It’s been about one year since a woman was brave enough to come forward with her date night assault with Aziz Ansari.
Back in January 2018, a woman told her story to Babe about the night she hooked up with Aziz Ansari. If you don’t quite remember the specifics of the story, I highly recommend you go back and read the original article. But I’ll remind you of the big picture: she started hooking up with Aziz at his apartment but his aggressive sexual advances made her uncomfortable. She tried hard to show him that she wanted to stop, moving away from him, asking him to take it down a notch and even saying “no” a couple of times. But in the end, she felt “violated” and pressured into continuing to hook up with him.
Aziz, on the other hand, genuinely seemed to believe he did nothing wrong. After the woman went public with the incident, he released a statement, saying he thought everything was completely consensual.
There was a brief debate at the time about whether or not the incident “counted as sexual assault.” And then the world moved on.
But I couldn’t move on. I couldn’t watch Parks & Rec or even listen to his voice on Bob’s Burgers without thinking about what Aziz had done. Aziz had built his career as the nerdy, adorable, and most importantly, the nice guy. But he — this — was not a nice guy.
We can debate the whole “was it sexual assault” all day but that would truly be missing the point. Because this was about something much bigger than a single incident. What happened between Aziz and this woman was the epitome of rape culture.
Rape culture means that you can feel pressured to do something and you might not even know why. It convinces women that they need to continue doing something that makes them uncomfortable.
This could be for so many reasons: they feel too physically threatened to say “no,” they might think it’s “too late” to change their minds about sex once they’ve said yes, or sometimes things happen so fast that they don’t even have enough time to process what happened.
At one point, the woman said,
“He sat back and pointed to his penis and motioned for me to go down on him. And I did. I think I just felt really pressured. It was literally the most unexpected thing I thought would happen at that moment because I told him I was uncomfortable.”
But rape culture works for both sides. For men, they don’t know what signs or signals to look for that means “no, stop.” For the woman, she continually moved away from him. At one instance,
“He probably moved my hand to his dick five to seven times. He really kept doing it after I moved it away.”
To me, as a woman, this seems like a very clear signal that this woman didn’t want to put her hand on his penis. But for Aziz, it meant nothing at all. Aziz was so “caught up in the moment,” as the woman describes, that he couldn’t — wasn’t — reading the signals she was giving.
For women, we can be taken out of the moment the instant we feel uncomfortable or even just the slightest bit unsafe. Because we know what could happen. Our friends have been raped. We’ve been catcalled and groped in public. Our president even encourages and jokes about “locker room talk,” for god’s sake.
The #MeToo movement will never succeed if we only talk about the clear-cut instances of rape and assault. Because it’s so easy for “nice guys” to brush those off and say, “well, I would never do something like that.”
But what Aziz did, thousands of men across the country are doing too. And they have no idea that it’s wrong.
If we never address the larger issue, we’re never going to truly change things. And if you look back over the last year, you’ll notice that things truly haven’t changed at all.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.