What Aziz Ansari, And Most Straight Men, Don't Get About Consent.

As a gay man, I have been conditioned to navigate and appreciate discussions about consent.
01/17/2018 12:59 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2018
Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

More than any other current sex abuse claim in Hollywood, the recent Aziz Ansari scandal seems to have flamed up passions surrounding what consent is and is not. Straight men and more women than I’d like to admit (looking at you, Ashleigh Banfield) are crying foul on the star’s accuser, who has admitted to oral sex with him just before she claims he crossed the line.

To be fair, this situation is a little murkier than those of Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey. In those cases, there seemed to be an almost predatory approach to systematically assaulting their accusers. With Ansari, however, there doesn’t seem to be ― on the surface anyway ― any real intent to abuse. He found himself in a situation, like many men, where he claims (in hindsight) he was unable to accurately read his partner’s willingness to engage sexually. I can’t say I’m shocked.

We’ve done such a piss-poor job of educating our nation’s kids when it comes to sexual health overall, it really isn’t surprising that Ansari, like most men who have sex with women, has as much trouble spotting consent as they have spotting a clitoris. Although, speaking as a man whose never actually seen a vagina in his life, neither is that hard to find when you’re actually looking for them. So, I’d like to give some advice to Ansari, and all the other straight men out there who don’t know what went wrong here and would like to avoid the mess the Master of None star is currently in. My advice? Have sex like you’re gay! And no, I’m not talking about back door stuff.

Now it should go without saying that all gay men aren’t the same and some do things that others wouldn’t. Defining consent is an issue within all communities and the gay world is no exception. But there are certain norms within the gay community that when followed, may make for a more “woke” dating and sexual experience than you’re used to. Besides, if you’re honestly expecting anyone, anywhere to speak with absolute authority for an entire demographic of individuals, then the internet probably isn’t for you.

You can read Ansari’s accuser’s full interview of what she claims happened at babe.net. According to the woman, who asked to be referred to as Grace, the encounter started with a date ― a rather short one.

“Grace says she sensed Ansari was eager for them to leave. “When the waiter came over he quickly asked for the check and he said like, ’Let’s get off this boat.” She recalls there was still wine in her glass and more left in the bottle he ordered. The abruptness surprised her. “Like, he got the check and then it was bada-boom, bada-bing, we’re out of there.”

Advice from a gay guy: I’m always talking about how necessary it is for gay men to be upfront with their prospective partners in order to have fulfilling sex lives. There are so many scenes and types of sex gay men can have together, it’s not uncommon to get your desires and expectations for sex out in the open before the first date so you know whether you’re even compatible. Personally, I haven’t walked into a date in years where I didn’t already know what kind of sex my date liked to have, how often they like to have it, and what their sexual expectations were for that very night. If Grace’s account of the evening is to be believed, it’s obvious, to me anyways, that Ansari was angling to get physical without having clearly stated his intentions.

Now, I know what you’re saying: “If you can pick up on the fact that Aziz wanted to have sex, shouldn’t she have been expected to?” Umm, no. And that’s a slippery slope to go down. Never assume what your partner “thinks” your intentions are. People come from very personal points of view when it comes to sex. Taking an invitation to dinner is not a yes. Wearing a short skirt is not a yes. Going home with you is not a yes. In short, nothing means yes except yes! You may also be saying, “Women aren’t men. There’s no way I could be that frank without being slapped across the face.” First off, man that sucks. I’m so happy I only have to worry about sex with men. Secondly, I’m not recommending you go out into the world and start continue sending dick pics to random women and asking them their favorite positions. That’s literally sexual harassment. Duh!

Consent begins with communication. Be clear and honest about your expectations and you can’t go wrong. If you need a practical tip, try asking your date at what point during relationships do they prefer to begin physical intimacy? Easy, right? Now let’s say she responds by saying she usually has sex on the first date. Does that mean she’s consented to sex with you? Nope! Not even close. Remember, nothing means yes except yes. And why should you have to do all the guess work anyways? It’s the 21st century. Make her work (for half the pay). Let her come halfway before you even think about making a move.

Imagine where Ansari would be now had he chosen to express his desire to get physical with his date before heading back to his place after dinner? She’d have had ample opportunity to voice her reservations, state her limits or even gleefully pull a strip of condoms from her purse and shout “woohoo” into the night sky. Or, whatever women do when they want to have sex. I have no clue.

Back to Grace’s story. Shortly after the two arrive at Ansari’s apartment, they began kissing and eventually had oral sex. As she describes this encounter in the article, she talks about how uncomfortable she was with moving so fast. She explains that while she gave no verbal protests, she did send off a fair amount of nonverbal cues, which she continued to do throughout her time in the apartment. So she didn’t say “no.” It’s all her fault, right? Nope again!

Advice from a gay guy: There’s been a lot of talk about nonverbal cues because of this accusation. “What are they? How can anyone expect to read them accurately?” You “straighties” crack me up. Gay men (minus George Takei) are used to picking up on nonverbal cues, because there was a time when they were literally all we had. In fact, depending on where you live in this world, that time has yet to pass. Paying attention to our prospective partner’s nonverbal cues was the only way you knew they were gay and wanted to engage in sex. One thing I’ve noticed is that in heterosexual dating there are far too many assumptions about what your partner wants or doesn’t want. In the gay world, we rarely assume anything about sex with someone.

Look, I’m not going to sugar coat this: communication is a two-way street. In an ideal world, Grace would have felt the confidence and safety in her situation to be more vocal about what she was feeling, but let’s not confuse one person’s responsibility with another’s. Sex is a 50/50 game. Or, 25/25/25/25, depending on whether there’s a pride event in town. If you notice that the sexual encounter you’re in the midst of has been initiated by you alone, then you should take a moment to check in with your partner and make sure that you, in fact, have their consent. Just because someone doesn’t claw your eyes out doesn’t mean they want to have sex with you.

This next part is where things get a bit more confusing. After they engaged in oral sex, Grace claims she told Ansari that she didn’t want to go any further after he said he was going to grab a condom. But he continued to pressure her. This took the form of following her closely around the apartment every time she moved. Putting his fingers in her mouth before grabbing at her genitals, and placing her hand on his penis repeatedly even after she continued pulling it away. One exchange recounted by Grace is particularly telling. It occurred after she claims Ansari kept asking her where in the apartment she wanted to have sex?

“I wasn’t really even thinking of that, I didn’t want to be engaged in that with him. But he kept asking, so I said, ‘Next time.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, you mean second date?’ and I go, ‘Oh, yeah, sure,’ and he goes, ’Well, if I poured you another glass of wine now, would it count as our second date?” After this, Grace excused herself to the bathroom where she pulled herself together and then came back out and said to Ansari “…I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.”

Advice from a gay guy: To make my backdoor analogy once more, frankly speaking, anal sex hurts. At least a little, every time. Picking up on cues from your partner that they’re constantly engaged and enjoying sex is second nature to many gay men, who have all had moments where they’ve asked to participate in, or asked to stop in the middle of, what started out as consensual sex. Aside from having literally no game, Ansari seemed to be ignoring fairly clear signs that Grace was not in the mood for any further sexual contact.

One of the sketchier arguments I saw repeated time and again to discredit “Grace” was that she had already engaged in oral sex with Ansari before the point at which she claims she was assaulted. Let’s be very clear, at any point during any sexual encounter, your partner has the right to want to stop. If you persist, despite her urging you to stop, then you my friend are now committing sexual assault. And any activity you have or have not engaged in previously does not matter! It’s not just me who says so. Every state in the country, minus Mississippi, have laws on the book that reflect this view of rape. And honestly, do we really want Mississippi taking the lead on anything?

Minus the backdoor references, my advice boils down to two simple points. Honest communication and awareness of your partner. Now it might sound like a lot of work to constantly check in with your partner to see if they are enjoying sex and that’s because you’re a straight man, and by definition, a selfish ass. You’re literally the only people on the planet (minus a few lucky lesbians) who have never had, and will never have, a penis in your mouth. Look, if it’s any consolation, your partner will have a much more enjoyable experience if you are a more aware lover, which in turn will make you better at sex. So, see? It’s not all bad.

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