Consent in the #MeToo era

It’s January, 2018, as I write this and it seems that the way we look at male-female relationships, with regards to the work place and power balance are forever changed by the #MeToo movement.  I do plan on writing a bit about #MeToo, but I’m going to leave it for a blog post.  I don’t think there’s much  I can say that hasn’t already been said, and more importantly I don’t think there’s anything that controversial about it.  A man (and it’s almost always a man) should not pressure a subordinate for sexual or romantic favours, in return for job security or advancement.  A woman should not be made to feel uncomfortable at her place of work, based on lewd comments made about her, or having to overhear locker room talk by men.  Yes I know locker room talk is a way for men to bond, I sometimes engage in it myself, but a distinction has to be made between a work place environment where it can effect other people’s sensibilities, and the freedom to say such things on one’s personal time.  My only criticism of the #MeToo movement would be that in some cases, I think the punishment of firing someone and destroying their reputation was a bit harsh considering their particular transgression.  Perhaps a warning from their boss would have been enough.  However regardless of the situation, it’s usually a man that was in the wrong.

I really didn’t want to write any more articles, I figured I’d said what I needed to say, and squeezing out the occasional blog post would be sufficient.  But something emerged a few weeks ago that changed all that.  It’s published by the online magazine babe.net, and it details an anonymous woman’s  story as told to the writer, about her date with the comedian Aziz Ansari.  It’s the case study around which this article revolves.  In case you haven’t read it yet, here it is.

Unlike the other #MeToo cases, there is a good deal more ambiguity here.  Yes, at first glance this looks like a powerful hollywood celebrity trying to force himself upon a woman.  She was left crying at the end of the encounter, and feeling violated, and he seemed oblivious to it.  I was originally going to say he tried to coerce her into sex, until I happened to look up the definition of coerce which is essentially to try and persuade someone to do something by using force or threats.  Coercion is certainly there in the other #MeToo cases involving the work place, where for example, a woman is threatened with losing her job if she refuses the advances of someone higher up in her company hierarchy.  While there is much more sexual activity here than in the majority of the #metoo stories, they were on a date and they ended up back at his apartment – a scenario where one expects the possibility of sex.  While he was aggressive in a sexual manner, both physically and verbally, he didn’t physically restrain her, threaten her safety, or threaten to derail some aspect of her life that he had control over – such as her career.  Despite being famous, we are led to understand that he had no such control over her life.  And while she found the sexual acts (letting him go down on her, going down on him twice) uncomfortable, and didn’t want to do them, she still did them willingly.  She could have left at anytime, and in fact when she finally did decide to leave and called an Uber, he didn’t try and stop her using coercion.  There is probably no legal case for her to press charges, and in fact many people (including feminists) have jumped to his defence.  However from my perspective, that of a pickup artist, (and the view of many other men and women) he was in the wrong.

Actually when reading this, (and remember these are her words – his account of the evening may be quite different, even though he hasn’t disputed the article, only that he thought things were consensual) I feel they both come out looking bad, although in very different ways.  Lets begin by looking at the criticisms out there of Grace, the anonymous woman who gave the first person account of her date with Aziz Ansari to Katie Way, the writer of the article.  We’ll do this by referencing some of the more authoritative and well known female critics of Grace, reviewing her own verbal account in the babe article, and the opinion of a female friend of mine who herself has had quite a few bad dates.  Note: some of the things I’ll write can be viewed as sexist, but I maintain that I do my utmost to base any opinions or conclusions formed from Grace’s own account, the opinions of other women, and my own understanding of human relationships and the motivations that fuel certain behaviours on dates and sexual encounters.  I will be just as harsh when it comes time to analyze Mr. Ansari.

Two of the more prominent writers criticizing Grace are Bari Weiss who wrote an article titled: Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader. In the New York Times, and Caitlin Flanagan who’s article is titled: The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari, in The Atlantic magazine.  While they expressed some sympathy for Grace’s bad experience (well not so much Caitlin Flanagan), they echoed my view that this does not constitute sexual assault in a legal sense, as she didn’t flat out refuse Ansari until the very end of the date, and in fact complied, if not enthusiastically, with most of his demands.  Both women evinced a tone of frustration with Grace’s apparent lack of self esteem with respect to Ansari, and the absence of any will to stand up for herself.  Flanagan harkened back to a kind of pre-feminist woman, who would stop at nothing (screaming, punching) to prevent a man from having his way with her.  My cynic’s view on that is pre-feminist woman had to take such actions to preserve her virtue, since that was one of her few real assets in a man’s world.  Bari Weiss expressed the view that Grace’s real options were as such: to verbalize what it was she wanted, be it in the wine selection, or what was happening in Aziz’s apartment; the moment he crossed a line that she didn’t want to be crossed, then no means no, and she should tell him to F-off and head for the door.  While I agree that’s a valid way to handle things, and that some women might naturally gravitate to this mindset; I can’t help but feel that it’s kind of a feminist construct from another era to prevent women from getting hurt.  Ok it would have worked in this case =p.  But the larger point I’m trying to make here is that I don’t think such behaviour comes naturally to most women, or to put it another way, I don’t think a woman wants to act this way with a man she likes.  And it’s obvious that Grace really, really, liked Aziz Ansari, and had high hopes for this date.  The conclusion I’m trying to draw is that a woman will often forgive a man she likes for ignoring her specific desires, particularly when things get intimate by communicating her wishes in a non-confrontational way, thereby lessening the chances of killing the night, and the potential of any relationship.  Maybe that’s ok.  And maybe a man shouldn’t pretend like she’s not trying to communicate what she’s actually feeling.

Even so, I find Grace’s lack of backbone somewhat disconcerting.  However I’m also aware of just who was sitting across from her at dinner.  Aziz Ansari, despite being a short, scrawny, pretty average looking indian guy with a high pitched voice – had massive social value.  If you read my previous article on criticisms of PUA’s, about half way through I introduce the concept of social dynamics.  Social dynamics dictates that a man must gain social value to become attractive to women.  Ansari, with his tv show about contemporary relationships, his book about the dating issues facing millennials, and his standup comedy; was a leading actor in our current zeitgeist.  (He still is, although probably not in the way he would have liked.)  Anyways my point is that in the eyes of a twenty-three year old woman like Grace, he’s a huge celebrity.  The first sentence in the babe article is:

She approached him because she recognized his camera flash — Aziz Ansari was taking pictures at the 2017 Emmy Awards after-party with a film camera, not a digital one.

She didn’t approach him because she recognized his camera flash, that was just an excuse to start a conversation.  She approached him, with the help of liquid courage, because he was Aziz Ansari.  Therein lies the gulf in social value between the two of them, as perceived by Grace.  I doubt she would have cared as much, or given as many chances, to a random guy off of tinder.  Although of course I don’t know Grace personally, and could be wrong about this.  However I’m sure that Grace has been in a situation with a man before, where he seemingly wanted sex more than her.  A lot of women have, (I’ve heard some critics say every woman has) just as there are an equal number of men that can relate to Aziz Ansari.  I certainly can, although in a similar scenario I never showed the blatant disregard for a woman’s desires and concerns that he did.

One thing that struck me about the babe article, is how well it illustrates the differences between male and female sexuality and desire.  Have a look at this article titled What Do Women Want Men To Do In Bed?  An Expert Weighs In, written by a  male sex therapist named Ian Kerner.  It’s written as a set of general rules for men, and the first one is “think like a knob, not a switch”.  Implying that male desire is like a light switch, it’s just on or off, and female desire is more of a knob that needs to be rotated – i.e. it takes longer to get going.  Because of the switch model, I believe men tend to take a linear approach to sex and seduction, like following a straight line with a steep upwards slope.  Because it’s linear, we tend to think of it as moving from point A, to point B, and then to point C.  We don’t want to move backwards, but we’re willing to if there’s a slow down in proceedings.  Look at Ansari’s actions as Grace describes them – they got back to his place at the end of the date, he started making out with her, then he touched her breast, then he undressed her, then he undressed himself.  At this point she states that she thinks things are going too fast.  So he goes back to making out with her, while they’re still naked.  He then performed oral sex on her, and then asked her to do the same, which she did, but not for very long.  He is thinking purely in terms of physical escalation.  What is the next point in the linear model after oral sex?  Why sexual intercourse of course.  He spent the rest of the night trying to get there.

I am somewhat in agreement with the model of female sexuality as a knob that needs to be rotated, although I prefer the oven analogy.  The idea in both cases being that it can take time for a woman to heat up, both mentally and physically.  However from Ansari’s point of view, it can be argued that he did just that.  He certainly put in the time and stuck in there.  He went up and down the linear model of physical escalation, and while he got some concessions (I think that’s a very apt word for this encounter), any actual sexual desire she had tanked, and her resolve not to have sex hardened until she finally had enough.  So what gives?  A clue can be found in the next rule in the article – “when you’re getting it on, make sure she’s completely relaxed and comfortable”.  In fact they emphasized a woman letting go of all fear and anxiety.  Hmm… whatever could Grace have been anxious about?  Maybe the fact that he ignored her clear verbal and non-verbal cues to slow down, and tried to pressure her into sex?  Perhaps she felt disrespected by being treated like she was only good for a bang.  She’d come into this date after a week of text flirting, telling all her friends about him, and after group discussions with the same friends about picking the right outfit.  The weight of expectation had been allowed to build around this date.  My knowledge and experience tells me that they would have had a much better chance of hooking up on the night that they actually met, back at the Emmy after-party, when they were making eyes at each other.  Back then no one else knew, or had to know, and the unspoken sexual chemistry between them was strong.  All he had to do was tell her to meet him at a bar near his hotel at a certain time later that night, and send her phone a text.  No need to mention setting up a proper date later.  Sure she had brought a male friend, but she clearly didn’t care about him, and if she didn’t, then Aziz certainly wasn’t obligated to.  She may not have come (and even if she did there is no guarantee of sex), but she probably would have at least texted back.  And then if he was still interested after that, he could have worked on setting up a date.

I believe an unfortunate consequence of this disparity in male-female sexuality, is that often times a woman’s needs aren’t really met in a lot of sexual encounters.  If she’s not really enjoying herself, she tends to assume the role of the gatekeeper of sex – where we have a horny man that wants it, and a woman who’s holding out like it’s (sometimes literally) worth money.  And the whole encounter instead of being one of (ideally) mutual pleasure, turns into a kind of transactional model.  This is the idea that men barter for sex with women, by offering something else that a woman wants in return, be it a relationship or material things.  We’ve all heard some version of it in our lives, and I think the transactional model of sex has deeper roots in our culture than the idea that women, like men, also want to have sex for pleasure.  Harvey Weinstein certainly believed in the transactional model of sex.  If this had been Harvey on a date with a young actress, I’d expect that somewhere between her saying “no, I really don’t think I’m going to do this”, and her calling an Uber, he would have offered her a part in a movie. He might have even resorted to a coercive threat, like threatening to derail her career.  Maybe he would have played one of these cards even sooner.

The most dissenting voice I heard on the babe.net article was from a female friend of mine, Kay.  I’m not using her real name to protect her identity because she is not a public figure.  At 35, she is about Aziz Ansari’s age, and more than a decade older than Grace.  Kay admits that she’s had her share of bad dates, and while she doesn’t like Aziz Ansari’s behaviour, she has little sympathy for Grace.  Like Caitlin Flanagan, she felt the babe article amounted to a kind of “revenge porn”, because Grace didn’t get what she wanted from Ansari.  Kay disagreed with the charge of sexual assault, by pointing to the fact that Grace could have left his apartment at any time, but continued to engage in the sexual encounter.  Kay maintains that Grace was sexually interested in Ansari, but didn’t want to have sex on the first date.  She was just too invested after telling all her friends, and building up expectations.   Grace was led to believe or at least hope, by Aziz’s actions that he would be potentially interested in a relationship.  By her own account her expectations of him were also coloured by his public persona, as a woke bae, and self proclaimed feminist.  Kay states that Grace was hurt when it became obvious that Ansari just wanted sex, and that she had surmised that if they had had sex, he would have been uninterested in a relationship.  Grace also felt bad because of the things she did to try and keep him interested, even though it wasn’t on account of her own sexual desires (think transactional model).  Kay concluded (and I’m not sure I agree with this), that if anything Grace gave Ansari the impression that she was down for sex by everything that happened in the first ten minutes when they got back to his place, and from that point on he thought she was playing hard to get to avoid looking like a slut.  Finally going back to the theme of revenge porn, by her own account Grace admitted that it was after seeing him at the Golden Globes, hypocritically wearing a time’s up pin, that she felt “a new fire”.  It was shortly after that she spoke to Katie Way.  Kay made the point that if Aziz Ansari wasn’t famous, the article would never have been written, and his career and reputation wouldn’t be potentially ruined.

I still think Aziz Ansari was in the wrong.  Yes, at times Grace sent mixed signals.  Shortly after the initial physical escalation where they got naked and went down on each other, instead of letting him pursue her for 30 minutes, where she had to keep moving away, hoping that he’d understand her cues; she would have been better served by saying – “hey that’s enough.  I’m putting my clothes back on.  If you don’t want this date to end, you’ll stop.”  And if he didn’t stop, then decide to leave, tell him so, and call that Uber.  However lets look at it from the flip side.  The feminist writer Jessica Valenti tweeted this:

“Why are so many people asking why this woman didn’t leave & so few asking why he didn’t stop?”

Indeed.  He should have stopped.  She was clearly uncomfortable, and resisting his advances.  I know this story occupies a grey area, where many people are disagreeing over which of the two was in the wrong, but from my perspective as a PUA, Aziz Ansari’s actions were disastrous.  There is an old quote in the community, oft attributed to Ross Jeffries, that roughly states a PUA should strive to always leave a woman better off for having met him.  Grace was left crying and shattered at the end of this date.  You’d have to be delusional to claim her life is better for having met Ansari, unless perhaps as a lesson learned for next time.  From that perspective, having the babe article published was just getting some of her own back for what he did to her.

I wrote the following statement that has since been removed from an earlier version of my what to do on a date page:

Most of seduction is simply reading the signs a woman gives you, and working with that.

I’m repeating it here because of it’s relevance to what’s about to be discussed.  Probably the most well balanced pro-babe article I read was this one in the Huffington Post titled On Aziz Ansari And Sex That Feels Violating Even When It’s Not Criminal, written by Emma Gray.  She begins by describing two bad (from her point of view) sexual encounters of her own.  She specifies that she didn’t think of either encounter as sexual assault, but she felt “gross and a bit violated.”  She regretted the encounters and wondered afterwards why she hadn’t articulated her boundaries more clearly, but at the same time why neither man had paid attention to her “verbal and nonverbal cues of discomfort and disinterest”.  She wondered if either man thought about these things as well, when looking back at the encounter.  Reading the babe article made her reflect on these memories, and empathize with Grace.  She concluded that consensual, but violating sexual encounters such as her’s and Grace’s, are something that needs to be talked about publicly.  For while they are not considered rape or sexual assault cases – they are still harmful to women.  While she took Ansari at his word, that he was genuinely clueless to Grace’s discomfort as evidenced by his texts; she then went on to cite several research papers that provided data based evidence that “both men and women employ verbal cues to indicate “no” that don’t explicitly contain the word “no””, and that “both men and women have a sophisticated ability to convey and to comprehend refusals, including refusals which do not include the word ‘no’”.  The conclusion was “that when men claim to not understand these types of refusals, they may actually be employing “self-interested justifications for coercive behavior.””  I’m inclined to agree, based upon my own experiences in such situations, and my gut understanding of men.  This ultimately does not show Aziz Ansari’s actions in a very good light.

I’m going to paste the next paragraph of Gray’s article in it’s entirety, as I think it’s quite interesting.

Women are socialized from a young age to cater to the comfort of those around them ― especially if those around them are men. As Christopher said, girls are simply “taught from a younger age to be more concerned about their environments, about potential threats.” Conversely, many men are taught that they are entitled to women’s time, attention and physical affection ― and that if those things are not readily offered to them, they should be aggressive and take it. This creates a dynamic where women often defer to men’s needs in an effort to avoid embarrassment, verbal conflict or physical violence, and where it may not even occur to men to check in with women’s needs.

There are four sentences in the above paragraph.  Sentence 1, 2, and 4 are statements endemic to the female experience, and are uttered by Gray, and Maia Christopher, the executive director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.  My inclination is to side with these views, based upon my own life experiences, and because as a male, I don’t feel I should dispute an account of what it feels like to be a woman, by two women.  Let’s look at the third sentence again:

Conversely, many men are taught that they are entitled to women’s time, attention and physical affection ― and that if those things are not readily offered to them, they should be aggressive and take it.

Parse it again – many men are taught that they are entitled to a woman’s … physical affection, and if it’s not offered they should be aggressive and take it.  This could easily be interpreted as if a woman’s physical affections are denied them, they are taught that it’s ok to sexually assault or rape them.  I can honestly say that I have never been “taught” to act in this manner by any figure of authority, nor do I know any man who has.  In fact I think civil societies everywhere frown upon this kind of male behaviour.  I can realistically picture more traditional patriarchal cultures where girls are taught to be subservient to male relatives, or a mother warning her teenage daughter to be careful in certain social situations, or places.  However I don’t believe, at least in western culture, that father’s (or mothers) traditionally raise their sons to feel they are entitled to a girl’s attention, or to act upon their physical impulses.  And in schools there would also be policies against that kind of thing, or at least an outlet for a girl to lodge a complaint or tell a figure of authority.  I do believe that in our society there is an expectation, even an understanding, that it is a man’s role to initiate an approach with a woman he finds attractive, be it in person or online.  I know there are apps like Bumble where a woman has to write the opening line, but I still think they are merely giving a man the opportunity to convince them that their interest was not in vain.  Similarly it is a man’s job to initiate escalation and go for that first kiss, and do it successfully.  It is a man’s job to seduce and take the lead (at least the first time) when having sex, and make sure a woman is not in discomfort, and enjoys herself.  And vice versa with her pleasuring him, hence having an ideally mutually enjoyable experience.  And I believe that women ultimately want all of this.  When you look at it this way there’s really a lot riding on a man’s shoulders, it can be quite a bit to live up to.  That’s why when a woman meets a man with whom all of these things fall into place, she can be quite loath to give him up.  What she may not realize, is that he probably messed up with a lot of other women before he got to her.  That’s how you get better at something, you learn from your mistakes.  Pickup artists tend to be guys who take this approach to meeting, dating, and seducing women.  But it really applies to all men when it comes to getting better with women.  Now going back to Emma Gray’s statement, if a guy starts to chat up a girl at a bar – and he’s just not very good, she finds him boring, and he’s not picking up her cues of disinterest; it can seem like he feels he’s entitled to her time and attention.  She isn’t obligated to be nice to him if she doesn’t want to be, but perhaps it would be more helpful to just see him as getting practice at better fulfilling his role as a man.  As opposed to being an entitled jerk.  (Ok sometimes they are entitled jerks).

Ah yes, let’s get back to Aziz Ansari’s behaviour.  Without a doubt he acted in an entitled manner, objectifying Grace for his own pleasure, and ignoring her protestations until she took a firmer grip on the situation.  You could make the argument that he’s simply making the mistakes required to get better at seduction, but as Gray points out, doing the wrong thing at this stage of seduction, even if by the letter of the law things are consensual, can be harmful to a woman.  The wrong thing can be typified by Ansari’s actions.  But from a male perspective it can also be as follows:

Say you’re on a date with a girl at a venue near her house.  You’ve had fun, gotten to know each other better, and shared your first kiss.  You sense that it’s near the end of the date and it’s time to take it to the next level.  You suggest watching a movie at her place.  After some funny banter where she sees right through your intentions, and calls you out on it, she agrees.  After a little tour of her house, you both end up on her couch, where you start making out.  You take your time with the foreplay, and she gets hotter and breathing heavier.  Perhaps you both get partially undressed.  But there’s always a certain point that she’s not willing to go beyond.  Let’s say it’s removing her pants.  You go back to snuggling and watching the movie, but after about ten minutes you recommence.  She’s still horny, but same result as before.  Unlike Aziz Ansari, do not ignore her cues and keep trying to remove her pants anyway.  This is her boundary on how far she’s willing to go.  I’ve been here before.  You can talk it out a bit, but it might still be as far as she’s comfortable going, for reasons that aren’t exactly clear.  You continue to watch the movie for a while, but if sex isn’t on the cards it feels too weird to sleep over.  You hug her and go home.

I said that it was the wrong thing, because from my impatient male perspective, the date didn’t end with sex.  As I intimated earlier, I was thinking of a personal experience when I wrote this.  It was at a point where I’d learned a few things as a PUA.  Looking back perhaps there was something I did that made her make up her mind, or perhaps there was something I could have said that would have changed it.  But if there was it didn’t occur to me at the time.  Men are driven by their sexual appetite.  Even when we’re tired of being single, and would like to meet the right partner, it’s still there.  Sexual desire is what caused me to message this girl who was one of my matches, have a conversation thread over a span of days, talk to her on the phone, go on a date with her, and go home with her.  Along the way I got to know her, and she me.  She liked me, and probably felt good about not putting out, despite the temptation to do so.  I thought she was nice, but I also remember feeling kind of annoyed on the drive home, as after being invited inside I thought sex was on the cards.  A nicer guy than me would go on a second or third date (or tenth), and they’d eventually have sex, and hopefully it’ll be good.  Maybe they’ll actually enter into a relationship that will last quite a while.  Is this really wrong?  I think most people would say no, it sounds normal.  I, however didn’t ask her out again because quite frankly I didn’t care enough, especially if another date ended like this one.  Perhaps in another instance (a different first date, a different girl) my actions would have differed.  I’m in no way saying that simply because a first date doesn’t end with sex, you should break it off with a girl.

In my criticisms of PUA’s page, about 3 quarters of the way down, I begin responding to an allegation that PUA’s skirt dangerously close to ignoring a woman withholding consent.  I’m going to review what I wrote in response to that, and paraphrase it here.  I wrote it before reading the babe article, and after doing so it’s caused me to have a rethink.  I want to clarify and build on what I originally wrote.  I had limited my thinking of consent to no means no, and thought of a violation of that as either raping someone, or having sex with someone when they are too inebriated by drugs or alcohol to articulate whether they do or do not want to have sex.

What we haven’t discussed yet, the elephant in the room so to speak, is what happens when a man and a woman find themselves together and alone in a bedroom for the first time…Lets say you’ve met a girl for an online date, you both had a great time, laughed, learned a lot about each other, and shared your first kiss.  You’re hoping to take it to the next level, but you don’t know if she’s ready yet.  You suggest getting a drink back at your place to cap off the night, and watching that movie you both like. She thinks about it for a couple of seconds, and then says sure.  Make no mistake, she is interested in having sex with you.  In that brief interval of consideration, she admitted to herself that she liked you enough, and trusted you enough, to place herself in a situation where the two of you might have sex.  However, this should not be mistaken for consent.  Or to put it another way, it can be considered consent so long as she has the capacity to say no, and continues to consent.  In fact I would state that the capacity for refusal should be a requirement for having sex.  If someone is so inebriated from drugs or alcohol that they can barely stand up straight, or stay conscious, then their capacity to refuse sex can be called into question.

I still believe that no means no is important as a basis for whether consent was ignored.  If we take the point at which Grace decided to call herself an Uber, as the no means no moment, then I don’t think there is a case for sexual assault, as Ansari didn’t try to stop her from leaving.  If however he had attempted to prevent her from leaving by using force, even if he didn’t succeed, I think there would be a legal case against him.  As such, I’d like to refer to no means no consent as legal consent.  If someone withdraws legal consent by saying NO!, or is physically incapable of doing so, then for the other party to attempt to continue to proceed with a sexual encounter is to violate the law in my opinion.  (And probably the court’s opinion too).  But how do we describe everything that happened before that point?  It didn’t really feel consensual.  Ansari was trying to have sex with Grace, and she was trying her best not to, without having to actually say no.  After reading the babe article, and drawing upon my own experience and knowledge as a PUA, I’d like to introduce the concept of real consent, which I define as actually consenting to sex, and in the absence of which, you’re never going to get laid.  Real consent, unlike legal consent, includes any verbal and non-verbal cues that indicate a removal of consent for having sex.  Real consent was not present for the majority of the time back at the apartment, and going by how Grace told it – was withdrawn after they had gotten naked but before they’d gone down on each other, at the moment when Grace said “Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.”  Legal consent was withdrawn anywhere from the point when Grace said  – “no, I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this.”, and when she called the Uber.

We are limited in our knowledge of the encounter by Grace’s description, and that itself raises some questions.  As I said earlier, going by her words, real consent was visibly removed at the moment when Grace voiced her discomfort by saying “Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.”  But could it have happened earlier?  Was she enthusiastically helping him remove her clothes a few seconds before that?  It’s pretty hard to remove someone’s clothes if they don’t want you to – they can move around and shift.  But apparently she didn’t act on any discomfort at that point, which sounds a little odd to me.  But as we are reliant on Grace for her account, I’m choosing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  When legal consent is removed, there is typically no salvaging of the encounter, much less a potential relationship.  At the point when Grace says “…I really don’t think I’m ready to do this”,  she wants Ansari to leave her alone, probably doesn’t care about a relationship anymore, and most likely just wants to go home.  However at the point when real consent is first removed, she can be walked back to a place where real consent is given again and she’s enthusiastically participating.  Look at it this way – I’m pretty sure when she utters”Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill”, if Aziz Ansari had responded with “You know you’re right.  I’m going to call you an Uber so you can get home”, she would have been disappointed with the night ending like that, if not quite as upset as she was with how things turned out in reality.   He could have saved things by basically acknowledging what she said and acting upon it.  He would have been better served by looking into her eyes, and saying “hey, I’m sorry if I was rushing you.  Let’s put our underwear back on and go watch some Seinfeld.”  More making out, and then going down on her wasn’t what she needed at that moment.

If you continue to read Emma Gray’s article, she mentions that “many feminists have championed affirmative consent models, also known as yes means yes.”  If we can acknowledge that legal consent, i.e. no means no consent wasn’t violated as per the babe article, then we also have to acknowledge how no means no consent failed Grace, as the encounter wasn’t really consensual, and Grace was left feeling violated and upset.  Affirmative consent or yes means yes consent,  is the response many people have come to for preventing such incidents.  When I first heard of consent described as yes means yes, I pictured something like the following encounter between a man and a women during an intimate moment.

Man: Can I kiss you?

Woman: Yes.

Man: May I use some tongue?

Woman: Alright, but only for two seconds

<they make out>

Man: Can I remove your shirt?

Woman: Yes.

Man: Can I unhook your bra?

Woman: No.

Man: Can I fondle your breasts?

Woman: Yes, but only through the bra.

<one hour later>

Man: Can I suck on your toes?

Woman: Yes, but only after brushing your teeth.

<end scene>

When I was writing the above dialogue, I couldn’t help but think it belonged in a monty python skit about the unsexiest sex imaginable.  The thought of having to act this way the next time I had sex, made me both rage internally, and pity the feminists who espouse this.

However as I kept reading about affirmative consent, the definition I was led to was this one by the state university of New York:

“Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity.  Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Note that the above definition incorporates the verbal and non-verbal cues expressed by Grace, and included in my definition of real consent.  I initially felt stating “Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent.” felt like overreaching to me, since some people may prefer to have sex that way, but then I thought of how weird it would be to have sex with someone for the first time, with no words spoken during the whole encounter.  It would be like making love to a human sex doll.  That doesn’t mean it has to be like the sad dialogue I wrote above though.  I was also thinking of the following from Grace:

“Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points,” she said. “I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”

It seems like for a period of time Grace was actually becoming more numb and passive as things kept going on, not because Ansari’s persistence was winning her over, but as a way to cope with her discomfort.

Interestingly the definition of affirmative consent doesn’t exclude the Monty Pythonesque dialogue that I wrote above, but includes it under a much broader scope of possibilities and behaviours.  In fact while it’s not for me, there could be a scenario where such an approach would be for the best, even desired.  For example suppose you have two people with Aspergers syndrome hooking up for the first time.  (Note: I am not prejudiced against people with Aspergers.  This is a generalization to help with making a point.  I have no actual knowledge of what two people with Aspergers having sex would look like.)

Furthermore on the same page as the affirmative consent definition the following was written:

Consent to any sexual act or prior consensual sexual activity between or with any party does not necessarily constitute consent to any other sexual act.

We can infer from this that just because they both gave each other oral sex, it did not give Ansari the right to assume that sex was guaranteed.  And also:

Consent may be initially given but withdrawn at any time.  

Very true.  All the more reason to be prudent with your seduction and make sure to get real consent throughout.  The key is to make sure she is comfortable with everything.  It may even require you to stop hooking up, and do something completely different for a while.  As some critics of affirmative consent have stated, real sex is messy (sometimes literally) as people are complex and the ways they want, and enjoy sex can vary, as can their motivations.  It doesn’t always fit nicely with a set of commandments like the affirmative consent definition.  For example like Emma Gray, a woman might decide that despite her discomfort during sex it’s not worth the bother to tell her partner to stop, but instead bear it until he’s finished.  People’s pain tolerances can vary, and in fact some people may like pain during sex.  Some people like rough sex, or getting verbally abused during sex.  Some people like their neighbours to watch.  Some people like their neighbours to participate.  It goes on and on.  The only advice I can give to better uphold the ideals of affirmative consent is perhaps better communication and patience with each other.

The final thing I want to point out with regards to affirmative consent is it’s correlation to real consent.  You might have already noticed this.  Real consent is a term I came up with from the perspective of a  seducer.  The idea is to pay attention to the signs a woman is giving you, and proceed accordingly.  It’s quite possible to come back to someone’s apartment, start making out, rip off each other’s clothes, and start shagging within 5 minutes, as Aziz Ansari hoped would happen with Grace.  It’s also possible that such an interaction could end up taking hours of fooling around/not fooling around before sex happens, or it could not happen at all – which can be evident rather quickly, or in time.  I’ve had all of these encounters.  I maintain that a man’s brain, not his penis, is his most important tool when having sex.  It’s when you think entirely with your dick that Aziz and Grace happens.  Affirmative consent is an idea thought up by feminists to protect women from harmful sexual encounters that happen before, or without, her refusing a man in the classic “no means no” manner.  It states (this is my definition) that a man must look for either verbal, or non-verbal signs of consent to proceed towards (and perhaps continue) sex.  In the absence of these signs, he needs to stop his actions, and check in with his partner.  Note that the gender roles don’t have to be specific to the way I wrote them.  We could have two men, or two women, or a woman looking for affirmative consent from a man.  It seems to me that affirmative consent and real consent are essentially the same thing in practice, or at least flip sides of the same coin.  Maybe we’ve come full circle and feminists have become PUA’s.

Alright to cap off our look at the time Aziz and Grace decided to meet up for dinner, conversation, and a little bit more – I’m going to review and provide commentary on the actions or non-actions of Aziz Ansari as detailed in the Babe article.  The date begins with Grace arriving at Ansari’s apartment.  He served her white wine when she would have preferred red.  We don’t know if it’s something he insisted on, or if this is a little argument in Grace’s head – if it’s the former then I suppose it’s a mild sign of things to come.  They walk to a nearby restaurant, and converse along the way.  It sounds like the topics of conversation were all related to him, which would seem narcissistic on his part, except that she did most of the talking.  It appears that she was trying hard to impress him.  He had the good sense to let her chatter away.  At dinner she felt rushed – he asked for the check when there was still a lot of wine left to drink.  No doubt he thought she was in the bag, and didn’t feel he needed to waste any more time than necessary on the date.

I don’t think he should have been in such a rush.  She doesn’t say it, but a woman in this situation tends to see right through your intentions and it’s seldom a good thing.  They should have lingered over the wine, and/or gone for a longer stroll since it was such a nice night.  He should have asked her some questions about herself (I’m assuming he didn’t since it wasn’t reported).  Would it have killed him to kiss her in a romantic way, like when they were walking?  I personally believe the kiss back at someone’s place, that leads to a make out, that leads to clothes being torn off, should not be the first kiss of a date.  As I stated in my first date page, there is a statement of intent and openness about a first kiss, that is quite important in romance.  Conversely showing intent by trying to hustle someone back to your place, without taking the proper steps in romance can feel kind of creepy.  That being said, I think that Ansari finally making a move and kissing Grace is a good thing.  Unfortunately he ramped up the speed afterwards from zero to a hundred in a few seconds, and it looks to have caught her off guard.  As Grace wrote – within the first 10 minutes they had made out and gotten naked.  In the same period he had then countered her verbalized hesitancy to have sex by going back to making out, going down on her, and then getting her to go down on him.  At first glance it can seem that he’s winning – if the purpose of a sexual encounter is to try and do as much sexual activity as possible in the shortest period of time.  However he failed to acknowledge her verbalized discomfort, which would result in the removal of affirmative consent soon after.  Even the oral sex she gave him was brief – not so much to give him pleasure, as to reciprocate him for going down on her.  Something he probably had in mind when going down on her.

If the date up until the point when they come back to Aziz’s apartment is about what he should have done, then everything after is very much about what he shouldn’t have done.  The rest of the night is a torturous read.  Ansari kept pulling Grace’s hand to his penis, and she kept pulling it away.  He should have taken a hint and stopped.  He would stick two fingers in her mouth to wet them, and then try and finger her vagina – a move she named the claw.  No doubt he thought this was erotic, and it could have been if she was into it.  All he had to do was actually look at the expression on her face to know if she was.  I know she was trying to be nice to him, but she couldn’t have hid her real feelings.  Aziz Ansari is a successful standup comedian who can read a crowd of people and know what to do or say.  That he could behave in this entitled, and selfish a manner is a testament to male stupidity when horny.  And apparently this continued for 30 min, at the end of which he still didn’t have a clue (or pretended not to), until she finally broke it off to go to the bathroom.  With regards to the second time that she went down on him, I suppose the fact that he had just acknowledged her discomfort might have caught her off guard, resulting in her complying with his instructions instead of pulling back the way she had before.  Even taking that and everything that had happened prior into context, I have a bit less sympathy for Grace here.  Granted by now Ansari has realized just how pliable and passive Grace is.  I know that Grace is hoping Ansari is going to rub her head or something, but if I’m sitting on a couch naked, and  a naked girl sits down beneath me in a submissive fashion, with her head near my penis, there’s definitely a possibility I might motion for her to go down on me.  It’s a bit despicable on his part, considering he just acknowledged her discomfort, and yet despite being pressured, she did it voluntarily – it wasn’t like the claw where he shoved his fingers into her mouth and then tried to finger her.  I guess part of her still wanted to please him.

Moving onwards, we come to the mirror moment, where Grace finally snaps and decides she’s had enough.  She utters the words “no, I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this.”  They put their clothes back on, and sit on the couch watching Seinfeld.  It’s at this point in my opinion that Ansari comes the closest to breaking legal consent.  She’s finished with Ansari, and coming to terms with what she’s just been through, and feeling victimized.  She expresses her disgust towards him both verbally and in her body language.  He still tries to escalate physically with her, until she gets up and goes to her phone to finally call an Uber.  At this point the date pretty much ends and all that’s left is regret.  The end.

When I was writing my commentary on Aziz Ansari’s actions I was reminded of something I read in the book The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.  In it Greene goes into detail about the anti-seducer qualities that a would be seducer needs to recognize in himself, and weed out, as they will cause people to be repelled by him.  There were eight such qualities or characteristics.  As a PUA I worked to recognize any such latent traits within my personality, and fix them.  The anti-seducer trait I would associate with Aziz Ansari, quite strongly in fact, is known as the Brute.  Greene’s exact definition of the Brute is as follows:

If seduction is a kind of ceremony or ritual, part of the pleasure is its duration-the time it takes, the waiting that increases anticipation.  Brutes have no patience for such things; they are concerned only with their own pleasure, never with yours.  To be patient is to show that you are thinking of the other person, which never fails to impress.  Impatience has the opposite effect: assuming you are so interested in them you have no reason to wait, Brutes offend you with their egotism.  Underneath that egotism, too, there is often a gnawing sense of inferiority, and if you spurn them or make them wait, they overreact.  If you suspect you are dealing with a Brute, do a test-make that person wait.  His or her response will tell you everything you need to know.

To his credit, when Grace finally decided it was over he didn’t get angry, so this isn’t an exact fit.  However so much else – the impatience, being only concerned with his own pleasure, the egotism and entitlement – rings true to me.  I genuinely don’t think Aziz Ansari is a horrible person, and that he felt bad and sorry once he realized how upset Grace was.  However failure to reform his inner brute led to the night tanking, and then things really blowing up in his face when her story came out.

At this point a man reading this is probably wondering the following: so where is my agency in all of this?  When do I get to act upon my needs and desires?  It sounds like all I’m doing is whatever she wants.  Yes, yes it does.  As we will see in the following page, a woman’s desire can be quite powerful, but also…tricky.  Deep down she’s rooting for you, both of you wouldn’t have gotten this far if she wasn’t interested in having sex with you.  But there’s usually several competing needs that she’s juggling in her head, sexual desire being only one of them.  Unlike a man who has only one thing on his mind in these situations.  These needs have to be met before she can give reign to her own physical desires, and sometimes they can never be dealt with in a particular encounter.  We can never really know how much of Grace’s actions were done out of her own sexual desire, and how much of it was to placate Ansari in the hopes of this leading to something more than a sexual encounter.  Was she open to having sex with him when she agreed to come back to his apartment, or was she just doing it to appease him?  Was there a point in that 30 minute spell of her warding him off before she finally snapped, where if he had changed it up, she could have been brought back to being a willing participant?  Ansari’s continued escalation created a pattern of behaviour where she was continuously rejecting everything he wanted to do.  So what could he have done?  He should have remembered that ultimately you can’t control someone else’s actions, only your own.  At a certain point he should have clued in that they both wanted different things.  He had assumed that since Grace was so enamoured with him, sex was guaranteed.  She clearly had other thoughts, perhaps precisely because she liked him so much.  There is one thing he could have done to reassert his own agency over the situation, it doesn’t sound particularly effective, but in practice it’s surprisingly powerful – He could have walked way (or at least been ready to) from the whole situation.  The willingness to walk away, and this can’t be faked, is crucial in any encounter.  Her resolve may crumble when she realizes you’ve found your balls, or it may not.  Either way it’s better than sticking around trying to pressure her into doing something she doesn’t want to do.  I would have especially recommended this in Aziz Ansari’s case, since he was clearly lacking in the seduction skills department.  One of the factors in effectively carrying this out, really in not being that bothered about any particular girl, is as I wrote in a previous section – having an abundance mentality.  So around the fifth time that Grace has moved his hand away when he was attempting the claw, he could have said the following:

Aziz: Hey Grace…look I’m feeling like we’re not on the same level here.  I want you to know I’m really not looking to get into a relationship right now.  Maybe you should call an Uber and go home.

Grace: …

I have no idea what Grace would have said.  If she quickly agreed, then he did the right thing.  Clearly she hadn’t already done it because she didn’t want to piss him off/disappoint him.  But if she doesn’t want to go home then who knows what could have happened.  But there would have been a subtle shift in the dynamic of power in his favour.

Thanks for reading to the end of this article.  I hope you enjoyed it.  The next article delves deeper into the secrets of male and female desire.