In light of the recent allegations against comedian Aziz Ansari, it’s obvious that there is a need for a clear definition of what constitutes sexual assault.
None of us believe Aziz Ansari was right in his behavior. At all. But we don’t believe what he did crossed the line into sexual assault.
As Bari Weiss’ opinion piece in the New York Times stated, “Aziz Ansari is guilty. Of not being a mind reader.”
From both accounts, it was an awkward experience. Grace (whose name was changed for the article) went in with certain expectations, and unfortunately, things didn’t go the way she wanted. This doesn’t exempt her, though, from accountability.
And there were parts of her account that seemed like she was less of a victim and more of an annoyed date.
The remark in the article from Babe.net about Aziz not asking what kind of wine she liked, and giving her white wine when she preferred red, was an annoying detail that detracted from her story, but the biggest thing was the fact that she didn’t get up and walk out.
She said she kept sending “nonverbal and verbal” signals, but how are men supposed to know how to read those?
Many–both males and females–have had issue with this woman’s account because it undermines more serious accusations of sexual assault. She also added graphic details, presenting them in a way that was almost crude.
“I believe Grace’s claim is actually damaging to the #metoo movement,” said a male board member. “This cannot be compared with the likes of Weinstein and Spacey. This, I feel, is just not the same.”
However, it cannot be ignored that Ansari has built a reputation as a man who respects women, and who supports feminist movements. He wore a “Times Up” button at the Golden Globes. This makes the allegations all the more troubling.
“While the situation does seem like it could have been easily stopped by a very firm “no” from Grace, it is extremely important that people understand and sympathize with her being put in a situation with someone more powerful than her,” a male board member said.
Another male board member added that although Ansari didn’t hold sway over Grace’s career, he is more powerful than her based on his celebrity status.
But even those who aren’t in positions of authority or power over their partners should always clarify consent. There is an app, SaSie, that can document whether or not consent has been given. Another company called LegalFling is planning to release an app that not only documents consent, but also creates a legally binding contract.
“Prior to their encounter, if the true intent of the relationship was stated, the miscommunication could have been avoided,” said a male board member.
Because of issues understanding consent, it can be confusing to both parties–especially when expectations are not clarified up front.
“Some women agree to have sex hoping it turns into something more,” said a male board member. “They get angry when they want affection, and it doesn’t work out.”
Another male board member brought up a question about including men who have experienced sexual assault in movements like #metoo.
If a man grabs a women’s butt without her consent is it sexual assault? The general response is yes. But what if the tables are turned?
“I understand the whole #metoo movement,” he said, “but they don’t acknowledge men who are assaulted, too.”
There’s an extra hurdle for men who are assaulted because they are ridiculed if they report their abuse. With exceptions like Terry Crews, who shared a story of being assaulted by another man last November, most men let things that happen to them go.
One male board member shared his experience with inappropriate touching.
“Plenty of girls have grabbed my butt, and I don’t like it,” he said. “I’ve always said I don’t like it, but it still happens. I’m not calling it sexual assault, but if we’re gonna talk about equality, then yes, it’s sexual assault.”
It’s obvious that we all agree sexual abusers should be exposed, but what happened to innocent until proven guilty? There have been many times when athletes have been accused of sexual assault and did nothing wrong as was the recent case with Derrick Rose.
“I’m worried about when somebody innocent gets accused and his life is ruined,” he said.
Not having clear definitions for what constitutes sexual assault or sexual abuse is making what is already complicated even worse.