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Sexist lil bud.
PUTTING OUT

The Aziz Ansari debate is really about what women deserve to expect from sex

By Annalisa Merelli

Aziz Ansari is a comedian and writer who has made a career out of exploring the nuances of love in the 21st century. But he turns out to be an awful date.

Over the weekend, online publication Babe published a piece in which a 23-year-old woman recalled a date she had with the 34-year-old Hollywood star, whom she had met at an Emmys afterparty. As Grace (a pseudonym to protect her identity) describes it, once they got to his apartment, Ansari behaved “like horny, rough, entitled 18-year-old,” aggressively trying to have sex with her and ignoring the words and actions that signaled her discomfort and lack of consent. Ansari confirmed that he had gone on a date with the woman and engaged in sexual activity with her, which he said “by all indications was completely consensual.”

The Babe story was inexpertly reported and edited—an act of irresponsible journalism, made worse by the fact that the publication pursued the story, rather than Grace bringing it to them on her own. Because of this, much of the debate has centered on whether Ansari deserved to have intimate details of his sex life exposed this way. But while not criminal, Ansari’s behavior does warrant scrutiny. It arises from the deep-seated sexism that permeates modern dating culture, conditioning men to disregard women’s comfort, desires, and expectations.

There’s a reason Ansari behaved the way he did: Misogyny.

The reaction to Grace’s story reveals the disturbing extent to which our culture has accepted this state of affairs. Some women, mostly older than Grace, have been quick to note that they, too, have had experiences like hers. But rather than question why women should be treated this way, commentators have argued that Grace could (and should) have simply left; that what she describes was only bad sex, not sexual misconduct. Writing for the Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan even suggested that Grace was hoping to become the “famous man’s girlfriend,” and then sought revenge when it became clear that he was uninterested. The basic narrative is a familiar one: Ansari behaved that way because he is a man, and men want sex. Women, meanwhile, “give” sex—and they have to be persuaded to do so. By this sexist assumption, a woman who says “no” might not really mean it, and a woman who displays discomfort and asks to go slow might just require a more forceful advance. Some women as well as some men have internalized this idea, leading to crossed signals and perpetuating a dangerous status quo.

As my colleague Olivia Goldhill observes, this idea that sex is a transactional good that men have to get out of women still informs our approach to romance and courtship. I’ve been in Grace’s shoes, and most of the women I know have, too: Knowing the man I am with does not care at all whether I am enjoying myself, and having my reluctance ignored upon first mention. People say Grace was free to leave at anytime, but what a sad reality if that’s the bar—the onus on the woman to protect herself, and not on the man to act respectfully.

Though Ansari did not commit assault, his behavior is within the spectrum that makes women feel unsafe. There is a continuum that begins with sticking your finger down a woman’s throat and not caring whether she seems uneasy, and ends in rape. These things are different manifestations of a fundamental disdain of women’s needs and agency.

Women deserve to expect much more than “legal” sexual behavior. They deserve good, respectful sex. And if the generational divide between those appalled by Ansari’s behavior and those who cry “witch hunt” is any indication, younger women are ready to usher in a new era.