It always starts with a kiss. People fail to mention the heavy night out that is generally the precursor. The bottle of cheap wine that you painstakingly analysed the shelves of Tesco for. The multiple jaeger bombs that you were bought throughout the night, most of which you couldn’t stomach so gifted to strangers or dotted on the various surfaces around the floor. The dancing with your friends, arms flailing and overconfident rapping to songs you’d only ever heard on the radio a couple of times before but who cares? Hugging and telling each other how truly in love you are with one another.
Or maybe it’s the date that has gone quite well (surprisingly). You arrived early wearing your best ‘nice top and jeans’ top and heeled boots so you actually feel like a grown ass woman for once. They were already there and stood when you arrived, confirming that they aren’t a liar- evidently they do work out and are taller than 6 foot. You had a bit in common, the conversation wasn’t the best you’ve ever had in your life but they can talk about more than their gym routine and their favourite sports team so you aren’t planning your escape route out of the bathroom window. No need for your flatmate to call with that ‘emergency’.
So there you are, in a flat (yours or there’s it doesn’t matter) kissing. Then they make the next move. And then the next. And it gets to a point where you think maybe it is enough. Only, for some completely illogical reason you feel like you’re past the point of no return. You object but it goes unnoticed. You speak up again and they start to try and talk you round- ‘oh come on’ ‘don’t be that girl’ ‘why?’ ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Your stomach drops and it dawns on you- am I being an inconvenience? Would it be easier to just shut up and wait it out? The good ending is you gather your things, call a taxi and leave. More often than not, you don’t.
And people will ask why not? Why wouldn’t you leave if you were so unhappy? And hell, you’ll ask yourself that over and over, until you stop hating yourself and move on. There is no black and white answer. Very few words can describe the obligation felt in that moment when someone is looking down on you, questioning your own gut instinct for which you have no other answer than ‘I just don’t want to’ and that just isn’t good enough.
Over the last day or two I have had more conversations about sexual consent and rape culture than maybe ever before, certainly since the #metoo movement began. An article in Babe.net documented the experience of a 23 year old photographer from New York, when she went on a date with Aziz Ansari. Instead of unpacking the article the link is below.
The experience of Grace is painfully reminiscent of the encounter detailed in Cat Person, a short story by Kristen Roupenian published in the New Yorker in December.
Both of these stories have gone viral because they tap into a female experience that had never before been considered worthy of discussion.
The difference between Ansari and Weinstein is that as the latter’s crimes have become more visible and more survivors have stepped forward, he has become increasingly distanced from most men. They wouldn’t dream of the kind of sexual harassment, coercion and assault that went on behind closed hotel room doors in the Hollywood hills. Yet this isn’t to say that women should have to be summoned, threatened, assaulted and raped before we have a serious conversation about our attitudes towards sex and consent. The article in Babe shook us because it threw away all of our notions of sexual acceptability. It had women across the world standing in solidarity that this had happened to them too- on multiple occasions and men questioning their own behaviour in ‘the heat of the moment’.
Ansari is a generally respected guy. He is a funny man. He has shown that self-deprecation can sell out Madison Square Garden. I read his book, Modern Romance last year and loved it so much I wrote about it. Yet, many critics of the article have used Ansari’s likeability and reputation for not being a complete idiot as a reason as to why the accusations couldn’t possibility be true.
When it comes down to it Ansaris personal credentials- whether he is or isn’t a nice person to sit, have a coffee and a chat with, is by the by. If someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no and after 45 minutes of them questioning you and shoving their range of tea bags in your face they force a mug down your throat you’d think them absolutely insane. So why is it okay to think that you are entitled to use your position of power to violate another person’s body?
The bottom line is, no does not mean convince me. It doesn’t mean ‘I’m being cute, I want to know how much you want it’ and it certainly doesn’t mean go for it and I will physically have to try and move you away from me. Yes both Cat Person and Graces story are not exceptional, they happen all the bloody time. In what backwards world does that mean it’s less of a problem?