I’ve been so disappointed with the majority of responses to the Aziz Ansari allegations of sexual assault or misconduct or ickiness, or whatever you want to call it. Here is the point I think you should take away from it.
Ansari ignored a woman’s various expressions of “no” repeatedly for hours. You know who else does that a lot? Cops interrogating an innocent person they believe is guilty. You know what happens when cops do that? Some people eventually give up and confess to something they didn’t do, serve years in prison, and aren’t exonerated until the Innocence Project comes along. If the Innocence Project can even help them. A lot of people die in prison from false confessions, and we know they are false because of DNA. This is a known, documented, studied phenomenon.
The process by which police wear down suspects is the same process that men use to wear women down until they “consent” to unwanted sex after their expressions of non-consent have been ignored enough times. There’s a lot of gaslighting – “you’ll feel better if you confess”, lies about having damning evidence against the suspect, guilt trips about how the victim’s family will feel better with closure, and illegal promises of leniency in exchange for a confession.
If you’re like me, you’re thinking you still wouldn’t confess. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t. But that’s because some of us are blessed with forceful, stubborn personalities. It’s not a virtue: your personality is a combination of genetics and your early life experiences. But if we were all stubborn and forceful, the human race would have murdered itself out of existence long ago. That’s why nature evolved gentler personality types. We need both kinds.
Unfortunately, gentler personalities are easy for forceful personalities to take boss around or take advantage of. As a young adult, I spent some time working in sales and discovered I’m one of those people who can persuade people to buy almost anything. The problem was that after they left me and the magic spell I had woven around the transaction, their own instincts would re-emerge and they would develop buyer’s remorse. And I can’t stand that. It made me feel like I’d stolen my commission straight out of their wallet.
It appears Ansari doesn’t have that problem. He can sleep just fine after pushing someone into doing something they don’t really want. I doubt this is because he’s some remorseless sociopath (I know of no reason to think he is). It’s probably just that as a boy, he was never required to monitor and take responsibility for all the emotions in the room. Woman are – seriously. We are required to detect upset people even when they’re hiding their feelings. We are required to offer them shoulders to cry on, no matter what else we’ve got going on. I’m not very good at this, so I know: not managing the emotions of all the random people around you, especially the men, causes other women to lecture me, remind me of my responsibility for others’ feelings, or just call me a nasty word.
Taking that much responsibility for other people’s feelings is very draining. It’s a part-time job. It’s one more chore that gets entirely left to women because men can always plausibly deny that they know anything about it. And we accept that – we know they probably weren’t even raised to feel responsibility for the feelings they cause in others, let alone the ones they had nothing to do with.
Ideally, we would socialize all kids, boys and girls, somewhere in between. We’d all learn to take more responsibility for other people’s feelings than boys are usually taught, and less responsibility than girls are often taught. And then Ansari would have felt compelled to back off at her first no. He would have needed to back off in his own interests, so he could sleep at night.
But he didn’t. Is that because he’s some kind of sexual assailant or harasser? Or is it because he’s just a typical guy? And which answer is more frightening?