Backlash to Aziz Ansari story shows why #MeToo hasnt gone far enough

Are you a man whos worried about how to negotiate the heterosexual dating landscape now that all kinds of behaviours.


Are you a man whos worried about how to negotiate the heterosexual dating landscape now that all kinds of behaviours are being called out as creepy? Thats good youre getting it.

Feeling beleaguered because you have to watch what you say these days? Thats exactly what has to happen if were going to make the profound changes required to end woman abuse.

In other words, while some high-profile women think the #MeToo movement is getting too extreme, I think going deep is a very good thing.

Reading the letter signed by 100 French artists and writers including cinema icon Catherine Deneuve yes, I know shes backpedalled, but still it seems she forgot the #MeToo movement started as a response to conditions in the workplace. A caress of the thigh out of the blue or an unwanted kiss is not something women should have to put up with in order to get on with their job.

But I do appreciate Deneuves language. The letter refers to workplace harassment as trying to steal a kiss. Exactly, its theft and wrong inside or outside the workplace. And the French artists bemoan what will be lost if men are discouraged from hitting on women. I love that phrase: hit on. Says it all.

The operative guidelines for men in the workplace seem simple enough: stop making comments, keep your hands to yourselves and this should be obvious keep your junk in your pants. Live by those rules and you should have no problems.

But now the conversation has turned to dating, and its getting more complicated in the wake of writer Katie Ways article on Babe.net describing an anonymous woman using the name Graces not-so-happy encounter with comedian Aziz Ansari.

Hit on is exactly what Ansari did to Grace while she was in his apartment. Many times she asked him to slow down. Many times he didnt. She gave him all the verbal and physical cues she could, short of walking out of the door. Only when she finally did leave did she realize she felt violated.

The backlash to Grace has been fierce. Ansaris defenders ask: Why didnt she leave? It reminds me of the questions posed to Jian Ghomeshis accusers when they chose to meet up with him again. One of them said she was so confused by the encounter she thought that maybe, having been away from the dating scene, shed missed a cue or given one, unintentionally. She wanted to understand what went wrong.

When her date with Ansari quickly moved to his apartment, Grace couldnt figure out what kept going wrong and kept trying to make it right. In these instances, women tend to want to solve the situation rather than remove themselves.

Theres controversy over whether Ansari assaulted her. Legally, it doesnt matter: shes not pressing charges. Grace describes his behaviour as that of an entitled horny 18-year-old and that it felt like assault to her. On another level, and this is important, Ansari apparently behaved the way many men act when they have a woman in their house. Pursue. Grope. Grab. Repeat.

Time to try another dating strategy. How about talking? Ask a woman what she wants and when she answers, take her seriously. Many times Ansari asked, Where do you want me to fuck you? She never said she wanted to fuck. So give up, already.

But Graces critics are more apt to say that is just part of the dating dance and women have to suck it up and move on. And besides, we walk into treacherous waters if we blur the lines and equate rape with the so-called clumsy pass.

To say the latter is to suggest that a brutal abusers behaviour should dictate what lesser offenders should get away with. Why should offenders get away with anything? Why do women have to say, Oh, this is minor, Ill put up with it. As if the minor offences, one after the other, day after day, dont have their own accumulative, soul-crushing impact.

The backlashers insist that well end up eliminating the flirting, the banter and the deliciousness from romantic courtship. You cant even make a comment to a woman these days.

But that doesnt mean were ending the dance were changing it.

Now is the time for the mating dance to go under the microscope. Men assume women want compliments, women are taught to smile nicely and express our appreciation even when the attention is unwanted. Men pursue, women surrender. The language of sexual intercourse includes suggestions of violation: women get nailed, banged and porked.

Men are not the problem toxic masculinity is, whether its exercised at gunpoint or via a casual ass grab. True, things have changed in that its more common for a woman to ask a man out, but there has always been the assumption that a clumsy pass from a guy, even if its physical, is just, well, a clumsy pass.

Thats because theres widespread acceptance of the pursue, grope, grab strategy, which is exactly what needs to be questioned. Lately, men like Ansari are being compelled to do some self-scrutiny. He did, in fact, express remorse, saying he must have missed something during his date with Grace and is truly sorry. What he missed is that in the #MeToo era, it can no longer be sexual business as usual. What he considers normal is the kind behaviour for which men are now being held accountable.

Its all complicated by the fact that I cant think of any male experience that compares to what women go through when were harassed. It would be so much easier to explain it if we could say, Its like this, or that. But unfortunately, even the basics are hard to grasp. For example, when a strange woman presses up against a man on public transit, he might experience it more as an opportunity (or at worst, an annoyance) than a threat.

My message to men feeling panic in this new environment is this: if you care about women, youll participate in the process of assessing your behaviour. If that means you have to question every word you say, every action you take, then thats what may be required to transform the paradigm.

Change is never easy and this one which encompasses everything from intimacy to personal identity and expression is going to be especially uncomfortable.

And youll get something out of it too less pressure, better communication and clarity. Ultimately, those things make for the best outcome: a meaningful connection.

susanc@nowtoronto.com | @susangcole

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