Writer, comedian, activist, and frequent New York Times op-ed contributor Lindy West puts an end to the countless debates surrounding the Babe.net article involving Aziz Ansari and a women going by the alias Grace.
Here is an excerpt from her article:
In the summer of 2014 (perhaps as Ansari was writing his own book), the California Legislature passed a bill requiring “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” unleashing a debate on the efficacy of “yes means yes” that consumed the blogosphere for months. “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent,” the bill stated. Feminist publications covered the issue exhaustively. In October 2014, Ansari appeared on “The Late Show With David Letterman” and declared himself a feminist.
There is a reflexive tendency, when grappling with stories of sexual misconduct like the accusations leveled at Ansari this past weekend — incidents that seem to exist in that vast gray area between assault and a skewed power dynamic — to point out that sexual norms have changed. This is true. The line between seduction and coercion has shifted, and shifted quickly, over the past few years (the past few months, even). When I was in my 20s, a decade ago, sex was something of a melee. “No means no” was the only rule, and it was still solidly acceptable in mainstream social circles to bother somebody until they agreed to have sex with you. (At the movies, this was called romantic comedy.)
What’s not true is the suggestion that complex conversations about consent are new territory, or that men weren’t given ample opportunity to catch up.
The books and articles and incidents and perspectives I listed above are nowhere near comprehensive, nor are they perfect, nor are they all in alignment with one another. But they are part of an extensive body of scholarship and activism, and they have been there this whole time for anyone who cared enough to pay attention. You don’t have to agree with the Antioch rules to be aware that they exist. You don’t have to build a shrine to Brownmiller to internalize the fact that women and femmes are autonomous human beings, many of whom felt dehumanized and unsatisfied by the old paradigm.
The notion of affirmative consent did not fall from space in October 2017 to confound well-meaning but bumbling men; it was built, loudly and painstakingly and in public, at great personal cost to its proponents, over decades. If you’re fretting about the perceived overreach of #MeToo, maybe start by examining the ways you’ve upheld the stigmatization of feminism. Nuanced conversations about consent and gendered socialization have been happening every single day that Aziz Ansari has spent as a living, sentient human on this earth. The reason they feel foreign to so many men is that so many men never felt like they needed to listen. Rape is a women’s issue, right? Men don’t major in women’s studies.
It may feel like the rules shifted overnight, and what your dad called the thrill of the chase is now what some people are calling assault. Unfortunately, no one — even plenty of men who call themselves feminists — wanted to listen to feminist women themselves. We tried to warn you. We wish you’d listened, too.
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