On #MeToo and Aziz Ansari…

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read the Babe article about Aziz Ansari.

And if you’re reading this, you may have read different takes from The Atlantic, the New York Times, a few other smaller blogs, and perhaps even a few fascinating Twitter threads.

In this blog, I’m not going to do one thing: judge the guilt or innocence of Aziz Ansari or ‘Grace’ (the anonymous woman in the Babe piece).

This morning, my husband and I were talking about how quickly discourse on sexual assault has changed in our culture. A few years ago there was detailed evidence that Bill Cosby spent decades drugging and assaulting women – and to date – Cosby has spent zero time in jail for his actions. Now, within a few days, people openly discussing sexual assault is enough to bring down the careers of men such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacy, and Louis C.K.

Like most people reading about the Grace/Ansari account, one question keeps swirling in my mind: What does this add to the current dialogue about the #MeToo movement?

What I appreciate most about the #MeToo movement is that for the first time in my adult life there has been more open discourse about sexual assault. As with other movements, we are not all going to agree. While I champion open dialogue, many others disagree with me – as is their right.

The power dynamics implicit in the Babe piece deserve to be noted. Ansari is a racial minority, which adds a deep layer to the conversation on speaking up about assault. Although he is a racial minority, Ansari is a well-known and well-liked celebrity, which likely gives him some power in one-on-one encounters. Women in our culture are often socialized not to speak up for themselves, and to go along with the crowd. So although Grace has agency, her sense of being able to speak up for herself may have been diminished due to her gender.

We talk about sex a lot in our culture; and the conversations seem simplistically binary. On one hand, we have boobs and butt cheeks on billboards giving the message that women are sexual objects whose value is determined by how much men want to have sex with them. Then, on the other hand we still have states that promote abstinence only education – because obviously talking about condoms leads to people doing it (rolls eyes).

Amidst the imagery and the lack of safer sex conversations – one thing is obviously getting left out: having open and fluid conversations about sexual consent.

Like many, Grace seems uncomfortable speaking up about her discomfort at Ansari’s actions. Like many, Ansari seems oblivious to the fact that the person he is about to stick his penis into is totally uncomfortable.

Hindsight is 20/20, power dynamics here are crazy, and I don’t want to diminish Grace’s voice. Yet, to me, this article adds to how we need to have more and better dialogue about adults having consensual sex.

“Hey Grace, do you want to have sex? It’s your body and I respect you if you feel uncomfortable.”

“Aziz, can we discuss what we’d like to do tonight – sex wise? I think I’m okay with our shirts being off, what are you ok with?”

I’ve brought up to others that I find our lack of discussing sexual acts to be strange – especially once we’re in our mid to late twenties. I’ve gotten responses like “Yeah, but it’s weird” or “Yeah, but it kills the mood.”

I get that, but you know what else really kills the mood? Feeling like you were sexually assaulted after a date – or getting day after texts knowing someone you went on a date with was uncomfortable with your actions.

My friends James and Carrie taught their three year old about consent with a simple phrase, “This is your body – and you get to decide what happens to it!”

By the time we move into teenage years and adults years, I suggest we start having better and deeper conversations about how we share our bodies with other people.

My husband and I have been married five years, and we’re expecting our first child in April. Yet, we still talk about the sex we’re okay having. It’s a dialogue we should be having with our partners – from the first time we hook until the last time we hook up.