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. Kelly says...

    When you’re on a date or in a datelike situation with someone, you’re optimistic and happy and maybe a little naive and you don’t believe that person could harm you. And then they show disregard for you and your body, and suddenly you’re not so sure what they would do and it all comes rushing at you. Speaking up is difficult. This dissecting of her experience that she lived is difficult to hear.

    You haven’t lived an experience like this, so it’s hard for you to picture. I’m happy for you, that people have always taken your “no” as absolute and have never forced you to go further. But I’ve had a nice Ivy League boy I had mutual friends with go from nice to not so nice, and from doing things I agreed to (kissing) to believing I would not live if I did not stop fighting and get out of there as quickly as possible. And that was with us the same age, the same social status in that situation.

    This is so tough for me, because it is such a hairsbreadth away from my own assault. You could add one more sentence maybe, and have it be very similar to my experience. And afterward, the debating over what happened and his intentions and encouraging me to have a more generous understanding of him was the worst part. The insistence that people be perfect victims to be believed is shocking. The insistence that if you agreed to one thing, everything that happens after is a given. I have a mouth that says no, that said no, that shouted no. No matter what anyone thinks my posture or skirt or makeup was saying, my mouth is louder and said no and was ignored.

    1 in 5 college women is sexually assaulted, most of those in their freshman year. Do you think every one of those guys realizes they’re forcing a woman, realizes what they’re doing is ignoring consent, when ignoring a no is normal for them? This falls within a spectrum of behavior. The guy who assaulted me probably believes he’s a good guy, and it was the worst night of my life. Rape isn’t mostly done by eight foot tall monsters emerging from back alleys. It’s done by guys who don’t look or act all that dissimilar from guys you date. And people will tell you he couldn’t have done it or meant it, because they know and like him from another context. You must have misunderstood.

    Many other Cup of Jo readers are saying she should have set boundaries, she should have said all this before the date. You think if her “no” meant nothing to him, that limit would have protected her? You think it protected me? If you’ve never been in that situation, how do you react when someone for the first time ignores a “no” you expected to be respected? It’s actually quite shocking when someone disregards a social boundary.

    Believe victims. Believe victims. Believe victims.

    Great consent guide from Scarleteen: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/abuse_assault/drivers_ed_for_the_sexual_superhighway_navigating_consent

    This link is very NSFW but a good detailed comic about consent: https://www.ohjoysextoy.com/consent/

    • Andrea says...

      How did she have any expectation of what he would actually be like? She met him that night and then went to an apartment with no one else around. That’s not a safe situation.

    • MK says...

      YES THANK YOU OMG. I thought that thoughts like what you are sharing would be the rule in this discussion, not the exception.
      Rape culture is more pervasive than I thought, and it’s horrifying and I am so so sorry you have to listen to all of this victim blaming b.s.
      I believe you. I believe all victims. We’ve got a long long way to go.

  2. Pam says...

    I’m confused why she didn’t use VERBAL cues. He took her clothes off and she said nothing! What kind of cue did that send to him? Maybe we chng bad behavior by communicating better. With words. LOUDLY. Not with coy movements such as moving his hand and then giving him 2 blow jobs. Talk about mixed messages. She made herself a victim when she could have taken control of her own actions. To me she was not being adult, maybe she’s not ready to if she complains to herself about friggin wine. Order the onr you want. You’re a big girl am I right. Or maybe not

    • El says...

      She did use verbal cues, but the hostility in this comment is suggesting to me that you’re reading exclusively for the story you want to hear.

    • Katie says...

      Why wouldn’t HE use verbal cues to express HIS intentions? THIS is the problem. Why are we considering his actions to be consented until proven otherwise? Thank you for shining a light on this double standard.

  3. Emily says...

    I think this is yet another “moment” in our times that highlights why we need to talk openly, honestly, and often with our children about what consent means-for them, for others; and about what privileges their gender assignments afford them. If we’re in hetero partnerships and raising children, we need our men to engage in and help lead these discussions and we need our men to listen to us as we work through a complex and often painful dialogue about what we as women have acquiesced to throughout our sexual and social lives. We need to resist the urge to throw every story into one bucket called #metoo. This is extremely complicated, inextricably linked to gender norms and expectations, and not easily dismantled or discussed. Quite honestly, I don’t know that a global conversation on this will ever net progress except that it will get individuals talking in their homes and their smaller circles and hopefully will have an impact on younger people. No person arrives at any encounter, least of all a physical or intimate encounter, without bringing with them the many decades of gender biases and coding they’ve been saddled with. It’s time to recode. That to me is the only clear take away from what I have read about this complicated point in time that this young woman experienced. I didn’t get through all the comments to see if someone linked to this piece-but Emma Gray verbalizes better what I am trying to get at:

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/aziz-ansari-sex-violating-but-not-criminal_us_5a5e445de4b0106b7f65b346?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=__TheMorningEmail__011718&utm_content=__TheMorningEmail__011718+CID_4780dbeea4b26093d4872beef42e9d57&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=HuffPost&ncid=newsltushpmgnews__TheMorningEmail__011718

  4. Anna (in Colorado) says...

    Everyone needs to read Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstien so important!!!!

  5. Kate says...

    I had a very similar experience in my early 20’s when I lost my virginity, except in my situation I had told the guy explicitly that I did not want to have sex, but I also couldn’t leave because I was drunk and desperate to be loved. Years later that night still haunts me and its something I’m unable to talk about often . When I read this story I saw similar things to my own experience except in my own I had been explicit with the guy both verbally and non-verbally and while Ansari immediately took ownership of his actions, my assailant did not (in fact when I texted him a year later, sobbing and drunk, about how this all went down, he said something along the lines of “I’m sorry you feel that way”). It was a horrible event and while I feel compassion for Grace, I am also frustrated because it makes it seem like our two experiences of sexual assault are synonymous, which they are not. I’ll support Ansari because I truly believe he is a good person (having never met him but having read his response, knowing he replied to her text and apologized, and seeing the awareness he brings to issues of racism, lbgtq rights, and feminism in his work).

  6. Louisa says...

    Do you remember that dress that people couldn’t agree on whether it was blue or white? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_dress) This feels similar. I’m reading a story of an assault and I cannot – no matter how I look at it – see what others are seeing.

    • MK says...

      I also read a story of assault and quite honestly, everyone around me sounds like a rape apologist. It is ripping me to shreds.

  7. Ali says...

    I do find myself a bit torn by this. I imagine she may have felt paralysed by the fact that he is famous (thus more powerful?), so that could explain why she ignored multiple opportunities to leave. But why would she expect a back rub or him to play with her hair to ‘calm her down’ if she had already felt violated by him? If she was my friend and had come to me crying the next day, I would be urging her to take it straight to authorities and so I get the feeling the story evolved over time. I feel like I am betraying my fellow women by making these comments, because I really want to believe her, but my feeling is that this is opportunistic bullshit and does indeed detract from the #MeToo movement.

  8. Cate says...

    Parents, whatever your opinions of this story, please please take this as a reminder of how important it is to talk to your kids about sex – real human being sex – openly, honestly and often.

    I grew up in a house where the extent of our ‘sex talk’ was “don’t do it! STDs! Unplanned pregnancy!” End of story. And I feel I got the same information at school. Boys (and girls!) are learning about what sex looks like from tv, movies and porn. Boys observe that they are to pursue relentlessly, and girls observe that they are to prudishly relent (their own feelings not considered). I myself am a victim of this misinformation and so is my husband (we are in our 30s). Think of how much passion and pleasure and fun we have missed out on because we (still! three kids later!) barely communicate about what we want in bed.

    I hope to teach my own kids useful information about romance, sex, finding and sharing pleasure. But I really fear that I’m ill-equipped to have those conversations since the idea that’s sex is naughty is so deeply ingrained. Design Mom has a great post about the details of sex I know I will be referring to often with my own kids.

    • Kelly says...

      You can also start teaching consent and bodily autonomy early in nonsexual situations! Not hugging people who don’t want to be hugged, not picking up people who don’t want to be picked up, teaching your kids they have the right to say no to those things at any point and have it be respected, even if it’s a relative.

    • Cate says...

      Yes! Totally agree about this! I am optimistic that we are moving more and more toward ‘awareness parenting’ and realizing the importance of communicating big, difficult ideas to our children. I feel like I grew up in a generation where parents were reluctant to or didn’t even think to bring ideas like these up with us. Too touchy, too uncomfortable. I’m hopeful we are helping to grow a new generation of thoughtful, compassionate humans.

  9. Amanda says...

    Thank you for posting on this topic. Also, thank you for your vulnerability in your post by admitting that you had question why she didn’t leave, why she kept kissing him. While I do agree those questions are victim blaming, I do firmly believe that those questions are an automatically generated by society and cultural conditioning. I also want to make clear that I do not think you are victim blaming at all. Rather you are honestly sharing your thoughts with the hopes of having an enriching dialogue that your readers can gain from. I am trying to evolve from my cultural/society conditioning. Whenever I think of “victim-blaming”-type of questions now, I try to explore the reasons that I am asking those questions.

  10. Sarah says...

    Even though it’s difficult to read some of the harsh opinions from people, I do think they are important to read. Shutting people down (and shutting people up) only does just that, it doesn’t change any views and it doesn’t create a dialog.

    I feel like there is a huge piece missing in all of this, and it’s diving into the grey area a bit more openly. What if both sides of the story are true? I’m almost certain we live in a world where Aziz innocently behaved according to how many “good guys” behave. In that same world, Grace was made uncomfortable and felt pressured. Even the “good guys” have a lot to learn! Whether or not this should be categorized as #metoo depends on if we want to include the broader issue of how women are less powerful in most situations. At the very least we should be grateful that #metoo leads us to this discussion.

    • Mita says...

      “Many women approach humiliating and uncomfortable sex from a place of “it’s not that bad.”

      Part of “not that bad” is a preemptive minimization of our experiences. You know, the way Fat Amy calls herself Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect so that the other girls can’t do it first? It’s our armor.

      I know what people will say when I tell them that I had a professor who put his arm around me (I was 19) and asked why we weren’t dating, while his hand stroked the bare skin of my shoulder (it was spring.)

      I am waiting for people to say, “So he just… put his arm around you?” I am waiting for them to ask for a gasp-worthy punchline: actually I was 12, or a tit grab, a ten-pound helmet into his lap, an offer to exchange nude selfies for a better grade. They’re already imagining there is more to the story. There really isn’t.

      I don’t want to have to up the ante, tell another worse story to prove that I had the right to be uncomfortable when my professor stroked my bare shoulder in a dark theater. I don’t want to have to buy my friends’ support with maximum humiliation.

      I have no interest in turning my sexual history into social currency; exchange rates are so unpredictable.

      So I hurry up to add, “It wasn’t that bad.” That way, the people I’m telling have to convince me, “No, that really wasn’t cool.” If you push, people push back, that’s just human nature. If you pull away, they come to your side and find you. They can’t resist.

      So I say, “It’s not that bad,” and I hope they’ll come over to my side, and find me.”

    • Sadie says...

      Thanks for sharing this. It was really thought-provoking.

    • Megan says...

      It was bad. What he did was bad. ❤️

    • MK says...

      YES. Love this piece.

  11. Stacie says...

    I didn’t even read this article yet, but THANK YOU for writing it. And thank you for recognizing that it DOES matter.

  12. Liz C says...

    It’s time to teach our children that sex is a beautiful expression of love and commitment between two people who adore and respect each other.

    Maybe it’s time to start this movement: #NoMoreOneNightStands.

    • Olivia says...

      So happy you said this!

    • Emily says...

      But sex is not that for everyone and that’s totally fine. Nothing at all wrong with mutually consenting adults enjoying a one night stand.

    • Carol says...

      The issue of the article, and the discussion around it, is not about two adults engaging in sexual activities on a first date.
      Sex can be a “beautiful expression of love and commitment between two people who adore and respect each other”. It can also be a totally emotion-free, fun, frivolous activity between two (or more!) people who barely know each other. Sex is many things to many people. The idea that the only morally acceptable sex is that which occurs in loving, monogamous, committed relationships can be quite dangerous when it leads to young people missing out on advice, support, and sexual education. It also adds to the stigma that prevents victims of date rape speaking out, because they fear being slut-shamed (“Well, what were you doing in his dorm room anyways?” etc.)
      While I totally respect your right to set your own moral boundaries, judging two adults for having a one night stand detracts from the issues of consent and communication brought up by the articles.

    • Sadie says...

      Unfortunately, if your ideas of consent and mutuality are blurred or distorted, or if you feel uncomfortable asking for what you want or refusing what you don’t, situations like the one “Grace” describes can also occur in loving, committed relationships. These consent conversations are important for everyone, not just those who are open to having one-night stands.

  13. Kathy T says...

    Grace has as much responsibility for what happened during this date as Aziz Ansari. Women, grow up and be strong for yourselves. A guy you met for a first date is not going to advocate on your behalf. Be real.

  14. Irene says...

    I think we are second guessing why she didn’t leave because we are putting ourselves in her shoes and trying to imagine how one could avoid such a situation. Practically, I would like to think this situation was avoidable had she left, unlike an overtly violent situation. She seemed to have had a choice and chose poorly. This is not to judge her, she is after all anonymous, so analyzing her choices and actions also feels less crappy. Imagine we knew her actual first and last name, it would feel different to talk about her. By leaving her identity hidden it allows us to discuss her actions perhaps more harshly? Or more objectively?
    Also although she didn’t work for him and wasn’t his subordinate his celebrity no doubt played a big part in this. His persona is so adorable and he even appears to be a feminist in some of his comedy. I’m sure this conflict of what she thought he would be like and what he was actually like was hard for her to reconcile. If this was a story about an actor who was a known cad I think the story would also have less gray area for me.

  15. Lemmy says...

    I have been in a similar situation as Grace including crying on my way home. It took me a while to realise that the reason I felt so hurt and angry was not because the guy was an asshole but because I had betrayed myself. I could have said no and I didn’t and I had spent a lot of time hating the man for it.
    Also the way men communicate is very different to women and that could be the reaseon he didn’t get her cues. Or maybe he was simply horny?
    We talk a lot about ‘chasing and being chased’ nonsence. In my experience whenever I would be clear the men felt intimidated. Now I play along and let the guy chase. So that could be the reason some men don’t react to rejecting bevavior appropriately.
    There are gray areas but not in the case of her hiding behide some made up name and spilling the most intimate details about another person. This is wrong.

  16. Amy says...

    Thanks for posting this. I think it’s so important. I think we can all agree that this isn’t a Weinstein situation. But in many ways it’s as important or relevant – if not more important- because most women will have an experience something like this one at one point in their dating life. Yes to more conversations about consent.

  17. Eleanor says...

    I really had a hard time with this one. Nonverbal cues go missed by men daily. Me, trying to make a move on my husband, unless I’m wearing lingerie, will go missed. Just the same as me glaring at the sink full of dirty dishes goes missed. My husband and I talk about this daily… he’s no idiot but he’s a typical man- as he says, “I can’t read your mind, just TELL me, I will always miss your cues.” Well maybe men shouldn’t be such idiots, we could argue. But this is the constant topic between women… men missing cues, not reading our minds, etc etc.

    I don’t mean to relate sex to dishes but I have been in that boat. Me, an 18 year old girl at a work party where a 21 year old guy pulled out his dick after we kissed. Me, feeling pressure because he’s older, he knows, I’ll get made fun of if I say no. I gave signals, ignored it, pushed away, and then.. said NO. And left the party. It sounds like grace went on a shitty date with a horny guy, but just say no, leave, then it would’ve been done. and yes I still have a bad taste 15 years after my encounter but saying NO and leaving can end that encounter before it gets worse.

    • Kacy says...

      This. Men miss non-sexual non-verbal clues daily, in every situation. They will forever and for always. But especially when the blood flow is directed to one specific area and that’s what they are thinking with.

      I hate that it happened to her. I hate that she feels awful years later. This does need to be fixed, but careers also shouldn’t be ruined by this.

      I’m just as torn.

    • J. says...

      Yes! People pay attention to what you DO, not what you say, and certainly not your “non verbal cues.” Women have to learn to say SCREW THIS and leave more, and that’s a lesson I would think feminists like Jessica Valenti would want to embrace.

    • Sara says...

      I agree completely. I have been in the same situation as Grace and let it get out of hand and regret it, but I do consider the onus on me. And on society; I wish I had been raised to be less naive (in college I once sincerely thought I was inviting a male stranger to my dorm room to get a non-sexual massage) and had been taught to speak up for myself more. I also wish men were taught to be proactive about getting enthusiastic consent.

      I know that miscommunication happens all the time between my husband and myself (and we’ve been together ten years). Miscommunication happens about household chores and about sex (and so many other things), so I’m working on speaking my mind with him. And I’m raising my son and daughter to speak their minds and to pay attention to body language and to respect boundaries. So hopefully in 15 years there will be less miscommunication and fewer women who cry on the way home (like Grace, like myself). But in the meantime I don’t think we should ruin the career of every man who misses nonverbal cues (or verbal cues which aren’t clearly “no” and from the story Grace took a long time to say “no”) during sex (or during household activities).

      Thanks for this conversation and for pointing out the gray areas.

    • Eleanor says...

      Exactly. And I realize she said slow down and did speak, but her non verbal cues were kissing and undressing. I’m not dating right now but my friends who do, if you go to the guys apartment he’s often taking that as his cue. If you undress he really takes that as a cue. If you kiss him he’ll continue taking that as a cue. Saying slow down isn’t the same as no, and sometimes you just need to say that and leave. I know it’s hard but I have left dates to avoid sex and I have avoided a guys house because I didn’t even want to deal with that.

      It’s shitty but not worthy of ruining his career. Talk to him on the side and learn for future dates.

  18. Cara Mia says...

    (Not referring directly to the case.) Maybe we need to learn to ask instead of assuming. Asking the other if he or she is comfortable, asking how far they want to go. Telling them that it can be stopped at any moment if they choose so. How many times in life are we really 100% sure that our interpretation of someone else’s behavior is accurate. So why should we assume that wanting sex can be read so easily. Even in longterm relationships when you feel like you know the other like the back of your hand, their body is theirs, their mind is theirs, we cannot claim ownership over it. It is so important to ask. And to then respect whatever answer the other gives. Asking if the other person really wants sex, also gives both a few seconds of thinking it through. Sometimes even though you might want to have sex, you don’t feel like you should for various reasons and being asked or asking yourself, gives you the chance to voice that. We all have the responsibility to ask and we all have the right to decide and to be respected for whatever the choice is.

  19. Julia says...

    I think that if a man – or any other person for that matter! – harrasses you, you report him to the POLICE, not the public!

    If my daughter was in a situation like that I‘d want her to be strong, powerful and independent – and have the courage to LEAVE! To go straight to the police if that‘s what is called for here. Why would you want to stay with a man who doesn’t respect you? Why prolong a terrible evening?

    • Liza says...

      What makes you think the police would be more sympathetic and be more willing to take action than the rest of the world? Victims of violence and sexual assault don’t come forward because reliving the incident means that they are violated all over again. The way they question you makes you doubt yourself and feel like you are the one who screwed up. When I was sexually assaulted and spoke to the police, the detective I spoke to said, “But didn’t you like that? Most women like that. Are you sure you didn’t fake an orgasm?” when I talked about the man who went down on me despite me repeatedly asking him not to? In the real world you don’t get to talk to Olivia Benson from SVU.

    • Julia says...

      I‘m so sorry you had to go through this ordeal! You should be so proud of yourself for finding the courage to seek help! It might be too much to ask but what if you filed a complaint about that particular officer?
      And I am well aware that this is reality for some (many?) victims. But unfortunately, complaining solely on the internet isn‘t going to solve anything at all (note that I’m not referring to you here). It doesn’t change the victim‘s position and it certainly isn‘t going to prevent any future harassment.

      All the best to you, Liza! I hope you continue to heal and find the strength to trust again.

    • MK says...

      Liza, yes. 100%
      I’m sorry and I believe you.

  20. Maartje says...

    I think it is really hard to form an opinion. I heave found myself in a similar situation as Grace in the past so I understand how she felt and also understand the fact that she didn’t leave immediately. He probably was also charming and it sounds like they had fun the evening they met and at the date.

    I think it’s strong she did leave in the end and texted him the day after to tell him how she felt. It was a well thought and rational message. What I don’t understand however is making the story public because it is one side of a story. Confront the guy in private (as she did) accept his apology, or don’t and move on. If Grace is convinced she was assaulted she should go to the authorities. I don’t believe in public shaming or taking law in your own hands.

  21. Michelle says...

    When I was 18yrs old I found myself in a similar situation. I went on a date with a sexually aggressive guy who behaved in a very similar fashion as in the article, and by the end of it I wasn’t a virgin anymore. I remember the drive home I cried and felt violated, just like Grace. I think what people don’t understand is there are so many feelings, thoughts and emotions that go flying around in your head in those moments. The fear of hurting your date’s feelings, the fear that you’ve lead him on and he’ll get angry with you so you go along with it, the moments where you do ‘kind of like him and like how it feels’, which is just as confusing. I think for me especially how I felt was that this guy didn’t really like or care about me, I was an object – which is what I get from this article. Grace was a means to an end. My only criticism is she confronted him afterwards (which is commendable) he apologized and then she continued to out him anyway, which to me feels more like a vengeance piece as opposed to it being part of the “me too” movement.

  22. AJ says...

    Perhaps if we flip the story… Aziz was uncomfortable with the way a woman behaved during a sexual encounter, she was forceful, he tried to say no. Although physically men tend to have an advantage, it’s not always men behaving inappropriately. By the same token we should expect him to get up and leave. Expect her to have listened better. It’s not a case of if he or she is correct, it’s a case of regardless of which person is male and which is female, both their behaviour could have been better. We should expect the same respect and self protection from both genders. We can’t expect for everyone to always behave in the way we want, or in the manner we expect. This is unrealistic in the world we live in. What everyone can do is have the self respect to get up and leave, and the respect for others to listen to their requests, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion etc.

  23. Marianne says...

    I’m not sure if I think naming the alleged perpetrator is necessary for the piece. It’s not about who the guy is, it’s about what has happened between them.
    That being said, I’m Team Sady Doyle on this one. I’m 100% for opening up for a discussion about these grey areas. I know women in their 30s, who have a hard time saying no to sexual advances from men, simply because “I don’t want to upset anyone”. It makes me so sad that turning men down, even in a polite way, makes adult women afraid of losing affection or friendship.

    Thank you for posting this. Love your blog!

  24. Erin says...

    This is one of the gazillion examples that points a very simple truth. Sex, love, and commitment belong together. So many of us want this for our children. So why are we so shitty about wanting it for ourselves?!!

  25. I want to blog about this but I really dont know how to tackle it as its overly sensitive. I reckon I can hide in your comments section instead to here goes:

    I am with Grace on this one. I have been married for 7 years. I have asked for a separation from my husband but I cant get physically separated because I dont have money to rent my own house so here I am mentally deteriorating because I am still with my husband who for so many years is a rapist in my eye.

    See my husband doesnt bathe a lot. A fact that I have only found out after we started living together. At night he would initiate sex and I would actually feel arouse. But when I have to face him I would start smelling him and I would start not liking to continue having sex. But I feel like I am morally obliged to have sex with him because he is my husband. So I let him do his thing while I bury my head in the pillow so that I can stop myself from smelling him. Sex if you are not interested can be painful and this is what I feel always. In my head I am asking him to stop but because I feel like I need to do it I am not saying it out loud. But surely not trying to breathe just so I cant smell him is good enough indication that I dont want to continue having sex. But no my husband would just go on. Its really painful. I am so dry by the middle part of sex and at the end i am in physical and mental pain. I am calling everyone in my head asking help… from god, from my parents, from my son.. from superman. but they are all in my head. No one can help me. I just need to let him finish. DO his thing.

    I want to tell this to the charity, to the police, to everyone but how am I going to tell them that its abuse when I didnt say NO. How am I going to tell them that I just feel obliged. That I really didnt want it.

    I am trying to flle my husband but like what I have said earlier I cant afford it financially. I am with Grace on this one. And I just want to hug her and tell her that its not just her. I wish I have said NO always, I did.. always.. sadly I just said NO in my head.

  26. I think Grace sharing this story is VERY important. Do I think that Aziz is a predator? No. He is a product of the enivornment we have been raising men-be agressive! be a man! take what you want! etc, etc. And women have been taught that their shouldn’t be a tease or be dramatic. Don;t be crazy! I shared a similar story on IG about my no not being respected in the moment. I didn’t leave either. I had been trained that it wasn’t a big deal. Looking back I find fault in both myself AND the dude. How I’ve been moving forward is to have enough self worth to stand up for myself and get out of situations that make me uncomfortable. For the guy, I think he felt entitled to what came after making out. And there is the issue. The sense of entitlement of what comes next. I would like to raise our men better than that. A woman/man has agency over her body and NO ONE is entitled to cross a boundary they aren’t comfortable with no matter what the situation is. I think that’s why teaching kids they don’t have to kiss their Aunt Sally if they don’t want to is so important. It teaches them they have agency over their body, the are not obligated to give that agency to anyone else and it shows no one is entitled to their body either. Tough topic but, important.

  27. i’m not sure why, but i’m on his side. you’re right, it is such an interesting topic – but because i wasn’t there in the situation, i can only imagine my own reaction to it. i probably wouldn’t have gone back to his house on a first date. i probably would have left when things got uncomfortable. if i didn’t leave and felt “violated” the next day, i would have reflected and learned what i would do in the situation the next time. because there will be a next time! we have to stop blaming men for making sexual advances, i think its kind of normal and it’s not going to stop soon. i don’t think he had harmful intentions and he did apologize. there are 2 sides to the story! i really don’t think this is a “me too” kind of thing. and now his reputation is completely tarnished.

    • Veronika says...

      totally agree – I assume they also had a few drinks, which obvioulsy had an effect on both parties. I had similar experience and never blamed the guy – just myself why I wasn’t more self confident to leave.

    • Pamela says...

      I would have to agree. I personally couldn’t get passed this specific part: “She says he then resumed kissing her, briefly performed oral sex on her, and asked her to do the same thing to him. She did, “. How in the world could one perform fellatio in such circumstances was beyond me. I don’t condone his sexual badgering, but clearly she could have just left. I don’t get why she stayed on when it was pretty obvious he wanted a frivolous sexual encounter and she did not.

    • Anna Louise says...

      Why are we giving Grace a pass for following her gender norms and blaming Aziz for following his? There are huge problems with both but neither party is a slave to them.

  28. Amy says...

    Oh my God, so much victim blaming in this section. We shouldn’t be asking why she didn’t leave, or why she expected him to understand her body language, or why she went to his house in the first place. Women are not socialized to be assertive, especially when it comes to telling men what they don’t want to hear. What should shock people about this story is Aziz’s entitlement: he was incredibly selfish and only thought about his desires and how to get what he wanted. He obviously didn’t care one bit about making the experience good for her, he did not see her as an equal. He might not have done what Weinstein did, but both of them are examples of male entitlement. People should be asking why Aziz kept sticking his fingers downs her throat after she told him to stop, or why he kept putting her hand on his penis after she had removed it. THAT are the questions people should be asking. Nevermind the hypocrisy of demanding that “Grace” should have been clearer about how she felt when women are usually considered to be “difficult people” when they assert themselves.

    • shopgirl says...

      Do you really, really can say, that throughout all the media turmoil, lost reputation and probably also lost work, without any evidence or trial and now with a stamp on his forehead that he is a sexual offender for his entire life …that she is a victim ?? Anonymous accusation launched publicly with his full name? So much over the edge.

    • Elle says...

      I totally agree with you. My concern is, especially since I’m the mother of two, soon three, boys, WHEN and HOW do boys learn this entitlement? What is it in their upbringing and in our culture that makes them think that they don’t have to listen to women. That they see us frankly as lesser human beings? Because that is the only explanation I find to their behaviour; they cannot see us as fully humans or as equals, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to treat us the way they do. And it makes me so sad.

    • Gilly says...

      Yes! THIS!!! 1,000%!!

    • Caroline says...

      Respectfully, I think I would like to disagree.
      I do agree that we should be asking Aziz Ansari those questions, but I don’t think it’s wrong to ask ‘Grace’ why she didn’t leave, or ask ourselves why we don’t leave or assert ourselves when we’re uncomfortable, not in an accusatory why but instead to build more confidence in ourselves so if/when it happens to us, we feel like we can push back and do what we need to do to feel safe.

    • Anne says...

      Amy, I really appreciate your comment! I’m going to disagree with it a little, but not in an angry way.

      I think that it’s not fair to let women off the hook by saying that Grace can’t be expected to communicate honestly because women are “just not socialized to be assertive.” How disempowering! Are women too weak to stand up for themselves? The suggestion is that there’s nothing women can do about being bullied, they just have to sit there passively and hope that men choose not to be bullies.

      I agree with you that Aziz seemed totally concerned with his own enjoyment and not with hers. It’s a symptom of a larger cultural problem that I hope will change in the coming years. However, change doesn’t happen overnight, and in the meantime, some men will continue to be assholes. If a man is being an asshole to a woman, I wholeheartedly encourage that woman to stand up and leave. Women are strong, powerful creatures who are in control of their own destiny, and sometimes that means walking out on someone who is being an asshole.

    • Kelly says...

      Thank you for this comment. So well worded and such a breath of fresh air among a sea of bad takes blaming her.

    • Ellen says...

      While I don’t completely agree with your sentiment, the part of your comment about how women are not socialized to be assertive in these situations is the absolute truth. For me, this is the takeaway point from Grace’s story (and everyone else’s opinion about it) that should be highlighted and underlined. Society raises women to be gentle and polite. To be overly accommodating to men at the expense of our own comfort. To be caring. To avoid confrontation. To spare a man’s ego. To put other people’s wants and needs ahead of our own. A non-verbal cue is the gentle, feeling-sparing, delicate sister of the abrasive verbal “No!” This is a problem.

    • I completely agree with this and I’m frustrated that Cup of Jo hasn’t taken a tougher stance. I just finished reading the Babe piece, and near the end of the article, Grace literally says, “It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault.” That’s enough for me.

      I know Jo has written about loving Ansari’s show in the past, and it can be difficult when the truth comes out about a public figure that we admire. I cried my eyes out when Garrison Keillor’s issues were revealed because The Writer’s Almanac was a part of my life for many years.

      But Ansari isn’t special just because he’s young and appears to be woke. What Grace described is sexual assault and I honestly can’t believe that women are debating the nitty gritty details of it on this blog. It’s so disgusting!

    • L says...

      I’ve noticed (within my circle) the thing that is lost about feminism is that its empowerment must come from both genders. Yes, men should be willing to listen more but also, women should speak up more. I see it at work/socially all the time. In meetings, men will more often overtake the discussion, and it’s more common for them to interrupt. I’m not going to discredit the women and say it’s all the men’s fault because that’s making the assumption a woman can’t speak for herself. I hope women do become more assertive over time. I think this case is a particular example of why feminism is crucially important, for both men and women. Things get complicated when there is such an imbalance of power between genders.

    • MK says...

      I completely agree. Well said.

  29. Lee says...

    I appreciated Jill filipovic’s take, she said everything I wanted to hear:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/16/aziz-ansari-story-missed-opportunity

    I’ve also spent a lot of time considering this, reading all these pieces, disappointed and frustrated by all the in-fighting, wishing we could listen to fellow feminists who might have a different opinion than our own, engage in meaningful respectful dialogue (the Margaret Atwood backlash had me thinking about this already, then this story seemed to really blow things up.) I am so glad to see you posting about this, I keep wondering where all the women I admire stand on the issue, and reading you consider all sides is refreshing (and also no surprise, part of what I appreciate about this blog, you DO engage people in thoughtful, respectful discourse!)

    • I totally agree with you…..and I was so happy to read this thoughtful examination of both sides. I loved Filipovic’s piece and I think the quote from Valenti really sums up my feelings on the situation:

      “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.”

      We have to change the “normal” sexual script.

    • kate says...

      Thank you for recommending the Guardian link. It was so helpful in this whole confusing mess.

      This is the only site where I regularly read the comments–thank you to Cup of Jo for creating this community, and to all of you for being here.

  30. Liza says...

    What I got out of the story: they started to hook up, but she wasn’t feeling it and pulled away, he repeatedly tried to push her to go further, she indicated that she didn’t want to, he acquiesced and said they could just watch tv, then he tried to get her to have sex with him again.

    NO. That is not okay. Why didn’t she leave? Because if she got up she would be saying, you are not worthy of sleeping with me, but in her head, he is more powerful, more successful, more of a catch and she probably questions whether she is, in fact, worthy of him. His celebrity causes a huge power imbalance.

    • Amy says...

      Yes! Exactly.

  31. Maria says...

    Not that I expect that my comment will be shown but,
    1. If a crime was committed, why is the first thing these women think about is going public with their “story”?
    2. So she gets anonymity (Grace?) but he doesn’t apparently.
    3. If I were him I’d sue her. Isn’t it called slander or something?
    4. She was a victim? What a joke. What’s he doing chasing a 23 yr old photographer. She was chasing him, of course, and clearly ready to put out in order to date a celebrity.
    5. How about he’s a celebrity, an actor…and she isn’t happy because well, he chose not to pursue the relationship. If he actually wanted a relationship with her, we’d have never heard of “Grace”, despite all the uncomfortable things he did to her, because he didn’t understand that her silence and her performing oral sex on him, didn’t equate consent. Get real!
    6. My opinion of Aziz is even higher now. As for “Grace”…obviously the name she chose is the complete antithesis of her character. Next time try “Sexually promiscuous opportunist”…that would fit perfectly.

    • There’s a lot of room for nuance in this conversation but your last phrase is just straight up slut-shaming and THAT does not have a place here.

    • Lila says...

      I am with you on all the above. She could not score the celebrity on her terms.

    • Kathy T says...

      I agree.

    • Porkchop says...

      I am a female feminist and am on Team Aziz too. I think the uproar about him is ridiculous. She gave mixed signals by giving him blow jobs and letting him go down on her. It is a disservice to women to say we were all raised to be sweet and submissive and therefore can’t stand up for ourselves when we feel our boundaries are being crossed. Instead, we should just get angry afterwards, tweet about it and wait for all the likes to roll in, right? Gee whiz!

    • Mandy says...

      Agreed.

    • Em says...

      I completely agree . She wanted to drag his name through the mud.

    • Amanda says...

      ‘Grace’ isn’t just a finishing school behaviour; it is also a way of treating people, with kindness and without judgement.

    • Chloe says...

      I agree with Maria; I wouldn’t have thought that her comment would be shown either due to the final phrase. It’s important to show both sides but that last phrase is derogatory and offensive. Cup of Jo, can you please take it down?

  32. Sam says...

    As a decade plus reader of your blog, I absolutely expected you to maintain the middle ground on this topic because it very clearly falls into a third, grey camp for even the most staunch, self-proclaimed feminists (such as myself).

    I, do, however want to emphasize the significance of intelligent writing, meticulous fact-checking, investigative reporting, and journalistic integrity that, like every reader here, finds in THIS blog and likely other reputable sources of information. It is a double-edged sword that virtually anyone can publish anything on the internet today with the chief aim of riding a sensational, viral wave.

    Link to the proud staff writer’s articles, including her “fun material” (as Mashable describes) quantifying what constitutes a “hoe:”
    https://babe.net/author/katieway1

    There is a reason this story was not picked up by any reputable news outlet.

  33. My husband and I have been discussing the legal definition of rape recently (he’s a lawyer). Here in Washington state, it is defined by lack of consent expressed by the victim’s words or conduct. In other words, sex is not rape unless one participant voices an objection. This implies men have permission to engage sexually until they’re told to stop, which is often difficult for women to voice the further a sexual encounter continues (as Cat Person and allegations against Aziz Ansari illustrate). There is talk of legislation to change the wording of this definition to lack of consent, period. In other words, consensual sex must BEGIN with a verbal affirmation. Can you imagine the impact if every teenager was taught they must ask to engage in sexual activity from the very start? I may have avoided several regretful encounters in college if my partner had stopped to say, “do you really want to do this?”

    • shopgirl says...

      But nevertheless, there is still ambiguity in the verbal consent. Even when you say “yes I really want it”, things could go wrong later and you begin to refuse it. What then? He will be protected with your consent or what?. Sex is not a contract and men have a sexual instinct that does not stop right on the word.. This is a biological fact, their weakness. Women must do everything to take care of ourselves, but not by exploiting their drive.

    • Chelsi says...

      “Do you really want to do this?” This is the best thing I’ve read regarding #metoo anywhere. How life changing would it be (for men and women!), if we were asked up front! We could just say, “not really” and the entire gray area would disappear.

  34. Catie says...

    I am disappointed in this post and in this space. Usually it is a welcome, progressive corner of the internet. Not today. Not when a women was harmed by a man and the discussion centers around “nuance” and that dehumanizing NYT piece. A woman was hurt and pushed beyond her boundaries. A woman was violated. This is not a story that needs “both sides.” On one side is misogyny and on the other is supporting a woman, supporting all women. You chose to give a platform to those who believe a controversial think piece is more valuable than actually dissecting and dismantling our cultures harmful norms. I am heartbroken.

    • shopgirl says...

      Yes, he obviously was a selfish jerk, and she was on a bad date, but he should not be treated like a criminal, publicly exposed and with a pressed stamp of a sexual predator on the forehead which will probably ruined his career too.
      And a grown up, responsible person is not violated if he has the ability to withdraw and leave at any time. Don’t make from women some helpless persons who can not take care of themselves. By doing this you only make things worse.

    • Emma says...

      I’m sorry that you are heartbroken, but this, to me, is part of the problem. Be heartbroken about the women who are raped. Be heartbroken about the women who are abused. But to be heartbroken about a naive women who pursued a famous man and went to his appartment and had oral sex ‘within moments’…
      I think the term ‘victim blaming’ is too easily bandied about. Of course no one has the right to sexually or physically or emotionally attack anyone else, especially when they’re physically stronger, but to put this situation into the same category does an injustice to those horrific crimes.

    • Anne says...

      Catie, I’m an avid feminist. I’m a scientist and a bartender and an athlete and I totally support the right of women to do anything they want, and to be safe in the process.

      I also believe that there is not one way to be a feminist. You can be a feminist and think that the best way forward is smashing the glass ceiling, or you can be a feminist and think that the best way forward is sex positivity. You can be a feminist and walk away from this story thinking that men like Aziz need to be punished. Or you can be a feminist and walk away thinking that women like Grace need to be empowered to speak up for themselves.

      Just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean they’re a bad feminist.

    • Joy says...

      And I would say the exact opposite. I find it refreshing that Joanna would have the wisdom and discernment to be “thinking deeply” on the topic rather than just jumping on a narrow-minded bandwagon.

      If being a feminist (or genuinely caring about women) doesn’t include encouraging women to have a voice (say NO! for crying out loud), to have the self-respect to leave a situation or avoid it altogether, and to be strong and confident in who they are, rather than needing to whore themselves out for approval, then feminism is kind of a joke, isn’t it?

    • MK says...

      Thank you. Agree. That Weiss piece does not deserve more publicity.

  35. Aisha says...

    Like everyone else, I’ve thought about this non-stop since I read about it. I read the whole account on the Babe website, and for me this is what it all comes down to: At one point after she spent five minutes in the bathroom collecting herself, Aziz actually asked her if she was ok when she came out and she responded, “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.” To this he responded, “Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun,” and then added “Let’s just chill over here on the couch.” BUT when they got to the couch he “sat back and pointed to his penis and motioned for me to go down on him.” I just don’t see how anyone can defend a guy whose response to a girl telling them they “don’t want to feel forced” is to motion for her to give him head. I mean really, that’s his response! At the very least, he is being a selfish jerk and guess-what, WE ARE SICK AND TIRED OF SELFISH JERKS!

    • Amy says...

      YES! This

  36. Diana says...

    The thing is, Aziz Ansari is not a sexual predator and should not be labeled as such. I think it’s a shame that such a sensational piece was published on a “feminist website” where his sexual proclivities were outed in minute detail and she got to keep her anonymity. When really it was a consensual date with mixed messages coming from both parties. I think that we should be having a broader conversation about sex (and men + women’s expectations of each other), but I believe he has been unfairly targeted. I am as feminist as they come, and believe in the #MeToo movement – but this ‘outing’ of a man who did not deserve it has left a bad taste in my mouth.

    • Porkchop says...

      Agree!

  37. Kristy says...

    I’m glad you had and are having mixed feelings, too often I think we feel pressured to make up our minds for fear of thinking the wrong stance or appearing stupid.

    I have mixed feelings. I agree that the general paradigm of boys will be horny and girls liked to be chased needs to change. But I also think that not every “me too” story needs to end in the complete career demise of the public figure in question. In fact, I think sometimes it might even be counterproductive, when a discussion isn’t even allowed to happen. I know I personally am fearful of coming off as anti-feminist because I don’t side with ‘Grace’.

    And to the question of why we are focusing on what she could have done or not done, I think part of it is because the story is told from her point of view.

  38. Leanne says...

    I see there being 2 issues at play here: one is youth, the other is consent.

    As a young person, I was more likely to engage in cognitive distortions like mind-reading or jumping to conclusions. In my observations, many young people do the same. I have questions, therefore, about Grace’s “non-verbal cues”. Is it possible she thought she was being clear when she wasn’t? In this, I’d like to give Aziz the benefit of the doubt. Even with my own husband, early on in our relationship, it was not uncommon for me to think he’d understood my non-verbal cues, only to realize he hadn’t, and that I hadn’t been clear enough. Now, I can give him a look and he knows what I’m thinking, but early on, this was not the case. It has taken years! LOL.

    But, I also think many women are socialized to be “people pleasers”, and that men are not socialized (necessarily) to seek consent. Aziz did not seek consent, nor was he aware of the power he had in the situation, just as Grace did not feel comfortable or empowered to give clear verbal cues.

    I’d like to live in a world where women can assert their boundaries fearlessly, and where men aren’t taunted for being considerate and kind. Where kindness is expected of men as much as it is of women, and women’s kindness isn’t contorted in a way that means they cannot ask for what they want.

  39. Blythe says...

    I thought this article (in response to Grace’s story) was thought provoking: http://www.katykatikate.com/2018/01/not-that-bad_15.html

    When I read the Babe article in full, I found Ansari’s behavior more egregious than I’d expected from the headlines and soundbites I’d seen elsewhere. Based on her account, he didn’t just ignore non-verbal cues, he ignored repeated verbal statements that she was uncomfortable.

    This line from the Babe article also resonated: “Aziz Ansari isn’t an 18-year-old. He’s a 34-year-old actor and comedian of global renown who… built his career on being cute and nice and parsing the signals women send to men and the male emotions that result.”

  40. Elizabeth says...

    I am finding this particular case very ponderous. I am probably falling more into the first camp of arguments although I am not without sympathy for “Grace” and the the protagonist of “Cat Person”. As a fellow polite woman, I have made similar placating choices in various sexual encounters. When I read the babe.com article my initial reaction was to question the validity of the encounter as “assault.” Legally it is not. And I surprised myself by not instinctively taking Grace’s side. As a Mum to a little girl I have a lasting take away from these stories – girls need to be taught and need to know how to say NO clearly. Girls/women need to know that it is okay and politeness and the needs of others be damned. Non verbal cues are not enough. Ever. Not in work, not in relationships. Clear communication always. I have probably stayed in similar situations and feigned happiness when I wasn’t happy and I didn’t feel safe. I have probably found my sexual partner’s behaviour agressive because I wasn’t reciprocating their feelings, even though I might have been reciprocating physically. But I don’t think we need to throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t believe that consent needs to be constantly and enthusiastically sought and provided. There does need to be VERBAL communication BOTH ways. If feelings change, that should be communicated verbally. And then our partners need to listen and respond in kind. I feel for Grace but I am not ready to write off Ansari as a bad guy based on this story. But my husband says I’m biased because I’m a fan of his work!

  41. Jennifer says...

    So I read a line in a book once (a romance novel of all places!) that said, in regards to sex, that “if you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.” I’m not sure where I stand on the whole Aziz/’Grace’ situation. Probably somewhere directly in the middle in that big, ol’ grey area. But I think that line “if you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it” is so vital.

    Sex is complicated and messy. And if you can’t be mature enough and strong enough to say no when you don’t want something AND mature enough and strong enough to get consent and make sure you and your partner are on the same page, then you likely aren’t ready to have sex (maybe with this person specifically or maybe even more generally depending on the situation.)

    • Elizabeth says...

      ??

    • Jennifer says...

      I want to add to my comment that the poor journalistic nature of the original article is also extremely disappointing.

      This could have been an opportunity to open up the nuances of the discussion to how we don’t just need to change the culture around sexual assault/harassment, but we need a complete shift in our approach to sex/sex culture in this country (and many others) and it just became . . . Clickbaity. It’s distracted from some really necessary conversations that still need to happen.

  42. Thuy says...

    This has been weighing on my mind very heavily ever since it came out, and while I can understand (but not agree) with both sides, I’ve frankly been shocked the disproportionate level of backlash against Grace. There are a lot of articles that sum up Grace’s account I have found that are very misleading from what she shared. The Bari Weiss NYTimes op/ed (referenced in the post) really bothers me because she leaves out a very key detail (and to me, the most important) in her retelling of what happened, as called out in a very good Slate article by Osita Nwanevu:

    “As Weiss relates, Ansari then asks Grace if she’d like to relax, clothed, on the couch and they do. But in a section of the text completely omitted from Weiss’ retelling, Ansari then tries to kiss her, undo her pants, and stick his fingers down her throat—all after she’s said no to him firmly and clearly. She curses men, and Ansari, we’re told, tries to force kisses on her again after she’s turned away.” (https://slate.com/culture/2018/01/the-reaction-to-the-aziz-ansari-allegations-shows-metoo-is-more-measured-than-its-critics-claim.html)

    Lastly, another commenter linked to this but I’ll link to it again (from the actress from the show The Good Place) since it’s a great read:
    http://jameelajamil.co.uk/post/169720263620/what-we-need-to-learn-from-the-aziz-ansari

  43. Kendra Leake says...

    In the babe article she admits the date was consensual and I think she even approached him. After going to his place after she felt uncomfortable and told him she was uncomfortable she got dressed and then gave him head…like? You say you’re uncomfortable and then if he keeps going for it you leave. Simple as that. He didn’t false imprison her. He didn’t hold her hostage. He didn’t threaten her. He didn’t drug her. Instead of blaming him this girl needs to take ownership for her actions. Don’t do something you’re uncomfortable with. Don’t say you’re uncomfortable then give a guy head. That makes no sense. Now I know why she wanted to be anonymous. Smh. So many women have horrid things happen to them bc they don’t have a choice. This is an instance where she mad a bad call and is regretting it. Not the same thing at all. I refuse to accept that bs.

    • Anne says...

      You have perfectly articulated everything I felt when reading her account. Thank you.

    • Anne says...

      You’ve perfectly articulated everything I felt when I read her account. Thank you.

    • KylieO says...

      Agreed!

    • Inge says...

      I agree, those were my initial thoughts also. She says one thing, then does the opposite. Too bad this gets picked up in the media.

    • MyHanh says...

      Agreed!

  44. Heidi says...

    @ k Sara I think that sex isn’t something you should rush into with strangers. If you go home with someone you don’t know and take your clothes off and let them go down on you, you are putting yourself at risk. You don’t even know that person. You have already made yourself a willing, vulnerable part of the show. Can we agree that the situation described is very different from being abducted and raped or assaulted without putting yourself in a potential situation!

  45. Laura says...

    I have seen people come down all over the place on this, and I don’t know what to think. I do wonder how to think about who ultimately responsible for what happens in a sexual encounter that’s not clearly rape: Is it the person who felt uncomfortable and should have left, but didn’t? Is it the person who got so sh*tfaced that s/he didn’t know what they were doing? Is it the culture that taught us all a twisted version of what is “normal”?
    This article by a man detailing how many films steer men towards being sexually aggressive towards women was eye-opening: http://www.cracked.com/blog/how-men-are-trained-to-think-sexual-assault-no-big-deal/. Basically, no answers here, just lots of questions.

  46. Laure says...

    Thank you Joanna for sharing the last quote “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 what my mom has always taught my sister, my brother and me and I truly believe that once we push for this as a society, the next generations will have a much healthier take on sex. Thanks for this post <3

  47. Brett Huebner says...

    This article was insightful. As a man I agree. We are socially directed tokeep checking that boundary line. I don’t recall being explicitly told this ever but it is very much implied. And I think you are correct to point out a whole new model is needed a paradigm shift as it were.

    • Kathy T says...

      Thanks Brett for chiming in.

  48. ashley says...

    Ugh. This is such a deep issue. All I can say is, I wish I’d had my Cup of Jo big sisters (that’s you, readers) when I was growing up to give me all this wonderful advice on self respect and boundaries. I take full responsibility for my past actions – and inactions – but a lack of self confidence and self respect does have something to do with most of these types of situations in my past. Those things, along with the ability to truly say no and walk away with confidence, are something that came with time, though reading these comments I’m convinced it would’ve come sooner had I had a strong female support system like this growing up.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this, ashley.

  49. Lena says...

    This is tangential to this very important conversation, but are there men who are consistently good/thoughtful/caring/perceptive at sex? Are they a minority? The resounding verbal nods of empathy and shared experience to both the babe article and the Mew Yorker Cat Person story are making me realize my own experiences are more commonplace than I thought. Do a large percentage of straight vid men just suck at participating in a mutually pleasurable experience that takes into account a female partners desires and preferences? I’m asking this honestly, searchingly, and in good faith. What do you think?

    • Lena says...

      Argh autocorrect!! New Yorker (though “Mew” is appropriate for a cat person story I guess…) and “straight cis men”

    • Hi Lena (nice name!),

      I have to say that YES, there are straight, cis men that are consistently good/thoughtful/caring/perceptive at sex. My husband is one of them, as are many of my male friends. But no one is perfect, and no one is a mind-reader, and with boys and girls being taught that women exist to give men sex (!!!!) it’s easy to see why so many men AND women have fallen into similar situations as the one in the article. Several times, my husband has told me that he looks back and even now worries that he took things too far with a girl but that she didn’t feel like she could say no, EVEN after he asked her, repeatedly, ‘Is this ok? Are you sure you want to do this?’. If a girl has been taught (by society or her friends or her parents) that it’s ‘bad’ to deny men sex, the guy can ask for her consent all he wants and he’ll still somehow be implicit in coercing the girl if she doesn’t say NO. Similarly, many guys I know want, more than anything, to make sure their partners orgasm, but if the girl fakes it, how’s the poor dude to know? Again, they can ask and ask and ask but if their partner does not tell them the truth, how can they be blamed for not providing a pleasurable experience? Both men and women have a huge responsibility to be honest, clear, and considerate when it comes to sex. It takes two to tango (lol).

      Lena

  50. Anne says...

    Women need to be more direct with what they’re comfortable with. To engage in a sexual act and then say it was uncomfortable after isn’t fair. Aziz has tackled so many important issues in his show and I’m just sad that one story could threaten his future. I think this conversation needs to happen but the media has become irresponsible with how they’re doing it… they will print anything and it’s incredibly damaging and distracting from the real issue.

  51. Sarah says...

    Thank you for starting a conversation about this on Cup of Jo.

    One link I haven’t seen shared here yet is this:

    http://www.katykatikate.com/2018/01/not-that-bad_15.html

    I’ve seen comments sharing Lainey’s and Jill Filipovic’s opinions which I also think are great.

    • Linnea says...

      Yes! My head was spinning until I read that piece (the one you linked to).

      The part that got me was this:
      “The women that you’re seeing scoff at her? They aren’t scoffing because they think a guy would never do that. They’re scoffing because they believe every single word she said. They don’t have to imagine it either… Mean, punishing sex is normal. And awful. Our normal is awful.”

      It’s true and it hurts. I have so much respect for Grace and her courage to be honest about her experience, seek support from friends, and then address it directly with Aziz.

      We all need to take a close look at what we consider normal, and how we react to our own pain AND the pain of others. These uncomfortable, complicated conversations aren’t going to get easier. But we must keep having them and not shame those who choose to share their pain.

    • Jamie says...

      Thanks for sharing the link. She has many good points.

  52. Mary says...

    Apparently no one ever told Grace how the real world works: Women are the gatekeepers of sex. It involves giving and taking and is inherently transactional. What’s the price? Some women set the price very high (marriage) and some very low (hookups). If you want a guy to care about you, raise the price and wait to have sex. One needn’t necessarily wait for marriage, but if Grace had established a level of trust in Aziz that was commensurate with her attraction to him she might have avoided his debasement of her.

    One consolation to Grace is that her public remarks demonstrate that a wise woman will not soon trust Mr. Ansari.

    • Heidi says...

      Yes.

    • Dorie says...

      This is a very cynical take. Sex is not a transaction.

    • Crts says...

      But women should not have to be gatekeepers. The default should not be for men to try to take as much as possible and for women to resist. This is not fair or equal.

    • Leanne says...

      I totally disagree with this. Maybe this is true in some worlds, but in mine, at least with my husband and in my other relationships, I have wanted sex just as much, if not more, than my male partners.

      Kids on the other hand… LOL. ;-P

    • sijia says...

      is this sarcasm? satire? Is this comment meant in all seriousness? In this Age of Internet Discourse I honestly can’t tell when people are being misogynistic to create an exaggerated social critique, or when they’re just being misogynist

    • Tara says...

      I consider this an abhorrent position. Women should not have to be the gatekeepers of sex, and to consider sex in this transactional way where women’s bodies are the commodities and men the agents who acquire them is damaging, for women and for men.

      The idea that women must always be on guard and are at blame if they are assaulted or abused is victim shaming and disgusting. Where do you draw the line?

      The statements about this woman and oral sex also miss the point that perhaps if Ansari had not behaved the way he had, she would not have felt that she had to engage in it. I don’t know – I only know what has been put in the public domain – but it is dangerous to suggest that engaging in any kind of sex act with the accused means that there was no coercion or abuse.

    • Jen says...

      Says the 1950’s housewife to her daughter….

      This women are the gatekeepers mentality is EXACTLY why he acted as he did.

    • Allison says...

      I question WHY you and others believe this is how ‘the real world works’. And also… is this how we want it to work? This is certainly not how I am raising my children.

    • jess says...

      This is such an antiquated approach to sex, I don’t even know where to start. You are completely undermining a woman’s right to have sex whenever and however she wants to, on her terms.

    • Ali says...

      Mary’s take isn’t a cynical one – it’s just an approach that considers human behavior and drivers of our decision making. Think of the Freakonomics book that came out in 2005 that looked at “the hidden side of everything.”

      There’s a book called Cheap Sex that came out recently – very interesting, non-emotional read on the state of the dating/sexual market today. This entire encounter between “Grace” and Ansari makes a lot of sense (not saying it is right, just that it’s predictable) after reading that book.

    • Laura says...

      I agree with this, even though I feel genuine sympathy for these women. But I think so much of this is hookup culture and pornography driven. We are now sleeping with men who have seen sex brutally and cynically portrayed on the internet. They have had to sacrifice nothing to sleep with their “sexually empowered” female counterparts. I do think we treat sex extremely casually, and that this is part of the fallout. Should men be held responsible? Absolutely. But we should all think about what we permit as a culture, and how that is affecting how we relate to one another.

      I clicked over to the New Yorker piece and read the whole thing, slack-jawed. I have been that girl, delighted in my own power over a man and then disappointed with the fallout. But I kept feeling so sorry for him! She was capitalizing on his insecurity, initiating sex, continually acting interested, and then was suddenly revolted by his weight, his body hair. How shaming! I hate that she used his basic humanity, his imperfections as a reason to share a deeply personal story, and to abandon him via text.

      I have been married eleven years to my partner (together for 16). We have an amazing sex life, in part because we did wait until we were married. Now we have a son and a daughter, and honestly, I fear for them both in our current culture, where we treat one another, and sexual encounters as completely disposable.

  53. Grace says...

    The truth is, now that I know all this, I can never see Aziz Ansari in the same light — not to say he is on the level of Weinstein and the others — but he was being a creep, even if she “should” have left, it doesn’t excuse the fact that he was being creepy and pushy. In a selfish way, I feel “sad” (not entirely sure of the emotion tbh) because I am a fan and vouched for him against some friends who thought his SNL monologue against Trump was too jokey. And, like, I love Master of None so freaking much. A part of me wished I never read the article at all, selfishly.

    But another thing is that her age also factors in. At 23, I was naive (and I say that with as much love as possible). I still had SO much to learn when it came to dating (ex. picking up on when to leave because I didn’t want to “hurt his feelings” and learning that casual hook-ups aren’t my thing). I know she’s an adult, but the age difference bothers me ONLY because 23, to me, is so young. I feel that as a 34-year-old he would think similarly. Also I just feel confused. So confused. I read Modern Romance and this is all a shock to me. But I’m happy you are talking about this because it brings to light the complexity of the #MeToo movement, so really thank you.

    • Leanne says...

      I kept thinking: “What is Aziz thinking, chasing after a 23-year-old Brooklyn photographer?”

      Maybe just another guy using his fame to hook up with women who are much, much younger than him.

      Definitely not on brand.

      But also, at 23, I would have seen more black and white where I now see grey.

    • Grace says...

      Yes!! Tbh, her age is what glaringly stuck out to me when I read about it (next to the awful journalism). If she had been 30 and he was 41, it’d be so different. I can empathize with her because of her age. Two years out of college and the college dating scene going on what might have been her first date with someone 11 years her senior…I’m just mad at Babe for the horrible job they did recounting her story because it makes it seem so disingenuous.

  54. Hayley says...

    Thank you for addressing this, I was hoping you would! This is an important conversation men and women need to be having right now, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. I think this Vox article is important, since it presents the real conversation we all need to be having: https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/1/16/16894722/aziz-ansari-grace-babe-me-too Yes, this exchange is all too prevalent, and that’s unfortunate, but it’s precisely why we as a society need to ask ourselves why that is. Why are we teaching and encouraging boys to be persistent and continue to pester girls who have declined their advances? Why are we teaching them that “no” doesn’t always mean “no?” And why are we teaching and encouraging girls to be polite, meek, and subservient, and to just acquiesce during situations where they feel uncomfortable or pressured, in fear of offending someone? Consent should not be so blurry or complex. We need to better educate boys to understand this, to not treat women as props, and to respect and honor their boundaries and desires, and we also need to empower girls to be better advocates for themselves, and to not be meek or subservient to men. We need to teach them not to acquiesce in situations where they are uncomfortable, for fear that declining a man’s advances would make her be perceived as unfavorable, rude, or a prude, but rather to be firm about what they want or don’t want, and to quickly remove themselves from a situation where that isn’t being acknowledged or respected. (To be clear, I do understand there are instances where actual victims need to oblige in order to stay safe), I’m talking about situations where men aren’t threatening women. Anyway, this is an important discussion to be having, so thank you for addressing it and encouraging the conversation.

    • Blandine says...

      “Why are we teaching and encouraging boys to be persistent and continue to pester girls who have declined their advances? Why are we teaching them that “no” doesn’t always mean “no?” And why are we teaching and encouraging girls to be polite, meek, and subservient, and to just acquiesce during situations where they feel uncomfortable or pressured, in fear of offending someone?”
      Absolutely!!!

  55. cora says...

    I read a handful of comments and they were all taking a side and placing one party in the party of blame. Why is our conversation one that feels we must assign blame? It doesn’t advance the conversation, it sidetracks it. This isn’t about Grace, it isnt about what she did or didn’t do nor is it about his relentlessness- it’s about our culture. I want my 2 girls to grow up with a different paradigm. So let’s stop assigning blame and changing what we thing. When this broke I defended Ansari, then I realized grace’s story was similar to my own- why did I, or she have to deal with that shit- “it’s not fun if we’re both not having fun right?” Right? So who cares about grace or ansari, let’s just start changing how we teach our kids, let’s put our own enjoyment first, and acknowledge our own agency so that this doesn’t happen again- to any of us, to any of our daughters, or our sons.

  56. Greeney Bird says...

    This is a 50/50 situation. They both had needs neither articulated in a coherent manner. She wanted to orbit the bright flame of celebrity and revel in it’s light. Didn’t happen. He wanted to have sex with a young woman. Didn’t happen. She gave ‘non-verbal clues’ that she didn’t want it. She also gave ‘non-verbal clues’ that she did want it. He haves ‘non-verbal clues’ that he wanted it. He also backed off at times.
    IMO, what we need to take from this is that both men and women need to step up, have clear conversations of our expectations and BE DIRECT.
    I know that there are so many gray areas, but what I’m calling for is the end of the gray area. And the beginning of personal responsibility. And I’m absolutely talking about this in the context of dating (not in the absolutely unacceptable situations of rape, assault, et al). Meeting, going to dinner, having drinks, going to someone’s apartment. SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS AT THE START. From this point forward. Not to shame or blame anyone who hasn’t, male or female, before now. But now is now. It is time. Time is up. Men need to change and women need to change. It isn’t either or.

    • Hayley says...

      Well said!

    • Christina says...

      Yes!

    • Boymomma4ever says...

      Yes. Wonderful comment. Learn to ask for what you want or need and respect what your date says in reply.

    • Anna says...

      Totally agree with this too! Well said.

  57. m says...

    I’m conflicted with many aspects of this story, but there is one thing I’m sure about: I am disgusted by the journalistic reporting by Babe. The way Grace’s story was told cheapened her experience and made her a mockery of the internet. Worse yet, by the manner in which her story was told, so many men are ignoring the lessons to be made by this incident and instead making jokes about “white wine”. I’m afraid this story gave a lot of men fodder to discount our many grievances as women. We can’t change this current sexual culture without men being full participants as change agents alongside us women.

    • KD says...

      This. The babe writer made me cringe – certain aspects were highlighted (who Ansari was, the wine, the good date outfit).

    • Allison says...

      Yes, completely! The Jezebel article does a good job of breaking this down. I highly recommend it.

    • Tara says...

      Yes!

  58. It is hard for me because I can’t relate to this. I have had many boyfriends before I met my husband, but I can honestly say that I have never been in a romantic situation that became pushy or negative. Twice, drunk strangers kissed me and one of them was thrown out of the club by the bouncer, and the other was was locked out of the hostel room by the other young women staying there… because I protested loudly and got help. But the men I chose to be close with in an intimate way have always been respectful. I can’t imagine letting a stranger, famous or not, too close to me. I have to know if I can trust him first. I think that both men and women need to establish trust through time before letting someone be close beyond kissing. There is just so much at risk. Maybe this seems old fashioned, but if sex was viewed and defined as something between consenting adults who trust each other, then we wouldn’t have these problems.

  59. Katie says...

    I find myself incredibly frustrated by the comments from the New York Times, CNN and Atlantic writers. What this woman described, her experience is a perfect and sad example of the problem. It may not be as “horrific” sounding as the Harvey Weinstein etc etc behavior, but this is the kind of sexual harrassment/assult/call it whatever the hell you want to call it, that happens every day to girls and women that over time makes us feel like we are not good enough to deserve better treatment. Some might say that his actions arn’t bad enough, or aggressive enough to qualify as harrassment or assult, but the fact is that he continued to push her until she gave into his advances. Not every act of sexual abuse is a scene out of Law & Order.
    I was in a marriage for 8 years with a man who more often than not wouldn’t take no for an answer. And if I did say no I would be punished by his escalating anger, physically pushing me into sex, him storming off and sleeping in the other bedroom, or him refusing to do things together the next day. Now, I am telling you that after 8 years of this kind of behavior you start to have a pretty difficult time deciphering what is normal and what is abusive. These “little” acts of abusive happen every day to normal people in very normal looking relationships and are just as detrimental. It doesn’t have to be Harvey Weinstein chasing you around a hotel room to qualify as rape, or assult or abuse. It doesn’t have to be a boss to be a powerful man. A perpetrater is just anyone who hears the word no and still continues pushing, leaving the woman wondering what just happened.

    • Christine says...

      I am so sorry you were treated that way for so long. I hope you are in a happier, safe place now.

    • Tiffani Green says...

      I am so sorry, I suffered through a marriage very much like yours. I also had an experience at 23 with a married co-worker 10 years my senior who chose to prey on me sexually during a very difficult, vulnerable time in my life. Those experiences definitely informed my outlook on this story. And those experiences, though they were not rape and though people close to me did dismiss them as just being awkward or unfortunate, left wounds that I’m still trying to recover from.

    • Leanne says...

      That sounds horrible. So glad you left him. I can’t imagine the trauma.

  60. Jeanne says...

    A difference between me at 40 and me at 20 is that my no sounds like no and my yes sound like yes.

    I think for many years my no in relationships, work, sex sounded to listeners like the please-convince-me, “No I couldn’t possibly have any more cheesecake” than my current this-discussion-is-over “No”.

    • Tracey says...

      Love this and yes me too.

  61. Katie Larissa says...

    I made a personal decision to save my virginity for the man I would marry. (And just so everyone knows, I don’t shame women who choose differently.) All I know is that making that choice gave me such strength when I was young and unsure of myself. It gave me lots of self-respect…that I could say “no” and leave, period. And I did, in several different scenarios. Once my college professor reached out and grabbed my breast during a music lesson in his office (with no prior warning.) I slapped his hand away, walked out, and told authorities. Over the next few weeks, so many female students came up to me and said the same thing happened to them with that professor, but they didn’t speak up or say no, even though they were uncomfortable. I think that we have to teach our boys to ask and to pay attention and to TREAT A WOMAN WITH RESPECT AND KINDNESS, but we also have to teach our girls to speak up/scream/leave NO MATTER WHAT, if they want the progression of things to stop. Enough of this “I didn’t like it but I just didn’t want to put in the effort to stop,” or “I was afraid of what he’d say to me” etc.
    I really believe that the culture of casual sex our generation has embraced has taught men that they can have it whatever, whenever they want it, and it has taught women that they have to give it, because it’s what’s expected or progressive.

    • Katie Larissa says...

      Also, to clarify, I am by no means talking about situations involving actual rape. Right now, I’m only referencing a situation like the one this post talks about.

    • Grace says...

      See, I would argue the opposite. Talking up virginity as an important thing needed for self respect makes people feel bad about themselves when they have sex. There’s nothing wrong with having sex if you want to and no reason why not having it should give people a sense of self-respect. Maybe if people felt that sex was a normal, non-shameful thing that they could have or not have as they desire, they would feel more confident in themselves and the choices they make and not feel pressured either way. Elizabeth Smart often talks about how awful she felt when she was sexually assaulted, due to how she was taught to think of sex.

    • Leanne says...

      I agree with Grace on this one. I don’t like the “virginity” concept, I think it’s too often twisted and made gross. Especially for young women, it seems like this thing that you’re supposed to prize and protect, and I think it’s very weird, commoditizing women’s bodies like that.

      I remember talking once to a young woman who’d had some sexual experience, and because of concepts like virginity, she felt some shame, and thus didn’t feel that she could ask for things, or be treated a certain way; she felt like her body was worth less. I thought that was so heartbreaking! Your sexual history shouldn’t have any bearing on how you are/aren’t treated in a relationship!

      That said, I firmly believe that everyone, and especially women, should be treated with kindness and respect, regardless of their sexual history. I don’t believe that a culture of casual sex means that women “have to give it”, but I do believe that lingering notions of virginity being prized teach women that their bodies are worth less once they have some sexual history, and I think that’s b*llsh*t.

    • Gabriella says...

      Grace,
      Katie Larissa says right from the start that she doesn’t “shame women who choose differently”, and does not even argue in favour of waiting for marriage. What she does say is that the culture of casual sex (regardless of how anyone stands on this issue), it is becoming more and more important for women and men to know how to treat one another with respect, and know when to leave/say no. For her, this confidence came from a place of knowing that she did not want sex before marriage at all. For others, this motivation and confidence will come through being taught and shown differently.

    • Christine says...

      In case you don’t have time to follow the above link (although it’s worth reading in its entirety!), here are the two paragraphs that really stood out to me:

      All of it, the whole conversation, this is what it boils down to: Consent, and the disregard for and lack thereof. The burden must shift from waiting for a “no” to asking for a “yes”. “No” is a word so inherently dangerous many women do everything in their power to avoid saying it outright anyway. But “yes” is a word everyone likes. It’s a word of action, it’s not lack of resistance but willful engagement.

      But right now the entire, crushing weight of preventing EVERYTHING, from violence to unwanted attention, falls on women. It’s an untenable burden, living in a world where you are responsible for your physical and sexual safety every second of every day, which is why there are so goddamn many victims in the first place. Because it CANNOT be done. It is impossible. And we fail. And we are victimized. However you want to parse it, whatever scale you want to apply, that’s your own thing and I’m not interested in the semantics. What I am interested in is lessening this burden. And it begins with asking for “yes”.

  62. Anna Louise says...

    Sorry, but this is not a “tough one” for me. If you’re in a sexual situation you don’t want to be in, no one is responsible for you except you. Want to feel empowered? Say no. It doesn’t matter whether or not the other person should have read your non-verbal cues. You’ve got a mouth and legs and unless he’s actually raping you, which is not what happened here, you’re in charge of your body. All going to this kind of extreme in victimhood does is weaken the whole (very important!) cause

    • MyHanh says...

      I agree.

    • Anne says...

      Yep.

    • KylieO says...

      Yes!

    • Mia says...

      This is honestly really gross…women don’t walk around with immense amounts of power and control until they are raped out of the blue, rape happens because women are repeatedly victimized by men and then gaslighted by other women and told that whatever other lesser assault that happened to them is their own fault. Aziz did things to her that she said that she did not want him to do that was WRONG, END OF STORY.

    • Maria says...

      Agree!

    • Alexa says...

      YES.

  63. Shannon says...

    I’m wondering whether this essay would have been more useful if, rather than naming Ansari, it named “a famous male celebrated for his progressive views on dating”. At least that way, the conversation would be more focused on the heart of the issue, which is the collective stumbling our culture is experiencing right now with re-defining what “consent” and “assault” mean.

    But by naming Ansari, and that click-baity overstatement of a headline, it becomes about whether the woman is justified in telling her story at all. And that continues to be a symptom of the greater problem (!!!)

    Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

    • Shannon says...

      As a “PS”, this op-ed makes an important point about how not only is the account itself problematic, equally is the manner/vehicle with which it was disseminated (a lack of journalistic integrity, for sure): https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/16/aziz-ansari-story-missed-opportunity

      It let itself be baited by the sensationalism of a celebrity-bash and didn’t even give the accused much courtesy time to respond. (Let’s not forget the many, many months of work the Times journalists did on the Weinstein story… how much care and time was spent on this story? The Golden Globes, Grace’s “trigger” for telling the story, were a WEEK before this piece was published).

  64. M says...

    The important question to answer is – are men learning anything from Grace’s story? My husband wanted to know why she took pictures of her dinner. Hmmmm.

    • Jasap says...

      Strangely, this was one of the things that bothered me as well, and I’m a woman. Would she do the same thing if she wasn’t on a date with a celebrity? What do you think?

    • Jenny says...

      The pics and the keeping of the text seems a little premeditated on her part. This waters down the metoo movement -sadly.
      If this is the worst night of her life she is utterly ridiculous.

  65. Becca says...

    I may be old-fashioned, but I have only had sex with my husband. After reading about all of these horrifying encounters, I can only feel grateful that I have only shared this part of myself with someone I absolutely trust and who knows me better than anyone else. I don’t expect everyone to make the same decision and I feel sick for anyone who has been forced into sex without consent. But, I do think that saving sexual encounters for someone whom we deeply trust and respect, qualities that can only be built over time, can help us as women avoid these really confusing and unfortunate situations.

    • Ashley says...

      Even if a woman chooses to save herself for one relationship, that wouldn’t prevent a man from pursuing her relentlessly.

  66. Jasap says...

    I have to admit I’m really on the fence about this one. Usually, when I hear a similar story, as a reflex, I tend to believe the woman because I know what it’s like to find oneself in a situation when you feel pressured to do something just so that the evening can continue smoothly, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. But here? Something in the way she came forward only after seeing him win a Golden Globe, the way she (as she puts it) didn’t see his behavior as predatory or assaulting in any way until her friends pointed out that it was, makes me think that maybe, this was a situation where one party wanted casual sex and the other one wanted the beginning of a relationship or at least a night to remember to brag to her girlfriends about later. When it didn’t happen the way she planned it to, she went to the press. I really don’t know what to think about it all because in spite of what I’ve just written, I don’t think that means that Ansari’s behaviour was in any way excusable…uh. Thanks for giving us a platform to express our views!

    • sarah says...

      I’m with you Jasap. It seems like if he wasn’t a celebrity this maybe wouldn’t have happened? But it feels gross saying that.

      Ansari should and probably does know better. It’s gross to think he would behave that way but it also seems like people behave one way when they want to hookup and another way when they want a relationship.

  67. Liz says...

    I have mixed feelings about this story too, but I think it’s a great opportunity to discuss instances of assault and misconduct where there may be no “villain” per say.
    Before I found myself in a situation like Grace’s, I had always thought that if someone tried to push my boundaries, I would have no trouble saying no, getting up to leave and maybe even dropping a few self-righteous curses. But then it happened, and I didn’t.
    There is often so much more at play than a simple option: stay or leave. It can be hard to give a clear no when your previous attempts, nonverbal and otherwise are disregarded.
    I found The Heart podcast’s examination of the journey for each woman to figure out how to say “No” in what is often a sexually coercive and aggressive dating culture incredibly insightful.
    http://www.theheartradio.org/no-episodes/

  68. Ann says...

    I understand the mixed views on this situation.

    I think it’s an important story for the times. I don’t think Aziz should be jailed for these actions, but it definitely shows that he does not ‘practice what he preaches’. I can’t count how many experiences I had just like this in college. Men/boys who had clearly watched too much porn, and used those experiences to inform their discourse with women. I’d go on a great date, and be interested in some kissing or fooling around, but it would quickly become too fast and forceful. Having been attracted to the person, and having been genuinely interested I might have given them too many chances to pick up on my slower pace, before having to pull away completely and leaving. I never called this rape, or assault, but I also know this is not how it should be. This is not ‘bad sex’. This is forceful, aggressive sex that doesn’t make anyone feel good in the end, and for me it was the norm and not the exception.

    When I met my now husband I knew he was the one, because he was the FIRST man to treat me like a person who had feelings and sent cues with my actions. Even now after 7 years together, if my kisses aren’t quite on, or I’m not as into it as usual, he will stop and ask if everything’s alright.

    Boys need to see more of that, and less of what Aziz did.

    I don’t think what Aziz did was assault, but it wasn’t good or right. I totally understand why when Grace saw him wearing the TimesUp pin, she felt the need to share this important story.

    • Kelly says...

      Well said.

    • Pin says...

      Very well said

    • Blandine says...

      Great points

  69. S says...

    There’s an older man who attends my church. He is so touchy with all the young women. Holding hands, rubbing backs, even cupping our faces in his hands while staring into our eyes. SO uncomfortable and inappropriate. I find myself saying “if he touches me again I’m going to say something.” And then inevitable the moment arrives and I freeze. I don’t want to make a scene, he’s an old man, he’s being a father-figure, he’s a nice man, blah blah blah. But none of my made up excuses ever make me feel better. I AM uncomfortable. I AM pissed off! But it’s hard to say it because I don’t want to be a bitch. I can’t belive myself sometimes. I look at my 4 year old daughter and I’m so thankful that at least she will grow up in a world where any man would be a complete fool to lay a even a finger on a woman without asking her consent. We are making a difference. Conversations like this make a difference.

    • Leanne says...

      Be a bitch! <3 <3

    • JO says...

      Unfortunately, and as much as I wish it were so, I don’t think what you mean by this statement: “I’m so thankful that at least she will grow up in a world where any man would be a complete fool to lay a even a finger on a woman without asking her consent. ” will be true for your daughter. True, there will be foolish men (to use a kinder adjective), but there will be ones laying hands on (someone’s) daughters.

      It was unclear how you intend to respond to this man at your church, but I hope that you are feeling encouraged to speak up and address the behavior of this person (who sounds like a complete creep). You don’t know what else is happening that you haven’t seen in plain view. Surely speaking up will provide relief not just to you, but for the other women in your church, and hopefully put an end to the behavior.

      I’ve seen similar type of behavior in a church before as well (not with a father figure type, but with a loner who seemed kind at first but was way too touchy), and when it was brought up among the women it turned out that several women were uncomfortable about it but had similar concerns to yours about expressing it. The women needed to be empowered to speak up against behavior that made them feel uncomfortable.

    • LeighTX says...

      I know (I KNOW) how hard it is to say something in the moment, especially at church where we’re supposed to be extra-nice. But your daughter is watching and she’ll learn more from what you do than from any conversation in the media. Be brave for her, and tell this man he’s making you uncomfortable. Or ask a pastor to tell him to stop touching women. Or both. It will be awkward and it might make you feel badly in the moment but you CAN do it, and knowing you stood up for yourself and other women in your church will be awesome. :)

    • S says...

      Thanks so much for you comments. I do feel empowered and I think being ready to respond will help me the next time. I will speak to some of the other women too. And yes so true about having to be “extra nice” at church. That’s why so many creeps are attracted to churches. Creepy dudes can get away with a lot in a loving, forgiving environment. Yuck.

    • HS says...

      Next time you see him, pull him aside and tell him something along the lines of “I think you’re a very kind man, and I’ve struggled with how to tell you that I don’t enjoy being touched socially the way you often do. I just realized that I was doing you and our conversations a disservice by not telling you”. If he continues after that point, then he warrants the label of creep and further action can be taken. But he could very well be completely apologetic and understanding, and just needs the opportunity to display it.

  70. Amy says...

    I have mixed feelings about what happened, but the one thing that this conversation has cleared up for me is that I will be having discussions with both my son and daughter: take the time to communicate with your partner, see what they are comfortable with, know your own body and speak about what you are comfortable with. Surely, this combined with practicing safe sex would make for a better sexual experience for both partners.

    • Hayley says...

      I totally agree with you, Amy! I too identify strongly as a feminist and agreed with Bari Weiss’s perspective. I think Aziz was behaving in a disgusting and aggressive manner, and was a jerk, but at the same time, I don’t think this was sexual assault, nor was it something that needed to be brought to the public sphere.

  71. Courtney says...

    Have you ever participated in some sort of physical intimacy for the first time thinking/hoping that it would feel special or romantic (along with sexy) but once happening, it just felt pushy/hasty and strictly physical on the part of the guy? I have been in that position–realizing I wasn’t feeling into it because of the pushy/not tender vibe–but by then it’s easier to just ‘go along’ for awhile rather than risk upsetting/disappointing the guy. In this way I felt I could relate to Grace–perhaps she had hoped in spending time with him at the apartment it would feel good and special and when it didn’t it was difficult to navigate her way out. Sure, she could have left immediately, but I’m sure when she asked if they could “chill” she hoped the redirect might result in a better, slower, more respectful experience (rather than him pointing to his penis soon after). Also, at 22, sometimes you don’t know what you do or don’t want, you’re still experimenting and not sure if something that doesn’t feel good “should” feel good, etc. So she was trying to be open but at the same time feeling really bad on the inside. That’s why checking in with each other verbally is so important. I see all sides. Ugh. I think part of this scenario stems from the way our patriarchal culture has led women to consistently put the desires of men above our own, especially when it comes to sex. This is a conversation our society needs to have.

    • Shade says...

      You just wrote all my thoughts, exactly.

  72. Thank you, once again, for presenting a recent issue with grace, kindness, and fairness. The comments I’ve read have also been so insightful. It’s such a complicated issue and I’m delighted that you’ve created a space for conversation about it here.

  73. S Kay says...

    The definition of bad sex is something along the lines of “alas! no luck finding the clitoris” or “i was more of a desert than an ocean” or “unplanned interruption by my dog who wouldn’t stop barking” or “we could describe the duration in seconds… not minutes”

    The definition of bad sex is NOT “i finally just said yes because this guy wouldn’t stop” or “he kept trying to change my mind and i got tired of saying no” or “he kept pushing my head down as though the only thing stopping me was a stiff neck”

    The “keep going until she says no 3 times” is a gross coercive rapey thing. It’s gross to beg someone to have sex with you. And if they say no, it’s also ILLEGAL.

    Coercive sex is not good sex.

    It REALLY bothers me that articles have been accusing women of not exercising agency. We aren’t saying “assault!!” because we are too lazy to call a cab or say no. If I were a man, I’d be thinking “wow, these articles really don’t believe in my emotional intelligence. They paint me out to be a blundering blind idiot”.

    Analogy: If you ask someone to borrow their car, and they look at you with furrowed brows/or hesitate and don’t hand you their keys, do you snatch it out of their hands and assume you can go take it for a spin? No! Same goes for sex! You can read someone’s body language. You should make the space comfortable for someone to say no.

    Make room for them to consider if they want to do this. Make space for conversation.
    GOLDEN RULE: Don’t have sex with someone you can’t talk to about the kind of sex you want to be having. Have sex with people who are STOKED to be having sex with you.

    • sarah says...

      S Kay I don’t mean this as argumentative at all. My question is if someone is being obnoxious about sex why stay? Why wouldn’t you leave? Assuming you are safe to do so (I realize it is not always safe and that is different). It seems like a legitimate question that everyone is furious about. If you’re scared I get not leaving but if you’re not scared why not just get dressed and leave?

    • Heidi says...

      Say yes or say no. Put it out there verbally. Women need to think about your golden rule as well-don’t go home with guys from bars. Don’t get naked if you do. Don’t engage in oral sex with strangers. Don’t give all the signs and the. Play the victim. Because there are real victims out there that legit had no input into what happened. In my mind, this situation is very different from being raped as I know it personally-in a situation as a child that I did nothing to engage. When I read about something like this, it makes me angry that this person made bad choices that she regrets and now wants to distract attention from actual victims of rape and brutality. The movement is for all but please make sure you are being honest with yourself about your realities. That’s all I wanted to say.

    • Ann says...

      YES!
      Love your Golden Rule

    • S Kay says...

      @Sarah and @Heidi

      Thank you ladies for your responses!
      Sarah — It seemed like a complicated interplay, no? Like when she displayed hesitancy, and asked him to slow down, he initially agreed. And then disregarded his own statements and pushed forth AGAIN. I don’t think it was unreasonable that she gave him the benefit of the doubt initially. I also think that she describes sort of being unable to get away (at least for a while) when she talked about the throat-shoving maneuver. I think that the environment that Aziz created made it hard for her to leave. Also, her leaving would immediately have ended the encounter on really negative terms. I can understand that someone might hope that they can resolve a situation without it being a hostile exchange. Especially when you consider the power and clout of a celebrity. Women aren’t used to denying men. Not to speak for Grace, but I can empathize with the burden of having to keep saying no. And right now, i think we need to focus on what men can do, not just saying “girls, it’s all on you”.

      Heidi — Is sex just a yes or no question? I find that too simplistic of a characterization. If I take off my clothes, I may be consenting to oral sex, but not to penetrative sex. I may be consenting to vaginal sex, but not anal sex. I may be consenting to foreplay, but decide, “hey… i’m not feeling it, and actually, i’d like to go home now.”
      I don’t think it’s fair to say that her consent was assumed just because she went home with him. I don’t think we should condone men for making that assumption.

    • Keni says...

      clap clap clap clap
      this is everything i couldn’t verbalize, thank you!

    • Kimberley says...

      Yes, I had the same Feeling @Keni. Thanks for your take on it @S Kay!

    • Niha says...

      Thank you for posting this S Kay
      Not only should we be working on raising daughters who feel more empowered to walk away, say no, etc, I want to be raising better sons.
      Sons who don’t smugly assume that a girl can’t get enough of them. They ASK!

      We aren’t asking for mindreaders, we are asking for empathetic men who want to be on the same page as their partners.

      And someone else posted this, but I agree — for everyone saying “why didn’t she leave?”, does that really solve the problem? Aziz would do it to another girl who maybe didn’t leave. She shouldn’t have had to physically exit to prove a point. She deserved respect in that situation.

    • sarah says...

      Thank you S Kay! I’m still confused about why she didn’t leave but do agree that men need to do better.

      I guess I don’t understand why she would stay. He’s clearly bad/overbearing/weird about sex. Why stay? Did she just want to hang out with him? If so to what end? I would think that his behavior ruled him out as someone she would want to date…

      I get that she shouldn’t have to leave to make a point but I just don’t get what would keep her hanging out?

      Did you see the writer of the piece sent a pretty horrible email to HLN about Ashleigh Banfield? I wish a better reporter/website had handled this story.

  74. Rachel says...

    I wish Cup of Jo had used a stronger editorial voice and taken a more explicit stance on this issue. The title of the post and first paragraphs suggest that Grace’s story deserves attention, but then sharing all the opposing views and ending with a quote from Bari Weiss makes your position less clear. I realize you’re trying to open up a discussion for readers (and I’ve enjoyed reading many of the comments here), but I think you’re giving undue attention and validity to perspectives like Weiss and Flanagan by presenting “opposing voices” without making your own opinion more explicit.

    • Amy says...

      I identify strongly as a feminist and agreed with Bari Weiss’s perspective. I think he was a jerk. I don’t think this was sexual assault, nor was it something that needed to be brought to the public sphere.

      I’m not trying to pick a fight with you as I see space for multiple truths on this one. But I don’t understand why you assume Joanna shares your perspective.

    • Leela says...

      Agree.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      honestly, i’m still thinking it all through. i had strong thoughts when i first read it, and now they’re changing. i’ve realized from past experience that when it comes to especially nuanced issues, i prefer to read and hear and listen and try hard to understand different viewpoints, and then my take on something can sometimes change/grow/develop. so 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. thank you so much xoxo

    • sarah says...

      I appreciate that Cup of Jo didn’t come out with a stronger editorial voice. We’ve already got a ton of those. It’s nice to have someone with “authority” saying they don’t know and it’s ok for you to not know either.

      I don’t know what to think. I feel like if the date was as bad as she described it why did she go to his apartment, but that feels like victim blaming. So I’m trying to figure out why I feel that way.

    • Lynn says...

      I agree.

  75. jac says...

    I am so torn! I don’t think this should end his career, but it should put a cork in his building an image of being the go-to modern dating guru. I love Aziz, but there is power in celebrity. Until now, he always seemed to use his fame for the good of women. My honest emotions are that they both were gross on some level. He was a creep and she seems to want to ruin his public image. Neither of those actions seem fair to the other person.

  76. Heidi says...

    Such a thoughtful way to approach this topic….I feel that there has to be some accountability on both sides in these situations. Arguably, you should be allowed to say no at any point and leave. But if you have just gotten naked, let some bloke go down on you, and engaged in whatever else during a snogging session, at what point have you given consent? If you didn’t verbally say no, doesn’t that mean yes? I think I would be confused as well and I don’t even have an erection diverting my blood stream. I personally have put myself in bad situations after a night of partying and it’s much easier the next day to say it was his fault than that I was just making bad decisions. Also, if the guy was super smooth and sexy than maybe it wouldn’t have been an issue. Aziz is an awkward guy so I can see how you might change your mind at the last minute. Just because it’s bad sex doesn’t mean it was assault.

  77. Rachel says...

    I don’t have anything to add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said, but I want to thank you for writing this so even-handedly, and for touching it at all. It’s been really difficult for me to articulate my feelings about it because I see so many conclusions as valid.

    • Katie says...

      I was about to type something just like your response, Rachel. Thank you Joanna for conveying the situation and arguments so clearly, and thank you for publishing.

  78. Tari says...

    Thank you for such an even handed presentation of this discussion. Some thoughts that keep recurring for me include, why does she get to remain anonymous in this play by play and Aziz does not? His career is at stake and yet she gets to risk nothing for a public airing of a decidedly non-criminal interaction.
    How is pointing at his erection “pressure”? (I think I would LOL if a man did that!)
    Why didn’t she tell him not to put his fingers in her mouth/throat? All I would have been thinking about are germs! He probably thought that move was sexy! He likely had an ex who appreciated that move and didn’t realize that other women might not (he does now).

    I am 42 though, and maybe her youth/inexperience kept her from telling him her preferences?

    I wish for all young women (and men) to be able to tell their partners what they like and what they don’t like in bed as easily as they would state a food preference.

    To quote Salt n Pepa, “Let’s talk about sex!”

    • Sarah says...

      yes to this!

    • Laura says...

      I think you’re missing a major point which is: Why are we obsessed with her reaction and putting pressure on her to be as explicit as possible, yet not wondering why Aziz was “unable to understand” (read: ignored) her basic signs and words?
      There are so many reasons why women don’t feel able to speak up or go along with things they don’t feel comfortable with- we should work on fixing those and empowering women yes- but we should, for once, ask men to meet us halfway by picking up on our signals, hearing what we say and backing off.

    • Tari says...

      Well, as I read the article, her actions were not clear. After alcohol, total nudity, oral sex, he did suggest “chilling”, and then “pointed” to his etection.

      What does “chill” mean? Stop or slow down?

      Is “pointing” at his erection pressure or force? Or was it his “nonverbal” way of asking for oral sex?

      She wasn’t clear at all and that is why so many feminist women do not see any form of abuse in her story.

    • Ali says...

      Laura – it’s entirely fair to ask, “Why was Grace unable to understand” his basic signs and words? He wanted sex – that seems entirely clear from his cues and behaviors. She didn’t want it, yet she stayed there.

      I ask sincerely – why should she be entitled to stay there, hanging out in his home, eating his food, drinking his alcohol, if she didn’t want to participate in the activity he was seeking? Maybe he didn’t want to snuggle on his couch with a stranger. I think we can argue that exclusively seeking sex from a woman makes him a dog – but does it make him wrong? I think it’s hard to argue that men can’t exclusively seek sex when we simultaneously argue that women should be able to have it whenever and with whomever they want.

  79. Cassy says...

    I’ve had conflicted thoughts on this issue. One part of me thinks, she should have said no and left, she should have been smarter to not put herself in that situation. The other part of me recognizes that I found myself in a similar when I was in my early 20’s, unable to give a hard no and leave and wishing he would pick up on my non-verbal cues. Looking back at myself 15 years ago, I recognize there were myriad reasons for not be assertive and they are probably the same reasons that Grace was not as assertive as some critics say should have been. I, like so many girls, was taught to be nice, to be kind, to be gentle, and to subvert our own needs and wishes to accommodate the needs and wishes of others, especially males. Then there is to fear of what might happen if I did say “no” and he didn’t stop… So I can’t judge Grace. Words are inadequate to describe what any woman felt and thought in such a situation and why she acted the way she did.

    • Sarah says...

      Yes, the Lainey piece really made me think and makes a strong point for “yes.” Definitely a great read!

  80. Melkorka says...

    Right after the Charlottesville horror, my brother-in-law posted only one thing about it; He shared that fake-news story about the Sports announcer who got fired because his name was ‘Robert Lee’ with the caption ‘Now it has gone too far…’. Anyways that spoke volumes to me – he cared most about protecting the status quo and what little he had to say mocked and dismissed a real pivotal discussion that was going on.

    What I mean to say is that if the only contribution someone has to the discussion is to pounce on one instance and opine “NOW THIS has gone TOO far” – I fear that they were hoping to have the opportunity to say that all along.

    I think all of us women can recall navigating a flirtation which then turns into feeling on the defense against someone being relentless. It is a complicated thing to handle when you are trying to suss out your own desires for & opinion of the other person (but you have no room to do so as you because they are coming on so strong). I have sympathy for how she felt and feels.

    • sadie says...

      terrific comment, thank you.

  81. Rachael says...

    This has been very hard to wrap my head around. I think it’s because this situation, like the “Cat Person” short story, represents a sinister form of sexism; one in which women are taught to put men’s needs and ego before their own comfort, pleasure and safety, and in a polite way. It’s a tricky situation because there is a clear victim, but there isn’t a clear perpetrator. Aziz himself didn’t create this dynamic and communication malfunction. It’s a product of our whole culture and society. Not that that makes it okay, but the fault does not lie as easily. It is very disappointing given how enlightened Aziz seems that he could not read the cues better. However, it does seem a bit unfair to name him. I don’t believe his career deserves to be ruined because of this, and I hope it isn’t. Furthermore, if this kind of swift, one-size-fits-all punishment becomes the norm, I think ultimately the movement will suffer.

  82. BLG says...

    Come on gals…we as women have got to learn when and how to stand up for ourselves. Yes it can be awkward and embarrassing, but in the end, you will keep your dignity and your anger in check by just ending the date as soon as it gets weird. Leave poor Aziz out of this one–he was just trying, in crude terms, to “get some.”

    • S Kay says...

      But at what cost? Why didn’t his partner’s comfort (or obvious discomfort) take precedent over his wish to get laid? Why was he okay to just have has much as he could get away with?

  83. Anne says...

    What a difficult topic. Was Aziz’s behavior gross? Yes. But seriously – why didn’t she leave??

    I wonder if this type of situation is partially an unfortunate, unintended consequence of the campaign against slut-shaming and victim-blaming. It’s hard to talk about how we can protect ourselves without suggesting in some way that victims of assault just didn’t try hard enough to protect themselves, which of course is absurd. The idea that we need to teach young women how to protect themselves is often met with outrage, because it shouldn’t be their burden to prevent men from acting inappropriately. And of course it SHOULDN’T be their burden, but it IS.

    I also find confusing the idea that “the burden is on men to ask for yes, instead of waiting for no.” It seems like we’re just agreeing that men are the powerful ones and we are the weak ones. It’s not hard to see how that translates to horrible dates like the one with Aziz, where she’s just going along with it until he thinks to ask for yes.

    Difficult topic, and one I can appreciate both sides of!

    • J says...

      I agree with this. One thing that was written about, I think in the Atlantic piece, is that in this situation and many like it, the expectation is that the woman says nothing unless the man asks her. Why must a woman be given permission to say no? Why doesn’t she have agency over her own body enough to say “I don’t want this” unless she is being explicitly asked? I realize this is a societal and cultural issue. I think it does women a disservice that the solution is to teach men to “ask for a yes” as if by asking, the woman’s lips are magically unsealed. If you don’t want to be naked, tell him when he starts to take your clothes off. If you don’t want him to go down on you, say so. (I know many situations end in violence when a woman says no, but in this situation, when she was clear, it ended in “okay let’s watch Seinfeld”) Also while I do think “nonverbal cues” have value, they might not mean much in a situation between two strangers. If you choose to engage in sexual activity with strangers who DO NOT KNOW YOU, it’s even more imperative to communicate beyond “nonverbal” cues.

    • LeighTX says...

      I have struggled for two days to articulate how I feel about this, and you hit it spot-on: “It seems like we’re just agreeing that men are the powerful ones.” Yes, men should absolutely listen and check in and take responsibility. But women should not give up their own agency while waiting for men to learn!

  84. Cara says...

    I’m sorry but this whole back and forth is getting out of hand. Pretty soon it is going to be “he looked at me the wrong way” and all it takes is ONE person’s account of a situation to ruin another person’s (usually a man’s) life. Has anyone stopped to think that perhaps this is one of those “there are always 3 sides to the story” kind of a thing? Why didn’t she leave? Why didn’t she say something? I’m not blaming her, but I’m not saying she’s completely the victim here.

    • Blandine says...

      If the Weinstein story has told us anything is that the lives of sexual predators are usually pretty safe. How many women, how many years has it taken for the story to come out? We should not be fooled by the few and limited consequences that sexual assault allegations have had on some of the lives of accused men recently. Plenty of accused men are doing very well, going on with their lives while their accusers have had to leave jobs, give up opportunities and spend a lot of cash on defense fees.

  85. Colleen says...

    I’m embarrassed for this girl. How about skip the oral sex and just go home? I think the reason he was so aggressive is because she was sending mixed signals. Her “non verbal cues?” What was she doing? Shaking her head no? Why not be verbal? Maybe she needs a sit down with a survivor of actual sexual abuse.

    I consider myself a feminist and strongly support the #metoo movement. But this girl makes us all look bad. Men are expected to hear and listen to the word “no” and rightfully so. Why isn’t a woman expected to say it?

    • Ashley says...

      Seriously! Here are a few of the non-verbal cues mentioned: they kept kissing, she went down on him, she let him go down on her… seems pretty obvious how he got “confused.” Is he supposed to read her mind?! Not enjoying the sex is not the same thing as being violated. It’s time to grow up and speak up for yourself.

    • Amy says...

      Don’t waste your time being embarrassed for her… after all, she gets to remain anonymous! ?

      P.s. for her safety I definitely hope she remains so. Despite feeling that this was not a case of sexual assault or a story that needed to be shared, I am genuinely horrified when I think of what men’s rights activists would do to this girl if her identity became known.

    • Hayley says...

      Well said, Colleen. I too am a feminist and strong supporter of the #metoo movement, and I worry that this girl’s decision to go public with this trivializes this movement and the real victims, and that it may hinder its progression. I’m not trying to discount Grace’s feelings or her experience, and her experience was unfortunate, but I don’t believe it makes her a sexual assault victim. I think both parties are at fault here. Aziz behaved in a disgustingly desperate and aggressive manner, and shouldn’t have pressured her. At the same time, Grace had ample time to better communicate her disinterest and her boundaries, and remove herself from a situation she should have been able to tell early on was not going to improve, or change at all. No, we should not have to spell it out for guys, but the unfortunate reality is sometimes we do, and this is a case where it’s apparent that needed to happen. She kept wishfully thinking he was going to treat her the way she had envisioned or hoped he would, even though he made it pretty clear from the get-go he only wanted one thing. And yes, he behaved in a disgusting manner, but I don’t see why she needed to go public with this. It should have stayed between the two of them.

  86. Greta says...

    I can’t believe that she expected Aziz to understand nonverbal cues. Scientific evidence shows that men frequently don’t understand nonverbal cues during regular everyday situations/conversation, so how can we suddenly expect that they could understand nonverbal cues when sex is on the table?!!!!!!!!!!

    • jess says...

      Science shows that men don’t understand non-verbal cues? Can you send me links to this SCIENCE you speak of?

  87. M says...

    This is such a tough one. I wouldn’t be surprised by this behavior at all, except for Ansari’s excellent treatment of sexual assault on Master of None and the fact that he literally wrote the book on modern dating. Surely he should be more in tune to a woman’s obvious signals of discomfort, even if they were only signals. The fact that he wasn’t makes me think that he just didn’t care, not that he believed that she was enjoying the experience as much as him. On the other hand, another commenter asked why it’s always the women who must navigate these situations by saying yes or no and not the men. I think it’s just because women have been socialized to not want casual sex to the same extent as men. I’ve often wondered what would happen if a man accused a woman of sexual assault under circumstances similar to these. I remember one of my college boyfriends was a virgin. We were messing around naked in his bed and he said something like, “I’m not sure if I’m ready to do this now.” But he was erect, kissing me, touching me, etc. I was on top and said something like, “you’re going to love it.” I initiated sex with him and he didn’t protest again; in fact, he did love it and we dated for a few months after that. But what if I had been the man and he the woman? That scenario would definitely be enough to convict me on a college campus today. The fact is that sex is not always straightforward. I guess that encounter colors my thoughts on the topic, but if my boyfriend at the time didn’t want to have sex with me, he probably should have gotten up and put on his clothes. If Grace didn’t want to go any further with Aziz, she probably should have left his house sooner. It’s so confusing when a person says one thing and does another (ie. continues kissing and touching). I was only 19 though, and didn’t really think about sexual assault the way that Ansari clearly has through his book and tv show.

    • Nicole says...

      I appreciate your story and also can identify with the experience. Having been raised super Chrisitian, I always had conflicting emotions when having sex with someone the first time- lots of guilt mixed with the attraction. And I think if someone would have asked me flat out for consent it would have brought me back into my brain and the guilt would incline me to say no. Sex is such a weird thing, especially in a culture where much of what is sexy in the media is the role of women being coy and hard to get. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not surprised by this story, and I don’t entirely blame Aziz for the result

  88. Hayley says...

    The response to this has been very interesting, and largely disappointing. I’ve heard a lot of people say this situation doesn’t belong in the #metoo movement, but if it doesn’t belong there, then where? People say she should’ve got up and left, but I don’t for a second believe that people really think that, because she didn’t, it means she deserved what happened or that it was okay. Or do they? Because that to me suggests they believe Ansari (or whichever other man could be in his position) had some level of entitlement to sexual satisfaction that could only be dissolved by a request from Grace (or whichever other woman could be in her position) that was deemed more obvious than the one she gave. To me, that suggests some people think there’s an obligation threshold women have to meet when they have a desire something to stop that is higher than the obligation threshold men have to reach when they have a desire for something to start or continue.

    As a teenager I definitely went along with things I didn’t feel comfortable with and didn’t feel brave enough to say no in situations where I wish, in retrospect, I did. I’m sure almost every woman has. I didn’t not say no because I thought I was in physical danger if I did. Looking back on it, I think the reason I allowed behaviour I wasn’t comfortable with to continue came down to the way society teaches people that sexual satisfaction is to be primarily man-focused rather than mutual. Especially when I was younger, I didn’t even consciously think about what I wanted (even when deep down I knew I wanted something a guy was doing to me to stop)–instead what I was fixated on was how he saw me, and whether I was doing something “wrong” by not doing what he wanted. That’s where the change should start.

    Ultimately, if so many thousands of women have been in situations like Grace’s and felt terrible about it afterwards, isn’t that proof enough that behaviour and attitudes need to change? To me, the answer is about both educating men and empowering women. But victim blaming (which is exactly what saying “she should’ve left” is) has never been and will never be effective, productive, or right.

    • Susannah says...

      Yes!! Your point about how women (especially young women!) are taught to think about sex is so important.

    • Morgan says...

      But she wasn’t a “victim” ; she stayed and was a willing participant – she said he went down on her! I don’t get this whole “victim-shaming” argument, because she stayed of her own accord. They weren’t confused, inexperience teens, we’re talking about fully autonomous adults. Also, she followed up with him privately after the fact and called him out on his bad behavior and he apologized to her. Why is she making it so public now?

    • Hayley says...

      Morgan, I’m not going to speculate on her personal motives for releasing it publicly because I’ve never been close to someone who is a public figure and I think I have nothing to add. I do, however, think it’s positive that this kind of situation is being talked about, and I personally felt that it had been missing from the current dialogue on women, men, sex, and consent. I also don’t think choosing to comment publicly diminishes her experience or makes it any less negative. If something’s wrong, it’s wrong.

      To your other point, he went down on her almost immediately after she said “let’s slow things down” or words to that effect. He clearly chose to ignore a very, very obvious request.

      I have no idea exactly what Grace’s feelings were towards Ansari/the situation at the beginning of their sexual interactions (I’m including kissing as a sexual interaction for the purposes of this comment), but I’ve frequently been in situations where I have, say, been enjoying kissing someone and wanted to continue kissing without wanting things to go any further. That didn’t make me a willing participant in things going further, and it doesn’t make Grace one either.

      Regarding the use of the word “victim”, English has a limited vocabulary when it comes to that concept. “Victim” is appropriate to use when someone has been murdered, or when someone has been punched in the face. That doesn’t make punching someone in the eye equal to murder, it just means that the word can be used in multiple circumstances. I consider a victim to be a person who was harmed. Grace clearly suffered psychological harm. She was the recipient of unwanted sexual acts, and whether or not Ansari was cognisant of that fact at the time or not doesn’t change that, in my opinion.

      As a culture we place a heavy emphasis on vibe and “just knowing”. For example, we act like people should “just know” if their partner is “the one”, rather than advocating for clear, open, honest communication in relationships. That bleeds out into things like sexual interactions, making people think it’s “weird” to both actively ask for consent and actively say “no” when they don’t want to do something. However, using softening language like “let’s slow things down” is still pretty clear to me. I think we’re slowly getting better at normalising clear communication and reducing its social stigma, and the more we do, I’m hoping the less situations like this crop up.

    • Kimberley says...

      Bloody well put, Hayley!
      Thanks for being so articulate when, I know I certainly don’t feel able to be.

  89. Allison says...

    This Jezebel is the best analysis I’ve read so far. It touches on the problems with the original piece and the forthcoming reactions to it, which have sidelined the real conversation we should be having (re consent, male/female roles in sex, etc.). I highly recommend it! https://jezebel.com/babe-what-are-you-doing-1822114753

    • Jasap says...

      What really bothered me with the original piece was that they included all this photographic evidence – of their dinner, of their table…it makes it look as if we’re portraying the scene of some grisly murder and for me, it just sends the wrong signal about Grace’s intentions. I know she’s a photographer but what’s the reason she photographed everything on their date? Would she do the same if her date wasn’t a famous person? I’m not sure about that…

    • Morgan says...

      Yes! Honestly, reading so many of the comments on this post has made me so sad… so many supposedly progressive, feminist women subtly slut shaming Grace and jumping to the defence of Aziz just because he didn’t rape her. So many of us have been in these shitty situations before where we don’t consent but don’t feel comfortable rocking the boat, especially with someone we admire. So it was refreshing to read this article that values Grace’s experience and holds irresponsible sensationalist reporting accountable for putting Grace in yet another vulnerable and painful situation.
      Also, as an aside, can this please be a reminder that even people we like and respect (celebrity or friend!) can be capable of doing the wrong thing?! I think we all need to to be conscious of listening to and centring the voices of victims whether or not we WANT to believe that people we like can do bad things.

  90. t says...

    Their date was the song baby it’s cold outside played out IRL.

    The good news is this behavior of pushing and pushing is becoming more and more less acceptable and having these conversations creates change. Bravo to Grace (I am glad she texted him and I am glad she went public), Aziz (I think his response to her text and and his public statement were appropriately remorseful and acknowledging), and CoJ.

  91. Rivka says...

    I’ve never posted a comment before, but I’ve been followed your blog for years (ahem 6/7 years !) and I’m compelled comment to just say thank you, thank you so much for sharing this and continuing this important and nuanced conversation. It’s so so necessary and important.

  92. Laura says...

    People are focusing on her actions (did she give “clear enough” verbal and non-verbal cues?) rather than on the basic fact that Aziz felt entitled to sex with this woman and purposefully chose to ignore whether or not she was comfortable. There are literally dozens of reasons a woman might go along with things she doesn’t want to do on a date (and one of them is risking upsetting a man you don’t really know who might react violently) and instead of attacking her or claiming she didn’t speak up, we should be asking why Aziz and other men are either so socially stunted that they can’t understand basic signals, or believe that they can ignore them and continue to press women despite them

    • Amy says...

      Yes yes yes yes!! I totally agree with you!!!!!

  93. Paige says...

    On the one hand, Grace’s account felt very vengeful and overly dramatic given that it’s an experience most women have dealt with (including her–at one point she told him “you guys are all the same”). But the one thing that’s giving me pause is the fact that he’s made a career for himself out of performative feminism. He’s like all of those millenial “nice guys” who call themselves feminists and think Harvey Weinstein’s a pig, but who would never think to reevaluate their own behavior. The fact that Aziz seems to have such a keen sense of the issues women face makes his behavior so much more disappointing.

    • Escondista says...

      My thoughts EXACTLY Paige! I’ve referenced the scene in which a woman and a man walk home alone at night from Master of None so many times!

  94. sarah says...

    My husband and I talked about this a lot. There is a lot to unpack. We were both shocked at how awkward the whole thing seemed to be from the start. It all the makings of a bad date, so why go back to his apartment? I’m assuming because he’s famous?

    From there it does get murky. Did she feel it was unsafe to leave? Or that it was unsafe to prevent him from taking her clothes off? Or did she want to still hang out with him, just not with sex involved?

    I haven’t been on a first date or had first time sex in a million years so I have no idea: is this truly a common first date experience? It seems like lots of women are relating to it.

    • Susan says...

      Maybe I am way off the mark here but I have to wonder would Grace have been so reluctant, literally incapable of leaving Ansari’s apartment if he Hadn’t been a celebrity? It seemed that she was hanging around forever when it was more than clear what his intentions were bc she was hoping that somehow he would evolve from a man demanding sex into possible boyfriend material and that they would have some kind of meaningful interaction that she could post about afterwards. Taking a photo of their rather uninspired meal beforehand seems like a giveaway. Documenting her date for whom? Posterity or for a social media post about her magical night out with a famous man. When it didn’t turn out the way she expected and she finally gave up on that hope she decided that she needed to make this whole sorry evening public? For what reason? To give it some significance? Maybe I am being unfair but this isn’t the story I think we want to use to try to push a discussion about how men should treat women better when it comes to these kinds of situations. There was no violence or coercion here that couldn’t have been stopped with a clear NO and walking out the door. Women have autonomy, power and a voice too. Grace decided to leave hers at the door of Ansari’s apartment. Only she can truthfully answer why but I believe her story is a disservice to the MeToo movement and is less than honest as to her own motivations and agency in what transpired between the two of them. Is Ansari a hypocritical dickhead? Sure? But Grace is rather pathetic too.

  95. Kim W says...

    I don’t think it’s right that this instance is lumped into the #metoo and Times Up movements, as this situation is defined in grey areas and nuance. It is worth discussing, and examining, absolutely. But ultimately I think that Grace was having fun until she wasn’t. And then she didn’t say anything. It’s not her fault and she should not be blamed, but then, neither should the other person. My takeaway is that we need to be more clear about consent: get full consent and be clear and unequivocal when giving consent.

    I am proud of all the discerning women who are basically saying “Yeah, that’s not what we meant with #metoo.”

  96. Sandra says...

    Thank you, Joanna, for offering a little more even-handed perspective on this than I have been feeling.

    I know this woman is young, but if we women want to be treated as equals we need to act like equals. Aziz Ansari was very clearly (both verbally and non-verbally) stating what he liked. Why didn’t this woman do the same? If I hated having someone put their fingers in my mouth I would tell them. If it happened more than once I would leave. Period.

    And if I didn’t want a sexual encounter, I probably wouldn’t wriggle out of my jeans-under-a-dress and let someone go down and me. And I never in my life have given a blowjob I didn’t want to give. I just don’t understand why she did it if she wasn’t into it, and how she expected him to know that?

    People talk about it being hard or awkward to say what you want. No, it really isn’t.

    People meet up for dinner/drinks as friends, as potential love interests, and as sexual hookups. I’m super unclear as to what “Grace” wanted this night to be, and maybe that’s the problem. She didn’t know, and therefore neither did he.

    • Laura says...

      I find it hard to believe that you’ve never felt like being naked or having oral sex but didn’t want to do penetrative sex. Or you felt like kissing and hanging out with someone but not having sex. She clearly said that she didn’t want to have sex and he continued to press her about it and ignore that she felt uncomfortable- doesn’t matter what else she did or didn’t do.

    • Sandra says...

      That is a good point, and I have wanted those things, but I have made it super clear . When he first went to get a condom, she said “Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill,” which in my mind would mean she was up for sex but at a slower pace. I would have said something like “I really like you, I’m having a great time (if I was ) and I’m super into doing X,Y,Z, with you, but just so you know I do not want to have sex tonight.” She finally does say “next time” and then leaves, but it was pretty confusing up until that point.

  97. Katrina says...

    The part in all of this that I find the most odd or complicated is her reference to “non verbal cues”. There are specific cues that are clear and those that are a little more confusing. Without being clear, or even verbalizing her discomforts or wishes, how is one to know in any situation (sexual or not)?

    • Laura says...

      If a woman physically gets up and walks away from you, you can infer that she doesn’t want to be followed and touched. If a woman isn’t smiling or speaking, you can usually tell that she’s not having a good time or is uncomfortable. Men are perfectly capable of reading them in other situations, so why are we pretending that they are incapable of doing so when it comes to sex?

    • Renee says...

      Actually, multiple studies have suggested that men use different areas of their brain to process body language, and are often not as good at processing at processing those cues as women.

  98. Thank you for such a balanced overview of the perspectives on this issue!

  99. Alison D. says...

    Thank you so much for this. It’s honestly the most straight forward thing I’ve read on the internet about this. I am in the second camp. I think that just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it isn’t immoral. Although, frankly, both the state of California and I believe that enthusiastic consent (yes means yes) should be the law. Both stories like the Harvey Weinstein Harassment and this one are about a power imbalance in a society that has privileged men’s desire to have sex over women’s need to feel safe and have body autonomy. Aziz’s alleged behavior in Grace’s account sounds incredibly familiar to me – that *is* the problem that I think #metoo needs to address. Not just the clear cut, out of the norm wrongs. Until we decide that a behavior is unacceptable, it will be acceptable. And clearly, no matter how upsetting, men using coercion and ignoring clear signals has been acceptable in our society for a long time.

    • Alison D. says...

      *something ***isn’t*** illegal. Ooops!

  100. TJ says...

    Yes yes yes. All so well said. I still feel rather conflicted, but this blog post by Jameela Jamil from The Good Place hit on the general ickyness I feel about the whole situation:

    Our society, the internet, and even our most mainstream media, constantly perpetuate the idea that men do not need to worry about what our needs and boundaries are. They just need technical consent, however that consent is acquired.
    CONSENT SHOULDN’T BE THE GOLD STANDARD. That should be the basic foundation. Built upon that foundation should be fun, mutual passion, equal arousal, interest and enthusiasm. And it is any man or woman’s right at ANY time to stop, for whatever reason.
    http://jameelajamil.co.uk/post/169720263620/what-we-need-to-learn-from-the-aziz-ansari

  101. Jennifer says...

    Can we talk for a minute about how we are supposed “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” when pornography is such a normalized part of culture- and even (shudder) violent porn where women are saying no? I am not a prude and I’m not saying that people shouldn’t enjoy sex. I just find it difficult to understand the argument that “men shouldn’t pursue women like they do in porn,” without addressing the underlying problem of a lot of pornography, i.e.: violent porn, sex-trafficked porn, etc. Unfortunately with most pornography, you are unaware of the conditions of the performers and where and by whom it came from. I find a huge part of the puzzle missing when we aren’t discussing pornography as a part of the problem. I’d guess that many victims of assault have been used as “fantasies” that others have seen in pornography. Yet somehow people are supposed to approach sex differently than what they are viewing and their brains are adjusting to as “normal?”

    • t says...

      We integrate porn into our sex life in my marriage and i have also seen a shift in the porn industry including a big feminist porn movement.

  102. Amy says...

    I, too, believe that her story trivializes the #metoo movement. It’s not fair to compare Aziz’s behavior to men who have raped, assaulted, or threatened a woman’s career or success when the woman turned him down. Having to turn down a horny date begging for sex is annoying but it doesn’t make you a victim. Not if you could have left, safely, at anytime. It sounds like he was obnoxious. It sounds like his approach wasn’t sexy. But if he’d moved slower, wooed her in a way that she was more keen to, how would the night have ended? I think the take-away is, don’t go up to a man’s apartment after a date if you don’t want to have sex with him yet (or ever). Of course, if you do go up, you have the right to say no. But I think most men and women believe your interest in going back to their apartment after a date is a sign you’re interested in consensual physical activity. I feel some degree of empathy for the girl because I was that naive at 22 as well. But, I also feel sympathy for Aziz. This is an embarrassing story that should have never been in the news.

    • nas says...

      Couldn’t agree with this more, Amy.

    • Emmie says...

      Ditto

    • Agree 100%

  103. VP says...

    I too feel conflicted by this news. I really admired Aziz and his attention to what women go through every day in terms of being viewed as sexual conquests to overcome. I even wrote a blog post about his standup which was intelligent and funny without being vile liked many other comedians’ acts. As an Indian-American woman, I felt encouraged and proud by his public stance on women’s rights. Maybe because of this, I could sympathize with him. However, at the same time, continuing to pressure a woman and make advances when she states several times that she’s not quite comfortable should alert him, and any man, that a woman’s consent is not something to be pushed to its limits before she finally gives in. I’m truly upset by this news because it highlights the uncomfortable fact that seemingly “feminist” men still feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to sex.

  104. S says...

    I’ve been feeling so conflicted reading this story, because it is outside the normal problems of work-related power dynamics etc and does ring true for some bad dates I’ve been on. I appreciate that you shared a lot of different perspectives and agree, the story signals that the culture needs to change and Ansari, of all people, should know better. It’s disappointing that he didn’t. I remember one date where I, after a few drinks, specifically told a guy I didn’t want to do something, but it ended up happening anyway. Afterwards, I pointed out to the guy that I’d said I hadn’t wanted it to happen, and he said, “that’s on you.” It shouldn’t always be on the woman. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and the psychological and physical repercussions they have.

  105. Umni says...

    ‘Why are so many people asking why this woman didn’t leave and so few asking why he didn’t stop?’
    He didn’t stop because he (men) knew that she probably wasn’t going to leave. Because so many before her didn’t leave in the same situation (I’m not saying I could/would have). We can tell men to do this or that through think pieces, but only repeated, widespread actions, which over time will make it into the culture, will work. If more women leave/say something, more men will stop to think. Asking/teaching women to stand up for themselves is not victim-blaming.

  106. Katie says...

    I highly recommend listening to the podcast Pantsuit Politics and their episode today that included a long discussion about this. They cover a lot of the points above and what feels the same and different about this compared to other #metoo stories and how it might be the most impactful one, even though it’s not the “worst” situation we’ve been hearing about.

  107. Clare Wisner says...

    Ridiculous on Grace’s part. He didn’t force her to do anything. She should have left if she wasn’t comfortable. Is he supposed to be a mind reader? I’m a very liberal woman and a feminist but I find her reaction dramatic & an attempt to play victim. It’s hurtful to the #MeToo movement.

  108. M says...

    This story has been hard for me because, like every single millennial, I’m an Aziz fan, but more importantly…I have been the Grace in a very similar situation. Honestly, I had put most of that encounter out of my mind, because I always felt so dirty and guilty for not giving an enthusiastic no. Like Grace, I was young and not very experienced, and I’m also a huge people pleaser. Every time I went by that man’s apartment building after our “date,” I would shudder, and then feel horribly guilty.

    I don’t think Aziz’s career should be ended, because yes, there is definitely a difference between this encounter and a lot of the other things we’ve been seeing recently. But I do applaud Grace for talking about this kind of thing. As another girl who people would look at and then say “But she was asking for it. Why did she go down on him?! Why didn’t she leave?!?!” I get it. Good Lord, do I get it. It’s not always that clear or easy.

    • Amy says...

      Thank you for sharing your story, M. I can relate to everything you said. I’m 40 now and still have some of those feelings about past experiences all these years later.

  109. Susannah says...

    Oof. I have a few thoughts about this.

    1. Sure, this was “bad sex”—if you take “bad” to mean “aggressive and humiliating.” Shouldn’t we draw a distinction between sexual encounters that are just awkward (or lacking in fireworks) and those that are overly aggressive?

    2. I think that consent can only meaningfully be granted if the barriers to saying “no” are sufficiently low—that is, if saying “no” is just as easy as saying “yes”. Did Aziz make it harder for Grace to say no than he did for her to say yes? (Seems like it.)

    3. It drives me crazy when people ask, “why didn’t she just leave?” Here’s what I’d like to ask those people: would you, at age 22 (on a date! with a celebrity!), have had the presence of mind to craft and execute a polite, graceful exit plan? (Polite and graceful being the key words, because, for women, doing away with the niceties can be downright dangerous.)

    4. And, more importantly, why is the burden always on women to leave the room/ scream for help? Maybe we can start teaching men to leave the room or scream for help if they feel like they’re about to assault (or otherwise push themselves on) someone…

    Anyways, thank you for starting this conversation. It’s so important!

    • sarah says...

      I appreciate how you articulate these points. It’s hard for me (at 35 and married) to remember what sex was like in my early 20’s.

    • Allison says...

      Yes, exactly!!! I am so with you. It’s such a bummer that so many women aren’t.

    • VP says...

      Well said.

    • ALI says...

      Love all the conversation.

      My two cents – it sounds like she was caught up being with a celebrity but ultimately realised she didn’t enjoy his company. Just because she was ‘on a date!’ ‘with a celebrity’ doesn’t change the fact that he is just a human being who thought the person who came home with him wanted the same thing he did.

    • Lena says...

      Brilliant comment. Thank you!

    • Kara says...

      Yes to everything in the comment!!

  110. Instead of lumping this issue into the current #MeToo conversation or criticizing it for diluting it… I hope that Grace’s story and the issues it addresses actually spark the next phase of the #MeToo movement. It’s not just men in positions of obvious power like Weinstein acting despicably, it’s your average dude on a date. The fact that Grace’s story isn’t actually remarkable (besides the irony that Aziz Ansari positions himself as this enlightened Modern Romantic and then pulls this shit) and that people read this account and say “oh that’s just bad sex” shows just how low the bar is set for men’s behavior, in general. Yes, Times Up for harassment in the workplace — but there needs to be a real change in the sexual and romantic realms too.

  111. Meredith says...

    Very excited to read the comments on this. I 100% agree with what Caitlin Flanagan wrote. I have had very similar experiences with men (saying “no” and being repeatedly asked/questioned on that “no”, including once eventually acquiescing to sex I wish I hadn’t participated in) and in no way consider myself a victim of sexual assault. “Non-verbal cues” is bullshit. Her behavior repeatedly said that she was, at minimum, a willing participant. It’s not Aziz’s (or any adult of consenting age’s) responsibility to proactively check that their partner is into it; the person who no longer wants to participate must voice or demonstrate that (by LEAVING).

  112. brianna says...

    Thank for sharing this and for providing so many different perspectives within the post, but also for providing a space in the comments for people to provide their perspective and share more links. I’ll definitely be returning to this for more reading.

  113. molly says...

    I appreciate this site more than ever and think that at the end of the day the #metoo movement is a broad spectrum of experiences as diverse as the people including their stories. Not everyone who includes their experiences to the #metoo movement are victims of illegal behavior – but they are victims nonetheless. You shouldn’t have had to have been raped or assaulted to add your story and it shouldn’t be equated that way either. Of course there is there is illegal behavior and then there are also stories along this narrative. Do I think Aziz should loose work or his reputation? No. However, I think that the culture of men insisting on sexual acts during a FIRST date is unsettling as well. I would have been uncomfortable too had I had been in her shoes. Probably more so in hindsight after having time to really contemplate the situation and my feelings regarding it. In my personal opinion, its easy to read a story and have clear views on what should have happened, but often times in the moment so many emotions and factors are going on that sometimes its hard to determine if something is wrong. I’ve read countless stories of rape or sexual assault victims that overtime realized they were not at fault and saw the writing on the wall, but only in hindsight. In the moment were confused. This is a completely different situation, but I can still understand her confusion and think that her story should be added to the narrative.

    Last but not least, to the writers and journalists out there responding the way Bari Weiss did – have some compassion. Regardless of anyone’s view, it took a lot of courage for Grace to speak her truth. You don’t necessarily have to agree with it, but to say it’s “the single worst thing to happen to the #metoo movement” is the type of closed-mindedness that is so unproductive and makes people afraid to come forward at all.

  114. Masha says...

    I think Emma Gray’s recent article in the Huffington Post does a great job talking about the fine line between the two sides, not only discussing how, while it isn’t sexual assault, it is still a part of sex culture that needs to be addressed so that all of us, both women and men, have more fulfilling sex lives.
    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/aziz-ansari-sex-violating-but-not-criminal_us_5a5e445de4b0106b7f65b346

    It’s unfair to put all the burden on women to speak up when they already feel uncomfortable and even frightened, but it’s unfair to expect that men should all become masters at reading nonverbal cues either, as not everyone is on the same level of emotional sensitivity. Of course, no, saying that does not give all men a blanket excuse to do whatever they want, but really I think there are many well meaning men out there that haven’t been taught well to react to these signals. Everyone makes mistakes and encounters like this aren’t the end of the world, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep trying to make it better together.

    • Anita says...

      I think women MUST speak up when they are uncomfortable or frightened. I think the problem is when women are still seeking approval and validation from the person who is making them feel frightened and uncomfortable. I think that women need to work on feeling more secure and confident, standing up for themselves, being true to themselves and their own feelings and desires. We cannot do or be what other people want. I wish Grace, and all the young women who relate to her, could have said: “screw you aziz. Go beg for sex from someone else.” I think the sense that women need to be compliant in order to protect themseves is bullshit, the idea that women put themselves at “risk” by being assertive is also bullshit. Take self defense classes (i did in my 20s; it was transformative). We are stronger than we think!

    • Akc says...

      Amen Anita!

    • Hayley says...

      Well said, Masha, I totally agree!

    • Ali says...

      Masha – who’s to say men aren’t having fulfilling sex lives in this current culture? I’m going to speak in generalities to explain my point, but I think the problem for women is that men ARE content with the type of sex that seems to abound today (since so many women seem to relate to this story). Why should they change?

      While there are obviously always exceptions, in general, men’s first preference for sex is “often” while the details of any given encounter are secondary. If they can get it often, that may be enough to satisfy them.

      Women are generally more nuanced in their preferences for sex. They want it with a partner they trust, who is attentive to their desires/needs – let’s call it “quality sex” for the sake of simplicity. Importantly, women want sex when they are in the mood – which is usually less often than men.

      What we then have are competing desires. Simplistically, men want sex often – quality be damned. Women want quality sex – frequency be damned. This is why sex – and almost every other interaction with others – is transactional in nature, as terrible as it may sound.

      Importantly, I’d ask – who is wrong in their desires? It’s a sincere question.

      I think many argue that the man is wrong – he’s an asshole for wanting unattached, unloving, low-quality sex. But why? Is there inherently something wrong in a man being satisfied with “low quality” sex? I think its hard to say “yes, he’s an asshole for that” without an appeal to a higher moral order, which we seem to reject as a culture. One might argue he’s an asshole because women don’t like it – but why are women’s desires more important than men’s in this case?

      In today’s dating market, men don’t have to provide “quality sex” because women aren’t demanding it from them as a whole. For every “Grace” who ultimately walks out, it seems there is a “Mallory” who is willing to stay. Fine. “Mallory” can do her thing. And if “Mallory” can’t be found, men have endless hours of porn to fulfill their desire for frequent sexual satisfaction.

      ‘d highly recommend (as I did in another comment) the book Cheap Sex. The author has some controversial writings on other topics – but I found this to be an unemotional and unbiased look at the economics of the sexual marketplace today, similar to the style of the Freakonomics books that looked at the economics of seemingly “non-economic” events/trends. It says a lot about the root causes of the encounter between Ansari and “Grace” without making value/moral judgments about any particular behavior.

  115. Patsy says...

    “Ansari’s statement doesn’t help because he’s still pitting his wants against hers (instead of seeing their sexual encounter as a partnership based on enthusiastic consent). He says, “We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.” Except it wasn’t, because Grace’s story is about how he ignored her physical discomfort and non-verbal cues, and attempts to redirect their activity. He was waiting for a “no”. He never asked for a “yes”.” From Sara at LaineyGossip http://www.laineygossip.com/aziz-ansari-releases-statement-after-being-accused-of-sexual-assault/48899

    I think the Atlantic and New York Times responses ignore the issue of enthusiastic consent in order to lambast “Grace” and the author of the piece for undermining #metoo. But consent has been an issue we’ve been struggling with for a long time and this story does fit in with that narrative.

    I get so angry when people, including women, put the onus on the woman to say “no” instead of on both parties to read on another and seek a “yes.” I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to say, and yell, “no.” And it sucks, because you already feel anxious and possibly violated by that point. But I’ve also been in situations when I’ve been asked how I was feeling, or if I was okay with going further, and whether the answer was “yes” or “no”, I felt safe and secure with my partner, and it never ruined the mood.

    I’m lucky that I’ve been with more men who’ve sought the “yes” rather then had to be stopped with a “no”, but the fact that both types of guys exist tells me that the one’s that have to be stopped are full of shit. They should know better because there are plenty of other men and boys who do.

  116. Colleen S. says...

    I’m of the Ashleigh Banfield camp. If I am in a situation where I am uncomfortable, I get out. I have been sexually harassed in the workplace, and what this woman described was one hundred percent a situation she could have got out of. I feel like she cared more about what Aziz would have said to his friends behind her back than removing herself from a bad experience.

    I’m the same age as Aziz, and it’s for these reasons I would have hoped he knew better.

    • sarah says...

      +1

  117. Milka says...

    Men need to be taught to ask “what do you like?” Men are expected to know everything and be the initiator. Dan Savage has a whole theory about how gay couples ask each other those 4 words and that helps make consent explicit – I like this, I don’t like that. Herero couples can learn from this!

    • Masha says...

      I love Dan Savage, and wholeheartedly agree with this!!

    • Abby says...

      THIS! This is the center of the entire thing. I’m sitting here with my boyfriend and he agrees. Men in heterosexual relationships are supposed to be worldly about sex and know “how to please a woman.” The problem is, all they’ve grown up watching is porn! So they imitate what they’ve seen in porn, which is usually the opposite of what the woman would rather go down in the sexual situation. I think this is exacerbated by romantic movies that show the hero aggressively romanticizing the woman and sweeping her off her feet. Gay couples feel free to ask the question ‘”what do you like” but hetero men are afraid to ask because they feel emasculated if they don’t look like they know everything about sex. Hetero women won’t say what they like because they are never asked or are nervous about appearing aggressive or slutty (and I think most women can’t articulate/take a long time to figure out what they like because our pleasure is never the bottom line of typical hetero sexual encounters)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is awesome, milka!

  118. Holly Vergunst says...

    From my totally pedestrian perspective, this episode is somewhere between heavy coercion and light assault — but either way, it’s not what respect looks like, and the fact that so many people find it normal is the worst part, hands down. How did we wind up with a zeitgeist where everything else — money, status, health — is chalked up to individual responsibility, but bullying people into having sex with you is just this overwhelming compulsion against which men are helpless?

    • jess says...

      +1

    • Kara says...

      Yes!

  119. Bryn says...

    Thank you for offering a thoughtful reflection on this situation. I really appreciated this post.

    • tea says...

      same here.

  120. Katie says...

    In a culture where so many are very quick to firmly plant their feet on one side or the other of a complicated situation, thank you for giving a space to discuss both sides. I love this blog and how it’s become a space for thoughtful conversation on harder topics like this. I love that a stand is taken when there’s very clearly something wrong going on, but I also adore that there is an encouraged conversation around more nuanced topics like this. Good job!

    I’m so happy that women are actually getting to talk about these issues that we’ve all dealt with for our entire lives, and I’m happy that it’s opening many people’s eyes to this reality. In this particular story, I do think that neither party did 100% the right thing. I hope that continuing this conversation about sexual harassment will (a) help men see a clearer picture of what is and isn’t okay (I’ve also heard a version of what Sady Doyle said – men are taught to test these boundaries and be prideful that they are “persistent”) and (b) help women learn how to safely exit these types of situations.

  121. Lizzie says...

    She participated. That was her communication. If she didn’t how she felt until the next day, how was he supposed to know?

    • sarah says...

      That is what I’m struggling with.

    • Patsy says...

      Say you’re walking beside someone and go to hold their hand. If they pull away after a minute, do you grasp their hand again? and again? and again? How are you supposed to know?

    • Nora says...

      Yes, this. Plus – she was angry he didn’t pick up on her “non-verbal cues”? It seems to me he picked up on the most obvious one: she stayed.

    • Suzy says...

      I totally agree here. The lack of morals and simple decency has gone out the window for the larger world of women. Young women especially continue to devalue themselves with such cheap behaviors and allowances. No wonder things are a nightmare these days. And then they call men jerks when they themselves presented and showcased themselves as the lowest common denominator.

      I see this all the time with so many 20 and 30 year old women in our current age. It’s shameful and a true disgrace. They are always so quick to head to his place and/ or get him to theirs at the cost of their own self respect. Men are natural hunters and still love a good challenge (not easy prey) for something respectful, loving and solid worth, and women seem to always be forgetting this in modern times. And then they get all stressed out and wonder why?

      Such low self-esteem on her part poured through with this article. A nice dinner away from his place would have been a good start, even a simple burger, no need for lobster rolls and a boat, and then getting to know each more away from their home interiors. But no, way too many women walk right into the sleaze of things and then bawl bad boy or rape. And men have already quickly read these women as ‘desperate’ , easy sex, and cheap shack-ups. Where are the mothers for these women, really now?

      Then again, maybe she was on a deadline for a due story and this was an easy one. What is any self-respecting woman doing solo at a strange man’s place so soon on meeting? You have got to be kidding me here. Women need to be very careful with all these modern movements and get their value system together or face the harsh reality of its backlash. He saw some easy play from the whole camera convo and flew with it and she was easy bait. It’s a slam-dunk.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f61TuOwAYg

  122. Jan says...

    My husband’s advice to our son as he was heading to college was this: “No means no”. That’s it. That’s all he said. Men are wired different than woman. And while the dating/Hollywood circumstances vary I believe women are vulnerable. Men have to understand that…no means no. And women have to say no. It’s going to take time for change but it will change.

    • Patsy says...

      But, why can’t he be taught to ask for a “yes”? To make sure, before there needs to be a “no”, that both parties are on the same page?

    • Amy says...

      I’ve heard the ‘yes means yes’ movement is having a positive impact too. Sometimes it’s hard to say no while yes might be a bit easier. Coaching to both sexes on this one. I thought Joanna posted about the yes means yes thing…

    • Lindsay says...

      Jan, I’m curious if you ever felt inspired to give you son some more elaborate advice to follow that. I know that “no means no” was one of the original rallying cries around discussions of consent, but now we have come up with much better language. Especially over this past year, I often wonder how I will discuss consent and sexuality with my children, if I become a mother. No definitely means no, but I think we need to move the conversation towards YES means YES and preferably a very enthusiastic and informed YES at that. If we don’t talk about that in our own homes, with our family and friends, where do we expect our children and others to learn a better model of consent?

    • Anna says...

      I’m not really sure that men are ‘wired differently’ – as there have been studies that suggest men and women are equally good and adept at reading nonverbal refusals. Men are taught, just as women are, that certain social cues (moving away, gentle rebuffing, lack of response, etc) are tantamount to refusal. Think about other social situations – asking a new friend to hang out, following up on a work opportunity, etc. These are all situations in which men are typically pretty astute and nuanced in how they process non-verbal refusals. I really don’t think that, when it comes to sex, this social awareness just goes out the window. Rather, there’s a clear vested interest in wilfully ignoring these cues. I guess what I’m arguing is that I think men are *socialised* rather than *wired* differently, when it comes to sex. The statement that women need to be explicit and unequivocal in stating ‘no’ is fine on the surface. But, it overlooks the social (and physical) anxieties attendant on a hard refusal. As others have said, women are socialised out of hard refusal. It’s pretty damned hard to overcome that sort of conditioning (as I know from personal experience). In fact, it’s so socially unacceptable to just bluntly refuse something or someone as a woman, that it brings with it the risk of physical or verbal abuse. This is an excellent blogpost on the subject:

      https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

  123. K says...

    This is definitely a “return to comments” post. Thanks for providing a conversation

  124. Rachel says...

    Thanks for sharing this food for thought! The Guardian had this op ed that really summed up my reaction. The most important part: We need to talk about these grey areas and encourage a culture of enthusiastic consent from everyone!

    • M says...

      Yes!

  125. Ashley says...

    I think this is a great post and I would’ve loved to hear from the other Cup of Jo women on this, too. If they’re willing, of course.

    I also think the comments are going to be very important because a lot of women (me, included) have experienced the same thing, especially at Grace’s age. Sexual freedom is a newer thing when you’re 22 and figuring out boundaries is hard. I’m not much older at 30.

    That being said, I think it’s hard to expect sexual freedom and fluidity and then accuse someone of assault because you weren’t clear about your boundaries. Sex should have clear communication between both parties. Let’s be real – Aziz is an a*shole for not having this conversation with her in advance. However, at what point does a woman have to take responsibility for saying, clearly, “we have not spoken about this. I do not want to continue.” ? And, if you think you can’t, at what point do you say, “hey I don’t want to go back to your place because I don’t know how you set boundaries.” His apology seemed sincere maybe he learned something from this.

    Isn’t that the point of speaking up? She clearly expressed her feelings post-date and he listened and apologized.

    I mostly hate that we have to have this conversation at all. Grace, I’m sure you’re staying far away from the comments on the posts regarding your story but please know, if I could, I’d be standing with you. I stand with Grace like I do all other women who have said #metoo.

    • Masha says...

      I had very similar thoughts on this topic, and am glad to hear I’m not the only one. It’s so hard because I feel like any sort of criticism towards Grace seems to make it sound like I’m Aziz’s side, but this isn’t really a side-choosing scenario.

    • sarah says...

      +1

  126. Tiff says...

    Again, thanks Cup of Jo.
    I have felt so much more optimistic about the world, and the world my daughter will grow up in since the MeToo movement, and I don’t want the momentum to stop.
    I suppose I find it so hard to accept that performing oral sex/continuing to kiss someone is giving them non- verbal cues that you want the action to stop.
    Am I victim blaming now? Argh!

    • Maria says...

      Amen! What we are talking about are 2 completely different scenarios. I refuse to believe that women who are that uncomfortable or fearful are staying and continuing the sexual activity rather than leaving. You are not blaming the victim because there isn’t one in this case. If anything she is the victim of her own lack of assertiveness. If I was making out with someone and we had mutual oral sex I would presume they had been into what was going on.

    • Lily says...

      Yes maria!

  127. Maria says...

    While I support women and our right to fairness and decent behaviour, I felt really bad for Aziz Ansari regarding this story. I see a situation that is unfortunate but not deserving of this kind of public exposure. I’m sure we’ve all had our boundaries pushed or disregarded as we have equally done so to others. I think this type of hyped up headline grabbing story is detrimental to the progress being made regarding incidents of true abuse and exploitation. And I’m sorry people don’t like to hear it, but yes if women feel uncomfortable in a situation they need to get their asses out of there. I think Ansari should date women closer to him in age that will have the confidence and maturity to speak up immediately if they are not happy in any given situation.

    • e says...

      I felt bad for about a minute and then I remembered all those innocent women and girls who have NO ONE to ever feel bad for them! THIS is now the time when they are finally being seriously heard. Do not take that moment away from us. When women continue to excuse the disrespectful behavior of men, how do you ever expect a behavioral shift to happen? Centuries of this has got to stop now.

  128. Jona says...

    Ashley Ford had an great thread about this on Twitter. Hope she expounds on that here!

  129. Thank you Joanna, for continuing this dialogue; for trying to understand a complicated situation, I ‘m sure, many of us have been in.

    I wonder as a single woman, how do I date now? So much of sexual encounters is non-verbal. Do I now have to say “I consent to this,” while so much of the excitement of sex is anticipation or to invite that enthusiastic consent? I think of how many good guys there out there, probably scared to date now because of these stories as well. What do we say? How do we re-write the rules under consent?

    I read a great article on Lainey Gossip distilling this situation to consent.
    http://www.laineygossip.com/aziz-ansari-releases-statement-after-being-accused-of-sexual-assault/48899

    From the article:

    “Ansari says, “We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.” Except it wasn’t, because Grace’s story is about how he ignored her physical discomfort and non-verbal cues, and attempts to redirect their activity. He was waiting for a “no”. He never asked for a “yes”.

    We learn to keep our hands to ourselves in kindergarten. And then, at some point, half the population is tacitly given permission to touch the other half of the population whenever they want, however they want, and regardless of what the other person wants. And that, really, is all this is. All of it, the whole conversation, this is what it boils down to: Consent, and the disregard for and lack thereof. The burden must shift from waiting for a “no” to asking for a “yes”. “No” is a word so inherently dangerous many women do everything in their power to avoid saying it outright anyway. But “yes” is a word everyone likes. It’s a word of action, it’s not lack of resistance but willful engagement. ”

    I wonder what will come of this in the future. Thank you again for encouraging a conversation about this. It’s one way forward and how lucky are we to be empowered to be able to discuss it openly?

  130. Jenn says...

    Oh boy, I have ranted about this story since it came to light.

    Bari Weiss’s article was a disservice to the conversation circulating around this topic. While I agree with the sentiment you quoted, she pushed the “why didn’t she leave” argument which is completely missing the point. Sometimes women stick around in these situations because they’re hoping they’re not just a “vessel” for a man’s pleasure and hoping he sees something more in her. And when it became clear all he wanted was sex then she made her exit. She still made verbal cues letting him know she was not interested in sex. And at 22, I know I didn’t have as strong of a voice as I do now to put an end to these situations.

    I think Jill Filipovic’s article was the most well thought out and articulate since this discussion has started: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/16/aziz-ansari-story-missed-opportunity

    The way the Babe story was published was unfortunate and the piece itself was so poorly written and meant to sensationalize and generate clicks, which of course it did. But I’m glad it’s opening up a conversation about the toxicity present in dating and relationships.

    Why is the onus always on women to say yes? To say no? To diffuse and navigate these situations safely? It’s exhausting. And consensual sex can still be problematic. Literally all it would take is two seconds for a man to ask “Are you ok with this?” But apparently that’s asking too much.

    • Arwen says...

      YES! So much truth here!

    • Michelle says...

      Interestingly, I also have guy friends who have wanted to stop a sexual situation from going any further but felt they couldn’t say no because they didn’t want to hurt her feelings or were worried that she would gossip or make a false accusation out of embarrassment (which may sound implausible to us, but then so does “I thought you would force me even if I said no” to many men). There are both men and women who are vulnerable in sexual situations, and there are also both men and women who are not looking for an intimate experience, and may be pushy and disrespectful.

      This is why I think it is important that both men and women, gay or straight, must be responsible for their own agency in a sexual situation- the onus of saying no/asking/denying/affirming MUST be on both parties. If it should be easy for a man to ask- “Are you okay with this?” then it should also be easy, if we want the sexes to be equal, for a woman to say “Stop.”

    • Jenn says...

      @Michelle – You’re absolutely right in that this conversation spans across all genders and sexualities. However, the examples you mention of men you know are still situations in which they are in control of the outcome. What this conversation is focusing on is consent and being coerced into something you didn’t want to do. If these women threatened to make a false accusation if he didn’t have sex with them, then that’s an entirely different situation. But to lump this into men feeling pressured to have sex because 3% of sexual assaults reported are false isn’t relevant.

      Unfortunately the power dynamic at this time isn’t equal, and it’s going to take time to get there. But these conversations are a great step forward. The attitude needs to change from having a resounding “no” come from a party and instead an enthusiastic “yes” and having a partner that is engaged in how you feel and creates a space where there’s an open dialogue of what someone likes/doesn’t like/what they would like.

    • Michelle says...

      @JENN
      I respectfully disagree. They are both situations in which a person did not voice their desires or stop the situation because of their own fears (which were unfounded in respect to the situations they were in- Aziz was not threatening her and neither were those women threatening the men).

      To me, the “yes” movement solves nothing- a woman still depends on the man to ask the question! Asking is certainly a gentlemen’s way, and the most thoughtful approach for sure. My point is, there will always be pushy and thoughtless people out there when it comes to sex. We can’t control that, and while movements/education can help, it’s not going to change everybody. In the meantime, I think it’s more important to teach women that they are fully capable of (and even expected to) say “no” when something makes them uncomfortable. I believe this above all else (and possibly this alone) has the potential to make a positive difference in a power imbalance in sexual situations. If she had said “No”, and not waited for him to ask the question or stop what they were doing, then we wouldn’t even be talking about this. That is real power, and as adult women we are all capable of it.

  131. Samantha says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for talking about BOTH sides of this story!

  132. Alice says...

    I completely agree with Bari Weiss’ commentary.

  133. Katy says...

    Our culture has been pushing to treat sex more and more casually–the popular idea is that you should be able to have sex whenever, wherever, and with whomever you want. This account of Grace and Aziz seems to me to be more a product of this casual attitude toward sex than anything else. It seems to me you can’t have it both ways…either sex is a big deal and should be treated seriously, or it’s not.

    • January says...

      Thank you for saying this – this is what I believe, too.

      Cup of Jo team, thanks for publishing a thoughtful take.

    • edie says...

      yes.

    • Leah says...

      I emphatically agree with you, Katy! We have systematically taught the general population (primarily through the Hollywood version of consequence-free sex and parents taking a hands off approach) that sex is fun, funny, simple, uncomplicated, non-committal, and (worst of all) has no real consequences other than the occasional unplanned pregnancy. I don’t think that we will see real cultural changes in this area until we start acknowledging and teaching our children that sex is primarily sacred and serious and that it is in fact the best (and most fun) within safe and healthy boundaries.

    • Akc says...

      Agreed!

    • Daisy says...

      Exactly. I couldn’t have said this better. I am from India and atleast during my teens early 20’s which I spent in India, there was no concept of casual sex. In this tinder age, if we treat sex like food takeout and there is an option of n number of partners and whenever and wherever you want to hook up with no strings attached, isn’t there going to be no emotional consequence? Truly, do people feel good about themselves after a one night stand? After the heat of the moment, does anyone have fond recollection of a one night stand? If Grace had had an emotional connection and then if she had this sexual encounter with Aziz, would she have felt the same way? I really think we should teach our kids that sex is an emotional bond and not just a physical need that you can satisy with with someone whom you met 5 seconds ago.

  134. One thing that really stood out to me about the NYT piece from Weiss is that at no point does she acknowledge that *after* Grace explicitly told Ansari no, he coerced her into giving him a blow job. Weiss had to ignore a lot of pertinent details in order to build her argument, and that alone speaks volumes to me.

    Another thing Weiss got really wrong is her claim that because Ansari was not Grace’s boss or colleague, he had no professional power over her. Are we really going to pretend that someone of Ansari’s caliber couldn’t use his influence to create problems for Grace in the future, if their paths crossed? “I don’t want to work with her, she’s crazy.” <- That happened to dozens of women that worked with Weinstein, that was one of the main ways that he threatened them. So I don't buy this narrative that she had nothing to worry about, professionally speaking.

    And that final quote you included from Weiss – it just makes me wonder, how are we supposed 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" if women like Grace who come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and violation get gaslighted and demeaned for doing it? This backlash is completely misdirected and once again, the guy who acted like a creep is responsible for nothing.

    • Jenn says...

      So much yes to this comment! Thank you for outlining this so well, Bethany.

    • Jennifer Hall says...

      I must say Bethany has very good points Thank you Bethany and Jo for sharing an opposite view of the past view days.

    • Megan says...

      Thank you so much for outlining the problems with Weiss’s piece. In Aziz’s response, he claims he didn’t realize that Grace was uncomfortable with the situation. Yet according to Grace’s story, after she expressed discomfort, he said “‘How about we just chill, but this time with our clothes on?’” But then he kept trying to pressure her! I mean, come on. The real issue here is that some men don’t understand that sex isn’t something you take from women. It’s something you both enter into enthusiastically.

    • Kara says...

      Exactly! Especially re the backlash she’s experiencing.

  135. Renee says...

    She lost me when she went down on him. Why would someone do that?

    • She literally said TO HIM and in the article that she felt pressured. She was afraid of what he would do to her if she didn’t acquiesce. Why is this so hard for people grasp?

    • t says...

      I equate it to finally (and wrongly) giving into my kids when they ask me for a second piece of candy over and over and over and over and over. Sometimes it’s just easier to acquiesce (to get them to shut up and get it over with) than it is to continue to stand your ground.

    • Nora says...

      “She was afraid of what he would do to her if she didn’t acquiesce. Why is this so hard for people grasp?”

      Because to many of us, it makes no sense for someone to willingly go home and engage in any sort of intimate congress, including kissing, with a person you believe may harm you unless you do exactly what he says.

      I found Grace as foolish and entitled as Ansari in her story, but I give her credit for not pleading fear.

    • Abby says...

      Loved this article too! Perfectly describes what I’m feeling.

    • Karin says...

      Oh gosh, this IS great. Thanks for sharing.

  136. Yes! Been having so many conversations like this as well. Isn’t it a shame though, that like you, mine are always with girlfriends? Why aren’t we getting texts from our male friends as well? It’s so complex! I’m not comfortable with the public-name-and-shame because it lumps everything into one category as you mentioned. This is unfortunate because some #metoo incidents are rape, some are sexual abuse from men in powerful positions, some are men being dicks, some are men being horny, and so on. I’m always asking myself, like Margaret Atwood’s opinion piece this weekend, am I a bad feminist that I feel so conflicted? I know someone going through a horrific rape trial right now and I’m outraged about men and sex and power structures and the broken legal and support system … and then on the other hand I’m uncomfortable with the Weinsteins and the Louis CKs and the Aziz Ansaris all being lumped together. So thanks for speaking to this in this way. I’m trying to figure it out for myself. And I hope that this conversation and movement are given the care and attention they deserve.

    • t says...

      I am getting texts from my male friends and many of them think much of this (not the harvey weinstein stuff) is so unfair to the men who are being publicly shamed for acting within societal norms. Like you can’t change the rules and then get mad at something that was done before the rules changed. I try to explain that without the huge public shaming our outcry the movement can’t get far but they think it is all too extreme. But at the very least the conversation is being had.

    • Y says...

      @T …men who think it’s all too extreme are precisely the men who are part of the problem. They can not bear to even acknowledge the abuses of their gender and that makes them tragically discompassionate.

  137. Amanda says...

    Thanks for taking this on. I think the commentary by Jessica Valenti and Sady Doyle are important. This speaks to the way that we are acculturated around consent and the need to change the way consent is taught. We also need to learn to be explicit in the request and giving of consent.
    California passed a law three years ago applying to universities and college campuses referred to as the yes means yes law, going further than the no means no language of many other states and discussions. I’m not an expert by any means on the law but rather have been thinking a lot about how to incorporate this into parenting both a daughter and a son. The messages out in the world are and will be confusing to them. Its a responsibility at home, and I hope in school, and more and more of our friend’s homes to be clear about the request, giving and receiving of consent and the respect for not giving it too!

  138. Sam says...

    I think she should have left sooner (or not go back to his apartment at all), instead of telling him that they should just chill after he went down on her (which many sites have failed to mention, and I don’t understand why). She didn’t stop him then. Then they sit on a couch and he points at his penis asking for oral sex and somehow she felt pressured. I’ve had guys literally forcing my head down, and it is horrible. He didn’t force her to do go down on him. I do believe this story trivializes the movement, but that’s just how I see it.

  139. M says...

    Yes, thank you for posting this. I’ve talked about this with another woman today and I found myself realizing Sady Doyle’s point. Our society has taught men to pursue women and for women to not stand up for themselves enough. I was ‘Grace’. I have agreed to do things I didn’t really want to do because I didn’t want make waves. I didn’t have the guts to walk out of the room. I didn’t think enough of myself to leave. I didn’t think my feelings mattered enough.

  140. Ainsley says...

    I have been following these stories closely and reading a lot of different viewpoints as well. I can see merit to both “camps”, and that’s what makes this such a tricky situation. I like your objective take on this and how you presented both sides, and chose really good quotes to illustrate both points.

    The bottom line for me is, yes “Grace” could/should have been more explicit in her disinterest/refusal to do certain things. Yes, Aziz should not have pushed the boundaries the way he did. But men and women have been conditioned in such a way that makes both of those processes difficult and confusing. That’s where the problem lies.

    I’m sorry this woman had this experience (and that many of us have had similar ones) but I also feel bad for Aziz, because it doesn’t seem like he had any truly malicious or exploitative intent behind his actions. Regardless, he and so many other men need to learn to do better. We can all do better.

  141. Jessie says...

    Thank you Cup of Jo for, as always, thoughtfully showcasing many voices in what is a very murky, complicated, nuanced issue. I too have spent many of the last few days thinking about this:
    –How can we talk about the small nuances of this story in a meaningful way while also having empathy towards ‘Grace’ as someone who felt violated? How can we discuss our many views without victim blaming?
    –How can we be careful to be critical of our own movement while encouraging women to speak up and out with their experiences?
    –How can we figure out how not to lump Aziz and Harvey Weinstein in the same camp (one is bad and the other is a vile monster) — while still recognizing that they share the commonality that men and women have been socialized to view sex so very differently and dangerously?
    All in all, this seems like the most talked about story because there are so many different takes, and doesn’t that make it one of the most important stories of all? It makes us confront what we believe, question ourselves, and actually listen. I keep thinking what I would say if ‘Grace’ were my friend instead of a stranger internets away. I am eager to learn, and hopeful that we can all grow from thoughtful, empathetic discourse.

    • M says...

      Excellent comment.

      This makes me think of what Matt Damon said- I forget his exact wording- that all men shouldn’t be grouped together, there were different levels. And then there seemed to be a lot of comments against Matt Damon that there aren’t different levels…but why is this Aziz situation not being called out by more as flat-out assault?

    • Rachel says...

      This post is so good. I’ve been reading a lot today trying to find an answer to the question – was this assault? I don’t know, it’s murky and gray and not clear cut. Jessie’s comment above about what she would think if Grace was her friend puts further clarity and also confusion into the scenario. I would certainly be upset for my friend if she’d dealt with what Grace did!
      Jo – I think you summarized it perfectly — we need “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.”
      Now how do we get there from here?

    • Vicki says...

      That’s a beautiful point, Jessie: even though news travels fast, and even though we know secrets about just about anybody, we don’t know these people. Would you say something different — about it to the world via the internet — if they were your friend, or sibling, or child? What if you imagined that they were sitting next to you?

    • Katie says...

      “I keep thinking what I would say if ‘Grace’ were my friend instead of a stranger internets away. ” YES. Exactly. If this were one of my best friends, I would be angry, horrified, sad for them. Was it rape? No. Was it right? No.

    • M says...

      Great point- if Grace was my friend, how would I react? Are we finding a grey area because we feel like we know Aziz and hate to think of him as a sexual predator?

    • A says...

      Wonderfully said. Absolutely a “best reader comment”:). Hurray for trying to understand one another with compassion. We are all so different and our opinions so often affected by our environments. What a world it would be if instead of make judgements on the Internet, we had to make judgements after walking a mile in each other’s shoes.

    • Jessica says...

      What a thoughtful, evolved comment. I love how you approach this situation with so many questions, and with so much care.

    • Kara says...

      Yes yes yes! I keep wishing that all the people in these comments judging Grace’s actions and inactions would imagine a woman they care about in this scenario and how they would feel then. Even if you personally would’ve done something different doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respond with compassion.

  142. Laura says...

    I don’t know what to think, other than… I love this website.

    • Mirella says...

      YEP.

  143. Lily says...

    Thank you for this.