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Accusations against Aziz Ansari force #MeToo to examine blind spots: Shree Paradkar

A photographer’s detailed, graphic recollection of a date gone wrong is raising many questions about the nuances of the spectrum of misogyny represented in the #MeToo movement.

Memories of a photographer's date with comedian Aziz Ansari was triggered when she saw him win the award for best actor award at the Golden Globes for his performance on his show "Master of None."

The Associated Press / Jordan Strauss

Memories of a photographer's date with comedian Aziz Ansari was triggered when she saw him win the award for best actor award at the Golden Globes for his performance on his show "Master of None."

For a discussion to stay authentic and effective its contents have to depart from binary frameworks of black or white, good or bad, assault or not assault and dive into the nuances.

For about three months, the #MeToo movement was perched atop a righteous post from which it gave courage to women to speak up even as it excoriated bathrobed men of power, suited men of power, on-camera men of power, elected men in power and other men of power as nothing more than sleazebags who committed sexual crimes with unseeing casualness.

This past weekend, it was forced to hop off that perch and explore the nuances of the spectrum of misogyny it represents after a disturbingly graphic tale emerged, detailing a photographer’s date gone wrong.

The story that appeared on an obscure website (therefore its credibility is unknown) called babe.net, described the experiences of an anonymous accuser, pseudonym Grace, of going on a date with Aziz Ansari, the woke bro next door. Her telling of it was triggered by seeing him in the news winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor for the excellent show Master of None.

The story describes her being excited pre-date, of dinner (and drinking white wine although she preferred red), of being in his house, of not wanting things to go quite so fast, of showing reluctance, of giving non-verbal cues of dissent, of finally leaving his place . . . and of feeling violated.

That is the CliffsNotes version. The explicit details are easily available online.

If you were like me, you read this story of a bad date, perhaps related to it, but waited for the shocker: proof that this man was a Weinstein in Ansari’s clothing.

That moment did not come. This became a problem. Does being uncomfortable during sex count as assault?

Even though the story is journalistically unsatisfying — it takes time to go into great detail of Ansari’s sexual moves but not to give him adequate time to respond — if you take it at face value, the grey areas it brings up push #MeToo to examine its blind spots.

If a woman doesn’t say no, or doesn’t quite say no, has she given consent? If she pushes a man off, stops moving her hands, says, “I don’t want to feel forced,” but keeps her clothes off, is that a mixed signal?

According to the story, when Grace texts Ansari to tell him he missed her “clear non-verbal cues,” he responded with an apology. “Clearly I misread things in the moment, and I’m truly sorry.”

Ansari released a statement saying he thought the interaction was consensual. “It was true that everything did seem okay (sic) to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.”

If a man acts entitled and inconsiderate of a woman’s sexual mood in pursuit of his own gratification, has he committed sexual assault, as Grace labels it?

Since it all boils down to consent, does consent to sex have to be full and enthusiastic? Ideally, yes, and especially so when partners are unfamiliar. But sex lives don’t remain frozen at the threshold of relationships. What about the times when women — and men — in long-term relationships don’t quite feel like sex but acquiesce anyway and end up feeling content rather than violated?

Where is that line where persuasion goes from seduction to coercion?

What does it say about sex culture that women have to be either persuaded or coerced?

Must consent be framed only around “No”?

When will the discussion include women for whom consent is fraught around the word “Yes”?

Women caught in the classic madonna-whore trap find they have to be sexually alluring, but also be aware that to say yes is to exhibit stigmatizing wantonness. Persuasion becomes the dance of this mating game. To be persuaded signals a woman’s modesty and the man’s prowess in bed.

This medieval more that turns an “easy lay” into “girls I won’t date” cuts across cultures.

How are men and women socialized into their sex lives? Is there an authoritative passing of knowledge that centres around gender power dynamics?

There are plenty of books and female perspectives on this subject. Are men reading these? Are women reading these? Or encouraged to do so, in a school setting perhaps?

In the Grace-Ansari story, Grace didn’t ask to be treated with inconsideration. If her version is accurate, that’s all on Ansari — even if he is a byproduct of societies that fail to talk adequately about sexuality.

The whole point of being able to have sex freely — apart from experiencing pleasure and expressing intimacy — is to be able to learn our likes and preferences.

Based on this story, Grace doesn’t like being rushed. Ansari needs to read signals of reluctance as “Stop.”

It’s because he didn’t stop that this gets filed under #RapeCulture.

I’d also chalk it up under #MoreSexEdNeeded. Urgently.

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