Belenen (belenen) wrote,

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)"

TW/CN: Aziz Ansari's sexually coercive behavior (this entire post)

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'
Tags: consent, films / shows, rants, sexual abuse, social justice / feminism, the essential belenen collection

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