After reading all the thinkpieces on the Aziz Ansari sexual fiasco, I’m saddened to realize that everything about this is being written by women, apart from one man who posted a short essay on his Facebook feed that I got to see. The women have in turns spoken about whether or not Grace was in the right, whether Ansari was a monster or a moron, and called for nuanced discussions around coercion and sex. The one man was very angry with Ansari and called him out for being a selfish, foolish man with little regard for his would-be partner (I don’t even think you can call her a partner in such circumstances.)
There need to be more men talking about sexual mores in the 21st century, first of all. And only talking after listening to what women are saying. This can improve us generationally when it comes to interactions between people, sexual or otherwise.
But here’s what I really think: both of them thought they could take a shortcut: Ansari to sex, Grace to a relationship. Both of them were wrong. The problem lies with how we view sex as a bartering chip in an emotional transaction. That’s why women continue to think that they’re “giving up” something in order to “get” something, and men continue to think they have to “give” something in order to “get” something. Notice the difference in what I said: “give up” vs. “give”. That’s where coercion comes in.
Women feel they’re actually losing a part of themselves (and have been socialized to think this way) when engaging in sexual activity: their reputation, their body integrity, their emotional center. The risk is greater for them, physically and emotionally. Men think that their earning power but also their masculinity factors into the transaction: if they exercise both, they will get a sexual encounter — but men don’t feel they’re losing anything by displaying either. They have also been conditioned to think of sex as a numbers game: keep trying until you get lucky, be persistent. They think of it as convincing, not coercing.
Whatever happened to people talking and getting to know one another before getting into bed with each other? And no, that can’t happen over texts. It has to happen in real time, face to face. Until we learn to stop taking shortcuts to the real goals: intimacy and trust, we’ll continue to go round and round in circles forever. And hate each other in the process.