The Aziz Ansari Sexual Assault Allegations Prove Why So Many Women Don't Say 'No', Even Though We Know We Should

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aziz ansari sexual assault
Self

The deeper reasons why talking about consent can be so challenging.

I was screaming "NO!" when a guy I had been dating decided to force himself on me. I wasn't feeling well, and I wanted to stop. He continued anyway.

He was 6'2" and significantly bigger than my 5'1" frame. I was terrified. The full mass of his body weighed on me pinning me down and making it impossible to move much less slide away from his grip. What else was he going to do? I wondered fearfully. I had never had someone not respect my "no."

After three more loud screams of "NO! Get off me!" he finally stopped.

"Why did you do that?" I questioned as salty tears streamed down my face.

"I thought you'd be open to it," he mumbled.

"I told you 'no'!" I yelled.

He was silent, his eyes cast downward avoiding mine. I gathered my things and left. He apologized later, but it was over for me. We stopped seeing each other.

When the Me Too movement started I, like many women, felt liberated. Finally! Our collective voices were being heard. The years of pain, embarrassment, rage, shame, and discomfort were finally being aired out like the dirty laundry it was.

 

 

I have been groped in the crotch walking down the street as I try to go shopping at H&M.

I've had men come close to me and tell me they can touch me if they want.

I was 11 years old when the boy sitting in class next to me told me he planned on raping me after school one day.

I was 21 when my gay coworker grabbed my hand and put it on his crotch.

A close family member and two good friends (one who was a guy) have been molested and/or assaulted. And one of my friends, sadly, was date raped.

It's about damn time women's voices were heard.


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When the story of Aziz Ansari came out, my first thought was, "Oh no... what did this fool do?" But as I read the account, I felt confused and upset. I was violated without my consent. My friends had been violated without their consent. We were held against our will and unable to leave. Grace was not.

The situation between Ansari and the anonymous "Grace" did not, from what I could tell, fit the dictionary or legal definition sexual assault. To claim this as such felt personally like a slap in the face.

Yet I didn't want to shame Grace. I wondered if, perhaps, I was missing something. Was I being insensitive? Did I read it wrong? I called one of my friends who had been both abused and assaulted — we'll call her April — to get her thoughts.

"I think we're getting distracted by gossip and shying away from the challenging conversation that started this all in the first place. And that's of men in power grossly manipulating the vulnerable, physically forcing themselves onto women, and then shaming them into silence," she remarked.

I couldn't help but agree. It's not that I don't believe Grace's story. I do. The problem is this story is not like the other horrific accounts of abuse that have come to light in the past six months.

Weinstein was guilty of decades of sexual assault accompanied by threats of blackballing. Kevin Spacey exhibited predatory behavior toward younger men for years. Louis C.K. and Matt Lauer used their power to intimidate and harass women in work environments.

"To say what someone like Ansari did is part of the same conversation as what happened to over eighty women assaulted by Weinstein is offensive. As someone who has been assaulted, I feel like someone who lost a foot getting run over by a car sitting next to a chick complaining about how someone stepped on her toe. Grace is taking up valuable airspace and she's starting to piss me off," April said.

I read the story again. Grace willingly went to Ansari's apartment, performed oral sex, and hung out watching TV. When she wanted to leave, he called her an Uber. He texted her the next day saying he had a great time (making it seem like he definitely had no idea she was not feeling it) and when she pointed out that wasn't the case, he apologized. It seemed the worst thing one could accuse Ansari being guilty of is being very horny, very pushy, and somewhat obtuse.

"Having said that," April continued, "women who have been abused struggle in this situation because the line was crossed as a child. So you have no sense of the line as an adult. I absolutely understand where they are coming from and I am so sorry they had these negative experiences. But to say this is part of the larger Me Too movement, I just think is ridiculous."

I understood April's insight; it made sense that someone who had their boundaries always pushed would have no concept of where they are any more or how to enforce them. To get more clarification, I spoke to a couple of mental health professionals who were able to shed a little more light on the issue.

According to psychologist, trauma specialist, and intimacy coach Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey, one reason a woman might not find it easy to say "no" as clearly as other people may is because, "Trauma victims and survivors often dissociate, which is when they separate themselves from their bodies and the traumatic experience. This can feel like they are standing outside themselves looking in or completely withdrawn to another place. Sometimes people black out completely and keep acting and talking without knowing what they are doing."


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But it's not just past trauma that is the problem. It's also society and how we educate people about consent and sexuality. "This is where self-esteem comes in handy," says Kimberley Resnick Anderson, Certified Sex Therapist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. "Was she taught that her body belongs to her and no one else? Did she receive progressive sex ed in the home, or was sex taboo and shameful?"

Everything the experts and April were saying made sense. But ultimately, we don't know what Grace's story is. We don't know her background, whether she was abused, or if she suffers from low self-esteem or a dysfunctional upbringing. And chances are, neither did Ansari.

That's generally not the kind of stuff that comes up on a first date. So what is a guy to do? And what is a woman to do if she knows she isn't the best at setting boundaries?

Says Dr. Bisbey, "Go to the restroom and compose yourself. If your gut tells you this really isn't okay, then go with your gut instinct and leave. There is no reason to stay when you are feeling pushed and uncomfortable. If you feel conflicted and want to be able to see the person again, end the encounter in a nice way and suggest another date."

I once smoked weed at a friend's house. Or at least, I thought he was a friend. He offered me his bedroom when I told him I needed to stay because I was stoned out of my mind. I smoked a little bit, but had no idea I would feel as incapacitated as I did.

After everyone left, he came upstairs and tried to make a move on me. I could barely move, much less speak. I still managed to squeak out a "No, I don't want this" as his hands grazed my legs. He backed off and left me alone.

I'm eternally grateful this situation didn't escalate. Was it disgusting that he even attempted to touch me in my state? Yes, I believe so. But I also believe saying "no" saved me from something else happening.

"There are men who are predatory and exploitative and don't care at all about your comfort. They are called rapists. There are also men (probably like Aziz Ansari) who push really hard, but genuinely believe that women are receptive to sexual contact," says Resnick. "They are truly surprised to discover, after the fact, that a woman felt uncomfortable. Both men and women are responsible to communicate directly and honestly about their expectations. I tell my patients that if they can't have a simple conversation with someone, they have no business sleeping with them!"

I reference my own stories because I think women must be strong enough to make our voices heard, even when we are uncomfortable. For our own safety, agency, and sense of well-being.

Whether it's negotiating your salary, stating your ideas at the board meeting, or going on a date where the guy is pushy. Because the guy in question may not realize there's a problem until you tell him there is one.

If you're with a man who is making you uncomfortable and pressuring you, say NO. Say it over and over again until he gets it. If he doesn't, then he's guilty of assault.

My friend April put it best: "Get to know your 'inner voice'. Befriend it and use it like some Jedi mace superhero sh*t. Nurture it, trust it and act on it. If something feels wrong, stop! Say something! Get the hell out! We'll never be able to rid the world of monsters, predatory power addicts, or ego-high assh*les. But the more we can empower women to not override their instinct and to act on that inner voice that goes 'uh-oh line crossing!' the better off we will all be. Let's talk about how to do that."


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Rachel Khona has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Playboy, Penthouse, Maxim, and Cosmopolitan, among others. Check out her book.

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