When I was reading Allahpundit’s column on the “Bad Date With Aziz Ansari Clusterfark” yesterday, I found myself agreeing with much of it, but still feeling as if there was something missing. As far as what allegedly happened on the night that the pseudonymous “Grace” went out on a date with the comedian, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of debate aside from perhaps how various observers are characterizing it. Allahpundit described Ansari as engaging in “caddish horndog behavior” while others seemed to find it little more than another day ending in a “Y” for a single guy who managed to get a date with a woman he as attracted to.
And that’s the problem with the whole Believe All Women mantra. It’s a fool’s errand to begin with, primarily because women are human beings and some of them will sometimes be wrong about something. They may misinterpret a reaction. In the worst case scenario, some of them may even lie. (Yes, I know… you’re shocked.) In the case of Grace I don’t think there was any lying going on. But there was clearly one heck of an overreaction.
I’m also fairly sure that AP was correct in concluding that Ansari didn’t have his career “assassinated” as Caitlin Flanagan suggested. Quite the opposite, in fact. The cavalry seems to be charging over the hill in the comic’s defense. One of the more timely efforts along those lines came from Bari Weiss, recently added on at the New York Times editorial board. It’s a good thing she’s a woman, because I don’t think there’s a person on the planet with a Y chromosome who could get away with a piece titled, Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader. I apologize in advance for the length of this excerpt, but it’s really central to the discussion and it seriously did take a woman to say this in public.
Put in other words: I am angry that you weren’t able to read my mind.
It is worth carefully studying Grace’s story. Encoded in it are new yet deeply retrograde ideas about what constitutes consent — and what constitutes sexual violence…
I am a proud feminist, and this is what I thought while reading Grace’s story:
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 inability 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.
I mostly wanted to share the Weiss column so we can wrap this up by attempting to settle two separate points. First, she’s absolutely correct. Men are not mind-readers. And before you even start suggesting that this is why we need positive verbal consent at every stage of a sexual encounter, that’s not going to work. It’s an idea that sounds like it was cooked up by someone who’s never been on a date. And as for what happened to “Grace” on her date with Ansari, while I realize I’ve used this metaphor before, if that qualifies as sexual assault then we should just start mass producing the sex robots now and accept that this will be the last generation of human beings on the planet because no men should be dating any women. In fact, they shouldn’t even be talking to them. I don’t know what prompted Grace to release her #MeToo story and I’m not going to attempt to read her mind, but at a minimum, she’s very confused.
The second (and final) question is whether or not Grace’s story has somehow “killed” or at least set back the Me Too Moment. If there’s any sanity left it the world it should not do so in any way. What she’s inadvertently done (admittedly at Ansari’s expense) is to remind us that each case is unique. Countless millions of women have obviously found themselves falling victim to actual sexual harassment or assault and those stories need to be told and the perpetrators held to account. But an accusation is not a conviction and neither guilt nor innocence is a “default” response. We don’t accept that in a court of law and we shouldn’t lower our standards that far in the Court of Public Opinion either. A little time, patience and careful investigation should be able to steer us down the right path. And if that had happened here, we wouldn’t be asking if Aziz Ansari’s career is over or not.