|Photo by Pablo Hermoso.|
Last night I watched a puppet show. It was awesome. The pieces were quirky, funny, and imaginative. I was filled with joy and wonder by the end of the whole thing.
Except that there is an except.
The except is this: two of the pieces included sexual violence and manipulation that was presented completely uncritically and without an ounce of nuance. One ended with a woman being killed by her date because she left him for someone else. In the other, a woman is emotionally manipulated into agreeing to have sex and then her head literally disassociates from her body while it happens.
These pieces were comedies. They were absurd and quirky, piling the fantastical, strange, and weird one on top of the other. It was, largely, delightful. I laughed, until I realized what I was laughing at.
It hit me, the week that we learned about a woman named Grace and her "bad date" with Aziz Ansari, that nothing is ever going to change until we stop thinking it's perfectly okay to treat rape, coercion, and sexual violence in this way.
I believe Aziz Ansari when he says he thought the events that night were consensual, just like I believe that the creators of those puppet pieces were in no way trying to say that sexual violence and coercion is okay. It simply never occurred to anyone involved in either situation that there could be a problem, because why would there be? On stage, and in real life, a woman's agency, safety, and desires are of such little concern to us as a whole that they are easily and unquestioningly set aside, whether for the sake of a joke or because someone is too busy to notice if they're there.
Whether or not you think what Grace describes on her date as "that bad" or you are convinced you would have done something differently or that the original reporting was shoddy, I don't care. Here are some facts:
1) Going into someone's apartment at the end of a date does not automatically mean you want to have sex. Walking across a threshold is not consent. (And you know what? Neither is taking off all your clothes.)
2) If a person is feeling uncomfortable or forced in a sexual situation, five minutes of "chilling on the couch" is not likely to turn that around (if it does, they will be sure to let you know), and trying to start things back up is a clear demonstration on where their desire and comfort ranks in your decision-making process.
3) If you are so caught up on your own passion that you don't even notice that the other person is pulling away or not kissing you back, you are not thinking about your partner at all.
All these things point to one simple interpretation of the events: for whatever Aziz Ansari did do, he did not respect Grace. At all.
While I can't identify with the specific details of her story, I, like many women, fully identify with the basic premise. So much so that, when I went on a date with a man who actually fully respected me and my boundaries, it was so surprising an experience that I wrote about it. IT SHOULD NOT BE A SURPRISING EXPERIENCE TO BE RESPECTED.
And yet, here we are. Again. On stage and in real life. Cool.
|Image Source: Giphy|
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