An opinion on Aziz Ansari Allegations

Rina Cakrani, Columnist

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Aziz Ansari has faced a lot of criticism regarding his alleged sexual misconduct, and new reports from the night of the event that have sparked a lot of conversation in the media about the extent to which his actions could be considered sexual assault. The event has to do with a dinner date in which a woman named Grace says that she and Ansari went back to the comedian’s Manhattan apartment where he repeatedly asked her for sexual intercourse after she had shown signs of discomfort. Her statement suggests that he was persistent with his demands and was not considerate to the fact that Grace was not enjoying all of his demands. She says she viewed the sexual encounter as “violating,” “uncomfortable” and “painful,” and although she didn’t explicitly object to his demands, she showed signs of feeling uneasy and that her verbal and non-verbal cues should have been a signal to Ansari. Although the woman has her right to express to the media how discomforted she felt, the question of if Ansari should have been the one to figure out her emotions and her uneasiness remains unclear. Why didn’t she openly reject him, choosing instead to be passive and expect him to understand what she wanted? She had the choice to express herself, but instead chose to assume the stereotypical passive position of the woman during an intimate encounter and expected the man to be the considerate one. This kind of behavior reinforces gender roles and puts, once again, the expectations on men when, in fact, this kind of encounter is intended to be reciprocal.

Illustration by Abby Takahashi

In return, the actor has released a statement in which he acknowledges that they engaged in sexual activity but says that by all indications their encounter was completely consensual. The controversy that is displayed in the media has to do with the fact that Grace was not explicitly rejecting Ansari’s demands and was not open about not wanting to engage in certain acts. Unfortunately, when we talk about sexual assault, the cases where the victim forcefully objected to the perpetrator are highlighted, but the cases where emotional and psychological discomfort are experienced by the victim should be considered as well. Sometimes, women are scared and intimidated in the moment and cannot openly express their discomfort, and the other party should make sure they are not doing anything that brings one-sided enjoyment. The expectation that because a man took a woman out on a nice date it should lead to something more is irrelevant and outdated.

Especially in Ansari’s case, although it is impossible to know for sure what he was thinking on the night that this event occurred, it is hard to believe he did not notice how uncomfortable Grace was feeling. As a performer, he uses emotional intelligence and intuition in order to reach to people’s emotions. It strains credulity to imagine he truly thought she was excited about what was happening between them. What’s more likely is that he didn’t care how she felt and treated her boundaries as a challenge. Either way, his alleged behavior was dehumanizing. Therefore, teaching and advocating for affirmative consent is clearly something that should be actively pursued and be the norm in our society; affirmative consent shifts the acceptable moral standard for sex, making it much clearer to everyone when someone is violating that standard. It also removes certain assumptions about gender roles. If both men and women are equally responsible in making sure their partners are enthusiastic about what’s happening and that the encounter is equally consensual, gender stereotypes about sexuality relating to women being the passive ones and men being the aggressive ones who dictates the course of actions–clearly noted through Ansari’s case–will begin to be dismantled. However, it’s crucial that women become more vocal about what they want instead of waiting for men to understand their emotions. In such a misogynistic culture, men think they do not need to ask for permission; therefore, it is important to take the situation under control and verbally oppose the actions if women do not want to engage in the same things as men.