The Aziz Ansari story is a disturbing reminder that men are taught to feel entitled to sex — and we allow them to
I was traveling through Greece in my 20’s when my travel companion caught a bad case of food poisoning. I’d stayed with her for days, but when she was on the mend, I decided a solo walk into the southern beach town where we were staying was in order. I came upon a cute taverna with outdoor seating by a quaint fisherman’s pier. I took a seat and ordered dinner.
The restaurant’s maitre d’ also happened to be the owner’s son. He was a charming and gorgeous Greek man, around the same age as me. He began showing me some attention as I sat and ordered. It was nice. Nothing that set off any alarms or freaked me out. We never got into the reason I was dining alone — that my travel companion was sick, so I assume in retrospect he thought I was traveling by myself.
After I finished dinner, he invited me to go to a local disco. I gladly accepted. I was happy to be out on the town, and he was a charming host. We walked to the disco together and he seemed to know everyone we met. They all responded to him with warm, welcoming arms. The group of friends that assembled at the disco were interesting and engaging. I was having a great night and really happy I was lucky enough to find such a gracious tour guide.
After about an hour at the club, he asked if I’d like a ride back to the apartment I’d rented. It had been about a 15 minute walk into town — not a big trek, but I accepted because at this point I’d felt very comfortable with the man who seemed to know everyone who passed us in the street. We’d talked about possibly having lunch the next day — I was genuinely excited at the possibility of seeing this person again. With no reservations, I got into his car.
It wasn’t long after we began driving that I noticed we were going the opposite direction than I’d asked. I said, “My apartment is down that main street — over there.” It took him some moments to respond, and in those moments I realized that he now “expected” something from me. I got the pit in my stomach only a person who’s been in this situation knows. My mouth went dry. I could hear my heart beating inside my chest. “I want to show you something,” he said. “Don’t worry! Relax!” He pulled into an area that was dark. There was a pier next to us, one that looked like the kind of place that would be bustling in the daytime. It wasn’t bustling. There was no one around. It was dark.
He got very aggressive, very fast. We’d stood close to each other in the club — but there was no hand holding. No kissing. No promise of any of those things. Apart from smiling at each other and flirting a little, there was no reason this person should think I’d be prepared for some full-on aggressive physical onslaught. When I told him I wanted to go back into town, he immediately started saying things like, “Come on — just a little kiss.” But his actions did not match up with this words. He was aggressively grabbing my wrist now, pulling me toward him. He was planting kisses directly on my mouth. I tried the lock on the door. It wouldn’t budge. I didn’t know what to do in that moment. I felt trapped. I thought I’d need to make a plan to get back around people.
I told him we were crammed in the car, wouldn’t it be better to go back to my apartment? He agreed. The ride back he kept his hand on my thigh and I wanted to break his fucking arm. I was equal parts furious and distressed, but I kept a straight face. I can still feel the clench of my jaw. I wanted to breathe fire. I wanted to tear him limb from limb. I was so pissed that he wasn’t the charming person he’d shown me all night — he was a fucking octopus, and I literally could’ve been any other woman next to him. I didn’t exist. The only thing that existed was his persistence. And the panic that was now growing inside me, because when someone doesn’t see you — you are no longer human. So who knows what the hell else can happen at that point.
We arrived at the base of the hill where my apartment sat. There were roughly 100 steps up a small cobble road. I told him I’d have to check on my traveling companion, who was ill and resting in the room, to make sure she was asleep. This is where his face changed. I could tell he was disappointed with the idea of not being totally alone — like we were in that car. As I got out of the car and ran up the curved steps to the apartment, I pictured the double doors. I’d just have to get into the house, and I could lock the doors behind me. I’d be safe again. I’d be me again.
That’s what I did. He finally found the apartment laughing, thinking I was joking. I told him — you have to go home now. I’m not touching you. Nothing is happening here. I’m not coming out. He muttered some words under his breath, and left.
Would anyone believe me if I had called this a sexual assault? I was out with him. I played along to an extent in the car because I thought it was the only way to convince him to leave. He made many unwanted advances and groped me without my consent. I was 100% uncomfortable with every touch. I was automatically disgusted by him and knew he ultimately didn’t care about how I was responding to his advances. And when I read the Aziz Ansari story the other day, I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life, I was right there with that woman. I was back in that car. I was thinking about all the women I know, who’ve had these kind of “dates” — where they didn’t feel safe, or even seen. Where there was no clear, enthusiastic consent. Where they robotically went through the motions while trying to figure out an escape plan.
Escape plans may be really visible to people who are not negotiating a disaster — but when you’re “in it” — they’re not so clear. According to the internet, what happened between Ansari and “Grace” was just a bad date – one where she complied and made bad decisions. Those who think this is a character assassination make literally no mention of Ansari’s actions. Nothing alarming about using oral sex as an ice breaker. Or awkwardly shoving his fingers into her mouth — like he’s watched too much porn and is not quite sure how real humans act in sexual scenarios. Nothing alarming about repeatedly continuing to proceed even after she clearly said she was uncomfortable and wanted to “stop.”
WOMEN. DO. NOT. OWE. MEN. SEX.
How about this? How about Ansari doesn’t get to be “woke bae” when he treats women like this. How about he doesn’t get to craft episodes of his hit series “Master of None” that revolve around realizing your friend is a predator — and extricating yourself from that friend because you are so far above him. How about he doesn’t get to wear a Time’s Up pin to accept an award for crafting a person on a show that so clearly isn’t who he is? And how about we stop worrying for one fucking second how men are being perceived, and start centering women — who have been negotiating this shit for decades?
The Atlantic published a piece today that posits, “Allegations against the comedian are proof that women are angry, temporarily powerful—and very, very dangerous.” We’re dangerous? We’re dangerous because we’re finally unwilling to swallow this shit? The writer in this piece, Caitlin Flanagan, says that what “Grace” did was craft “3,000 words of revenge porn.” She claims “the clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari.”
Then she wrote, “Apparently there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab, and who have spent a lot of time picking out pretty outfits for dates they hoped would be nights to remember. They’re angry and temporarily powerful and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.”
This is how prevalent rape culture is: not only are men conditioned to feel entitled to sex, everyone else thinks they’re entitled, too. And don’t worry, his career won’t be destroyed. No one thinks he’s done anything wrong.