The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributors at Brown Girl Magazine but do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the publication. As a platform, we have decided not to take a hard stance on the recent account of the sexual encounter between a 22-year-old photographer named “Grace” and well-known comedian Aziz Ansari—instead, we are accepting guest submissions on the allegations and welcome all types of opinion.
Let’s Say it Together, Ladies. ME TOO.
At this point, I’m honestly not even surprised of what Aziz Ansari has been accused of doing. He’s just one more attacker that’s part of an extremely alarming trend. I’ve seen a good amount of talk about whether the victim “Grace” was lying about what happened to her. And as someone that has been through the horrors of rape, in my opinion, there’s a very slim chance that she is indeed lying.
I remember looking at some statistics earlier this past year, and the chance of someone lying about a case of rape or sexual assault, especially when they’ve come forward themselves, is very little to none. One of the biggest reasons I say this is because of the details she describes of her encounter, and just how gruesomely honest they are. In addition to that, her identity wasn’t revealed, which to me is related to her not doing this for the fame or any sort of “outpouring of sympathy.” She, like many women, including myself, was just tired of staying quiet. Admitting that you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted is a very real struggle, and it doesn’t get any better on you when people don’t believe you. In fact, it discourages you from wanting to be forthcoming at all.
One of the most important things in a victim’s healing process is a strong support system. And I don’t mean the obvious, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” statements, but rather the reassurance that the victim is not at fault, or the establishment of a buddy system when going out again. I wasn’t able to find these things until a great deal of time had passed since I was raped, but I sincerely hope Grace is able to much sooner than I did. Let’s say it together, ladies. ME TOO. — Vaidehi Gajjar
[Read Related: Dear Aziz Ansari: Representation Does Not Excuse Allegations of Sexual Misconduct]
We Will Not Move on From Our Stories
Coming forward by claiming that you have been a victim of some form of sexual assault takes a lot of courage, but it can easily be shattered the moment someone tells you to stop lying. As another victim of sexual assault, coming out was not easy, let alone going through the horror and pain of walking down the hallways at school thinking that I wouldn’t be judged even more.
Growing up as a brown female, I’ve always been told that fighting back against men should never occur. But the reality is, we women need to start standing up for one another rather than taking each other down. Just because things look normal between a victim and their assaulter before things go wrong doesn’t mean the story is being made up, it means that it took the victim time to adapt to the fact that someone they trusted was also capable of hurting them. No, we will not move on from our stories, but rather we will fight together. This is me saying ME TOO. — Anjali Bhakta
A Manifestation of Rape Culture
The Aziz Ansari situation is undoubtedly a manifestation of rape culture. I am glad to see that Ansari’s sexual misconduct has sparked discussion about the grey area, which falls in between “healthy relationships” and “abuse.” Though it is crucial that we continue speaking out against the Harvey Weinstein’s in our society and ensure that they face consequences for their deplorable behavior, it is equally as important that we hold men like Ansari accountable as well.
A woman does not necessarily need to experience rape or abuse to feel violated and degraded. There are all too many men who get away with bad behavior by claiming “but I’m not a rapist,” “I’m not an abuser,” etc. Guys whose behavior falls in that grey area should NOT be let off the hook. The harsh reality is that a significant number of women have had experiences similar to that of Grace.
Many women have been in situations with men who view them as objects which exist for their pleasure. These men will try to coax, badger and bully women into giving them what they want. They only think about themselves and don’t for a minute stop to think about whether their behavior is making the woman feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Ironically, many of these guys who do not respect women’s boundaries and do not treat women as though they are fellow beings are the same guys who identify as “nice guys” and as being “conscious of gender issues.” They masquerade as “woke male feminists” when they are in fact self-centered, entitled, and oftentimes downright creepy.
It is time for us to take a stand against the power dynamics which exist in the dating world, speak out against ALL forms of male entitlement, and to ensure that women are truly treated with dignity and respect. — Natasha Sharma
[Read Related: #MeToo: Workplace Harassment Isn’t Just a Hollywood Thing]
A Conversation About Consent
By expressing this opinion, I do not mean to downplay the emotions or the experience “Grace” went through with Aziz Ansari, and I am truly sorry that she had such a horrible experience. However, I think it’s dangerous to equate the experience she went through to the experiences of other women who experienced sexual assault and rape.
Her account is an all too familiar story among women, and I agree that this should not be the case. Women should not feel pressured into sexual encounters and pursued endlessly until they give in. Her account is important because it highlights issues in our societal norms about consent. It shows how men perceive consent to be transient, something that can be coaxed and convinced out of women, rather than a hard no.
However, with that being said, I think vilifying every man that has ever acted this way would be more harmful to this discussion than helpful.
We need to have a conversation with men about what consent is and how to define expectations during a date or sex. Explaining to them why we do not appreciate the way they acted and how we would prefer they act in the future would be more productive than assuming they are never capable of changing and shutting them out from this conversation. Understanding their perspective could also give insight into how we change societal norms around consent.
We also have to hold ourselves responsible and empower each other to express how we feel. If we do not like something, if we do not want to have sex, then we have to feel empowered to say exactly that. We do not have to wait for someone to ask for our consent, we can choose to give or not give it before being asked.
I want to make clear that I understand not every woman has the power to say no. That for many women who experience sexual assault or rape, they were trapped and never given the opportunity to speak or leave. And for many women, even after they said no, they were ignored. These are the women the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements represent. Grace’s experience, while horrible and unacceptable, is not one where any legal action can be taken or should be taken. It is, rather, an opportunity to start a conversation about consent that includes both men and women. — Yesha Maniar
[Read Related: #MeToo: Sexual Assault is Real and No One Deserves It]
The Facade of Being a “Male Feminist”
I’m so tired of Aziz Ansari, and guys like him. Stop carrying the banner of “male feminist” or “male ally” if you’re not willing to ride out for the movement. Being an ally to women or supporting social justice causes doesn’t mean you get a free pass at fucking women. At this point, I don’t think a lot of men (and some women) really care about consent or rape culture anymore. There are so many think pieces, essays, academic studies, and just regular Twitter threads on the issue. Some people just don’t want to believe it.
I truly believe misogyny is a part of certain people’s existence. These people may know it’s bad but are okay with degrading women and perpetuating sexist notions for all genders. I just hope men like Aziz Ansari can see through the fallacy of their “nice guy” mentality and work towards being actual nice people. — Marina Ali
Consent is Not a Grey Area
The most alarming thing about this whole Aziz Ansari and “Grace” thing is that with everything going on in the media (#MeToo, Harvey Weinstein, etc…), people still don’t seem to understand what consent means.
For all of the people supporting Grace, there were twice as many people jumping up to defend Aziz Ansari. Aziz was pressuring a woman to have sexual interactions with him that she was not interested in. I do not understand how people are saying this is not sexual assault. The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Aziz didn’t get explicit consent from Grace, so this was sexual assault. ILLEGAL sexual assault. This is not a grey area. This is black and white. The only measure of sexual assault is if it was consensual. If it’s not consensual, then it’s assault. Make sense?
Our society teaches us not to talk about sex, which trickles into how we communicate about our desires. If we aren’t talking about sex at all, how are we going to know how to ask for what we want or how to say no to what we don’t want?
Asking for consent is simple and straightforward. It can be as simple as verbally asking, “Can I kiss you?” to what Aziz should have asked, “Can you go down on me?” Either way, this sexual encounter was non-consensual and so it DOES qualify as sexual assault. The people who don’t see this are products of our sex-negative culture. — Sheena Pradhan
[Read More: Why More Men Need to Stand Up With the #MeToo Movement]
The Difficulty of Saying ‘No’
While Grace’s account is one that many women have (unfortunately) experienced, it downplays and belittles what actual sexual assault and rape victims have gone through.
Grace’s experience is more of an example of how difficult it can be for women to say “no” – from her story she expressed how she wanted things to slow down, how she didn’t feel comfortable, and how she wanted to leave. All valid thoughts and all of which could be expressed verbally at any time, but weren’t.
She doesn’t claim she was forced into anything, only that she “felt forced.” This is a larger societal issue at hand in which women feel like they must meet some set of expectations, not an issue of Aziz Ansari taking advantage of someone who is helpless. We cannot wait for a partner to ask our comfort levels at every step of the way, especially once we’ve consented. After that, it’s our responsibility to express how, when, and what exactly we are comfortable with.
Was it a cringe-worthy experience with Aziz Ansari that showcased how he’s aloof, annoying, and disrespectful? Yes.
Did Aziz take advantage, hurt, abuse, or ignore what Grace was conveying? No.
Grace safely left although she felt “violated” — a feeling which many women have experienced and I hope no longer experience. I hope that her narrative allows us to understand that feeling even mildly violated is reason enough to verbally and clearly express that you’d like to unsubscribe from a situation.
By expressing blanket statements about “men being pigs” and being unable to critically discuss allegations surrounding sexual abuse, we are risking the validity and effect of the #MeToo movement. — Rani Shah
I am sure that by the time you’ve read all these opinions, your head is spinning, so I’m going to keep this as short as possible—here’s the fact of the matter. She was uncomfortable. Aziz Ansari had to have known, because no one is that oblivious. While this may not be classified as rape, it doesn’t take away from other women’s assault experiences — victim shaming is more prevalent than ever and we need to stick together. At the end of the day, there was forced discomfort. And that’s enough, to say, #MeToo. — Karishma Sharma