Hey Aziz Ansari, When Someone Isn’t Interested, You Can Tell
Quite frankly, I didn’t know much about Aziz Ansari until this week when a friend sent me a link to an article published on Babe.com. For those who aren’t updated, in the article, a woman who goes by the alias ‘Grace’ tells a reporter how she was made to feel while out on a date with Ansari in 2017.
The Case That Sparked a Debate
The two exchanged numbers after they met at an award function. They went out to a restaurant for a date and made it back to his apartment. There, Ansari kept trying to initiate sex, this despite her repeated physical and verbal indications that she wasn’t interested. But he didn’t relent, or even bother to talk to her about it.
It came to a point where she told him, “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.” And he responded with: “Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun.” She asked him if they could “just chill, but this time with our clothes on”, but once they were dressed, he tried to undress her again. And at this point, she stood up and said she would call herself a cab.
I have read at least three other pieces defending Ansari – all articles authored by women. The argument has ranged from the usual "why didn't she book herself a cab", to "why not just say no".
Not Difficult to Tell When Someone Is Not Interested
In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan writes that Grace and the Babe reporter published “3,000 words of revenge porn” to humiliate an apparently “woke man” because the date did not go the way she wanted it to. Flanagan writes that Grace should have done “whatever it took to stop him from using your body in any way you didn’t want.”
In her article for The New York Times – titled ‘Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader’ – Bari Weiss writes:
I’ve also read that ever since the #Metoo movement – and after this article – men are apparently now scared of the dating game. Apparently, these men aren’t quite sure as to what kind of behaviour could be perceived as termed sexual harassment.
When someone isn’t interested, it isn’t difficult to tell – even if it has not been explicitly verbally communicated. It has been proved that dogs can read human emotions based on visual and oratory cues. So this definitely is not a case of not understanding cues. It has more to do with your belief that you can change her mind with your insane skills in bed (which only you believe in); or the size of your penis; (which only you care about); or some other special skills you may think you possess.
The first thought I had after reading the article was that Ansari had done something terribly wrong . I also narrated Grace’s story to a friend back home (he doesn’t like reading) and he called it “zabardasti” unless the article was a work of fiction. But in his statement, that came after the Babe article, Ansari acknowledged this had happened. However, he – to no one’s surprise – claimed he thought it was consensual.
Ansari definitely is no Harvey Weinstein. He is, in fact, apparently, “a woke man” who recently walked up to the stage at the Golden Globes award ceremony to receive the best actor award with a ‘Time’s Up’ pin on his chest. I’m sure “woke men” are quite few in number in this world.
And I can also understand the dilemma that people were faced with after the Babe article. But instead of brushing the incident under the carpet, there is a need to discuss it. There is a pressing need to have conversations around it and ask questions about Ansari and his behaviour, rather than dissecting and discrediting Grace’s personal account.
One has to understand that individuals can have varied experiences. They might choose to feel and express differently. There is no time frame for this.
Understanding the Power Dynamic at Play
Ansari’s support for feminism is not a free pass. Instead, he should be judged for that exact reason. When someone tells you they don’t want to hate you, you need to take a moment and realise that something has gone wrong.
Hate is a strong word, it can communicate a lot of emotions at once. Just think about it, when you have a fight with someone, you might be angry at them but to hate, things must be really serious. And it can’t be undone by just pouring them another glass of wine and shoving your fingers down their throat.
By going by the logic in The Atlantic piece, there would be no sexual assaults or rapes. It is important to understand the power dynamic that is at work in such situations.
Interestingly, Grace hasn’t described the experience as sexual assault in the article. She has only expressed herself.
How Ansari Should Have Reacted
The NYT piece listed the number of things that Grace could have done – including how she should not have hung out naked with him (because that apparently means the man will want to have sex), or even that she should have used the four-letter word and just left. What the article did not talk about was what Ansari could have done in that situation. So, here’s a list for him.
1. Don’t expect sex because someone has decided to come home with you. Ask before you make a move.
2. Don’t make her touch your penis repeatedly if she’s moving her hand away. It won’t make her more interested.
3. When you agree to put your clothes on and just "chill". Do that. Don’t coerce her into giving you a blow job.
4. When the woman says "next time", she means not now, not today. Is it that difficult to understand?
5. If you continue to press on after she tells you she’s uncomfortable, then she will hate you for it. Saying, "Doesn’t look like you hate me", doesn’t change a thing.
6. When she says she doesn't want to feel forced, listen. Understand. And then, stop. Immediately.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @Adnanmbhat. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
(We Indians have much to talk about these days. But what would you tell India if you had the chance? Pick up the phone and write or record your Letter To India. Don’t be silent, tell her how you feel. Mail us your letter at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll make sure India gets your message)
(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)