September 2018
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Aziz didn't make a mistake; he made an abusive choice to disregard consent


icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"


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TW/CN: Aziz Ansari's sexually coercive behavior (this entire post)
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I loved Aziz Ansari's Master of None and really wanted this to be a story about a consent mistake (major tw, detailed description of prolonged sexual harrassment and assault), so that I didn't lose respect. But it was not a mistake. It was a manipulative, sexually abusive series of choices. There are many ways you can make consent mistakes but the key difference between a mistake and an abusive manipulation is this:

For it to be a mistake, you have to have done your best to be sure they wanted everything you were doing. Aziz did not consider consent important to the interaction. He didn't check before escalating sexual interaction, and he didn't check before re-initiating sex after Grace tried to stop him. He inflicted physical touch that she didn't want over and over. He did not stop or back off or show any concern at her repeated expressions of discomfort. Aziz did not ask what Grace wanted and did not take her seriously when she stated what she did not want.

A consent mistake is putting someone's hand on your genitals when they didn't want it there but you mistakenly thought they did. A deliberate, abusive manipulation is when you repeatedly do things that the person has expressed discomfort with or a lack of desire for. Aziz did the latter. If he had cared what Grace wanted, then after the first time she took her hand away he would have asked if she didn't want to do that any more.

The most telling aspect to me is him asking "where do you want me to fuck you" repeatedly, after she had expressed that she did not want to escalate their sexual interaction. This is blatant manipulation because it implies the person has already said yes. It closes the door to a "no." It is as blatant as saying "you can't say no to me."

I don't think Aziz thought he was assaulting Grace and I'm sure he thought everything he did was consensual. This is because it never occurred to him that Grace might not want to have sex with him. Even when she was unresponsive, even when she tried to get away, even when she described how uncomfortable she was and how much she didn't want to continue, he didn't consider that she didn't want to have sex with him. He thought she wanted it because he never considered that anything else was possible.

So he pressured, badgered, and coerced her into doing sex acts she did not want, and then congratulated himself for doing so. He abused her, and felt better about himself afterward because he convinced himself that he gave her what she truly wanted all along. He convinced himself that he knew her better than she knew herself, and that he fixed her "mistake" of not expressing desire that he decided she felt.

The most widespread cause of sexual assault is not people who consciously wish to do things to others against their will (though those people exist) -- it is people who do not care enough about consent to put work into it. If you really care about how the other person feels or what they want, you must ask, you must check in regularly, and you must back off immediately at the first sign of hesitation and make sure you know what not to do. Aziz showed zero concern about Grace's hesitation and discomfort, which is why it was assault and not a mistake.

This author explains more in-depth: (TW: story of multiple-day whiny sexual harrassment)

"...When someone ignores your discomfort, pushes themselves across one of your boundaries, or disregards your “no”, they have revealed they are willing to assault you. They might not be willing to be violent to accomplish it, but they’re sure as fuck willing to use subterfuge, disrespect, and psychological warfare to be able to do it. You can never be in a safe or consensual sexual encounter once someone has made it plain that they don’t make your consent a priority."

Also highly relevant to this discussion:

the feigning ignorance consent violation tactic: if they care, they change their behavior. TW: rape

Why making it safe & comfortable to say 'no' is as necessary as respecting a plainly-stated 'no'

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Comments
brittdreams ══╣╠══
The Aziz Ansari thing has me so upset, in no small part because so many people have defended him. It also makes me very glad that my boyfriend asks if things are okay all the time, even more than I think is necessary.
hissing
belenen ══╣hissing╠══
I also feel very upset with anyone defending what he did or pretending it could ve an accident. I'm glad your boyfriwnd checks in like that!
bunnika ══╣╠══
snarling
belenen ══╣snarling╠══
I feel you. ugh that therapist does not deserve to live! what a blatantly rapist thing to say. how dare that unmitigated shit-vomit encourage men to rape their partners! it is beyond disgusting, beyond evil.
bunnicula38 ══╣╠══
Insisting that a woman acquiesce to sex despite her discomfort is harassing and bullying. A woman does not have to explicitly express her lack of consent for a man to understand it's time to stop. Experienced men know what implicit lack of consent is: a pushing away by the woman, removal of the hands, facial discomfort, a "no" when a man places his hands where she doesn't want them. I think this poor woman was psychologically coerced into sex by this man's continual insistence and disregard of her discomfort. She went along with it likely to just get it over with. I've been there a few times: not really wanting to have sex but going along because I couldn't take the mauling and begging anymore. Men need to understand that if they have to do any coercing or continual asking for sex, it's a "no" and they need to just stop. A good man knows very well when a woman is in sync with his desires.
hissing
belenen ══╣hissing╠══
I completely agree. Insisting that someone have sex when they don't want to is rape, pure and simple, even when the victim doesn't say "no" out loud. Many people have a freeze response to being assaulted and literally can't say no-- that doesn't make it not assault. so disgusted with anyone who would defend this behavior.

while it is true that aziz may never have known it was a problem before, he does now, and he's still not admitting fault, which says to me he already knew.
lostincandyrain ══╣╠══
I think your point that he assumed she wanted it is an important one.

There was one article I read that said something about how maybe she did want a casual sexual encounter, she just wanted it to be more on her terms, and everyone going on about how she should have said no more strongly and slapped him is ignoring this possibility, which I think is important.

Not only did he assume she wanted it, he assumed that he knew best how to give it to her...


This whole thing has made me kind of a mess for days. I do appreciate your perspective on it.
hissing
belenen ══╣hissing╠══
he was only able to assume that by treating her as an object with no agency, I must add. if he had been treating her as a person this would never have happened.
solivini ══╣╠══
I had a situation once where a friend of mine (or who I thought was my friend!) put me in a very awkward position by coming and getting in my bad and saying a bunch of perverted and completely inappropriate things that appalled me. While there was no touching involved or anything like that, it was uncomfortable enough and I cannot imagine what this woman, along with some of the others who have commented here, have gone through.

I, too, appreciate your perspective. I think you're on to something with, "...it never occurred to him that Grace might not want to have sex with him. Even when she was unresponsive, even when she tried to get away, even when she described how uncomfortable she was and how much she didn't want to continue, he didn't consider that she didn't want to have sex with him. He thought she wanted it because he never considered that anything else was possible."
gentle
belenen ══╣gentle╠══
I am sorry for what you went through as well. even when the person is not willing to use physical force, just experiencing someone treat you as though your feelings about your own body do not matter is so dehumanizing and traumatic. Ever after that moment, you have to be on guard until people have proven themselves safe -- and so few people are good enough at consent to prove themselves safe.
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.