These 5 Painful Stories Explain Why Some Women Don't Feel Safe Saying No To Men Like Aziz Ansari

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Why Women Don't Say No When Men Like Aziz Ansari Pressure Them To Have Unwanted Sex
Buzz, Heartbreak

It isn't pretty, but it's deeply important.

When I read the recent article in which a woman shared explicit details of her distressing sexual encounter with actor and comedian Aziz Ansari, my first thought was that "Grace" (her assigned alias) was about to be on the receiving end of an onslaught of complex, victim-blaming questions such as, "Why didn't she leave?" or "Why didn't she call the police?" or, perhaps worst of all, "Why didn't she just say 'No'?"

I turned to my boyfriend and said, "This is going to divide a lot of people."

Although he is the most woke bae around, he didn't understand what I meant, and that was precisely my point. Because the story of what transpired that night is complex, and while Grace's distress is painfully recognizable to many women, trying to understand why it was a big deal is maddeningly confusing for many men.

 

RELATED: 15 Dire Lessons For Men And Women From The Allegations Against Aziz Ansari

 

For men, rejecting someone might seem like it should be the easiest thing in the world to do. This is an understandable perspective, given the fact that men live in a world in they can reject someone without fear of being raped or murdered by the rejected party in response.

The vast majority of women are well aware of what can, and far too frequently does, happen when we assert ourselves and refuse to give men what they want.

And yet, even as we feel like we're making progress explaining our experiences and fears to men, along come women like writer Bari Weiss, who label themselves "a proud feminist" when writing unbelievably naive and simplistic statements such as these she included in her opinion piece, "Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader" in the New York Times:

"If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you.

If the failure to choose a pinot noir over a pinot grigio offends you, you can leave right then and there.

If you don’t like the way your date hustles through paying the check, you can say, 'I’ve had a lovely evening and I’m going home now.'

If you go home with him and discover he’s a terrible kisser, say, 'I’m out.'

If you start to hook up and don’t like the way he smells or the way he talks (or doesn’t talk), end it.

If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door."

I wish it were as easy as Ms. Weiss would have gullible readers hungry to hear men pardoned for abusive behaviors believe.

But despite the fact that Weiss chose not only to quote novelist Margaret Atwood, but to refer to her as a "feminist icon," she seems to forget that Atwood herself, controversial as she may be right now, is the person who said:

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

Which brings us to the Tumblr called "When Women Refuse," which Aziz, Weiss, and anyone feeling confused about this slippery slope should absolutely check out.

It was created after the 2014 mass shooting by UCSB student Elliot Rodgers, who wrote in a 141-page manifesto, “I wanted to inflict pain on all young couples... They deserve it. The males deserve it for taking the females away from me, and the females deserve it for choosing those males instead of me.”

Co-founder Lainna Fader offered this explanation of their mission:

"The goal of the Tumblr is to illustrate that Elliot Rodger's killing spree isn't an isolated incident. There are so many documented accounts of violence against women who refuse sexual advances from men, and countless stories from women who didn't report them to the police or the media... We wanted to make it very clear that violence against women happens every single day. We kept seeing responses over the weekend that were sort of 'othering' Rodger it's that guy over there, not one of us. Rodger is one of many, and our intent is to create some tapestry showing the connection and volume of these incidents."

In doing so, they created a place for women to share their personal stories of consequences they suffered after rejecting a man's sexual or romantic advances, as well as breaking news about related cases.

Here are five examples of the powerfully enlightening stories women have shared.

(Spoiler alert: none of it's good.)

1. "Suspended, expelled & hospitalised for his actions."

"He was always one of the kids in our year that I never liked, though I never could put my finger on why. His grades were always excellent, attentive in class as well as mannerly, joking with the other guys, but it was his remarks and ‘jokes’ towards women that made me uneasy about him.

For a good while, I steered clear of him, we weren’t in many classes together, but in one class we were teamed up in a group project with 2 other girls. All 17 at the time, I could see by their body language and cringing smiles and tired laughing… they too were as wary of him as I was. But unlike the other guys in our year, he wasn’t a ‘jock’, tall yes, but his physique, intelligence and 'wit’ is what helped him earn the trust of most of the girls in our year. Though murmurs of his behaviour and how it made the female (and some males) feel uncomfortable started to spread.

Unfortunately one evening when working on this group project I had to wait an extra hour for my lift home, so I saw it as a opportunity to get some work done on my part of the project. He saw it as an opportunity to keep me company and work too. The two other girls had a bus to catch and walked out the door mouthing “I’m sorry” behind his back. Honestly I thought all I would have to put up with was his usual behaviour. Which I did, the odd misogynistic 'joke’ here and there, a compliment then turned into an insult. I just let them go in one ear and out the other. I got up to go to a cupboard to get some more paper when all of a sudden I felt an arm whip my arms down and wrap itself tightly around them and my torso, it knocked the air out of me. Another wrapped itself around my neck, so tightly again, I really thought I was going to pass out.

He explained I was going to do what he told me to do and if I didn’t, he would make my life a living hell, he threatened my life. He threatened to kill me whilst fondling me.

He released his grip slightly, which meant I could take a breath. When I realised what was happening I remember what my Mum always used to say to me if something like this would ever occur.

'If a man grabs you SCREAM as loud as you can, kick them, stomp on their feet, bite them, scratch them, do anything to hurt them, then RUN.'

So I did what my Mum told me, I remember letting out a scream that would rival a Banshee’s, stamping on his feet, kicking him, all these things startled him enough to let me elbow him to give me enough time to run.

I ran to the stairs where I heard people saying “What is all that racket”, I started shouting for help because I heard him behind me screaming for me to come back, and that I was nothing but a f***ing whore.

I reached the other stairs and saw the principal (who heard him shouting at me) and the Drama teacher (his favourite student), I started to walk towards them in tears when he came up behind me and told me he’d keep his promise and pushed me down a flight of marble stairs.

Luckily I didn’t break any major bones, some hair-line fractures yes, but I suffered serious head trauma, I have epilepsy and went into status epilepticus, this meant I was having an ongoing seizure which had to be controlled with a lot of medication and observation because I kept going back into status, I was in the ICU and the doctors were afraid I was hemorrhaging. Ultimately they decided my brain had swollen due to the fall and knocks from the stair case.

I was in hospital for 2 months. In this time the following happened.

  • My Mum came in every single day to talk to me. Whether I was semi-concious, unconscious or seizing.
  • He was allowed to stay in school to continue his studies despite the Principal and Drama teacher seeing him push me down the stair case.
  • The Principal came to visit me 1 day after the event in the hospital when I was unconscious, swollen and bruised, to offer his condolences to my parents but to also tell them I was suspended do to my defensive actions against him. I wasn’t able to tell my side of the story.
  • He was spreading lies about me in the school that I 'just all of a sudden flipped out' for no reason.
  • I became concious enough to tell my Mum what happened, my parents became furious at how we were all being treated. My Dad then went in and told them I was not suspended and that if he wasn’t expelled he would bring the matter to court.
  • I then receive a letter in hospital telling me that due to missing so many days of school for being 'sick' I am now expelled.

Needless to say this whole event was gruelling and trying on all of us involved. He never did get expelled because the Principal and Teacher backed him up. There was no hope, I told my parents to back down, the most I 'got’ out of it all was no expulsion and I could return to school."

 

2. "My college boyfriend."

"We had been dating for several months and we had sex frequently. One night, we were making out in his bed but I told him that we couldn’t have sex because I had recently switched birth controls and was not protected from pregnancy. He refused to wear a condom so that left only the option of abstaining from sex for about a week. At first he said that was fine and we went back to making out. However, he began to get more aggressive-holding me down and yanking off my clothes. I kept telling him that we couldn’t have sex because of my birth control. He was hurting me. He took off his pants and started to masturbate over my body and eventually tried again to take off my underwear and penetrate me. I told him no we couldn’t but he held me down and forced himself into me. I kept begging him to stop and he kept assuring me that he was close. Eventually he finished and released me. I remember laying there in silence for a long time. There were bruised on my body the next day.

I can’t ever forget the feeling of him breaking the silence after he raped me: 'Veronica,' he said, 'make sure you get Plan B tomorrow.'"

 

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3. "My NO meant nothing."

"I was 17, he was 23. We had been dating for about 2 weeks when he invited me over to watch his band practice. He lived on the other side of town, which I was never familiar with, and I’m terrible with directions, so he picked me up.

Once practice was over and the other guys left, it was just the two of us alone in his basement. He started to kiss me, and suggested we have sex. I said I didn’t want to. We kept kissing and he laid me down on the floor. He kept trying to put his hands under my shirt or up my skirt (I was still in my school uniform.) I pushed his hands away and told him no again, and he started getting pushy. He literally said all the cheesy, creepy stuff the bad guy in sex ed PSA’s say. I pushed him away and kept saying things like, “I don’t want to” “I’m not ready” “I’m don’t wanna have sex unless I’m in love” “Please stop” but he wouldn’t stop or let me up.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to get home, and I was to nervous to try and walk out. He just wouldn’t listen to my no, no matter how many times I said it or pushed him off. Eventually I gave up and laid there trying not to cry. It hurt a lot, and afterwards he said how good I was and finally took me home.

I confronted him years later. He insisted that he was just persistent, hadn’t done anything wrong, and that 50 No’s and then lying still counted as a yes. He was infuriated that I would call it rape, and warned me that he and his new girlfriend would come find me and “show me what REAL rape is.” It makes me sick just thinking about him."

 

4. "It’s not always violent."

"I was lucky, I guess. My first boyfriend, while sweet enough to never hit me or pinch me hard enough to bruise me, was very abusive. His primary method was verbal, and almost all of the abuse was based on sex and sexual activity. Refusal to have sex with him often resulted in my being guilted and berated until I acquiesced. This was so frequent and damaging that five years later, refusing sex to a significant other of mine can lead to panic attacks or guilt so intense I’m unable to do anything but remain frozen and cry. I am left with a deep, toxic association with sex being something I should never withhold from my SO, and that being selfish enough to do so will lead to their (deserved) anger.

It has been five years, two boyfriends since, and I just want to sleep next to one without wondering what I would do if they tried to rape me."

 

5. "A kiss is not a yes to sex."

"I’ve been on two dates with a guy. The second date he invited me back to his apartment to watch a sports game and have dinner. I was the good kind of nervous, texted my friend the address, and went. It was all going well, good conversation, and I was feeling emotionally connected. He kissed me, it was good, etc.

Then his kissing became very aggressive, pinning me down on the sofa, hands all over me, pushing his hands beneath my jeans, and pushing my sweater up. I repeatedly asked him to stop, slow down, to 'be a gentleman' (which he touted himself as). He would relent, and go back to softer kissing. At one point, he pulled me up and led me into the bedroom, and pushed me down on the bed, essentially exposing himself to me.

When I asked again for it to stop, he became even more aggressive, pulling me up and throwing me against the wall and forcibly pushed his fingers into me, with the other arm against my back saying 'this is how you like it, isn’t it'. 'I’m going to f**k the life out of you'. I didn’t want to anger him, so I twisted away and tried to make light of the situation saying that I didn’t realize how into dominance he was. He said he just wanted to f**k me over and over again, and repeatedly tried to undress me as I refused.

I finally said I needed to call it a night and while sitting on the entryway bench putting my shoes on, he again exposed him to me and pushed my face into him. Scared, I obliged for a few seconds, and pulled away, stating 'no, too fast. please stop.' He threw me to the (hard) floor, climbed on top of me, and tried to undress me again. I finally was able to get him off of me, and left. He insisted he walk me down to my car and kissed me, stating 'I’m a gentleman until I want to rip your clothes off'.

I’ve heard from him sporadically since that encounter and although I’ve made it clear that he was too forward with me, I’m scared about how to end it or 'fade', as that assault was a result of just saying 'no' to a sexual encounter. What will happen when I try and cut him off completely?"

 

Like it or not, rape culture permeates our society.

Since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, discussions of what it all means and where it all stems from have taken on a central role in the 24 hour news cycle. As far as I'm concerned, that's the silver lining in all of this, that we as a society are finally having a bigger conversation regarding the ways men mistreat women, both consciously and unconsciously, on a daily basis. That's the only silver lining. The rest of what we've been left to contend with in the endless cresting wave of revelations of sexual misconduct is a murky, awful mess. I don't believe anyone will deny that.

Rape is wrong. That much is obvious. At least, it's obvious to anyone with a sense of human decency. But so is trying to manipulate someone into having sex when they aren't interested or don't feel comfortable.

Is one form of offense worse than the other? Sure, if you want to maintain a sliding scale on which one form of sexual assault is "better" than another, though I'd personally prefer to focus on transforming our society into a one in which that scale doesn't need to exist.

Are both forms of sexual aggression wrong?

Absolutely. And both are examples of violations women regularly endure under the influence of rape culture.

Another common push back I hear is along the lines of, "Women are more likely to be a victim, so they should be more careful and they should definitely be prepared to protect themselves." Unsurprisingly, such statements most often, albeit not exclusively, come from men.

I get it. Of course you want the women you love to be safe and to know how to stand up for themselves, but I personally don't believe that giving us all guns or teaching us all self-defense is going to solve anything.

I'm not Susie Sunshine. I don't think we can permanently eradicate rape.

But I do think that while yes, we must educate girls and women about personal safety, we must also take a few coinciding moments to educate boys and men about how to be more empathetic and aware when it comes to navigating their sexual interactions.

 

RELATED: Silence Breaker Tarana Burke On The Me Too Movement & Where We Go From Here — 'This Moment Is A Gift'

 

We need to hear more stories like these — stories that are confusing, messy, ambiguous and complex — because given the tension around diverse reactions to Grace's story in particular, it appears that even some of the most well-educated, worldly and "woke" among us still have difficulty understanding that the way things currently stand between men and women is deadly and dangerous, and it's been this way for centuries.

In fact, it's been going on for so long that people, both men AND women, often can't see where the problem lies anymore.

It should be unnecessary to say that anyone of any age, race or gender should always feel empowered enough to say no with the confidence that when they do, they will then safely be able to extricate themselves from a situation in which they no longer feel comfortable. Yet the truth remains that sometimes we don't, and in many of those instances, we are right not to, because doing so would put us in even graver danger.

And that, my friends, is a serious conversation we all need to have.

 

RELATED: The One Lesson Parents Can Learn From The Aziz Ansari Sexual Assault Accusation

 

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a sex, humor and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the sex, love, and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

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