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Difficult Discussions

This past Sunday, I was just starting my morning when I saw my iPhone’s screen blink with a few Twitter notifications.

My eyes still blurry from sleep, I skimmed them and caught the name “Aziz Ansari.”

I clicked through to read the now-viral Babe.net story about Aziz Ansari and a woman nicknamed Grace (for her privacy).

She described a date with the Master of None actor… in which they had sexual contact that was upsetting, uncomfortable and now everywhere for us to read and discuss.

What I am going to write below are my personal takes on this… this is a blog, it isn’t CNN. And for that, I get that I may say things that are how I think of the situation that you may or may not agree with. And that is fine because that is a lot of what this post is about.

Okay. Here we go. 

So, I had seen the notifications, searched for Ansari’s name on Twitter, and what I found was pretty shocking.

People were (generally) in one of these categories:

  • Aziz Ansari sexually assaulted this woman. Here are my stories that are similar to this woman, and some are less scary and some are far worse.
  • This woman just had bad sex. It was a bad date. What is Grace so upset over. If more of these stories come out, men are going to never take the #MeToo movement seriously.

For me?

I felt angry, disgusted, shocked… and confused.

That confusion really freaked me out. Basically, I was battling almost two sides of myself.

One was the side of me that’s been sexually harassed, assaulted and abused.

The other side was my journalistic-me. Filled with questions upon questions. Wanting to know how true this was, how in-depth the reporting had been.

I felt horrible for thinking this way… I’ve been a victim, and for me to have any doubt or any thought other than “Oh my gosh, this is so sad” made me think I was a fraud to myself.

But the reason why I questioned, the reason why I didn’t immediately jump on the “Aziz sexually assaulted her” train.. was because I didn’t feel it was that at all.

I have absolutely had dates and encounters with men that were extremely similar to what Grace experienced. But to me? Those were just shitty dates. Just awful sexual experiences.

And I am not sure how to cope with that.

Because the way I am seeing people react to Grace’s date? The way people are lashing out… the anger, shock, frustration, disgust? I didn’t have those thoughts immediately with my shitty dates.

Now, did I feel horrible about them? Yes. I did. But I also found a way to internalize them. I deposited them into my “shitty experiences” bank.

The times I was pursued over and over at a frat party until I allowed a guy to just grind on me until it was time to leave… that.

The times I really didn’t want to have sex, but had made out or started something more serious and felt like I WAS RUDE to stop now… and should just let it be done? Yup. 

The times I didn’t want to do anything sexual with a boyfriend. But he was my boyfriend. So was there an option to say no?

The times I was anxious but eventually got the nerve to say something because if I had to look at his penis any longer I would throw up or cry. And yes, there were the times when I did say NO up front and did get out. That happened too.

That’s enough of those. The point is… I’ve had those experiences. And as sick and sad as it is, many women have. I don’t know a single female friend of mine who hasn’t.

It terrifies me to think that this blurry, grey area exists. That we are battling sexual assault… that we’re trying to diminish and vanquish rape culture… but then there’s this.

The shitty dates that make us feel violated and embarrassed… that make us question ourselves and our strength… that we internalize and try to move on from… but when we read a story like Grace’s, we freak out because THIS HAS BEEN US.

And we somehow normalized it. We somehow found ways to just say “whatever, it’s not like I was raped. He was just creepy.”

When I discussed this with a few guy friends over the weekend, I was reminded just how normalized this experience has become and how hard it is to explain WHY IT IS WRONG. 

I was asked, “What could she [Grace] have done.” Because sure, the ball was in her court alone and she just had to figure it out for everyone involved.

I was told that much of the fault was miscommunication and ambiguity. Because sure, Grace certainly (like many of us) felt empowered and safe and strong enough to be able to scream “No” and slap Ansari’s face and walk out. Because we always feel able to do that.

 

Aziz Ansari is responsible for his actions. What he did was wrong. That is a fact.

He pressured, he pushed, he pursued. He didn’t listen, didn’t stop acting like a complete asshole. He knew better, but he didn’t act better. He. was. wrong.

This kind of wrong feels so much worse, because it isn’t something we can describe completely. It isn’t something he’s going to go to jail for… it isn’t something we can say THIS IS WHAT IT IS and THAT IS WRONG, next. This isn’t a Weinstein or a Spacey.

And for that, this is going to be difficult. Because we’re gonna disagree on how to handle it and how to make it better. I’m going to disagree with my male AND female friends.. and I am hoping I am going to learn from it, not just be upset and sad.

I’ll be okay with it, because I know difficult discussions will lead to progress and change. Being silent and internalizing? Well, we’ve seen all the good that has done.

If you’re too afraid to discuss it or too upset or too angry or too confused — it’s okay. You can watch, you can listen, you can hear. And there will be plenty of us around to help you raise your voice when you’re ready.

But I hope that we don’t ever diminish or try to silence a story like Grace’s… it was necessary. It was uncomfortable but it was necessary.

Shockingly, it was probably one we already knew and had been told… but we’re more ready to hear it now than ever. And to make it all better (soon).

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