We met at a beer hall and had cheeseburger sliders and lager. The conversation was cool and he was adorable. I liked him and his sense of humor, liked the way he put his hand on the small of my back, how he stood up with me when I got up to go to the bathroom. I liked the way he smelled and I liked the way his hands looked. He was attractive, a great smile with coffee freckles across the bridge of his nose and full lips.
I dug the dude.
We laughed and chatted and drank until our heads were fuzzy. I asked him over for a night cap, said I had a six pack of Purple Haze beer in my fridge that I had yet to tackle. I told him that it would be nice to continue our conversation there but that I’d be moving around the apartment, putting a load of laundry in, dishes in the dishwasher, emptying the trash. He shrugged; smiled, said it would be nice as long as I didn’t mind having him there.
I really didn’t.
But then I did.
I’m going to keep it real with y’all. I didn’t read the Babe.net article in its entirety. I stopped reading about “Grace” describing her date with Aziz Ansari and then on to talk about how violated she felt, right around the section that talks about the “claw” of his hand. Most of the conversations and think pieces that then came out about it were, to say the very least, conflicting, shaming, and perpetuative of the status quo. I read some and ignored others.
I won’t shame “Grace” though because I know what that shame looks like, I know how that shame feels. I shame the writer of the piece because they are the one who dropped the ball. The writer trivialized an uncomfortable and potentially traumatic experience for “Grace.” On some real shit, when you’re trying to talk about this woman’s story and her trauma, spare us the details about how fly her outfit was or what she was or wanted to drink. Nobody gives a shit and it completely deflects from what should have been an insightful piece.
The article in Babe.net, a website which I never heard of until this story, was a too-explicit expose of that night that completely missed the opportunity to garner real discussion about sexual pressure and what that looks like. I won’t even get into the details about one of the publication’s biggest investors being Rupert Murdoch or that the publication sought out “Grace” for the story, or that the Babe piece completely disregarded race and class dynamics. Those are things other people have tackled quite well.
It is because of this lazy writing that people are being quick to devalue the progress made through the #MeToo movement, that people are either shaming “Grace” or Aziz. And yet, no one is talking about the kernel of truth in the description of that night. Sexual pressure needs to be talked about, not devalued, not trivialized and it should not be fluffed up for public consumption. The writer of that piece should be ashamed of themselves.
The story and the conversation it garnered between me and my friends, seriously got me thinking about how we define sexual misconduct. How I have. It made me think of how often I had been pressured to have sex, how I sometimes gave in to the pressure, and all of the reasons why. And it made me think of the shame that clung to me like a motherfucker afterwards. That shit clings and it follows you like a shadow.
One thing did not escape me while talking and reading about Grace’s experience.
Every woman I know has an Aziz Ansari story.
We got to my apartment and I did as I said, opened up some beers, put on my favorite Spotify playlist, lit some incense and scented candles to freshen up the air, and then I started loading the laundry, wrapping the garbage (the reason for the scented candles and incense), rinsing off dishes in the sink to put in the dishwasher. All the while, I sipped at my beer and chatted with him. He sat at my kitchen table and went through two beers as I sipped at my one.
“I apologize if it looks like I am distracted; I am just trying to multitask with you here. Actually, you being here must have me motivated to get it done. Otherwise, I’d probably be Netflixing,” I joked, closing the dishwasher.
“Yeah, I am starting to get offended. You lit all of these candles and things. I thought we’d be getting romantic,” his laugh sounded like a snort. “So, tell me about single life as Angelique. Why are you single?”
I wiped my hands on a kitchen towel and scanned the room to see if I missed any chore or something I could do. “Single life is a lot of guys who assume they should get a return on their investment of a $50 dinner.”
He laughed and finished his second beer. “I don’t know what means. You’re going to have to be more specific.”
Clearly, I thought to myself.
I told him about a guy who after four dates felt it necessary to bring up the fact that we hadn’t gotten physical with each other, as if he was owed something. I expressed frustration that four dates doesn’t mean I am obligated to do anything, let alone have sex with someone. The dude hadn’t known my last name, who my family was, what I loved and hated….but yet he felt entitled to my vagina.
“I am not about that life. Look, if we do our thing on the first date and we move forward, then so be it. I don’t shame anyone who navigates their sex life in their own way. I’ve definitely been there…shit we all have. But this guy was cool, I liked him, I was vibing and moving at my own pace. I didn’t know there was a deadline for sex and I certainly didn’t think it was after four dates.”
“I think he misread you. He liked you and you didn’t like him. Girls know when they want to do a guy in the first five minutes,” he set down the beer bottle and asked for another. He took a swig of the fresh bottle before speaking again. “He just liked you and you broke his heart.”
“I didn’t break anyone’s heart. What you are saying is that after four dates, I am obligated to have sex to prove that I like him? Like sexing him is the only way that would show him, above every other way that I have showed him, that I like him and enjoy spending time with him. Come on, b….miss me with that.”
“Guys are like that, I guess. I mean, I’m not like that, but a lot of guys are,” he sipped again. “Can you sit down please? Let’s change the topic. I don’t want to get you upset before I had a chance to get to know you.”
What happened to “Grace” was not like the horror stories we have heard from women about Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer or many others. What happened to her was not an “assault,” as she herself admitted. She was not forced to do anything she did that night nor was her livelihood or life changed because of the harassment.
It was, for lack of a better way of saying it, a completely shitty date.
But that doesn’t devalue what DID happen.
A woman said no to a man she liked and was attracted to because she wasn’t ready to take that step and she was ignored. I won’t presume to know why she went as far as she did that night and I won’t shame her for it.
Because that, after all is not the point.
The point here is that she said, no, chill babe, let’s not…and she was ignored over and over.
I kissed that guy that night. Yes, even after that conversation. I wanted to kiss him and I wanted to be kissed. So, I kissed him. It’s as simple as that.
When I saw him getting aroused, I stepped back and grabbed an empty beer bottle off of the table, hoping the disconnect would be enough to, “change the subject.”
“You feel so good. Let me just…” I will spare y’all the details of his commentary. It is unnecessary. Just know he started to ask to do things with and to me that I was not down with that night.
“I like you. I want to see you again. It can wait,” I said, wiping my kitchen counter down.
“I know, but I’m here now,” he reached for me and kissed me on my shoulders, then my neck.
The shit felt good, y’all. I ain’t going to lie about that. But I didn’t want to do anything else.
You’d think that would be the end of it.
Homeboy proceeded to try to keep the momentum up because well, because HE was up. But though I kissed him and allowed him to hold me, I pushed him away when he got too handsy, when his hands tried to sneak to the waistband of my pants. I pushed him away and started easing my way towards the door. Clearly, he wasn’t going to listen to me.
“You want me to leave? Am I making you uncomfortable? Do you not like me kissing you?”
“I am asking you to leave, yes. I absolutely do like you kissing me. But I don’t want to get any more physical than we have,” I said.
“But what’s wrong? Are you not feeling well? Do you have your period? That I can understand, but honestly, we’re adults.” I shook my head to all of his questions. I could feel myself getting more and more annoyed with the situation.
He grabbed me by my waist and kissed me and I could feel that shit in my toes. I will not lie and say I didn’t enjoy it.
“You’re such a tease. Just let me kiss you for a little longer,” he whispered into my hair.
When his hands went to my pants again, I asked him to leave for the second time.
I’m not going to tell you a horror story though sadly, I have plenty of those.
I am telling you this specific story to describe the kinds of conversation that happens when sexual pressure occurs.
Homeboy left with a smile on his face and we left things in a good space. We planned another date soon and texted about how the evening went. He later said he felt like he was getting carried away and I agreed. He asked if I didn’t want to get carried away, too. I told him anticipation is the best foreplay and if I didn’t want to fuck with him, I wouldn’t respond or look for him. He laughed and said he couldn’t wait to see me again.
I think what dudes need to understand is that if I went on a date with you, if I drank with you, if I invited you up to my apartment, if I let you kiss me and I kiss you back…..that is STILL not an invitation to pull out your dick or pressure me for sex. If I say no or chill, back off, get your ego out of it, and we can continue the night and enjoy each other’s company.
Enjoying my company doesn’t mean you get to enjoy my vagina. I call the shots with that, b. Period.
This isn’t a rejection of you. I clearly like you if I am spending the few precious hours I am not working with you. I clearly like you if I kissed you, asked to spend more time with you. Stop thinking that me not wanting to do anything sexual at the moment you have a raging hard-on means I am not attracted to you. Take your got-damn ego out of it.
I am not “Grace.” I am not a 23-year old gentrifying white woman who has access to Emmys after-parties. But I am sure we have all been in a situation where we like the guy and even though we are giving him all the clues to chill, homeboy is still roaring. It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, and it never ends well for the woman. We end up feeling defeated, violated, grossed out, ashamed of ourselves. She resents you for not listening to her and what she needed, for thinking only of what you can get, of the nut you can score.
I haven’t always been this way, you know. I haven’t always been so matter of fact, so clear. I wasn’t always able to say the things I said to homeboy that night. At one point in my life, I was very much like Grace, giving in for a number of reasons that I am only NOW starting to navigate: lack of self-love, the sheer naiveté of a young girl believing a dude will stay because you give him what he wants, ignorance of my own boundaries, even the fear that if I didn’t just give in that it could get violent….so why not pretend that you want it so that he can just…..leave you alone?
I haven’t always maintained boundaries because I didn’t know I even had them. I didn’t know I could enforce them.
But I know my boundaries now.
And as a woman who has had some crazy shit happen to her, I will say this: If the dude ain’t listening because he is thinking with his weiner…..SPEAK LOUDER. And if he still doesn’t listen to you, get out or get him out. Ask them to leave or grab your shit and leave. Please know you have EVERY right to use your voice and to enforce a boundary. Please know that you HAVE a voice and that your discomfort is your body and your spirit and your mind telling you to put up that boundary and do what is best for YOU. Fuck his feelings and ignore his whining laments over “blue balls.” If he stops fucking with you because of that, ladies… he ain’t the motherfucking one. And that’s that.
This, of course, is with the ubiquitous and ever present fear and knowledge that things may get uglier in some situations. If that happens, fight like hell, run, call the cops, scream, hurt him. Badly.
Perhaps this comes off as if it’s easy to do. Let me be clear: IT IS NOT. IT IS SCARY. Fucking with a dude can be a gamble with your life and I do NOT say that lightly.
Something for the men to sit with: Why would you even want someone to reluctantly fuck you anyway? Y’all need to step your game up if you think acquiescence is them giving you the green light, b.
Because that right there is that kernel of truth that the Babe.net piece failed so miserably at tackling: Acquiescence is NOT consent. There is a difference. The actual definition of “acquiescence” is “the reluctant acceptance of something without protest.” Operative word is “reluctant.” That is not consent, people. That is giving in to pressure.
And there is trauma when there is pressure.