what we talk about when we don’t talk about consent

CN: sexual assault, coercion


It was late last night a story broke over Twitter, that as I read while doing what I’ve done for the better part of the last five days, which was suffered through the Flu. I read in graphic detail, the story of Grace, a woman who reported spending the worst night of her life as being on a date with Aziz Ansari.

Ansari recently won a golden globe for his Netflix series, Master of None, and seeing him do this while wearing a #timesup pin really set a fire under Grace, who felt compelled to share her story. So first things first, I always believe the victim. What Grace experienced in his apartment was awful and unfair. I am so sorry for her having to go through this experience.  When Ansari followed up with Grace the day after, Grace rightfully informed Ansari of all the problematic boundary crossing that occurred on their date. In screen-caps of her conversation, she posted Ansari’s reply, which seemed to be a genuine apology for what he had done, a clear misreading of the situation.

I think it’s most disappointing in this latest celebrity sexual assault, because Ansari has built himself as an ally, an alternative to the predatory typical cishet males out there. I mean, he wrote a book on Modern Romance. He has appeared to be a person who carefully considers the way that people interact in the dating world and his charm and personality made us all adore him.

So where does that leave us? I think, unless we receive confirmation that this is just a drop in the bucket of all the bad dates Ansari has subjected women to, just as we believe the victim first, we should still offer the offender/abuser/whatever term we want to use for the Ansari in this case– a teachable moment/redemption. The fact is, the behavior described probably doesn’t phase many straight men, as in our culture we do not talk about what consent means and what consent looks like, not nearly as much as we should. Does this excuse what he did on this date?? NOT AT ALL.

But until we start talking and teaching what consent does look like, there are so many people who will dismiss Grace’s encounter as nothing more than a bad date, rather than the boundary crossing coercive assault that it was.  I think the only good thing to come out of this, aside from Grace getting perhaps a more thoughtful apology (beyond the initial text message apology), is perhaps Ansari can come out and learn for the public, and hopefully teach some others on how his behavior was inappropriate.

Modern Romance was the first book I finished this year. It was an interesting examination and one that should have left Ansari with the skill set to talk about and listen to what was appropriate with his date, Grace. The fact he failed to listen to her and consider all the non-verbal cues she was presenting is maddening, but I just want to believe that maybe this will be one case where the offending celebrity calls themself on their atrocious behavior and uses this whole nightmare for some semblance of good learning opportunity. Maybe he can do a live action filming of the consent conversations in this comic— hands down the best depiction on consent I’ve seen around.

But mostly, I just hope that Grace gets the apology she deserves.