My Belated Thoughts on Aziz Ansari and Sexual Consent

I didn’t write about the Aziz Ansari thing for a reason. There was no benefit to inserting my thoughts into a hot conversation, especially after I tried after #MeToo broke.

But I did have some thoughts that are worth a brief mention:

The story itself was about two differing views of consent.

Ansari views sexual consent as a silent contract. Man makes a move to kiss a woman, woman kisses him back. Things heat up. Man reaches for her shirt. Woman hesitates but silently lets him remove it. Later, he reaches for her belt and she motions for him to stop. He tries one more time and she stops him more firmly with a verbal “No.” That’s how things have worked for, well, forever. It’s an imperfect system, to be sure, especially when alcohol is involved, but since sex is mostly a nonverbal exchange, it’s the way most of us negotiate it. Body language works to a point, and when it fails, you rely on your words and your legs to walk out of an uncomfortable situation.

Body language works to a point, and when it fails, you rely on your words and your legs to walk out of an uncomfortable situation.

Grace, who outed Ansari on Babe.net, views sexual consent as verbal. Even though it appeared to be a normal hookup to Ansari – he picked her up at a party she went to with another guy, she went down on him, he went down on her, Grace felt uncomfortable and asked Ansari to slow down. He did, turned on the TV, and then started up again, aggressively. But Grace never said no. She never walked out of his place. She expected Ansari to pick up on her discomfort and stop even though she never clearly voiced her outrage. Grace’s standards were “affirmative consent.” In other words, if she doesn’t explicitly say “yes” to his physical advances, he should advance no further.

Without passing judgment on either, the primary problem here are the different definitions of how sex should be navigated. Should Ansari have been more attuned to Grace’s feelings without her having to say so? Probably. Should Grace have been firmer in saying no to Ansari when she felt he was being too aggressive. Probably. The question is not whether anyone is at fault, but rather, how can single people expect to find a partner in the future without destroying each others’ lives?

The question is not whether anyone is at fault, but rather, how can single people expect to find a partner in the future without destroying each others’ lives?

Grace feels traumatized, even though many women would classify her experience as a bad date.

Ansari has had his embarrassing private behavior outed and has lain low since. The first thing that pops up when you Google him is the article about his sexual exploits.

Should sex be as explicit as “May I take off your bra?” to avoid confusion? Or does asking for permission for everything ruin the sexual experience itself? Is it worth it to dampen the sexual experience in order to prevent sexual assault? Or is that like putting speedbumps on a freeway?

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated. Oh, and I originally started writing this article to alert you to an interesting piece called 45 Stories of Sex and Consent on Campus, in which people tell their first-person tales of unwanted and uncomfortable sexual situations in college.

 

Join our conversation (243 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 31
    Marika

    Tom 10

    The broader point, however, is that when women are deeply attracted to a guy it’s for more than a singular quality such as his appearance or status alone; rather a panoply of his qualities overall. And likely she’ll still be viscerally attracted to that panoply 15 years later. Admittedly, as you point out, I’m in a weak position to pontificate on this having no experience of a long-term marriage.

    The second part – yes. I think when dating, and to get into a relationship, attraction is essential. In a long-term relationship, once you’ve weathered storms together, merged lives, been through ups and downs, laughed, cried..you stop even thinking of the person in terms of their attractiveness. Unless they drastically alter their appearance (or job, persona..), you see them as them, rather than as a ‘hot guy with a great job’, or a tall blond chick.

    It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there.

    Loss of attraction wasn’t the problem in my marriage, and I would hazard a guess it wasn’t for Jeremy either. My ex and his wife are very different, but what they share is getting to a place where they were complacent – due to our personality types. It was clear to them that we were committed to the relationship and they felt that they didn’t have to keep up effort to ensure it continued & they would keep getting their needs met. My ex also craved novelty and adoration – which tend to fade in long term relationships.

    I’m no expert on happy marriages, but I would think the best bet is like Evan says, focusing mostly on compatibility, with someone you find above average in terms of attractiveness. Someone who has good empathy, wants you to be happy, isn’t overly self-focused. I think trying to ensure attraction will last over time is missing the point.

    1. 31.1
      Clare

      Marika,

      I agree with you in that I do not think ensuring there is visceral attraction over the long term is the point.
      At a certain point, it becomes about wanting to meet the other person’s needs, to make them happy. Sex is part of that. I also think sex can be an expression of love, not just physical chemistry. Sex fosters a sense of connectedness and loyalty… it strengthens the bond between you and makes you feel safe and loved. I think over time, having sex becomes more about these reasons than it does about needing to rip the person’s clothes off.

      Personally, I think the best sex lives are not based on physical attraction (or even personal chemistry) alone. I think the best sex comes from a desire to merge and connect at deeper levels, to communicate something to each other that you cannot say with words or any other way. In this respect, long term marriage has the advantage over shorter relationships.

      And yes, it requires effort. It requires both of you to WANT to keep connecting in that way and nurturing your relationship. In this way, I agree completely that the problem with sexless marriages comes from a lack of effort, and not a lack of attraction.

    2. 31.2
      Tom10

      Hi Marika
       
      “Loss of attraction wasn’t the problem in my marriage, and I would hazard a guess it wasn’t for Jeremy either…I think trying to ensure attraction will last over time is missing the point.”
       
      Well in Mrs Happy’s friends’ case it’s patently clear from her comments that the problem was the wives never had any attraction to their husbands in the first place and married them for practical reasons; they couldn’t lose attraction if they never had it to begin with. To be brutally frank there’s nothing those guys can do to restore their wives’ sexual desire; they might as well try to make themselves taller.
       
      However, from her comments the husbands are still very much attracted to their wives. The long-term result of this dynamic is as easy to predict as the sun rising in the morning; husband pestering the wife for sex and her having no interest.
       
      Loss of mutual attraction over the long-term, however, is, as you said, a very different matter; that’s when working on maintaining attraction might pay dividends.
       
      “My ex also craved novelty and adoration – which tend to fade in long term relationships.”
       
      This is a separate fundamental issue and suggests your ex. probably wasn’t/isn’t a naturally marriage-material guy. I know this for I struggle with the same issue. Unless he had extreme self-awareness, discipline and/or religious indoctrination long-term relationships are always going to be a problem for him. And even then it’ll be a struggle. Craving for novelty is just incompatible with marriage.
       
      ———
       
      At times I feel these problems are almost intractably difficult to resolve; that long-term sustainability is so hard to predict as to be impossible. 🙁 
       
      Then I witness all those who have managed to achieve it and all hope is restored. 🙂

    3. 31.3
      Jeremy

      I would add something to this, Marika, and it will also address something that Shaukat and Tom wrote.  In the end of all things, the reason the women in Mrs. Happy’s book club don’t want sex with their husbands is because they aren’t terribly attracted to them.  Boiled down to bare bones, that’s the problem.  Women who are very attracted to a certain man want to have sex with him.  Exactly as Shaukat and Tom wrote.

       

      BUT.  Where I disagree with the 2 gentlemen is in what we are talking about when we are talking about being attracted.  They seem to believe (and please correct me, guys, if I’m wrong) that the attraction the women should feel is a combination of attraction to his physical form and alpha attraction to his mannerisms/status.  And the implication is that either these women were never really so attracted to these guys, or that perhaps these guys let themselves go (either physically or became too beta) and the women lost attraction.  That’s where I disagree.  I’ve written before that women’s long-term attraction to men is contingent on respect.  And the problem with respect is that it isn’t only lost due to loss of respectability, it is lost due to hedonic adaptation.

       

      This is something that many people don’t account for.  I see it in Emily’s comments, where she posits that a woman who is attracted to a man will remain attracted.  And in Tom’s comments that if a man’s status increases, his wife’s attraction should increase.  Take it from me, guys, this isn’t so.  Since my wife first met me, the “M” in the prefix of my name became a “D.”  My income rose exponentially.  My respectability in society rose considerably.  My knowledge, experience, and ability rose considerably.  But to her, I’m just Jeremy, the guy who sometimes wakes her up at night with his snoring or sometimes forgets his lunch at home.  All of the things she used to respect in me became routine – because she already had them.  And THAT is the insidious thing that kills attraction – because for women, attraction is contingent on respect.

       

      I don’t know these book club women, but I know lots of women like them.  As they view their husbands as childish I wonder, who pays the lion’s share of the bills in their homes?  As they sit in book club, who is watching the kids?  As they consider all the things they have to do every day, do they consider what their husbands do, or do they just think their husbands have it easy because they don’t do the same things the wives do? If such a woman met her husband on the street as a stranger and found out what he does every day, would she be more impressed than she is as his wife? And would she therefore be more attracted to him?  Do such women RESPECT their husbands? Truly?  And if not, is it because the husbands have lost respectability or because the women have over-adapted?

       

      Sorry for the long comment, but I needed to write this to address what you wrote, Marika.  Because compatibility isn’t the only important thing in marriage, but neither is the sort of attraction the woman feels for the man when dating (due to his confidence, manner, alpha, whatever).  The important thing is that she take every step she can to avoid becoming hedonically adapted to his respectability.  Because that is the marriage killer, the etiology of the book club women’s problem.  IMHO.

      1. 31.3.1
        Marika

        Jeremy & Tom

        I was trying to say a lot of what you said, Jeremy, just not as eloquently 🙂

        I think your experience and how you overcame it has given some the impression that a happy marriage necessarily involves some sort of mind games/power play, which I’m sure is the last thing you meant or would want to convey. Just trying to redress that.

        Tom, as far as the book club women go, again I don’t personally think it all boils down to attraction. One of my friends, who I’ve written about before, openly admits she isn’t that attracted to her husband anymore (he’s now borderline obese). But she still wants, has and initiates sex with him.

        I don’t mix in circles with women like these book club chicks, but my guess is that they view sex as for having babies and marriage as being about dinner parties, lovely houses, well dressed kids, getting them the best education etc. The guardian types I guess. From what you’ve written, those don’t seem to be the type of women you date. So I wouldn’t worry about it. Not every type of woman loses interest in sex. And you don’t have to marry down attraction-wise to ensure a full sex life continues.

        1. Jeremy

          It’s possible that they view sex as just for marriage and babies on a subconscious level (a subconscious meta-goal), but on a conscious level that’s not how they see it.  They see it as they either want it or they don’t, and right now they don’t.  They would be completely baffled by the conversation unfolding here.  “Why is everyone trying so hard to ascribe all these motivations to us,”  they’d ask.  “We just don’t want sex as often as our husbands – and isn’t that ok, and why should men dictate what we do with our bodies?”  The obvious answer totally eludes them, because they don’t want to consider it.  They just want to consider what they themselves want, which is not at all how they were when they were girlfriends rather than wives.  Because when they were girlfriends, they respected their boyfriends and wanted something from them – they had a sexual goal which made them want the sex. Though again, they’d not think of it in those terms, but rather just that they wanted it at that time.

        2. Buck25

           “Because when they were girlfriends, they respected their boyfriends and wanted something from them – they had a sexual goal which made them want the sex. Though again, they’d not think of it in those terms, but rather just that they wanted it at that time.”

          Jeremy,

          You do realize that that last makes a pretty good argument against getting married (from a male POV, of course). A lot of guys could say that analysis, if true, means marriage represents a bad bargain for them, in terms of a man’s wants and needs. That by the way, is not misogyny (in spite of some of the comments aimed at me here in this thread). I see it simply as male self-interest. I ask again, just what the hell is wrong with that? I don’t hate women. I actually like MOST of them. However, I don’t use or abuse ANY women, so I don’t feel obligated to allow ANY of them to use and abuse me. Those who try, find I fight fire with fire.So what? Fair is fair. (By the way, if the male version “getting what we want” from a relationship is so “Dark, poisonous and intolerably selfish” of us, why is the female version of “getting what we want” not equally “dark, poisonous and intolerably selfish” for women? You know just because marriage is a goal for so many women doesn’t mean it has to be for all men, or even most of them. I submit there are plenty of people of BOTH genders who are simply unsuited for marriage, and marriage equally is unsuited for them. Why do so many here seem to have such a problem with that concept?

        3. Jeremy

          Buck, for the record, there are several things you’ve written here that I agree with.  I agree that selfish women like these book club ladies have a poisonous attitude toward their relationships.  And I never called your attitude poisonous, but I worried that it would poison one’s attitude toward one’s self and one’s spouse – as it has for these women.  For example, how many of these book club ladies (or their ilk) see their behavior as tit-for-tat for some behavior of their husbands?  They perceived the men to be selfish in a way, and are being selfish in return to teach them a lesson or to regain power.  That isn’t the way to live a happy marriage.

           

          And I agree with you that marriage isn’t for everyone.  That people who know themselves to be novelty seekers or selfish or unable to get along well with others would do well to avoid marriage.  That’s why I take no issue with Evan’s recent post of living apart and the comments there.  If you’d prefer to watch Law and Order alone and not share your day’s stories and cuddle on the couch, marriage ain’t for you.  Better that you not get into it.  Marriage is a gamble – if you win, you win big.  If you lose, you lose big.  If I thought a man’s odds were only 50%, I’d recommend being MGTOW.  But I think a man’s odds can be much better than that, IF he cultivates an attitude of selflessness in himself, and marries a woman who does the same.  This is not as difficult as it sounds, it just requires us to re-adjust the qualities we naturally seek out when dating, as Marika has alluded to.

        4. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,
          There’s a bit of a dichotomy to the women-marry-to-have-children-and-then-once-that-goal-is-met-lose-interest-in- sex argument. So the obvious solution would be to find a woman whose goals are to have lots of hot sex, but those women don’t tend want to be married and have children or make good, long-term partners because they dig novelty. I’m not sure there’s a solution here. If a a woman wants marriage and family, sex is way down on the list of priorities when she looks for a life partner/baby daddy.

        5. Jeremy

          Emily, you wrote, “If a woman wants marriage and family, sex is way down on her list of priorities…”.  No, it isn’t necessarily.  Not when dating, not when married.  In fact, sex can remain a very significant priority for such women – as long as both she and her husband create a situation to cultivate that desire, by giving her a reason to continue prioritizing it.  At the end of all things, Emily, that’s the heart of the advice I’ve repeated ever so often on this blog, to the irritation of some.  Not that one need research theses on psychology.  Not that “guardians” make lousy long-term sex partners.  Not that “women marry for children and lose interest in sex.”  But rather, women lose interest in sex when they lose their reason to have it, so have a care to understand your wife’s reason and cultivate it.  And then you can have a wonderful marriage with loads of sex, love, and affection – like I enjoy now with no “hard work” involved.

        6. Evan Marc Katz

          Listen to Jeremy. Guy could be a dating and relationship coach, as far as I’m concerned.

    4. 31.4
      Emily, the original

      Marika,

      I’m no expert on happy marriages, but I would think the best bet is like Evan says, focusing mostly on compatibility, with someone you find above average in terms of attractiveness. Someone who has good empathy, wants you to be happy, isn’t overly self-focused. I think trying to ensure attraction will last over time is missing the point.

      Actually, I think the people who are happiest in marriage are the people who lead with the long-term qualities you mentioned. They lead with the relationship, not chemistry or visceral attraction or excitement. If you ask them if they ever felt those things for their spouse, they look at you blankly. Those things are not in their wheelhouse. I mean, they feel attracted, but it was part of the whole relationship package, otherwise there wouldn’t have been attraction at all. People looking for their next erotic obsession — the “lust of their lives” — don’t do well in marriage. Seems obvious, although why I’m figuring this out so late in life is a puzzle.   🙂

    5. 31.5
      Emily, the original

      Jeremy, 

      I see it in Emily’scomments, where she posits that a woman who is attracted to a man will remain attracted.  And in Tom’s comments that if a man’s status increases, his wife’s attraction should increase.  Take it from me, guys, this isn’t so.  

      I meant if she is initially, viscerally attracted to him. An attraction that has nothing to do with status or really even appearance. She meets him, takes one look at him and for some reason thinks, “I want get that guy alone in a room.” If she feels that, it probably won’t change unless she loses respect for him or fundamentally doesn’t like him once she gets to know him. If she does like and respect him, the attraction will fade somewhat over time, but she will still feel fundamentally drawn to him. However, how many people marry someone they are initially, viscerally attracted to? I’m guessing not many. I’ve dated only three people I felt that way about and only one wanted a serious relationship but we were not compatible.

    6. 31.6
      Emily, the original

      Tom10,

      However, from her comments the husbands are still very much attracted to their wives

      Are they still attracted or is that they want sex and this is who they are legal, socially-sanctioned to have it with? It’s easier than going out and looking for it. I can’t imagine that some men don’t lose their attraction, too, or marry women they were never super attracted to in the first place. It can’t be just women who do that.

  2. 32
    Paloma

    @Yet Another Straw Man

    I never said anything about needing to redefine the word “rape.” I am suggesting that just because it isn’t rape doesn’t automatically mean that it’s right or ok.

    What I’m talking about has nothing whatsoever to do with mind-reading, intuiting or asking for verbal permission to do every single thing. Just getting outside of yourself for a moment or two to consider the other person’s behavior and where they are. One don’t have to be a people skills expert to observe that someone who is releasing vocal sounds and eagerly participating is probably enjoying themselves, and if they’re lying very still while staring at the ceiling, they might not be having a good time.

    Caring about the other person’s experience should be the minimum standard for behavior during sex, not simply being a non-rapist. Just like when you go to a restaurant, the standard behavior is leaving a tip for your server. I don’t know a single person who would argue that it’s ok to not tip your server, that it’s ok to insult them and treat them however you want as long as you aren’t doing anything illegal. Nobody would say that a dude who did any of those things was an example of “men just being men.” It is bizarre to me that guys are somehow no longer expected to be good, thoughtful, decent humans just because they’re naked and in a private setting.

     

  3. 33
    SparklingEmerald

    I have very limited sympathy for Grace.  Yes, I can feel sympathy for women who have made a mistake by poorly setting boundaries, and feeling disappointed.  That gives them a free pass to cry on a girl friends shoulder and have an all night wine-a-thon/favorite comfort food pass.However, that she chose to publicly trash Ansari while remaining anonymous herself, sorry, what little sympathy I had for her just flew out the window.Yes, Ansari was crude and aggressive in this encounter.  But I see nothing in this story that indicates he forced her to stay, and if she didn’t have the gumption to leave, then that is on HER.I’m not sure what she was hoping for, to be considered as a potential girlfriend, or at least a romantic one night stand, that was somewhat like “the girlfriend experience” or what.  But look at how she presented herself to him.  She admits that he brushed her off at first.  But she pressed on.  So, I guess it is OK for her ignore his non-verbal rejections, but not him.  Second of all, she was ON A DATE with someone else, when she initiated flirtations with him.  Why on earth would he view her as anything but a booty call ?And during their date, he referred to the sex act that he hoped was imminent as “fucking”.  Any guy who asks you to “fuck” on a first date, most likely does not consider you girlfriend potential.  She can complain that it’s “too hard” to tell him no and leave, because she “froze” or whatever.  Does she even consider how hard (no pun in intended) it is for a man to slam on the brakes sexually, after going on a woman ?  So why should the difficulty, awkwardness of the situation for the WOMAN be the only consideration ?As crude as I think Ansari was during the encounter, I must admit, he handled it rather gentlemanly in the aftermath.  He could have outed her indentity but he did not.  He apologized and said he thought the evening was consentual.  After all, a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.  Neither should a lady.I was relieved to hear that this hasn’t put a big dent in his popularity. Women like to scream that they want to be sexually “empowered”.  They want the world to know that women love sex.  That women sometimes just want to “fuck” with no strings.  That women get bored with monogamy and crave variety.  Women scream for the right to be as sexual and non-committed as men.  Fine, if you want to be sexually “empowered”, you must take the responsibility that goes along with it.  Being sexually empowered includes the power to say “no”.  If you can’t exercise that option, then steer clear of sexual situation with men you barely know.  

  4. 34
    Marika

    Buck

    I agree with everything Jeremy said, and I would add this: none of us care whether you ever marry again. Or if you date or remain single.

    I have a friend who rarely dates and admits she’s too selfish to share her space. She works, works out, has pets, and goes out with her friends. What she doesn’t do is regularly contribute to sites like this. She doesn’t care about getting better at dating or understanding men. So this site isn’t for her.

    The vitriol against women, the constant negativity – there are plenty of places you can happily share that and everyone will agree. So why share it here?

    And for the record not all women are like these book club whiners. I for one, couldn’t be more unlike them. Same with my married friends.

    And I would (and have) said the same to women on here who do nothing but complain about men.

    Jeremy: I know what you did at the end there. And I’m just going to say thank you. You’re always looking out for me ☺

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *