January 18, 2018
Now that some of the dust has settled (the key word being “some”), I’m going to give my take on the Aziz Ansari situation. Note that I actually wrote this on Monday evening, right after the story broke, and decided today that it was worth sending. Without further ado…
I’m going to write about something taboo. Or maybe it’s not taboo. I just don’t know anymore. I’m writing this in the wake of the most recent allegation of sexual misconduct, this time against Aziz Ansari, our beloved Dev from Master of None and comedian extraordinaire. He went on a very bad date with Grace, who changed her name for her public outcry. On this date, Aziz allegedly (and I say “allegedly” not because I don’t believe the account of the date—in fact, it’s quite specific—but because it’s still one person’s word against another) forced sexual behaviors—oral sex, both ways—upon Grace, who expressed that she was uncomfortable. He, apparently, did not relent. This is where things start getting murky. Did he mistake her accepting of oral sex as a sign that she wanted more? Did he misread her signals indicating that she wanted to stop? Did she express herself clearly? Did her tone and body language match her actions? I can’t answer any of these questions, of course, because I was not there. Based on her account, it’s clear to me that he behaved very, very badly. It’s also clear that the whole thing is unclear. What I can say, though, is that, as a dating coach, my male clients are confused. Dating in the time of #MeToo is hard, and it’s actually hardest for some of the nice guys.
I work with quite a few male clients who are less secure — or lack dating confidence — for one reason or another. These particular clients interpret this movement as, “I don’t know whether to ask someone out anymore because it might be harassment.” “What if I go in for the kiss, and she doesn’t want it? Is that harassment?” “If I text someone after a date, and she doesn’t get back to me, and then I text again, is that harassment?”
With a recent male client, this internal debate reared its head when he and a woman decided—mutually—to go to her place after a third date. The woman wanted to have sex. My client wasn’t sure. They undressed. They were about to do the deed, when he asked, “Are you okay?” He wanted oral confirmation, or “enthusiastic consent,” as we’ve been reading about. He did not want to proceed in the absence of that. Rather than waiting for a “no,” he was waiting for a “yes.” This question backfired on him, unfortunately. She didn’t answer (I guess they were in the throes of passion), so he asked again. That’s when things took a different turn. She was so turned off by his lack of “confidence” that she ended the sexual experience, leaving him both annoyed and confused. He emailed me afterward and said, “I guess I should have just f**ked her.” I told him he did the right thing.
I’m not sure if I even have a point to what I’m writing. I feel for every victim of sexual misconduct or harassment, of which I am in the unlucky club, too. (I have a personal story not as graphic but with similar undertones to “Grace’s” story. In the end, I did feel disrespected, but I was more angry with myself for not being the strong person I know myself to be.) No one should have to endure that. Ever. But, when my female clients tell me they want a take-charge kind of guy, the kind who asks them out confidently and who pays for the bill, what they have to remember is that things are now blurred. One woman wants this treatment and another wants to yell “I am woman, hear me roar” and not be treated to anything. A woman may want a man to push her against a wall and kiss her on a date because it’s sexy. Another may view this same action as sexual harassment. Neither of them is wrong. But men, at least some of those I’m working with, are shying away from taking risks and making the approach. It’s just an interesting and strange outcome of such a serious movement, and I see it every day.
To give one piece of advice: Be a good person. If you feel like you’re doing something wrong, don’t do it. And if you feel like you’re doing something right, go for it. But if and when you ever get a “no,” quit. Period.