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No Means No, Guys… And Gals

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of conversations about how men treat women and two stories keep coming to mind. While neither of these incidents felt like harassment and I didn’t feel unsafe, both made me feel like these men felt completely entitled to my time and attention.

I was nineteen and working in a twenty hour convenience store in my small hometown while on my summer break from university.

One afternoon, a regular came in to pay for a tank of gas. He was my dad’s age. He was crying and I asked if I could help. A friend of his had died. I offered condolences and told him that his coffee was on us.

He came in a few nights later when I was working the graveyard shift. I was making deli sandwiches for the next day and he asked if he could buy one and hang out for a bit. Umm, sure. Ok. I kept working and he kept eating. He ate three foot long subs and stayed and talked for a couple of hours. I figured he needed someone to listen so I worked and listened.

He came back a couple of nights later and did the same thing. He paid for the sandwiches he ate and listening to him didn’t slow me down at all.  Then he came back a third time. Hmmmm. I began to mention my boyfriend. A lot.  This guy came back a few more times and I started to say things like “yeah my dad likes that music/tv show too” just to subtly remind him that he was a lot older than me.

After a couple weeks of this, he asked if he could take me out for dinner. I said no, that I wasn’t comfortable with that. He argued that it would just be as friends and I repeated that I didn’t want to.
His parting words?   “Yeah well I hope your boyfriend is the kind of man who gives you at least two orgasms before he’s done.” He shouted that across the store and in front of other customers. Then he called the store to give me one last chance to reconsider.

The second story took place a few years later. I was working in a cell phone store and we had to run credit checks for anyone who wanted to sign a contract.  A man came in and his first words to me were “I just went bankrupt from an ugly divorce, how much will my deposit be for a new plan?”  I offered to check and, when he presented his driver’s license, I mentioned that he was born in the same year as my dad.

His bankruptcy hadn’t posted with the credit bureaus yet and he didn’t need to pay a security deposit. So, we selected a plan and a phone for him.  As I began setting up his account, he told me about his divorce. Then he asked to take me out for coffee. I replied that I didn’t date customers. He turned to my co worker and asked if he could set up the account instead so that the two of us could have coffee.
I said that I still wasn’t interested and kept working on his account.

He proceeded to tell me why dating him would be a great idea and I politely and firmly kept declining. (My co worker was with another customer and I just wanted this guy processed quickly and gone. Our manager would have been furious if I’d have turned away a sale.) I finished his account quickly and handed him his phone.

He helped himself to one of my business cards (we all had ours in a stand in the counter) and asked when I worked next. I wished him a nice day and turned away to help the next customer. He responded by promising to call our store every day until I said yes.

As he was leaving the store, he called out that he’d call the next day and that saying yes to him would be “the best thing you’d ever do in your life”.

He did call. And I politely explained that any further calls would result in a call back . . . from our corporate security department.

I’m in my late thirties now and this doesn’t happen nearly as often to me now as it used to. But I see some of my younger friends having to deal with this and it’s frustrating. No means no, guys. 0129-18

The OP of the above story is clearly communicating “No” to these men early in the conversation and consistently.   There is no ambiguity as to what she is saying and it is incumbent upon the men to honor that clearly stated message.

Contrast this to another story that hit the news media about the same time this story above was submitted. It was regarding the alleged sexual harassment of a young woman named “Grace” by actor Aziz Ansari.

In a 3,000 word report published on a feminist blog, “Grace” recounts, in detail, her date with the Emmy award winning actor which she describes as “the worst night of my life”.   Grace and Ansari meet at a 2017 Emmys after party, exchange phone numbers, he calls her to arrange a dinner date which they have.  After dinner they retire back to his apartment where things get frisky enough that they are now both naked and he obviously wants to move forward into penetrative intercourse.   It is only when he suggests sex in front of a mirror that Grace FINALLY uses the word “No”.   Ansari promptly backs off, suggests they get their clothes back on and they watch an episode of Seinfield after which he calls a taxi for her.   The next day he sends her a complimentary text to which she replies that last night may have been fun for him but it was a disaster for her. Ansari apologizes.

Bari Weiss of the New York Times wrote a fiery response to the article in a piece titled “Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.”  (The link to the original story is embedded in this article, btw.)  Excerpts below…

If you are wondering what about this evening constituted the “worst night” of this woman’s life, or why it is being framed as a #MeToo story by a feminist website, you probably feel as confused as Mr. Ansari did the next day. “It was fun meeting you last night,” he texted.

“Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me,” she responded. “You ignored clear nonverbal cues; you kept going with advances. You had to have noticed I was uncomfortable.” He replied with an apology.

Read her text message again.

Put in other words: I am angry that you weren’t able to read my mind.

It is worth carefully studying this story. Encoded in it are new yet deeply retrograde ideas about what constitutes consent — and what constitutes sexual violence.

We are told by the reporter that the woman “says she used verbal and nonverbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was.”

Weiss concludes her article citing examples of clear communication regarding consent that would have had no occasion to be misunderstood:

I am a proud feminist, and this is what I thought while reading the article:

If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you.

If the failure to choose a pinot noir over a pinot grigio offends you, you can leave right then and there.

If you don’t like the way your date hustles through paying the check, you can say, “I’ve had a lovely evening and I’m going home now.”

If you go home with him and discover he’s a terrible kisser, say, “I’m out.”

If you start to hook up and don’t like the way he smells or the way he talks (or doesn’t talk), end it.

If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door.

The solution to these problems does not begin with women torching men for failing to understand their “nonverbal cues.” It is for women to be more verbal. It’s to say, “This is what turns me on.” It’s to say, “I don’t want to do that.” And, yes, sometimes it means saying goodbye.

{ 110 comments… add one }
  • NostalgicGal June 12, 2018, 7:37 am

    Nobody reads minds. Step back and look at it as do you-don’t you, and keep it more black and white. Yes, if the woman got naked the man is going to assume it’s going all the way. And yes the world is full of lonely that won’t take the hint. They’re that lonely. They won’t take a direct no, they’re that lonely. Being polite nice when they’re that lonely is going to be taken as full interest, they’re that lonely. Men AND women. It’s sad but it happens all the time. Humans tend to be social creatures deep down and enough loneliness can make for strange things. Reason goes out the window. It’s trying to cope when you’re the center of the attention, that can be a hard one.

  • Christine Harris June 12, 2018, 7:42 am

    A woman does bear some responsibility to make her wishes known. Non-verbal cues are not going to do it. Most men are crappy at them. (“Stop” is pretty clear) And not communicating your wishes clear enough for the man to read them is worlds away from “he raped me,” or he wouldn’t let me leave.”

    There is a lot of serious sexual abuse going on out there and I really hate when someone clouds the issue by using this to absolve themselves of decisions they regret making.

    • Anon June 15, 2018, 9:27 am

      Well part of the problem with that is women have literally been killed for saying “no” clearly and without any ambiguity. I bet I could link at least 5 from a simple google search. Women try to do soft let-downs because they fear for their lives.

  • Abby June 12, 2018, 8:16 am

    I just finished reading After the Eclipse, by Sarah Perry, which is a memoir, written by the daughter of a single mother who is brutally murdered by a male acquaintance. Anyways, the author touches on this too- the single mother is very pretty and does date a lot during the author’s childhood and adolescence, and also declines a number of dates as well. Whenever the mother declines a date, the author recalls the men getting very angry and grilling her (the daughter) on what her mother has against him. As if, as long as a man has not anything egregious to offend a woman, she is obligated to accept if he asks her on a date. Sarah Perry discusses much of the themes the OP talks about here, as far as entitlement felt by certain men to women.

  • Abby June 12, 2018, 8:18 am

    Also, the impression I got when I first read “Grace’s” essay was not that she felt unsafe, but that was angry and frustrated that Aziz Ansari was clearly only interested in having sex with her, and did not intend to pursue a relationship with her after that evening.

  • Wild Irish Rose June 12, 2018, 8:43 am

    We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t, but most of us don’t go around putting all the blame on someone else and refusing to examine our own behavior. If “Grace” wasn’t prepared to have an intimate encounter with Ansari, then she shouldn’t have gone to his apartment with him. If he actually HAD assaulted her, of course I would never put the blame on her; however, she did put herself in a situation where it could have happened and she so far has not owned her own part in this encounter. No means no, but you have to SAY it. “Nonverbal” cues? You mean like sitting there allowing him to remove your clothing??? Seriously, at what point do women have to assume some responsibility for their own safety and well-being? Either we need to be protected and taken care of by men, or we don’t. But if we don’t, then that means we have to do it ourselves, and Grace failed here. No sympathy from me. #sorrynotsorry

    • Kirsten June 12, 2018, 1:37 pm

      Going to somebody’s house, date or not, is not consent to sex. Sitting still while someone removes your clothes is not consent to sex. If she’s not enthusiastically helping to remove her own clothes and removing his, why would he assume she’s into it? Consent is a yes, not an absence of no.

      • MD June 12, 2018, 3:28 pm

        This exactly. Consent is an ongoing affirmative dialogue. Failing to say No, is NOT consent.

        Also, taking a story about how men need to learn how to take no for an answer, and couching it within a story about how women shouldn’t speak out against negative sexual encounters unless they aggressively said no (with the implication that it’s their fault), is minimizing the victim and reinforcing the mentality that if a woman doesn’t fight back then it’s not really assault. Right now men hold outsized amounts of power and influence in a system that sees very little to no accountability for sexual harassment or assault.

        • admin June 12, 2018, 4:03 pm

          Referring back to the Bari Weiss article again…

          “The feminist answer is to push for a culture in which boys and young men are taught that sex does not have to be pursued as if they’re in a pornographic film, and one in which girls and young women are empowered to be bolder, braver and louder about what they want. The insidious attempt by some women to criminalize awkward, gross and entitled sex takes women back to the days of smelling salts and fainting couches. That’s somewhere I, for one, don’t want to go.”

        • rindlrad June 12, 2018, 5:30 pm

          “Consent is an ongoing affirmative dialogue.” Couple of questions. How is consent obtained? Do both men and women have equal responsibility to ensure their partners are consenting on an ongoing basis? Is verbal ok? If written, does it need to be notarized? If only verbal, who decides who is lying and who is telling the truth if there is a disagreement about what happened the next morning?

          “Failing to say No, is NOT consent.” No disrespect intended, but this is an abdication of your responsibility as a human being to be responsible for yourself. If you’re not happy (and you’re not fearing for your safety and not being held against your will, which is another matter entirely), say NO. Get up and leave. Give the guy a smack if he needs it to ensure he is properly attending to you. The point is, don’t stay there, allow things to happen that you don’t want to happen, and then place on the blame on the guy.

          How about a world where men and women talk to each other like adults. We say what we mean and mean what we say. No games – no unwritten rules. A world where women can be strong, men can be strong, and neither feels diminished.

      • Dee June 12, 2018, 3:52 pm

        But her non-verbal cues were clearly showing that she wanted sex with him. Going back to his house, getting naked, oral sex, all that is indicative of wanting sex, not indicative of being uncomfortable with the activities. I think she was disappointed that he was just an ordinary guy after all, and not the glamourous celeb she had inflated him to be. And thus his ordinary reactions and self-interest were a shock to her and her hope that he was a knight in shining armour. He’s only human, though, like all men, celeb or not.

        I fear for my adult sons and their risk of being falsely accused by a disgruntled female. It ruins a man’s reputation and no matter how it plays out evidence-wise the damage is permanent. I always advise them to really know a woman first before getting intimate, to establish trust. It’s sad that I have to warn them against my own sex, but there are just too many women who will use whatever power they have to hurt others when it’s convenient and profitable to do so. I wouldn’t want to be a young man trying to date women, let alone a celebrity.

      • rindlrad June 12, 2018, 4:50 pm

        Kirsten- I’m going to respectfully disagree with you. While I agree that going to somebody’s house is not a consent to have sex, sitting there passively while someone removes your clothing is sending the message that you ARE a willing participant in what is occurring. Women have responsibility, too – especially as regards their own body. A woman sitting there not saying a word in protest while things are done TO HER BODY that she is uncomfortable with is, IMO, the worse kind of passive-aggressive nonsense. Scream!! Get up and leave for crying out loud. If I’m not happy with what is going on, you had better bet that I’m saying something. “No!” “Don’t!!!” “Stop or I’ll shoot (or at least bonk you on the head with that vase over there)!!!!” all come to mind.

        I question some of these #MeToo stories coming out of Hollywood. I suspect that what happens in the entertainment industry is a Harvey Weinstein “Pay to Play” situation where the actor / actress doesn’t want to leave because of possible repercussions for his/her career. Later because of real regret or because it is now trendy for an actress to have a #MeToo experience, the story is brought to light. I’m not saying that this what occurred with Grace, but I think there are some odd aspects to her story. I guess I would ask an actress who is currently enjoying the publicity from sharing her #MeToo story – What are you going to do next time you have the choice of sleeping with a director / producer / other influential person or not getting a role in his next movie / other career benefit?

        • Mucey June 12, 2018, 7:47 pm

          I must disagree with your disregard for women in the #metoo movement. Did some of the women sleep with men to get better roles? Probably, yes. Technically, they had choice–but the point is, if they had to sleep with those men or risk their career, they are being put in an unfair situation to begin with. You seem to be putting it on the women, but the man has the power in that situation. And whether or not the woman came to him, he is abusing that power. One of the intended results of #metoo is that no one should ever HAVE to sleep with someone just to get a desired job. So yes, I believe that the men abusing their power to have sex with otherwise-uninterested women should get in trouble.

          • rindlrad June 13, 2018, 11:37 am

            Please re-read my comment for comprehension and leave your bias behind. In no way did I “disregard” women in the #MeToo movement. I fully understand that there was huge pressure brought from a man in position to make or break a career. I DID, however, question a group of women who allowed and contributed to a culture of abuse and harassment. It was and is a choice. That’s the point you seem to want to ignore. Some made the choice to speak up and their careers and lives were destroyed (Corey Haim and Rose McGowan). People in Hollywood who KNEW that these people were telling the truth, in fact, many had maybe suffered the same abuse, allowed these people to be become the butt of late night talk show jokes, and moved on with their careers. In other words, IMO, they became part of the problem.

            Just because it involves large amounts of money and careers as big Hollywood stars does not make it any different between some CHOOSING to sleep with the boss to further a career in business (and feeling that his/her career will be negatively impacted if he/she does not have an affair with the boss) or CHOOSING to allow a director / producer to do whatever he wants in order to secure a role in a movie. My point is, you have made a choice and can’t claim to not have some responsibility for what happened to you. Was it wrong that the choice was put before you and that your talent and skills were not what was considered instead of what you were willing to do in bed with the director? Absolutely. I’m also arguing that it’s also wrong that you were willing to debase yourself for a movie role. Is that victim shaming? Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of “victim.” I’m not sure you can claim true victim status if you had a choice.

        • Ange June 12, 2018, 8:31 pm

          Harvey Weinstein has been charged by the police for his actions. Why are you continuing to blame the multitudes of women for coming forward about him instead of the perpetrator who has committed such a vast array of crimes using his power and influence as a weapon?

          • rindlrad June 13, 2018, 12:13 pm

            Yes, so brave. Now that it is trendy to be so. Tell me, how long has Rose McGowan been out there telling the world that Harvey Weinstein raped her and that she was not the first or the last? How long did it take these multitudes of BRAVE HOLLYWOOD WOMEN to stand up for Rose and the others that the entertainment industry has spent decades harassing, abusing, and destroying? Am I glad that they FINALLY decided to do the right thing? Yes. But I don’t think it absolves them of the responsibility of not saying something sooner. How many other women were assaulted and abused as these BRAVE WOMEN sat in silence enjoying their careers? I have great respect for Rose McGowan – she spoke out when it was unpopular to do so and when her career could and actually was negatively impacted. So, yes, I’m going to continue to call these women out for being, IMO, part of the problem.

            PS – Yes, Harvey has been arrested. A little over a year ago he was partying with the elite of Hollywood and Washington DC. Had his picture taken with Grande Dames at the Oscars. Invited to the White House. How long do you think he’ll serve and do you think it will be in one of those really nice facilities with the tennis courts? Harvey has lots of money, good lawyers, powerful friends – I’m thinking he’ll be out in less than 10. How many people’s lives do you think he destroyed? I’m thinking more than 10 year’s worth. Yeah, those women of Hollywood sure are brave – aren’t they?

      • T June 12, 2018, 7:33 pm

        If you read the original article, Grace admits to performing oral sex on the actor not once, but twice. Is that what any normal person would call an unequivocal verbal clue that she wasn’t interested?

    • Cyberwulf June 15, 2018, 7:00 am

      If you bother to read the thing, she says “On our next date”, “I don’t want it to be forced because then I’ll hate you”, “you’re all the same, you’re all the effing same”. Ansari made the right mouth sounds of “yeah yeah okay cool” only to try grabbing her again thirty seconds later. But because she didn’t literally say “No” it would have been fine if he’d held her down and forced her, according to you. This is why rape victims don’t come forward.

      • admin June 15, 2018, 4:12 pm

        “Perhaps even more troubling is that we seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women, in particular, in which they are perceived to be — and perceive themselves to be — as frail as Victorian housewives.” Daphne Merkin, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/opinion/golden-globes-metoo.html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article&region=Footer

        In Grace’s own words….

        Within moments, he was kissing her. “In a second, his hand was on my breast.”

        “Get your hand off me.” That would have ended the date right there for me. If you have a personal boundary that you do not engage in sex on the first date, pawing the breast would have been a deal breaker resulting in me retrieving my belongings and walking out the door. But then I’m not the stereotype of the simpering victimized Victorian housewife.

        Then he was undressing her, then he undressed himself. She remembers feeling uncomfortable at how quickly things escalated.

        It takes a little assistance to remove clothes, namely raising arms to remove tops, stepping out of underwear/pants. At what point does she say, “What the hell are you doing with my clothes?”

        When Ansari told her he was going to grab a condom within minutes of their first kiss, Grace voiced her hesitation explicitly. “I said something like, ‘Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.’”

        Her first vocal communication regarding the situation and it’s vague as to whether she is uncomfortable about having sex at all or just that it’s going too fast for her.

        She says he then resumed kissing her, briefly performed oral sex on her, and asked her to do the same thing to him. She did, but not for long. “It was really quick. Everything was pretty much touched and done within ten minutes of hooking up, except for actual sex.”

        Damn hard to receive oral sex if your legs are clamped shut…which they apparently were not. He “ASKED” her to perform oral sex on him….and like the modern young feminist that she is, Grace does so but is apparently too frail to voice her displeasure.

        She says Ansari began making a move on her that he repeated during their encounter. “The move he kept doing was taking his two fingers in a V-shape and putting them in my mouth, in my throat to wet his fingers, because the moment he’d stick his fingers in my throat he’d go straight for my vagina and try to finger me.” Grace called the move “the claw.”

        In her “throat”? What part of “bite him” does she not understand? Totally unlike this woman (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/10/22/s-c-woman-escapes-rape-by-biting-off-her-attackers-tongue/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1841695beebf) who bit her attacker’s tongue off.

        • Kay_L June 15, 2018, 6:17 pm

          That whole thing with him putting his fingers down her throat mystifies me.

          Just sounds creepy and weird.

        • Cyberwulf June 16, 2018, 10:28 am

          So basically if a woman freezes up it’s her own fault if she gets raped.

          • admin June 20, 2018, 2:44 am

            Aziz Ansari is a rapist? I expect young girls under 18 to freeze up when exploited by older men but if you are still freezing up in your 20’s, you should have some very definitive boundaries in regards to your dates with men. Like not going to his apartment after dinner…yeah, that would be a good starter boundary.

  • pennywit June 12, 2018, 9:12 am

    I thought Grace’s conclusion — that Aziz Ansari sexually assaulted her — was incorrect. However, I did find their interaction problematic. In her narration, she did several things — moving away, for example — that signaled she wasn’t interested in a sexual encounter.

    I’ve listened to female friends about that sort of situation. In general, they’ve told me that these situations can be frightening for them. If they give the man a straight-up refusal, he might respect it and call a cab … or a forceful “no” could make the man angry enough that he becomes more aggressive and sexually assaults the woman. So I can understand why Grace might have been frightened to speak out.

    That said, I can’t entirely fault Aziz Ansari. I think he was aggressive — probably more aggressive than a guy should be in this kind of situation. But I also think that from his perspective, Grace wass ending mixed signals with her words and her actions. So no sexual assault, even though he behaved badly.

    I do think there needs to be an ongoing conversation about what is appropriate behavior. I dislike “enthusiastic consent” as a standard for adjudicating sexual assault, but I think it has a place in setting sexual norms. People need to be able to speak up about what they want — and what they don’t want. And at the other end, people need to look to their partners for signs of consent, not for signs of nonresistance.

    • admin June 12, 2018, 10:28 am

      Read “Grace’s” account of the night : https://babe.net/2018/01/13/aziz-ansari-28355 She also did several things that would have confused the hell out of any normal man, i.e. agreeing to go back to his apartment, getting naked, receiving and giving oral sex, none of which she describes as being coerced or forced upon her. If she really felt at the end of dinner that he was a horndog determined to end dinner as soon as possible in order to commence with sex asap, she should have said, “I think you misunderstood my expectations for the evening,” and if he was not amenable to taking a stroll along the pier and enjoying talking with her, it would have been time to end the date. Ansari’s problem is that he was not a mindreader and he went too fast for her.

      I refer to Daphne Merkin’s quote in another New York Times article

      “I think this confusion reflects a deeper ambivalence about how we want and expect people to behave. Expressing sexual interest is inherently messy and, frankly, nonconsensual — one person, typically the man, bites the bullet by expressing interest in the other, typically the woman — whether it happens at work or at a bar. Some are now suggesting that come-ons need to be constricted to a repressive degree. Asking for oral consent before proceeding with a sexual advance seems both innately clumsy and retrograde, like going back to the childhood game of “Mother, May I?” We are witnessing the re-moralization of sex, not via the Judeo-Christian ethos but via a legalistic, corporate consensus.”

      • pennywit June 12, 2018, 11:32 am

        I’ve read Grace’s account. Several times, in fact. I stand by my conclusions.

      • Kheldarson June 12, 2018, 11:36 am

        I disagree with the idea that asking for oral consent is innately clumsy. Consent is a big, big part of the BDSM community. And it can be insanely sexy to have the dominant describe what they want to do to you and you give your permission. If we didn’t think of consent as some sort of gate but instead as a natural part of foreplay, it would be much more natural.

        • admin June 12, 2018, 2:28 pm

          It’s Daphne Merkin who wrote that oral consent is innately clumsy. I do agree with her though that we hyper moralizing consent in ways that are probably not good.

          • Kheldarson June 12, 2018, 2:38 pm

            I do not see how saying “yes, I want to have sex with you” or “I want to stick myself in you until you scream, is that okay, babe” or whatever mechanics you want and teaching it as a *good* is “hyper-moralizing”. Nobody is saying to not have sex. What is being said is that clear communication and dialogue is needed, particularly in cases where consent is questionable.

          • admin June 12, 2018, 3:59 pm

            Did you read the Bari Weiss article in the New York Times that I linked to in the post? She makes the case that young feminists are redefining the meaning of consent:

            “The article in Babe was met with digital hosannas by young feminists who insisted that consent is consent only if it is affirmative, active, continuous and — and this is the word most used — enthusiastic. Consent isn’t the only thing they are radically redefining. A recent survey by The Economist/YouGov found that approximately 25 percent of millennial-age American men think asking someone for a drink is harassment. More than a third of millennial men and women say that if a man compliments a woman’s looks it is harassment.”

            That is hyper-moralizing attraction between the sexes.

          • Kheldarson June 12, 2018, 4:31 pm

            Or it’s a temporary backlash by a minority to a crisis point. Or it’s a fringe population that’s taking things too far, like you see with any other belief system.

            Fretting over the extremism of youth (which is being misidentified with the millenial designator, never mind us Millenials are well out of college by now) instead of the major thrust of the idea which is that you have to talk, not make assumptions, and if the situation is at all unclear, then don’t pursue. Affirmative, active, enthusiastic consent. It’s sexy.

      • MzLiz June 12, 2018, 2:06 pm

        What’s interesting about Ansari in particular is that he’s not only a stand-up comedian, who seems able to read an audience from a stage while performing under pressure with lights shining in his face, but he’s also written an advice book about dating called ‘Modern Romance’. No, he’s not a mind reader. However, when you set yourself up as a Smart Enlightened Male who is such an expert on The Ladezz that you voluntarily take on the position of ‘dating guru’ & make money from it, well, the scrutiny of how you conduct your love-life might be a little more intense than for the average person. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that a public person’s ‘Public Persona’ is not always how they are in private.

        I think ‘Grace’ was in over her head, dazzled by his fame with visions of being on his arm as ‘Aziz Ansari’s Girlfriend’ while walking red carpets and when that clearly wasn’t his intention, she allowed herself to be put in a position where she was uncomfortable by not clearly speaking up and/or walking out. That’s on her, for sure. She’s also at least 12 years younger than Aziz, which is something HE should have taken into consideration before asking her out. Do you really need to date someone that much younger? There’s NO gorgeous women closer to your own age & experience who’d like to go out with you? I realize it must be awesome to have tons of young pretty girls throwing themselves at you but maybe it’d be wise to have a think as to why this is happening to you NOW, as opposed to before you were famous & (presumably) wealthy. Aside from the general ick factor, he has his reputation & assets to protect; he really can’t afford to let his nether regions make all the decisions anymore. That’s a lot of hard work & years of struggle to risk on a one-night stand. Or was there a reason he figured he’d hit up a 23-year-old ‘nobody’ for what he presumed would be an easy good time?

        What he did wasn’t assault – absolutely not – but ‘Grace’ isn’t the only one who acted foolishly in this scenario. It was idiotic on his part too, esp for someone as clever as Ansari. His actions as were a bit sketchy and perhaps just a *tad* on the predatory side. And I say this as someone who likes Aziz as a performer. Both players come off badly in that story, here’s hoping they’re both more clued in after it.

        • admin June 12, 2018, 2:11 pm

          You are the second person I’ve read so far who has referred to Ansari not having any intentions to make “Grace” his girlfriend. Where are you reading that? Just because he wants sex on the first date doesn’t imply that he had no intention of dating her.

          • MzLiz June 12, 2018, 3:14 pm

            I’m reading that because he DIDN’T ask ‘Grace’ to be his girlfriend – nor did he state any intention of wanting to when he responded to her claim of him making her feel uncomfortable. Along with apologizing to her, he could have written something like, “I didn’t mean to put you pressure you, esp. since I saw us having a relationship” or numerous variations there upon. When ‘Grace’ talked about leaving sex for the 2nd date, he poured her another glass of wine & asked if THAT constituted a 2nd date. He continued attempting to stick his fingers in her mouth/down her throat even after she’d removed them. These are not the actions or words of someone who wishes to pursue a respectful, successful courtship with another; this is a person who wants some ‘fast food’. And that’s fine. It’s just difficult for me to believe Ansari is so clueless & clumsy as to be truly unaware of what he was doing but perhaps he is, though he doesn’t market himself that way so – who knows? Maybe he needs to go back to the Sensitive New Man drawing board if he thinks that’s how to seduce & secure a quality partner. Maybe instead of writing books, he should read a few?

            As I said, there’s blame/fault on each side here. ‘Grace’ ain’t innocent but she seemed to be getting the majority of the judgement & finger-wagging in her direction so I felt the need to mention Ansari’s own responsibility in this situation because, as you yourself have stated, Admin; However thin you slice the bologna, there’s 2 sides to everything.

          • Abby June 12, 2018, 3:15 pm

            That was the impression I got based on Grace’s account that Aziz was not really talking to her much prior coming to her apartment. I also got that impression from the comment she made that “you guys are all the same”…presumably she doesn’t mean that all guys are date rapists or sexual predators so the conclusion I took from that was she felt like he was only after sex from her. I don’t *know* that to be a fact, that’s just the impression I got from a few things she said. I’ve had dates that would have happily had sex on the first date, but they also expressed some interest in getting to know me as a person. (And I’ve had other dates that haven’t). Based on some of the context clues, I don’t think Aziz was that interested in making her his girlfriend.

          • admin June 12, 2018, 3:49 pm


          • MzLiz June 12, 2018, 4:09 pm

            Um, am I right in thinking the ‘Gotcha’! is directed at me, Admin?

          • admin June 12, 2018, 11:23 pm

            The threading of the comments does look confusing but I was replying to Abby that I get what she was writing.

        • Abby June 12, 2018, 3:21 pm

          I agree Ms. Liz. I wouldn’t call that sexual assault, but it was extremely ungentlemanly behavior. I also think she stayed there after initially rebuffing his advances because she was hoping once sex was off the table, he’d actually express some interest in talking to her and getting to know her. Instead, he continually tried to seduce her. I wasn’t there and I don’t know this man, but what I took from the essay was that he thought she’d be a groupie that would quickly have sex with him, and he wasn’t interested in anything but sex from her.

          • admin June 12, 2018, 3:48 pm

            That I would agree with, i.e. it was not gentlemanly behavior on Ansari’s part.

          • Dee June 12, 2018, 11:55 pm

            But if she wanted to be his girlfriend instead of just a one-night stand then why did she engage in sexual activities with him? To me, she is doing exactly what she’s accusing him of doing – pushing for sex on the first date. She doesn’t clarify that she wants to have a relationship but does engage in sexual activity right off the bat. That says, loud and clear, that all she wants is a quick fling and nothing more. If we turn the tables, HE could say that HE felt pressured, by her, to “put out”, instead of the relationship he was hoping for. Because she was a willing participant in everything she is blaming him for. I really don’t understand agreeing to something you don’t want, not asking for what you do want, and then blaming the other person for what happens next. It’s ridiculous and I can’t fathom how a guy is supposed to figure out this kind of mind game.

      • EchoGirl June 13, 2018, 9:58 pm

        I would have to disagree that going back to his apartment is somehow implying consent. This one seems like expecting Grace to be the mind-reader, to understand that “come back to my apartment” was followed by an implied “so we can have sex”. It’s not like there’s nothing else two people can do in an apartment.

        Also, IMO, if men want to claim innocence on the grounds that they’re “not mind-readers”, that should apply across the board. The idea that someone like Ansari could say both, “She came back to my apartment, that’s a clear sign she wanted to have sex” and, “I didn’t know she wanted me to stop, I’m not a mind-reader!” is baffling. Either they can read nonverbal cues orthey can’t — they don’t get to understand the things they want to hear and completely “fail to understand” the rest.

        • admin June 14, 2018, 12:39 am

          In this particular context, Grace’s “antennae” were already twitching that something was “off” about this date when Ansari rushed through dinner so as to head back to his apartment. A person would have to be a naïve idiot to not include “so we can have sex” as a possible reason for the rush.

          It appears to me that Ansari treated sex with Grace like it was a porn movie. It’s bad sex because he treats her like a commodity, not seducing her with lots of foreplay and attention to what pleases her. The outcome of the evening would have probably been different if he hadn’t been so selfishly ham handed about it.

  • CW June 12, 2018, 9:38 am

    There’s a lot of controversy on that article because if we say Grace is partially to blame for her experience then we’re supposedly victim blaming. I disagree. She had ample opportunity to go home and end her evening. She didn’t have to stay at his home if she didn’t want to. He didn’t force her. He stopped his behavior when she finally used her big girl words. Ansari was not described as aggressive or threatening, just out to have what he thought was a good time.
    Yes, some men can be aggressive and threatening and make it hard to say no without being scared. BUT, adults as a whole need to take some responsibility instead of pointing fingers when things don’t go the way they envisioned.

  • JD June 12, 2018, 10:24 am

    I think the OP handled herself well, but how aggravating that she had to go through it at all. I once had a much older man look for me in the stores, and when he saw me out, used my infant in her carrier as an excuse to come up and talk to me. At first I just saw an old guy who admired my baby. Then, over time, I started to suspect he was looking for me, then I started telling him he was making me uncomfortable and that I needed to leave, then I started telling him to stop approaching me at all and leave me alone. He stopped for a while, but started again a year or so later, and again I told him I didn’t want to talk to him, or him to me. He always apologized, every time. I thought I had it taken care of, until the day he pulled up to my house after about eight months of never seeing him, where I was home alone in the country with two toddlers. I never knew this guy’s name, and I’d told my husband about him, but he had no idea how to help me except to tell me to let this guy have it if he approached me again, since my husband worked out in the woods for long hours during the days and we had no ID on this guy. This was about 35 years ago, and people didn’t take stalking as seriously as they do now, and the police hadn’t offered any help, except for telling me to avoid him. This time, I had a description of his car, but not his tag, as we only have tags on the rear in this state, and he pulled in and backed out without me seeing the back of his car. I told him, from the safety of the inside of my locked storm door, to get out, and that I was phoning for help right now. Again, he assured me he meant no harm and he left. My husband described the car to friends and someone recognized both it and the old man and identified him. My husband went to the old man’s house and told him in no uncertain terms to never approach me, our kids, or our house, ever again. That finally worked, but I was furious that it took my husband’s threats to finally stop this guy.
    As for “Grace”, I’m afraid she is making a tempest in a tea cup. Use your words, Grace.

    • admin June 12, 2018, 2:26 pm

      It is beyond frustrating that it takes a male threat to get a man to back off.

  • Nonya June 12, 2018, 10:33 am

    I’m not going to comment on the second half (except to note the hypocrisy of mainstream feminists), but I wanted to comment on the first — entitled men. Men who generally think that they have the right to bother you against your will. I’ve noticed that this is something associated with an older generation — both of the stories told by the submitter were from older men, and I’ve noticed it’s generally them who get angry at you for not doing what they want. I’ve rarely encountered younger men who act the same way. In fact, I can’t recall any that have. It’s pretty apparent that something went wrong in that generation, but the younger generation is actually less entitled.

    So far as I have been able to observe, anyway.

    • eeek June 13, 2018, 7:22 am

      There’s an additional layer to the OP’s stories, of course, which is that women who work in public spaces, serving customers, are unable to leave so they can get away from an overly persistent guy. Often, their supervisors will require them to “be nice” to the customer to make a sale (or to avoid a scene). There are countless stories like this for women working retail. I can think of a variety of stories myself, from my days working a bookstore: the regular customer who waited, in particular, for me to ring up his “adult” magazines, so he could comment on them; or another guy who lurked and stared and would not leave. At the picture framing/art supply store, we had a regular who would “bump up” against female clerks who were bending over framing tables. Another guy would seek out clerks wearing skirts so he could ask them for items on tall shelves (involving ladders and up-skirt peering). Prurient entertainment for men who could claim that when the customer is always right, humiliation of female workers is allowed.

      • eeek June 14, 2018, 8:41 pm

        Apologies for writing this from a woman’s point of view. It is more valid to point out that any clerk is bound to the workplace and the whims of any customer, of any gender or orientation, or any proclivity to make mischief or hell of another human’s life. I’m sorry not to have thought through my bias, and written this more generally.

  • Anon June 12, 2018, 11:50 am

    When the Grace-Aziz story came out, I read many of the commentaries that followed, and I found myself agreeing with each one even though they all took a different perspective. For me the Grace-
    Aziz story ultimately is not about “assault” or “blame,” but about the messed up nature of sexual norms in our society. Yes, Grace could have been much more explicit and assertive. Aziz could have been much more receptive and attuned to his partner’s desires and hesitations. I didn’t get the sense that Grace held back out of fear, but out of a hope that he would start treating her like a full human being. There was a story in the NY Times recently which compiled something like 50 different first-person accounts of uncomfortable sexual interactions. I found a common theme to be a lack of female assertiveness. But there was also a strong sense that many of these women were young and inexperienced, and frankly weren’t sure about what they wanted. The men were sure, they were assertive, and the women ended up acquiescing. I have a young daughter, so I am reading many of this material with an eye to how I can teach her to navigate this morass. I do like the “enthusiastic consent” standard because it helps to reinforce the flip-side: if you’re not sure, err on the side of not doing it!

    As for the “men aren’t mind-readers” argument, I disagree. And I think it is a particularly funny argument on an etiquette website full of discussions about “ask” versus “guess” culture. Most societies have some dislike of direct, blunt communication. America, compared to something like Japanese culture, is quite blunt and direct. But there are plenty of everyday interactions that function more smoothly with the “soft no.” For example, when your annoying in-laws invites you over, or your overbearing boss wants to go to lunch. We use indirect “soft” ways of declining propositions ALL THE TIME. And studies have been done, and show, that men are perfectly capable of interpreting and understanding these communications. When it comes to women, however, they (some men, not all men) simply choose not to accept it. Women are socialized to be nice and polite–and to utilize “soft” forms of declining requests/propositions–and we as a society need to stop blaming women for doing exactly what they’re trained to do. Men need to take ownership of that one.

    • MzLiz June 12, 2018, 3:45 pm

      This is a really well thought out & insightful comment. I fully agree with you. Kudos!

    • Leigh June 13, 2018, 12:57 pm

      I’m sorry, but getting naked & engaging in oral sex is a far cry from a “soft no.”

      And no, men aren’t mind readers. Neither are women.

      For example: If someone showed up at my home at 3:00 a.m. uninvited, let themselves in through a window screen and I find them sitting on my couch, I’m going to assume they mean me harm. I would not try to read their subtle clues that perhaps they were lonely and just wanted to chat or share some Doritos on a warm summer evening.
      In contrast:
      Go to someone’s house. Get naked. Engage in sex acts. THEN claim the guy didn’t read you right? Sorry, no. He had every reason to think she was into what they were doing.

      Regret does not equal lack of consent.

      • Anon June 15, 2018, 8:36 am

        Leigh, consent can be withdrawn! Just because you do one “act” with someone doesn’t mean that they are entitled to your body for the rest of the evening and that you can’t at any time decide that you’d rather not. If you read Grace’s account, she stopped him a number of times, wanted to go slower, wanted to stop and watch TV (I’m going off of memory here, but I think that’s right). And then he came back at her again and again with renewed attempts and pressure. Look, I’m not saying he assaulted her, or that there was anything criminal about the interaction. But he certainly pressured her and asserted his desire in the face of clearly expressed lack of enthusiasm. No, it’s not a “call the police” situation, but I think he showed himself to be not a good man. And the fact that you (and others) think that his behavior is normal and ok is entirely the point. It isn’t OK!

        • Anon June 18, 2018, 7:29 am

          Then you get up. You get dressed. And YOU LEAVE. That’s a pretty solid withdrawing of consent.

          • Anon June 18, 2018, 1:07 pm

            Actually, no. All it takes to withdraw consent is to express it verbally. Are you saying that men can’t understand simple verbal direction? Or that they are brute animals who can’t stop themselves? Or are you making excuses for criminal behavior, when a woman has withdrawn consent and yet he still proceeds?

          • admin June 18, 2018, 1:43 pm

            In the case of Grace, she didn’t express anything verbally until after oral intercourse.

  • lakey June 12, 2018, 11:51 am

    ‘ “Yeah well I hope your boyfriend is the kind of man who gives you at least two orgasms before he’s done.” He shouted that across the store and in front of other customers. ‘

    Someone should tell him to go watch the movie “When Harry Met Sally”. There’s a better than even chance that he isn’t nearly as good as he thinks he is.

  • bambi_beth June 12, 2018, 12:08 pm

    My favorite response to the Grace/Ansari story is this one: http://www.katykatikate.com/2018/01/not-that-bad_15.html?m=1
    It clearly outlines how women are socialized to “not that bad” things away, even or especially in the context of responses to this story.
    It is important to teach and institute the positive consent model going forward, for all of us. It’s just not that hard. I don’t care how many articles of clothing you’ve taken off, you can say stop any time. And a lot of “I didn’t know she wasn’t into it” would truly be negated by asking or paying attention. Pretending that you can ignore body language and social cues when it suits you is irresponsible at best.
    The OP in these situations did everything right to try to gently steer these men away from these aggressive statements and interactions. They responded in anger and inappropriate behavior in a public place. What would be the outcome if they were alone outside a restaurant or place of business when being turned down? Why is the OP responsible for their entitlement? Why are any of us?

  • Gena June 12, 2018, 12:32 pm

    I’m just amazed that he ate 3 foot long subs.

  • MPW1971 June 12, 2018, 12:39 pm

    If a woman is sober and voluntarily came to my hotel room, got naked, and engaged in various sex acts, I certainly think that she could verbally indicate that penetrative sex was not on the agenda that night. It can happen – every woman has a right to setting boundaries and saying “no” at any point – however – she should not be offended that he wanted to have sex or even suggested it.
    Put it this way, after mutually naked cuddling and mutual oral sex, the next step is penetrative sex. It is not offensive or abusive to plan to go to the next step.
    What is offensive is, say, having coffee together and then being asked for sex in the parking lot, and that it is somehow expected. (This isn’t to say that some encounters don’t escalate like this, but for most of us, it’s not the norm.)
    A former childhood friend of mine – divorced single mom in her early 40’s (4 kids) – told me that she would post up on Tinder and even meet guys, then be surprised that they suggested sex (usually her giving oral sex) in his car before their coffee had cooled off enough to drink. She was shocked, offended and disgusted by this – though much to my surprise, she did not know that Tinder was a venue for hooking-up – meaning immediate and no-strings-attached sex with a stranger. It’s not a dating app. It’s not a relationship app. It’s a hookup app. The guys had expectations closer to the intention of that app than she did!

  • Princess Buttercup June 12, 2018, 2:02 pm

    When I was a teen I was more shy, which lead to some misunderstandings. Now, as I say, I don’t subscribe to that whole “feminine mystique” thing. So often women want guys to guess, or figure things out for themselves, but then get angry when they don’t. Not saying that is what op did but if other women in these guys lives had been more straight forward with them then they would have been less likely to be so desperate with her.
    So now I speak up anytime I see guys being lost or women not saying the things they need to say. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve seen situations like this and told the guy “stop being thirsty, it’s never attractive”. I usually get a big thank you from the girl because she was afraid to be as up front as I was.

  • Rod June 12, 2018, 2:54 pm

    Ambiguous communication makes for a messy mess. I’m male, and remember been thoroughly befuddled in communicating with dates, flirting, etc. during my clumsy teens (and clumsy young adulthood, and so on) -asshats that don’t take no for an answer are a different, and unpleasant, bucket altogether.

    So I made it clear policy with all my dates, early in the process, that although not completely literal and a complete idiot inferring other people’s emotions, I do prefer clarity in communication. No means no, yes means yes, and that clear verbal directions are preferred when in doubt.

    This did lead to some funny situations like when a long-term relationship got very annoyed when I asked her if she was mad and she answered she wasn’t (she clearly was). I carried on as she affirmed and then it was her turn to be confused as we weren’t playing the “if you don’t know why I’m mad I’m not telling you”. I gently reminded her that I was terrible at reading minds and that we could talk about our issues at any time. It made for less stressful relationships overall.

    Although that relationship ended, I’ve carried this through my life, and met my now wife. We’ve been together for 15 years. No one is forced play the “game” where messages are confusing; sure, you’ll turn off some people that like to be more oblique, evasive or unclear. It’s up to you decide whether that’s worth your time and effort.

    • eeek June 13, 2018, 7:03 am

      One of the rules established in my 28-year long marriage is one we stumbled onto early on: unless the put-out person communicates clearly what her/his grievance is, the other partner is under no obligation to behave as if they have caused a problem. (Corollary: once a grievance is expressed, it’s discussed, not dismissed.)

      I was raised in a family where mom manipulated everyone around her with vague hints of unexpressed hurts and griefs; the whole family would get riled up trying to unpack whatever fit of sulks she’d get into, thinking that if we truly loved her, we’d *know* what we’d done. (And even if we guessed right, it was never really right or good enough.) Dealing with the drama was emotionally exhausting, so it was a huge relief to drop that profoundly flawed style of interaction.

      • Rod June 13, 2018, 2:14 pm

        That’s a very healthy approach to conflict resolution.

  • Miss-E June 12, 2018, 4:18 pm

    The Grace story struck me as quite bizarre from the first time I read it and I don’t disagree that it’s kind of a mess and that Grace sent very mixed signals with her actions. However, I feel obliged to point out that many women do not feel comfortable saying no to a man, especially in a situation where she feels she could be in danger. Women tend to be raised to be accommodating (especially to men), as many submissions on this site have shown.

    I don’t think men should be blamed for not being mind readers but they should be more aware of how women might feel in their presence and accept the fact that some women are not good at verbalizing no. Is it such a big deal to ask “is this ok?”, no it really isn’t. Women should get better at saying no, and men should get better at asking ok. That would solve a lot of problems going forward.

    • admin June 12, 2018, 11:27 pm

      But I think you are missing the points Bari Weiss was making in that New York Times article, specifically that if this image of women being unable to say “no” persists, it means we are regressing back to the era when women are considered too fragile to stand up for themselves and react by fainting dead away. The modern image of a woman is that she is strong, can communicate effectively and firmly.

      • Miss-E June 13, 2018, 8:00 am

        I don’t see why we can’t have both. Yes, women should be able to stand up for themselves but we live in a world where violence against women is common and sometimes saying no is an intimidating thing. Can’t we focus on teaching men not to be absolute creeps?

        I actually stumbled upon a story about trying to politely put off a man for fear he might become aggressive…spoiler alert: he becomes aggressive. (http://www.scarymommy.com/viral-twitter-thread-man-talks-to-girls-harassment/)

      • Anon June 13, 2018, 11:04 am

        I want all women to be strong and to communicate effectively and firmly. And yet–the old boards were full of people who found it very difficult to do that! (Recall allllllll of the “shiny spine” advice!) If someone finds it difficult to avoid paying more of their fair share of the restaurant bill, to get out of hosting their in-laws for longer than they’d like, or to decline to buy something from their coworker’s kid’s fundraiser, it’s not shocking or unimaginable that some women would have difficulties expressing their desires or firmly declining in the sexual realm as well. I don’t think acknowledging this fact takes us back to a Victorian era or whatever or paints women as untenably fragile. I think it is simply to recognize how women tend to be socialized in our culture. It is to recognize that the so-called “male” way of doing things (blunt, explicit, firm pressure until someone pushes firmly back) perhaps isn’t working for all involved and isn’t a good standard by which to judge all behavior. And it certainly is a prompt to consider what might work better in sexual situations, particularly for young people who are muddling through it all. This isn’t about criminalizing behaviors (I don’t believe that all bad sexual experiences, or ones that you regret, are in any way criminal). But there’s a great opportunity right now to reconsider what might be a better way.

  • MsDani June 12, 2018, 4:47 pm

    I am definitely on team Speak Your Mind! I do not expect anyone to read my non-verbal cues. I will also admit that I have no problem speaking my mind regardless of the situation. And at times it has caused very negative interactions. I’ve been called out of my name and followed. With that said, if a person says “No” the first time…take it! This is not a game of playing hard to get or wanting attention. If I say no the first time…I mean it!!!

    Storytime!!! I was meeting my husband (then boyfriend) at a bar and he was running late. I ordered a drink and an appetizer and a man approached me. I told him upfront that I was meeting someone and continued reading an article on my phone. He responded that he would keep me company. I continued looking at my phone. He continue talking to me despite my non-response. He then made a comment about my being rude because I would not look up from my phone. I continued ignoring him. He them ran his fingers down my arm and I swung away from home saying in a loud enough voice to not touch me. At the same time, DH was walking up and got between us. He asked the man if there was a problem and the guy said no and apologized …to DH!!!

    • Miss-E June 13, 2018, 8:10 am

      It’s great that you have that confidence but, note, this guy didn’t back off until your husband arrived. Only in the presence of another male did he apologize and leave you be. If you were still alone he could have gotten violent and aggressive with you and the fear of that is why women tend not to tell men off and instead try to get them to go away while being gentle and placating.

      If you’ve never been the victim of violence it may be hard t understand but I’ve had a man turn on me in an instant of me saying no, grabbing my arm and shouting even in a crowded place. Was I going to be killed? Probably not but it was enough to shake my confidence and make me hesitant to ever tell a man to back off again.

      • MsDani June 13, 2018, 10:40 pm

        I’ve had quite a few negative interactions with persistent men. Less since I rarely go anywhere but work without my husband. I fully understand the tragic consequences of saying no to men which is why I usually only respond with a firm “No” or other statement of disinterest. Its unfortunate that women have to curb their responses because some men cannot understand that they are not entitled to our time or attention. All people need to learn that we are not entitled to other’s time or attention. Even if your intentions are good…the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

    • Miss-E June 13, 2018, 4:24 pm

      Also, keep in mind the most recent school shooting in Texas was the result of a girl telling a creepy guy to back off. His fragile ego was so badly wounded that he brought a gun to school and murdered 9 people (including the girl).

    • EchoGirl June 13, 2018, 8:15 pm

      ” With that said, if a person says “No” the first time…take it! This is not a game of playing hard to get or wanting attention. If I say no the first time…I mean it!!!”

      This is what strikes me about Grace’s story. No, he didn’t physically hold her down and force her to perform a sex act, but she did give a refusal, and he kept trying to shove past it. The correct response to a refusal, especially in a sexual situation, is decidedly not to try and convince the person otherwise.

      • EchoGirl June 15, 2018, 6:51 pm

        Adding on (something I meant to say but forgot), “no means no” doesn’t just apply in the sense that it doesn’t mean “yes”. It also doesn’t mean “convince me”, “change my mind”, or “maybe if you beg hard enough”. And the fact that women have changed their minds under pressure doesn’t negate this, it just means that some women would rather suffer through one bad date (especially if it’s in public) than deal with the persistent nagging they get when they say no.

  • Lara June 12, 2018, 10:17 pm

    I honestly think that so many men and women end up really confused in this brave new world of “sexual freedom.” Women have been told that to be equal to a man they have to have sex like a man, but then they aren’t like men, so they end up wanting more from sex than they’re getting, but they’re not even sure what. They think they should be eager to have sex with any man they’re attracted to, but then they get in the situation, and they’re uncomfortable, but they don’t exactly know why, and they wait too long, defer, hesitate, and get angry about it afterward. As for men, I can’t imagine how confused they must be about what women actually want from them. On one hand, they all know you’re supposed to get consent, but then consider the extreme popularity of stories like Fifty Shades of Grey, where (like in most best-selling romance novels), you have a sexually experienced man who aggressively pursues and seduces a younger, inexperienced woman, often a virgin. A man who looks to what women read to answer the question “what do women want?” will almost certainly be led to believe that we want men who take control of a situation, won’t be put off by initial protests, and and use their own sexual experience and prowess to prove to us how badly we need them. Perhaps the man in this story (the one from the news) even thought he was fulfilling this role of strong, seductive male. Perhaps the woman thought the same, which is why she went along with it even when she was uncomfortable–only then, instead of being excited and fulfilled by it, she was just creeped out.

    So I think any man in secular society today could be justifiably confused. We’re telling him that we want him to be cautious, diffident, let the woman take the lead, not make any sexual move unless she is “enthusiastically consenting,” but at the same time, what we actually find arousing and romantic (according to every cultural and economic indicator) is a man who is dominant and masterful and sexually confident. How can he actually win here?

    As for young women, they don’t know what they want either. Traditionally woman have associated sex with love and commitment. It was supposed to be the big trade-off: you give a man sex, he gives you love and commitment. Nowadays that narrative is considered oppressive to women, but what you get on the other side can be just as oppressive, and certainly unsatisfying, or unpleasant, or creepy. And if you throw in those same romance novels, and all the conflicting messages they send, about what is romantic, what is desirable, what is healthy, with a narrative of male oppression on the political side, but no respect for chastity or virginity in popular culture, and a lack of any clear sense of what sex is supposed to be *for* anyway… yeah. When all the meaning and morality of sex becomes nothing more than “consent,” then consent itself inevitably becoming far more complicated and fraught than anyone could have imagined before. As has been mentioned in the thread above, the idea of consent becomes hyper-moralized, because there is no longer any other morality left. Sex is powerful. It has an emotional, spiritual psychological, physical power that few other things in life have, and no matter how hard you might try to trivialize it down nothing more than a physical act, it will never stay that way. It demands respect, one way or the other.

    • Meredithwiggle June 13, 2018, 9:51 am

      I agree with you!!

      My main thought over the “Grace” story was- why on earth are these strangers having sex with each other?!

      Our culture is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Here’s a novel idea- get to know each other for a while before having sex. Find out if you actually even *like* each other as people. I read one article that pointed out that we wouldn’t trust strangers with our car keys, our children, or our credit cards, and yet we are willing to trust them with our bodies?! And then we are surprised when it’s awkward and creepy and unfulfilling and unpleasant??!

    • Rod June 13, 2018, 2:31 pm

      Sorry to respectfully disagree. One of the things I did learn early in my “dating” life (which started really late, around 16 years old) is that people want different things, at different times, with different intensities.

      So – how would you know if the (specific) person you are talking to wants you to take charge? To be demure? To organize the dates or to acquiesce to the plans?

      Well – you ask them. Then you can decide if your date would prefer it to run it like 50 Shades of Grey, or Benny and Joon. Or like Love, Actually. Or like the Notebook, or like Singles. Or whatever – heck, it could be that they are really into Deadpool. What makes you think you know what they want up front?

    • Ange June 13, 2018, 7:03 pm

      I think you’re making a lot of generalised assumptions about what sex means to both men and women.

      • EchoGirl June 15, 2018, 7:07 pm

        Seconding that! I believe studies have been done that show that while there is a gap in the desire for casual sex between straight men and straight women, it has nothing to do with the “men want sex, women want love” stereotype and everything to do with predicted outcomes. Women’s experiences of casual sex are, on average, much worse than men’s; that’s why they’re often less inclined to pursue it.

        The reason this argument bothers me is primarily because it would seem to imply that women are somehow ignorant or naive, that they can get “swept up” in a particular type of culture while being completely deluded that it’s something entirely different. Most women who get involved in casual relationships are much more discerning than they’re given credit for.

  • AS June 13, 2018, 12:55 am

    People like Grace are the ones who make it hard for genuine cases- and there are a lot of them, which I’m sure almost all women have similar experiences like the OP – hard to fight against. They are NOT feminists! They are pseudo- feminists, feminatzis is you wish to call them that. But not feminists, because they just add more road blocks to the feminist movement.

    • AS June 13, 2018, 2:28 pm

      Though, I’ll admit that it is a bit of a slippery slope, and the details unclear. On the one hand, Grace did say that “let’s chill”, and Ansari kept going (according to Grace). But then, she apparently hadn’t worn her clothes back yet. Also, after they started watching Seinfield, if Ansari kept kissing her, or trying to get in her pants, it is bad. But Ansari’s surprised reaction seems like he thought that it genuinely was consensual.

  • AS June 13, 2018, 1:14 am

    Though I have a question- when a man touches you (not a benign or accidental touch) and you cringe, is that obvious enough to be lack of consent? Or is it necessary to actually say “no” every time? Because in my younger days, I’ve been extremely embarrassed to say anything, but would cringe, or cross my hands when I was touched inappropriately. And i still consider that harassment (though I’ve not yet worked up the courage to tell people except my husband, who is very supportive).

    • admin June 13, 2018, 6:19 am

      My experience growing up was different. I had a mother who encouraged me to slap the living hell out of any person who touched me inappropriately and I put that into action as early as 12. There was a strong emphasis on knowing my boundaries and that it was OK to be angry when those boundary lines were crossed.

      I think what news opinion writers are trying to say is that women need to move away from this idea that they should be embarrassed, flustered, confused, etc. when faced with these situations. One would hope that men would get the non-verbal signal of a cringe and back off but I would content that men who initiate an inappropriate touch are the kind who would recognize the cringe and not care but rather see it as a vulnerability. A decent man who would honor that non-verbal signal wouldn’t have touched you in the first place.

      • AS June 13, 2018, 2:23 pm

        Agreed, admin. Thank you! Now that I’m not longer in my teens or early 20s, I’m no longer embarrassed, and would speak my mind.

        Though I think that the non-Verbal vs verbal consent, or lack of it, becomes very difficult line to see sometimes.

    • MsDani June 13, 2018, 10:43 pm

      I had the same upbringing. I was lucky that my mom did not force me to be physically affectionate to every family member who demanded it. When random family or friends reach for a hug now and I’m not in agreement they get a swift handshake.

  • staceyizme June 13, 2018, 6:03 am

    We have 2 types of privilege in conflict, I think. Typical male privilege that objectifies women and typical female privilege that claims the admittedly dubious protection of being a lady. Add in the idea that both sides want to claim the old status quo for themselves while having the perfect freedom that comes with unrestricted personal agency and you’re going to have a problem. Blaming others for the problems inherent in the “both/and” exercise of old and new solves nothing.

  • Gena June 13, 2018, 6:33 am

    Look at both sides of this. He was a relative stranger to her. Yet she went to his house and made herself vulnerable to sexual assault. Please note I didn’t say she asked for it.
    She was a stranger to him. Yet he invited her to his house. He made himself vulnerable to attack (how did he know she wasn’t some crazed fan) and also made himself vulnerable to accusations of sexual assault.
    Until both men and women act with more responsibility these types of things will continue to happen.
    I’m not saying a woman that goes to a mans house is consenting to sex or deserves attack. I’m saying that if you barely know the person you are with take some steps to protect yourself.

  • EchoGirl June 13, 2018, 9:07 pm

    What I think might be being missed here is that these days, there’s kind of a catch-22 for women. We’re supposed to make sure that we don’t possibly give off any signs that we want to have sex (unless it’s true), because then we can’t blame them for getting the wrong idea. But we’re also expected to protect men’s feelings, to “let them down easy”, to make sure we don’t bruise their egos in the process. If a man does become violent when rejected, that’s also attributed to some failure on the part of the woman — she led him on! She should have just gone along with m to spare his feelings! If we say no altogether or insist on meeting only in a public place, we’re “man-haters”, “treating all men like rapists”, and “not giving nice guys a chance”.

    For example, look at the Texas shooting case. Shana Fisher tried several times to tell the boy “no”, and he kept coming back (much like the men in the OP’s post did). Finally, she rejected him loudly, in public, because anything short of that wasn’t working. After the shooting, some blamed Fisher for pushing him over the edge by embarrassing him publicly, and the suggestion was even made that she was to blame for the shooting because “why couldn’t she just give him a pity date?”

    For many women, there IS NO socially acceptable option anymore, except for basically never going out in public without a male escort. I’m involved in a long-term relationship, and that is still often not respected or assumed to be an excuse.

    On Grace’s particular situation…as others have said, I don’t know if it’s assault, but I understand why she feels the way she does, and there’s definitely some blurring of the lines as to what constitutes consent. I had a similar experience on a lesser scale, with a man who wanted to kiss me on the first date, which I wasn’t comfortable with. He didn’t force me to do anything, but I didn’t feel 100% free to refuse either, especially because he had paid for the date. It’s easy to analyze these moments the next day and think “I [or she] should have said X or done Y”, but when you’re in the moment, with all the feelings and discomfort and expectations, it’s not that easy to be perfectly rational. My current boyfriend (it’ll be 6 years in September, so not a new thing or “honeymoon phase”) understands this and will back off as soon as I indicate that I’m not comfortable with something, so I really don’t think it’s a “guy thing” either.

    As for mind-reading — no, most people aren’t mind-readers (and those who are, or are equivalent, usually study behavior for years to get to that point), but I feel like on balance, this is expected more of women than of men (and sometimes this does include relationships). There’s this idea that women are more intuitive or better at reading nonverbal cues , so men get upset that women “expect [them] to read their minds” but then don’t realize they expect the same thing from women.

    • Snarkastic February 8, 2019, 6:31 pm

      Thank you for all of this. Spot on.

  • NicoleK June 14, 2018, 2:50 am

    It was my understanding that she did say no, several times.

  • Vermin8 June 15, 2018, 10:23 am

    I’m getting into this late.
    I’ve seen on this column (and others, I remember the incident with Grace) that Grace going into his apartment was taken as, if not an out and out consent to sex, at least an acknowledgemen that it was a possibility.
    First and foremost – the law disagrees. Just ask Mike Tyson.
    Second – back when I was dating, I didn’t consider sex until I knew a guy well.
    So – don’t go to a guy’s apartment unless sex is at least a consideration.
    But wait – how well does one know a guy if you’ve never seen where he lives? This is a contradiction to me.
    And for those who say “well, get yourself to the point where you are ready then take a look at his apartment then decide if you will go through or not.”
    That doesn’t work – first, if Grace (or any random woman) bears responsibility for implying there will be sex by going to his apartment, then the implication is that the choice is made and that one should only leave if it’s something really awful. Also, someone who takes a more conservative approach to sex CAN’T make the decision without seeing one’s dwelling. It not only gives the lady (or a man for that matter) necessary info but it also tells her that he trusts her enough to let her in his home.
    Bottom line is that I think we should drop the accusations of leading him on by just going to his apartment. Let’s assume that she just wanted to get to know him better – clothed!

    • Kay_L June 16, 2018, 8:40 pm

      One doesn’t have to go to man’s apartment alone with him. Or, one could stop by when one has an excuse for just stopping by and needing to be somewhere else soon.

    • The Default Answer Is No June 17, 2018, 9:07 am

      I agree with you, Vermin8.

      [i]I’ve seen on this column (and others, I remember the incident with Grace) that Grace going into his apartment was taken as, if not an out and out consent to sex, at least an acknowledgement that it was a possibility.[/i]

      I suppose that means that as an asexual I can never go to anyone’s home because by doing so, I’m ripping open the software package that have the licensing agreement inside the shrink wrap. “By opening this package the user has agreed to the following….”

      “By walking through the door of this house, the visitor has agreed to the following….”

      It doesn’t work that way. It should never work that way. Consent should be given, never assumed. A soft no is still a no and is understood to be no. Otherwise, how would these poor non-telepaths ever hold down a job? As an employed person, I am faced with soft nos daily. It’s not hard to understand from customers and bosses.

      This has been going on from time immemorial. Here’s a clip from Pride and Prejudice.
      Lizzy Bennet refuses Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yEylIfDkms

      • admin June 18, 2018, 6:46 am

        I don’t believe anyone commenting on this thread has stated so odious of a conclusion, i.e. “by walking through the door the visitor has agreed to the following”. What has been written is that it is incredibly naive to think a man one barely knows, who hurries through dinner to steer his date to his apartment, has only celibate intentions once they get there. By Grace’s own admission, her warning flags were flying when Ansari rushed through dinner not finishing the expensive bottle of wine.

        And ELizabeth’s declination of Mr. Collins’ offer of marriage is not a “soft no”. It’s a very firm, well articulated “NO”. She’s actually an excellent example of a strong woman who knows her boundaries, knows what she wants and doesn’t want and isn’t afraid to say it leaving no doubt in the man’s mind where she stands.

        • The Default Answer Is No June 18, 2018, 9:50 am

          Except he wasn’t accepting her no. At the beginning of the scene, she interrupts him when she realizes what he’s going to ask her, and says she must decline. Then he brushes that aside and keeps going. She says no more forcefully, and he still won’t accept that she said no. The only thing that gets through to him is her running away and her family gathered around the door listening in.

          This refusal to accept a no is not uncommon in real life. That goes for soft no and hard no. Here’s a study: https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

          Furthermore, being naive is not a crime punishable by sexual assault.

          • admin June 20, 2018, 2:40 am

            And yet on the last episode of “Below Deck Mediterranean” last night, 3rd steward Kasey talks about wanting a man like her father who apparently refused Kasey’s mother’s repeated “No” to finally win her. And deckhand Joao is happy to oblige by ignoring Kasey saying “no”.

            The refusal to accept “no” can be attributable, at least in part, to women who play games with men, jerking their chains back and forth to the point no man believes the “no”. Mr. Collins is quite aware of this game women play and mistakenly believing Lizzie also plays that game.

        • Collymoddled June 18, 2018, 2:29 pm

          “And Elizabeth’s declination of Mr. Collins’ offer of marriage is not a “soft no”. It’s a very firm, well articulated “NO”. She’s actually an excellent example of a strong woman who knows her boundaries, knows what she wants and doesn’t want and isn’t afraid to say it leaving no doubt in the man’s mind where she stands.”

          Yes. And Mr. Collins *still* refused to listen, attempted to bulldoze all over her boundaries and answers, and only stopped when Lizzie’s father stepped in. Even when a woman gives a “hard no,” it doesn’t mean it’s going to work, and as a number of tragic cases have shown, sometimes it just ends up provoking a man to greater aggression and violence. Which is the dilemma women face in these situations- if I give a “hard no,” will he respect it or will it make him angry and possibly violent? If I attempt to “let him down easy,” will he hear it or not?

          • admin June 20, 2018, 2:33 am

            You take a work of fiction in which all the men behave as honorable gentlemen, focus on one idiot and then hold him up as the stereotype of all men being potential rapists. It’s a wonder you got married at all with that perspective.

  • Vermin8 June 15, 2018, 10:29 am

    Here is another think I’ve noticed in my half century on this planet.
    The same people who will castigate a woman for not being soft and indirect, relying on hints rather than blunt statements, are often (not always) the same people who will castigate her for not being more forceful from minute 1 (when it was too early to make a firm judgement).

  • Anonymous June 15, 2018, 5:49 pm

    “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

    – Margaret Atwood

    • admin June 15, 2018, 7:42 pm

      I nearly spit out my Coke reading this. Apparently you are quite ignorant of the “war among women” with Atwood dead center in the middle of the controversy regarding what was perceived as her lack of support for the #MeToo movement.

      From https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/16/margaret-atwood-triggers-online-row-criticism-metoo-movement/ :

      Margaret Atwood is facing a feminist backlash after writing about the downside of the #MeToo movement and calling for greater transparency in the case of a former university professor accused of sexual misconduct.

      Her critics say she has let down younger women whose views have been ignored for too long.

      But the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, which portrays a dystopian, misogynistic future, says she has ended up in the firing line simply for insisting that due process be applied and everyone’s rights be respected.

      The result is bitter series of online exchanges in which each side tussles over their version and vision of feminism.

      In a provocative article, published in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, Atwood writes that the #MeToo movement is the product of a broken legal system, using the internet to cause stars to fall from the skies.

      I have been listening for approx 60 years. Endorsing basic human rights for everyone is not warring against women. In order to have rights for women you have to have rights, period. Me being a blood-drinking monster does not make that untrue.
      — Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) January 14, 2018

      • Anon June 15, 2018, 10:04 pm

        You actually have the nerve to call me ignorant with all the victim-blaming and misogyny and rape-apology you’ve allowed on this thread?

        I also clearly remember your response to a rape victim who was very rightfully upset when her friends brought up her rape during a game of Never Have I Ever. Instead of being suitably appalled at the friend’s behaviour, your response was that the victim shouldn’t have been playing a drinking game in the first place. Many people remember this because it was so unbelievably shocking. So don’t you dare call me ignorant in regards to feminism.

        • admin June 16, 2018, 7:47 am

          Yes, I do have the nerve because you quoted Margaret Atwood in the belief that it supported your position. She has also been referred to as a “misogynistic, rape-enabling Bad Feminist” so I’m in good company because I agree with her.

          “My fundamental position is that women are human beings, with the full range of saintly and demonic behaviours this entails, including criminal ones. They’re not angels, incapable of wrongdoing. If they were, we wouldn’t need a legal system. Nor do I believe that women are children, incapable of agency or of making moral decisions. If they were, we’re back to the 19th century, and women should not own property, have credit cards, have access to higher education, control their own reproduction or vote. There are powerful groups in North America pushing this agenda, but they are not usually considered feminists.”

          She defends her position quite well and you should read it. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/am-i-a-bad-feminist/article37591823/

          And I still stand behind what I wrote in 2010: http://www.etiquettehell.com/?p=1703

          • Cyberwulf June 16, 2018, 10:32 am

            admin, why don’t you just admit you don’t think men bear any responsibility for rape, poor little confused lambs, unable to think straight at the flash of cleavage, and that women are completely at fault unless they’re brutally beaten and raped by a stranger?

            This post and 50% of this thread is disgusting and I will not be reading your site again.

          • admin June 18, 2018, 6:54 am

            I’m not going to condemn Aziz Ansari for the crime of rape. The fact that you equate what he did with rape is disturbing because you are among the women who devalue the severity of the meaning “rape” when you so casually toss the word around whenever any man acts with selfishness and ineptitude in the sex department and therefore must be branded as a rapist.

  • Nancy M. June 18, 2018, 8:11 am

    Getting naked with somebody does imply consent for penetration, even if people wish it didn’t. How else could a man intepret it? However, from what I understand, Ansari stopped after she voiced her negative. No rape here, but no victim blaming either because it’s easy to get into situations where someone isn’t aware of the nonverbal implications of what they are doing and the mixed message they may be transmitting. No rape apology here, but real life logic and reason.

  • Emma June 18, 2018, 1:55 pm

    Late to comment on this, but there were a few things I saw come up in the comments that I found interesting and wanted to speak on. First, the whole mind-reader business. No, you can’t expect people to be mind readers. Except that frankly, we do, constantly. So much of social interaction is derived from non-verbal cues, and it is infuriating for those of us who struggle with it (I only struggle with maybe 25% of cues and it’s already maddening). But even as someone who does miss those cues (especially in regards to flirting, coincidentally), while I don’t expect people to read minds, I do still think it’s worth questioning a situation (not necessarily Ansari and Grace’s, I would need to do more reading before commenting on that) where the soft no’s seemed to be the only cues being missed, and why that might be.

    Second, I find the debate people are having around consent interesting. I suppose my perspective on this skews away from the norm, as I, as well as partners, have all had some uncommon boundaries. I cannot imagine my mood ever being ruined by someone making sure they won’t make me uncomfortable.

    And finally to end on a lighter note, the op’s stories reminded me of a few of my own, although one seems most fitting. I was 18 at the time, and going home. To fully set the picture: I was walking fairly fast, had earbuds on, and was in a bus terminal, meaning there were about five public busses running and making noise. A man came jogging up behind me, and tapped on my shoulder to get me to stop. I took out an earbud, assuming he just needed directions (not hugely uncommon). Not the case. I could only hear every third or fourth word, but I figured out he was complimenting my appearance. My brain has that filed as flirting, so I apologized and said I had a girlfriend. His response? “Well, I just wanted to tell you you’re cute.” And then he stood there. Silently. My answer was the most awkward “okay… thanks…” possible, while stepping around him. Leading back to the mind reading business, I still do not know what response he wanted (since his lack of leaving implies he wanted something). Maybe my discomfort was an overreaction, but bus station flirting had me on edge already, as the last man to try to flirt with me at one was middle aged and made an uncomfortably smooth transition from asking for directions (that he already knew) to flirting. Then checking if I was over 18. A class act, that one.

  • Aprobe July 14, 2018, 10:28 pm

    None of us were there so we will never know what happened. What were her cues? I was in a situation where I pushed away, started crying and was still told “I must have wanted it”
    It’s not difficult to tell when a person is excited verses nervous. Yes, women be clear and firm. Yes guys, take note of whether she seems excited for the next step.
    As for this case, no one will ever know what really happened except for these two.

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