if it means hurting someone’s feelings.

    I feel like they’re equally to blame for what sounds like an unsatisfactory evening for both of them. I’ve been surprised to hear how many women have had something like this happen to them. I’ve certainly gone on dates and the man try to move things very quickly – many similar to what she described – and if I felt like having sex, I did. Most times, I did not want to
    have sex, so I said no. And if he pushed it further, I left (even with all the “come on, you know you want to..” and blue ball bullshit). The end.

    • Anne says...

      *and by “to feel safe,” i mean going along with something you don’t want to rather than “having something worse happen” back when women had zero rights.

  108. Lindsey says...

    Thank you for posting and stimulating wonderful and much needed conversation around consent. We can do better. We have to. Two things that stood out to me were the ten year age gap and his celebrity. Both create a power imbalance. Should Aziz be allowed to hook up with younger women? Yes! Absolutely. But he is famous. There is undeniable power in that. And with such power comes the responsibility to keep checking in to see whether someone actually wants to hook up/keep hooking upwith you. Let me be clear, enthusiasitc consent should be the basic requirement for all sexual encounters. But if you’re a decade older and legit famous? Then it’s *your* responsibility to make sure the encounter is consensual and he or she is excited about it.

    • Ellen says...

      I see where you are coming from, but since they were not (to my knowledge) professionally associated, the power Ansari holds existed only if Grace was seeking to leverage it somehow. In my view two independent adults made regrettable choices over the course of the evening. We as women should honor our own value, strength and agency, regardless of the age or income of whomever we go out the dinner with.
      My understanding of the #MeToo conversation is that it’s about powerful people, men primarily, taking advantage of their ability to threaten the livelihood, and safety of women, for their own sexual gratification.
      There are many occasions between people on equal footing, when one person wants something from the other and the other does not want to give it. The person who wants the other to do something may continue to push. That does not automatically mean the person who wants something is a predator, but they are certainly pushy, which isn’t fun, but also isn’t threatening. As others have said in the comments, I wish that Grace had had a stronger sense of her own power and her equal standing as a person. There is an important distinction between unsafe and uncomfortable. We are failing our daughters if we conflate “nice” with compliant and failing our sons if we do the same. I loved Jo’s story of checking herself when her niece outran Toby and Jo’s first instinct was to ask the niece to be “nice”. Nope. While I’m so sorry for the pain both individuals are no doubt suffering as this story swirls on all of our screens, I am glad the Grace is opening up this conversation. We have lots of thinking, working and growing to do.

  109. Sara says...

    I’ve been thinking a lot about something Dave Chappelle said in his recent stand up special on Netflix. He said that women will need men who are allies in this fight, and those allies wont be perfect. He brought up the example of Ben Affleck grabbing a girl’s breast on TV in the 90’s. These actions are wrong and part of a bigger, toxic problem, but is every single guy bad if he’s does something sexually subconscious that he’s been taught to do or has worked for him in the past? How many of our own husbands were guilty of this behavior in college? We don’t want to know and it sucks to even think about. Part of me doesn’t care, part of me wants fear deeply instilled in every single man, I want names, I want them all thrown under the bus. But Aziz seems like a good guy, I want to have faith that these men will do more, more to teach other men about what behaviors are wrong. Aziz has a choice to really lean into this and open a dialogue about dating, part of which he already started in Master of None.

    • Ellie says...

      I haven’t read enough to feel like I know enough to form an opinion, but I’ve been struggling with how I feel and how I “should” feel.

      I think this is REALLY well said and is a lot of food for thought. Thanks for sharing!

    • Syd says...

      Yes to this. These were my thoughts exactly. I think that there is a real opportunity here for Aziz. I would love to see a Master of None episode cover both sides of this story.

    • This is really a good point. Thank you.

  110. Nadia says...

    This story. I’m not sure if I’m able to explain my thoughts quite clearly. It’s becoming more obvious right now that women need to be more selfish in a healthy way. We’re not born to please anybody but I think we kind of grown up to behave so, more or less. To be a victim of someone powerful and it’s obvious too that we have less power from the moment we born. That has to be changed. So the first step in understanding this is trying to accept no authority for us.

  111. Thanks Joanna! This is such a thoughtful piece that presents both sides. I feel tugged in both directions. Last month, Allison Benedikt wrote a terrific essay on Slate about #meetoo. It perfectly articulated many of my feelings on the issue. This part especially resonated with me:

    “Women should have power—the power to move about the world without fearing for our safety, but also the power to not be threatened by an unwanted but unmalicious move, the power to say no to a man’s advances without being that man’s victim.”

    Anyway, it’s a great think piece if you’d like to read! http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2017/12/where_is_the_line_between_office_flirtation_and_sexual_harassment.html

  112. Kaitlyn says...

    Tiffany Wright wrote an article in The Guardian and I think it summarizes a middle ground between the two camps beautifully.

    “People are rarely “good” or “bad.” Similarly, men are not so easily separated into categories of “allies” and “abusers.” Most of them are capable of misreading cues and overstepping boundaries and writing them off as irredeemable while writing women off as helpless is regressive.

    Proper language and communication are critical not only in these discussions, but in the heat of the moment. While there are many clear-cut cases of men deliberately disregarding women’s boundaries, there are others where neither person clearly expresses what’s going on in their head, and both are left trying to fill in the blanks. […]

    As the subject matter continues to broaden, more than ever we need precise yet nuanced language in order to talk about different kinds of unacceptable behavior. I realize I am guilty of occasional oversimplification like anyone else. Had I known my Twitter thread would get so much attention, I would have been more delicate about the words I selected. Calling Grace’s story an “awkward experience” with an “aggressively horny asshole” may be just as reductive as calling it an assault, a realization I came to after listening to the voices of other women who processed my thoughts and shared their own.”

    Here’s a link for people interested in the whole article: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/17/assault-is-not-a-feeling-the-aziz-ansari-story-shows-why-language-matters

  113. tricia says...

    Thank you for writing about this, Joanna!

  114. Garconlesnoot says...

    Why is this considered a “Me too”story? Babe.net has several stories about women who were assaulted or pressured/coerced into situations they did not want. Those stories are not considered me too stories. Me too is a movement that discuss sexual harassment/assault/discrimination through systemic power imbalances in what should be nonsexual settings (work, school, athletics, landlords).

    The outcry that this story has gotten is just another way to quiet women. Don’t complain about anything because you complain about everything.

    In reality, this is a common tactic to shut down dissent – reframe the arguement to include similar (but different) issues, then dismiss the whole discussion as not worth having.

    And too say this story dilutes the me too movement is like saying reports of death by stabbing undermines reporting of serial killers.

    • Allison says...

      Very well said, thank you.

    • Cara says...

      This comment is so insightful! Her experience is a separate problem, but it is still important to tell because it’s an extremely common problem. Just because there’s more than 1 problem in the way men treat women, doesn’t mean we should ignore the less extreme but more common ones. Thank you for putting it in perspective!

  115. This topic is important–thanks , Joanna, for your thoughtful coverage. My opinion is that sex is a messy and confusing process when you don’t know someone very well and have been drinking. Different levels of aggression turn people on or off; sexual compatibility is a delicate balance. When you’re engaging in a sexual encounter with a near-stranger after drinking alcohol, there’s plenty of room for critical messages to get lost in translation. Should Aziz have checked in with her regularly to see how she was feeling and get repeated verbal consent? Absolutely. Should she have left if she was “having the worst night of her life”? Yes. But there was obviously a major breakdown in communication and understanding. Aziz clearly didn’t pick up on her cues (which is definitely his fault, as well), but he texted her the next day thinking they had a nice time. He didn’t get it. And when she told him how he made her feel, he seemed genuinely surprised and upset and gave a sincere apology. It sounds like her reaction caused some needed personal reflection within him, and hopefully he learned a lesson from the experience. I’m sorry Grace had such an uncomfortable and disrespectful sexual encounter, but I don’t think Aziz intended to hurt her, and I don’t think he deserves to lose his career over this. This story is about the gap in understanding how to genuinely give and receive consent. It’s about the culture that socializes men to believe they should be sexually aggressive. It’s about women not being taught how to properly assert and stand up for themselves without worrying about “being nice.” This story is not about a monstrous predator. And it’s not about a man using his power to control a woman’s professional opportunities. I’m not saying the story shouldn’t have been publishing–many women saw themselves (especially their younger selves) in Grace’s account. It shouldn’t have been published with the intent of adding Aziz’s name to the long list of predatory criminals currently working in show business.

    • Liz says...

      I agree! Well said!

  116. Katrina says...

    I was really disappointed by the story about Aziz, but also disappointed in myself for the difficulty I’m having simply because I’ve been such a fan of his. When I already dislike the person or find them unattractive, I find it so much easier to believe ugly accusations. When a celebrity I like is accused of something, my immediate reflex is to defend them.

  117. It’s funny, I discussed this with my close female friend and we both felt very unsure of how to process everything. I very much align with Jessica Valenti but I was still questioning why “Grace” didn’t just leave. But after discussing it with my SO (male), I realized that I needed to work on myself as a feminist. Can I just say I love my SO! We don’t agree on everything but it’s nice to feel supported by him especially on feminist issues.

    Anyway, Ansari was being a creep and “Grace” was being nicer than I ever would (probably because I’ve experienced this kind of BS behavior and am jaded). My SO made it clear to me that “Grace” shouldn’t have had to leave, she clearly said no, Ansari said he’d stop, and then he didn’t, he was not respecting her, and she gave him a few more chances to change his behavior but he failed to, then she did leave. She was not in the wrong. He was. Could she have left earlier and experienced less of the BS? Yes. But if she did that people would never know he was a creep and we wouldn’t have this conversation. People would just say that she read into the situation wrong, etc, blah blah blah. But she didn’t, she gave him a chance to get his act together and he failed to which just clearly highlighted he was a creep.

  118. Just some random thoughts:

    – I think it’s easy to say “she should have said stop” or “she should have said what she wanted,” but I think saying no and talking about sex are both things that women in our culture are conditioned never to do. So maybe it’s not as easy as that.

    – I think that the context of two people who both understood they were on a date is very different from the context of people who thought they were engaging in business transactions. Hoping for sex as part of a business transaction is inherently problematic and wrong. Hoping for sex as part of a date is, in my opinion, not abnormal or unexpected.

    – Even though it wasn’t in the context of business, there is a power imbalance between the two people since Ansari is famous. Perhaps she would have felt more comfortable just saying no if he were not famous. But are we saying that sex between famous and non-famous people is inherently nonconsensual? That seems over the top.

    – I wonder what the fallout will be for Ansari. Will Netflix cut ties with him like they did with Kevin Spacey? How long will it be before he’s able to get new work again? I also wonder what the personal fallout is like for him. There’s an article out there with his address in it and with disparaging details about his sexual moves. That’s pretty embarrassing.

    – It seems like either another shoe will drop or it won’t. If additional women come out with similar stories, it could point to a problematic pattern of behavior.

    – I worry that people who think date rape isn’t real or is a case of he said/she said will read this story and have those misconceptions confirmed.

    • MK says...

      Your last point is shredding the innards of my soul. This whole movement is wonderful for women, but also exhausting in terms of having past trauma brought up again, and seeing something you had shrugged off in a new, more horrifying way.
      I’m really, really worried about what the backlash on this will do for the metoo movement.

  119. britta says...

    I honestly couldn’t believe that the article was even published. If she thought him too aggressive, she should have removed herself from the situation – simple as that. If he didn’t let her LEAVE or for forced her to STAY, there would be an issue. But he went as far as APOLOGIZING for his actions, saying he was reading her wrong. Honestly, my heart goes out to the guy.

    As someone who read “Cat People” and thought it be an incredibly REAL situation, in comparison, and as a journalist, the story surround Ansari makes me cringe, and I don’t think I’ll ever see how this is supposed to be apart of the #metoo movement or even women’s rights.

    • Rose says...

      I kind of feel like if you’re agreeing to go up to the person’s apartment after a date it’s sort of sending a sign that you’re up for doing things. And if Grace was already noticing “non-verbal signs” that Aziz was trying to get out of there and back to his place, she should have seen this coming that sexual things were going to happen. But yes, she could have initially wanted that and then changed her mind. But if she has changed her mind then she needs to leave because she has already sent him signs that she wanted it. And yes, in a perfect world he should completely stop without her having to leave, but then if she is no longer interested and she clearly communicates this and he DOES stop (which is what she thought was going to happen), why is she still at his apartment anyway?? And he didn’t stop her from leaving- he called her an uber for her! I just think communication is the key missing factor in this situation, from both parties, and maybe that’s what we need to work on in this case. I love the Margaret Atwood quote in the NYTimes article- “nor do I believe that women are children…”

      Also white wine pairs better with oysters anyway so it’s a safe assumption for him to order white wine.

    • Ryal says...

      “They continued kissing throughout and went down on each other, but she felt her non-verbal cues were being ignored. ”

      Why didn’t she just stop kissing him? She just wants her 15 minutes of fame.

  120. Tonia says...

    So many women have stories like Grace’s. So, so many. And the negative reaction to this article is exactly why so few of us have ever breathed a word about it. Which of course allows our culture of male sexual entitlement to continue full steam ahead.

  121. Dorie says...

    I have three young sons. How can I teach them, “just be a fucking gentleman – if you, in your heart, can tell she’s not into it, don’t do it. Anything less (waiting for a no or even a yes) isn’t sex, it’s being a dick.”

    • El says...

      I also found this instructive for teaching about consent in a real life (and therefore blurry/messy) situation. Aziz was deeply inappropriate and reflected some of our horrifying ideas about testing boundaries– a great way to teach boys and girls that this is not okay, and as you beautifully put it, it’s not sex.

  122. Karen says...

    i just want to echo a link someone gave previously to a blog post by Jameela Jamila in the UK. I had never heard of her but thought it was such an articulate response of the issues and complexity, I encourage everyone to look it up. FYI, I am 100% a feminist in support of women speaking out against crimes and harassment and in support of the movement in every way yet this one does seem to be a detailed account of bad choices in someone’s private dating life – the key word being choice. Unequal pay, workplace harassment and violence towards women is not a choice. They are wrong on every level. Leaving a date where the person is aggressive or just a jerk versus choosing to stay and participate is a choice. Dissecting it in a badly written expose is a choice. I get that he was a jerk and that there is entitlement issue worthy of thinking about it. But learning to say no to others -famous or not- is a big part of becoming an empowered person – having that choice is very different than other metoo situations in which the victim doesn’t get to choose.

    • This is a really great point. Choice is a very important (and overlooked) element; to downplay it is to take women’s voices away and leave them like puppets.

  123. Grace says...

    This story perpetuates the idea that men and their orgasm are more important than women. This is what history has taught us and what people are trying to prove wrong now. Do I think Aziz should be compared to the likes of Harvey or Kevin…..no. But this should be opening up a dialogue of change and how to make sure a woman’s voice is heard…everywhere. The bedroom, the government, the classroom, the workplace, the street. If we dismiss this as a bad one night stand or just simply bad sex, we are furthering the idea that a woman does not deserve to be heard

    • Tonia says...

      Totally agree.

    • Emily says...

      Yes.

    • Jordan says...

      THIS! YES

    • Tricia says...

      Yes! Completely this

    • Lou says...

      This hits the nail right on the head.

    • Anna Louise says...

      She had a chance to be heard, that night before any of this happened. Aziz was obviously way too aggressive with her but she wasn’t threatened or assaulted or anything else that would hinder her ability to use her words and tell him she wasn’t feeling it.

  124. Callie says...

    Not too long ago, I was visiting my 3 year old daughter’s classroom when another kid pushed her off her chair and took it. She started to cry. In an effort to be polite and obliging, I said ‘It’s ok, let’s pull up another chair.’ Meanwhile, her teacher came over and said ‘Ellie, you tell him NO THANK YOU. I DON’T LIKE THAT. And take your chair back’. I was floored. I had done my child a serious disservice in an attempt to be polite to some kid I didn’t even know. A boy. And I had squashed my kid’s ability to stand up for herself while I was doing it. I think Grace’s article should have never been published and I agree that it takes away from the very important #metoo campaign. But I do agree that we need to teach our girls (and boys) that women don’t have to be polite, accommodating, and agreeable. This is paramount to girls being able to handle themselves as adults, to make adult decisions, and to do the very important and very real job of standing up for yourself when a difficult situation arises–whether it be sexual, professional, or otherwise.
    Loved and found this quote, in particular, so powerful from the NYT piece you linked to. “My fundamental position is that women are human beings,” she writes. “Nor do I believe that women are children, incapable of agency or of making moral decisions. If they were, we’re back to the 19th century, and women should not own property, have credit cards, have access to higher education, control their own reproduction or vote. There are powerful groups in North America pushing this agenda, but they are not usually considered feminists.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Really love this, Callie. I had the same eye-opening experience years ago when we were visiting cousins in England. Toby and his female cousin are the same age, and they had a race on the beach. She won the race and he started crying. My first instinct was to tell her to go give him a hug and make him feel better. And suddenly I was like WHAT AM I DOING! So I said, “You’re a very fast runner!” and then I went to talk to Toby myself. It’s not her job to make a guy feel better if she beats him in something, or to feel at all bad about that dynamic. It’s HIS job to be a better player and congratulate her.

    • LGHelly says...

      Wow. This is such an awesome share. It really opened my eyes to how deep the socialization of these gender issues goes and will make me think about how I talk to my young son in future interactions . What seems to start as harmless intent of not wanting boys to feel badly can be so hugely internalized by girls as it’s their job to be, polite, agreeable, accommodating. Thank you for posting this.

    • Lauren E. says...

      What a great point. My takeaway from the Ansari story was similar: his behavior was unacceptable but it’s a reminder to teach our boys about respect and consent, and to teach our girls about standing up for themselves.

    • sasha says...

      Callie and Joanna, thank you for sharing those stories. As a preschool care provider I am constantly trying to think about these issues and make sure I am teaching and modeling in a way that helps boys learn respect, consent and empathy, and helps girls learn agency and confidence. Even at age three there are huge difference already, with girls being encouraged to be nice, at all costs, and boys competitive and aggressive. We have to do so much better with children if it’s ever going to get better.

    • Anya says...

      Thank you for posting this too.. it makes me really think about my own actions and how I’ve learned to be polite, accommodating, and agreeable at the cost of my own dreams and wants.. and how that’s affected me and my relationships/work/life.

    • Quinn says...

      This! Such an important point. I completely agree and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as far as what I’m teaching my own two young children (a girl and a boy).

    • leah says...

      Callie – thank you so much for sharing this anecdote. It resonated with me strongly. I have a baby girl and am always thinking about how I will help her to be strong and confident. I am filing this away for future use.

    • Callie and Joanna, You make great points in your stories. Girls need to learn to stand up for their rights and boys need to learn to respect and support girls’ rights. Most of us were raised with different expectations of behavior and it has done us a disservice. Hopefully we can correct that going forward. I love that the teacher told the young girl to defend herself and take back her chair. I also love that the girl who won the race was congratulated for her win. Positive examples were set for all of the children.

    • Callie says...

      Joanna, I love that you got there on your own!!! I have to admit, I felt bashful that I needed Ellie’s teacher to correct me on something that should have been so obvious…but mostly I was relieved she was there to call it out. I think about the interaction almost every day and have looked to it to guide how I parent ever since. Thank you for the reply, and for raising such conscientious boys.

    • Kile says...

      I remember something similar to this in the CoJ Motherhood around the world about Germany and the mother being told she needed to encourage her son to take back toys that are swiped from him. His teacher saw this as a life skill, as self-reliance—very different from how we socialize children in the US to share and yield to others, often strangers. But this mother has a son. Is it still a good lesson? Should we encourage our sons to also take back their toys and their chairs? I have girls and the whole experience of raising them has been about building their confidence, celebrating their loudness, letting them be heard, fighting my own desire for them to be polite all the time (whatever that means) and am expecting a boy this summer. I feel like the very heart of my parenting is being all shook up. All children are different, of course. Even with my girls, one needs her confidence boosted in a much different way. But when it seems that confidence in men is a part of the problem, that taking, grabbbing what they want is part of the problem, what do I do when someone takes my son’s chair? I guess saying “No thank you. I don’t like that.” Works for everyone. But what about when what you don’t like isn’t about chairs or toys, but sexual rejection? How do we raise decent boys? How do we make them self confident without feeding the beast? How do we make them polite without repeating the mistakes our mothers made with us (and their mothers with them.)

    • Laura says...

      Now that I’m a mom, I read Grace’s post from the position of a former woman-who-dated and felt one way, and also read for the POV of the mother of a son. Like both of you, I’ve had experiences where when I slowed down I realized I was totally by accident about to maybe reinforce some gender norm I didn’t mean to. Similarly, I’m hoping that thinking through this moment as the mother of a son will help me raise a boy who doesn’t view sex as something he should take as much of as the girl is willing (or reluctant) to give. Since when is it okay to assume that ALL men want to have sex the first night? It might be society’s current perception but I’m betting that some guys want to take it slow. In fact, my own husband and I took it slow and (like some other commenter on here) I found it so weird and goofy, and I wondered frequently whether or not he actually liked me. What a crazy thing! Why wasn’t I open to the idea that maybe he wanted to be careful about shaping his sexual history? Why didn’t I value, as I do now, how reverent he was of the act that eventually made our kids? I feel hopeful that our generation of women–the women who will become role models and mothers–are willing to grapple with the nuances, questions, and discomfort of thinking through these issues. Thank you!

    • I, too, LOVED that quote from Margaret Atwood.

    • A.K. says...

      I struggle with the false dichotomy of “being polite” vs “standing up for yourself”. YOU CAN DO BOTH. We can teach our kids to do both. Regardless of gender. You can say “no thank you! I didn’t like that. I’m going to take the chair back. Would you like a turn when I’m done?” In a KIND way.
      You can also say (although much more awkward) “No thank you. I don’t want you to do that to me (sexually). I am enjoying kissing you but don’t want to do anything else. If you feel differently we should stop altogether.”

      I have a 3 year old girl as well and at her age I find the preschool teachers are appropriately teaching them all to behave in the same kind, but stand up for themselves , manner. Why is it ok to pigeonhole boys as the aggressors just because they are male? This gets especially complicated with gender identity issues. In all of these articles we are saying “I’m labeling you as a boy and teaching you this… I’m labeling you as a gIrl and teaching you something different.” Isn’t this fundamentally wrong?????

      What if Toby had won the race? And the little girl cried? Would it have been the worst thing in the world for the winner to OFFER the loser a hug (which could have been declined) and say something kind like “thanks for racing with me. I’m sorry you feel sad. Would you like to build a sandcastle with me?” And it IS her job to be a kind competitor. It’s important for everyone to learn to be kind AND stand up for themselves. We can have both.

    • Clare says...

      Well said!

  125. Emily says...

    I’m on #TeamAshleighBanfield
    Also to note: I know this girl is young, inexperienced, and probably had her head in the clouds about the fact that she was going to a celebrities home (is it really different than a girl getting the chance to hang with the most popular good-looking boy in school?) BUT when a guy starts getting that sexual with you on a first date, he only wants one thing. Some girls don’t mind, and want the whole one night stand. This girl clearly did not, and I wish she understood it was time for her to leave. I’m so sad that Aziz treated her this way, but I am even sadder that this girl didn’t have the self esteem or good sense to know to get out. And I am sad that she is comparing her story to what the women of the #MeToo movement have endured. This is a teaching moment for us all, especially if we are parents!

    • Andrea says...

      She’s 22. She’s not a “girl.”

    • Anne says...

      Love this, Emily!

  126. Kate says...

    Hi, Joanna, thank you so much for bringing this up. It’s been on my mind, as well, and is confusing to me and to other women I know. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and presentation of both “sides,” which spurred me to think about it even further. I’m sorry that there are sides at all but am grateful for you and Cup of Jofor addressing something tough and complicated and creating this space for all of us to talk about it.

  127. Jessica says...

    Thanks for such an open look at this. I do think it’s really important we have a space where we can discuss the fact that in our current climate, as we’re redefining what real consent looks like, or reclaiming a better definition, a lot of us are unsure. I think it’s an important reminder that we need to reexamine things that might seem “normal” by our previous standards. I’ve felt frustrated that people on both sides of this story haven’t seemed to show a lot of understanding for that confusion, and I love that you did that here.

    My big takeaways from the story are these– I do think it was poorly written and not well-handled. Including lines about how he didn’t offer multiple types of wine trivializes the actual consent issues at play here. I don’t think Aziz’s actions are illegal, or particularly surprising, given how men are socialized. And actually the same for Grace. But that’s a problem.

    Men are not being taught to think more critically about consent and pressure, and women are socialized to be nice and submissive. THAT’S something that needs a lot of change. I want to live in a world where all women feel comfortable speaking up about their desires and lack thereof.

    • Ellen says...

      Yes!

  128. J. says...

    I have sympathy for Grace, having been 22 before and having grown and learned throughout my 20s about my own boundaries and standards for how I wanted men to treat me – I had plenty of experiences like hers in order to learn how to stand up for myself and leave a situation and decide when I knew a man well enough to be alone with him in his apartment. These are lessons we all have to learn.

    Not talking about what women can do for themselves to recognize bad situations does them a disservice. We can and should do everything we can to teach men about consent, but if I had a daughter I wouldn’t just leave it up to the men she dates to do what’s best for her. It’s so paternalistic! There were two people in that apartment — why does Aziz have to reflect on his actions while anyone who suggests Grace should too is “victim blaming”?

    You cannot expect someone you met a week ago and texted with to have your best interest at heart, that’s why YOU need to look out for your own interests. If a guy isn’t even really talking to you at dinner, what makes you think he’s inviting you to his apartment to just chill out? Learning to advocate for yourself and impose standards on who gets your time are part of growing up, and lessons that I wish feminists would embrace more instead of crowing about how girls should be able to go home with whomever they want without ever experiencing any discomfort as a result.

    • Anne says...

      Yes!!

    • Emily says...

      I agree that girls should be taught to reflect on their own actions, too. But the issue here is the toxic masculinity that allows men to ignore a woman’s verbal and non-verbal cues. I know many feminists and I don’t know a single one who thinks girls should be able to “go home with whomever they want without ever experiencing any discomfort as a result.” I find that to be an irresponsible characterization and a misguided oversimplification of feminism. Also, the word “crowing” just adds to the whole women-who-speak-up-are-shrill problem.

      The world is the way it is, not the way we want it to be, so, yes, women need to watch out for themselves, obviously. But that is no reason to shift the pressure and focus off of men, who, by and large, need to entirely re-learn their approach to sex. We should still work toward a world where men care about what women want.

    • J. says...

      Emily – There are many prominent feminist writers who have built careers on arguing that in a situation like Grace’s, consent is really the only issue at hand. No one should question whether it was wise to go home with him, why she didn’t leave or speak up, whether SHE may have learned anything for next time. It’s all about what HE needs to learn, and it just is not realistic to me at all. If you haven’t seen it, fine, but I definitely have.

      And it isn’t a question of shifting the focus away from consent – we just need to not neglect one or the other.

    • Dana says...

      I think J brings up a good point about female agency. I would like to think we as women have some power and autonomy over our bodies and actions. That we can say no or get up and leave if we feel uncomfortable. I would think differently if Grace feared for her life, her livelihood, or her living situation, but it doesn’t seem like that were the case.

      I’m with you all, and believe that we need to address and reframe the way that men think about sex and consent, but let’s not support a narrative where women are simply at the mercy of men, who do with us what they will.

  129. J says...

    From her account of what happened, I read that Aziz gave a lot of non-verbal cues that he clearly wanted to have sex. He was very clear on intent. I don’t think she was.

    • britta says...

      EXACTLY.

    • Nadia says...

      She might be mislead by his public image. Ansari’s behaviour is quite different from the image he has in the eyes of public. That’s why she didn’t leave his place.

  130. Shannon says...

    Unfortunately women do this to men too– especially initiating oral that might not be wanted in the moment. But I’ve heard instances where a guy refuses sex and his ‘man card’ is revoked or he’s accused of being gay. Heterosexual men who feel violated aren’t really allowed to speak up in our culture. They’re taught to enjoy all forms of sex in order to be a ‘gentleman’ and not every guy feels comfortable with that.
    I think we, both men and women, need an increased reverence for sex and sexual preferences and a more open and respectful dialogue on a date about what we expect to go on afterwards. It diminishes the mystery, but it also diminishes the chances that one party will feel violated or, in extreme instances, raped.

  131. Kate says...

    Thank you for addressing this story and representing the complex reasons that all sides state in adopting particular stances, whether claiming Grace’s account is a clear #MeToo experience or a valuable commentary on our gendered sexual politics or an opportunistic attempt to participate in this cultural shift (and so on).

    I am heartened by the fact that we are openly discussing women’s experiences of both sexual violence/ manipulation and sex in general. Both realms (while the former is much more serious and, in many cases, criminal) require significant attention from both men and women to shift the power dynamic so that men are not inculcated, from a very young age, to believe that sex is neither the ultimate goal in any intimate setting nor the most prized commodity a women has to offer. This flawed conception transforms into wielding professional power to demand sex.

    With regards to this particular story, I feel for Grace because every woman has had a sexual experience from which it was especially difficult to extricate herself. Many women have been put off by potential partners’ aggressiveness or vocalizations. And, in what was clearly an incongruous experience, Ansari certainly doesn’t come off as enlightened or sensitive as he wants to believe he is. If this is our best, our most feminist male celebrity whose work I, personally, really like, then we have a ways to go.

    Men need to be taught to be better listeners and observers, not only during this #MeToo / #TimesUp moment but consistently from childhood to adulthood–from the playground to the classroom to the bedroom. One of the most useful things I’ve heard and consistently say to my sons when they’re playing with their sister or female friends is: “If she is not having fun, you have to stop.” This requires more effort on their part to decipher verbal and non-verbal cues–a skill set that boys and men urgently need.

    • Stephanie says...

      Hey there, just a gentle rejoinder to be careful with generalizations. While many women may have had these experiences, not everyone has. I am lucky in that I’ve only ever been with men who listened, and have always felt comfortable saying no.

    • Al says...

      Well said.

      I would alter your final point though – it should be “if THEY are not having fun, you have to stop.” Women/girls can be the aggressor as well. And men/boys are often the victim. I think it’s time we expand our frame of reference to include all genders.

  132. Anne says...

    Okay I’ve commented like four times but I can’t stop because this is so interesting.

    I read this Cracked article years ago about how men think about women and it’s stayed in the back of my mind ever since. Obviously, I don’t think there’s any excuse for men to be aggressive with women, and I know Cracked is not a scholarly source, etc etc. But if you take it with a grain of salt, I think it is an interesting exercise in empathy to think about what it would be like to be a man.
    http://www.cracked.com/article_19785_5-ways-modern-men-are-trained-to-hate-women.html

    • Jessica says...

      Wow, I am actually finding this crazy interesting — and completely shocking.

    • Caitlin Lee says...

      Empathy with men? That article was so wrong on so many levels. I could barely read through it.

  133. Thank you for this nuanced discussion of the topic. I think people have a tendency to think too much in black and white: either “she was wrong” or “he was wrong” or “this is sexual assault” or “this is consensual sex.” Could she have done more to get herself out of the situation? Yes. Should he have read he signs and stopped when she seemed uncomfortable? Absolutely.

    On the one hand, I do think this story coming out now could be harmful for the #MeToo movement as people who are against the movement will hold it up as “women call anything assault now”. On the other hand, Grace’s story is WAY too familiar. Ever since this came out I’ve been thinking back A LOT about my own sexual encounters as a young single woman and I came to a realization: after a few bad ones not unlike the one described here, I completely stopped having sex with men I was dating until we were very far along into the relationship, and instead usually had a friend with benefits type deal throughout my singlehood to satisfy my needs. For a long time I was afraid to be intimate with any man I hadn’t already known for a significant period of time. I can’t believe I didn’t recognize this pattern before. I feel a personal essay coming on…