No More Mr. Nice Guy

by Lacey Cencula

And thus, a man who donned a “Time’s Up” pin to the Golden Globes is the latest to have his clock run out.

As an avid Parks and Rec fan, I was upset to learn of the sexual misconduct allegations hedged against Aziz Ansari this week. Many were quick to point out that it was ironic for the self-proclaimed feminist to be caught in this situation. If Mr. Nice-Guy-That-Respects-Women can be pinned for sexual assault, who is safe???

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The prevalence of sexual assault in our culture has been the topic of discussion for several months now, with TIME Magazine even honoring those that spoke out about the issue, bringing it into mainstream culture. With Ansari’s situation, however, the discussion surrounding it has been uniquely different than allegations of other men.

In the released story, the woman details her sexual encounter with Ansari. Many people have argued that what takes place is not sexual assault, but merely an “awkward” sexual encounter. People wonder that if we add what Aziz did to the list of wrong behavior, where does it end? Is anyone not a perpetrator? “Just let the boys play, ref!”

Aziz’s story isn’t one of “he forcefully raped her and that’s why it’s wrong.” It’s the more commonplace notion that as a man, you should keep making advances towards a woman until she either gives in or runs away screaming. What this situation reveals is how behavior often viewed by men in the past as “normal” has always been viewed as uncomfortable by women. What our culture has deemed as acceptable is not working for women, and often this behavior is harmful and threatening.

It is deeply concerning that so many men read that story and seriously thought “What’s the issue?”

That’s how prevalent rape culture has been embedded into our society: that this predatory type of behavior has been twisted to be viewed as acceptable, or worse, flattering.

Now, with every sexual assault story that breaks, the inevitable “Why didn’t she just say ‘No’?” argument is shouted from the masses. After multiple cues, both verbal and non-verbal, were given by the woman to Ansari about her discomfort, she was left feeling that the only way to safely get out of the situation was to give him what he wanted. And here’s a newsflash: coercion does not equal consent. She evaluated her situation and felt forced to do something she didn’t want to solely so she could leave that night and safely return home. The sad thing is, that is not a unique experience. “Well, I could say ‘No’ and possibly send him into a rage and cause myself harm. Or I can give him what he wants so I can go home” shouldn’t be a decision women have to weigh in their heads.

I don’t know of a woman that doesn’t have some sort of line to get out of unwanted advances with a man.

“Sorry, I have a boyfriend.”

“I don’t feel too well.”

“I have class early in the morning.”

The list is endless. And why? Why do we need to carry an arsenal of excuses at all times? It’s because just saying “No” doesn’t work-- and that’s the whole problem.

Oftentimes men continue their pursuit, even after being given a “no.” It’s been taught to them their entire lives that women are theirs for the taking; if she doesn’t want me, she better have a really good reason.

Ansari kept pushing even after listening to the woman’s concerns. And what does it teach men: that if they keep pushing, they’ll eventually get what they want. Who cares if they had to pressure the woman into doing it; they got laid right? Call it a night.

With Ansari’s case, we see how far rape culture has entrenched our society. Even a self-proclaimed feminist and “good guy” can cross the line when it comes to sexual behavior. Women are finally speaking up to let everyone know that behavior once viewed as normal for far too long, is in fact demeaning, threatening, forceful, and unacceptable.

Time’s up: better late than never.

 

A helpful thread:

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Lacey Cencula