When I first read about the accusations being made against Aziz Ansari, my immediate thought was, "Yup. I've been on plenty of dates that felt similar." The acts may have been different — I never had someone perform "The Claw" on me — but this one time I did have a man repeatedly shove his thumb in my mouth as we made out, even after I asked him to stop. If I ever want your finger in my mouth, trust me: I will put it there. I've also been known to say "we should take it slow" in order to calmly and politely suggest that we stop for a bit, yet despite this request, I once had a date agree to slow down — only to continue what he was doing.
I read all the comments on Babe's bombshell story, and it was there that I saw many people saying that she was an adult who could have left, many people wondering why she did things after saying she didn't want to. They said she "sent mixed signals." But when the action in question is that a man "physically pulled her hand towards his penis multiple times," I'm not sure where that signal got mixed. At what point do you think it would occur to Ansari that if she wanted to touch his penis, he wouldn't have to keep pulling her hand to where it was?
Grace's story is yet more evidence of a clear societal problem that needs to be rectified, in addition to the eradication of the unholy practice of victim blaming. How she responded is not the problem; what he did and what our culture teaches men and women about their behavior toward one another — that's the real problem.
Women are taught to be polite and accommodating. On the Jan. 13 episode of Saturday Night Live, Aidy Bryant honed in on this exact problem. She discussed how women apologize all the time for no reason, many of us doing this out of concern for our safety, concern that if we don't carefully tiptoe around the word "no," it might enrage the other person into harming us. Even if we do say no, that doesn't automatically stop the other person; we aren't machines that magically freeze at the utterance of a code word, and it's easy to forget that we can be turned off just as quickly as we can be turned on. If I was in the mood to have sex when we went for coffee, but no longer am in the mood once we're kissing, I don't owe you anything. And for what it's worth, the same sentiment applies in the other direction.
On a similar note but on a much smaller scale, these situations are not unlike those in which a stranger tells you to smile on the street. If you ignore them, they will get frustrated and call you names — or sometimes they'll follow you for a bit before giving up and moving on. If you respond or just do as they say and smile, you've effectively given this stranger the OK to talk to you. But if you smile and attempt to hinder further conversation, you're then just giving "mixed signals" and can, ultimately, be classified as "asking for it." It's not fair or right, and it's a situation that we need to seriously reevaluate going forward.
It's important to note that this sentiment affects our decision-making when it comes to leaving a potentially harmful situation, too. When I'm on a date in someone else's home or even in a public place, why don't I just leave? Well, I once stayed on a date for two hours (even after he called me boring and lame) because I feared walking to my car, alone, in the dark. What if he followed me? What if he got aggressive when I tried to make my way home? So in that situation, I stayed and was polite until I knew it was safe to walk away. But when I stood up to go, he told me that I couldn't leave until we made out, to which I responded that while I had fun I had to go; I had to get up early the next day. Why did I lie? Because he was standing between me and the door, because I did not want to be walked to my car in the dark by this stranger who wanted to "make out" or possibly more. I told him that he was great and asked if he felt any chemistry between us. He said we wouldn't know until we made out. I continued to be as polite as possible. I told him I was tired. In response, he told me I was a b*tch who didn't give him a chance. I apologized and he finally let me go. And that's why I don't "just leave" — why women don't "just leave."
Being a woman is incredibly tricky. I'm privileged enough to be cis, white passing, and straight passing. Being transgender, disabled, and/or a woman of color is even more difficult. Maneuvering through these situations means making sure that I'm nice enough that I'm not considered a shrew, but not too nice because then anything that might happen to me as a result could be my own fault. Ultimately, we walk a thin line that can be moved without our knowledge.
I know I sound paranoid, as if I believe every man on the street might physically harm me. But there's a reason I feel this way, and it's because I know that "every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted." Growing up, I was told to "play coy" and "play hard to get." As young women, we're instructed not to say that we enjoy sex because then we're "sluts," but encouraged not to be prudes, either. On the other hand, boys are taught that women like to be chased, sought after, and wooed into submission. They're told that females are mysterious, and often don't say what they mean. In other words, we are literally teaching children to grow up to misunderstand each other.
The only solution I can think of is eliminating these "niceties" on both sides. Men need to stop thinking that "hard to get" is a game that women want to play, that we won't simply say we want to have sex if we do. If we want your finger in our mouths, we will put it there. And honestly, if Grace wanted to touch Aziz Ansari's penis, she would have done so without hesitation.
Going forward, in this #TimesUp world, let's stop asking things like "want to come over and chill?" when we mean, "want to come over and go down on me?" and take people at their word. When she says, "I don't want to feel forced," look at what it is that it is happening, what's making her feel forced — and stop forcing her.
Let's get to a place where we all feel safe saying what we mean, not fearing that this will "take the romance" out of a situation or ruin the mood. When I feel safe, respected, and comfortable, there's nothing sexier than my partner describing what they'd like to do with me. But we need to get to that place first.
And finally, let's use words that mean what they mean. Let's accept "no," without argument or discussion. Let's make people feel safe and respected before trying to grope them, because I'm down for a lot of things, but only after I know that you're someone I can trust.
Yael Tygiel is a writer, entertainment host, and body positivity activist. Read her thoughts on entertainment on Yael.TV and body positivity on TheFatGirlShow. Keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.
Image Source: Getty / Kevin Winter
Have you ever wondered if you are giving the right signals when you are dating?
Here's what I know...
Women pay attention to what a guy says more than what he does even though we all know that actions speak louder than words. Translation: If you say you are going to do something like invite her to go out with your friends this weekend , even if you don't actually ever mention it again, she is still going to fixate more on the fact that you said it and then didn't do it rather than just the fact that you didn't do it.
With regard to calling after the date, it is better to say, "I will talk to you soon" as opposed to "I will talk to you tomorrow." Women take these type of statements very literally and they notice when that call doesn't come "tomorrow" but instead comes three days later. If you had said "I will call you soon" you would have gotten brownie points for the call three days later, but because you said "tomorrow" now you will be penalized for your efforts.
If you are not romantically interested in someone, then you shouldn't plan another date to see them. In the dating arena, people are not looking for "new friends", they are looking for relationships. If you ask someone out for another date or if you accept another date, the presumption is that there is romantic interest. Hence, if you are only going out again to be nice, don't do this because going under false pretenses is actually not "nice" at all. However, if you aren't certain as of yet how you feel about someone, it is okay to go out again and try to figure your feelings out; no one is expected to know instantaneously if someone is right for them for the long haul and sometimes it takes a few tries to figure that out.
Texting back and forth the next day implies romantic interest. If you are thinking that texting in a fun, back and forth way will morph you into instantaneous "friends", you are wrong. Any type of back and forth and fun banter makes the other person think you are interested in them and interested in seeing them for another date. If you are not, don't be in touch in that way. Friendship might be a possibility in the future, but not the day after the date.
Talking to your date about the other people you are dating while on the date gives a mixed message. Yes, when we were younger, trying to make the other person jealous and trying to make it seem like we were "oh so popular" with a very full dance card was very in vogue. However, today when you are an adult and looking for a real relationship, this is not the right way to entice and maintain interest from someone you are dating. It is understood in dating that you are not a shut-in and that you have and get asked on other dates, but it is also understood that it is not proper etiquette to talk about others on a date. If you talk about all your other dates on a date, your date will probably assume you aren't interested, so if you are, keep your active social life to yourself.
Kissing if you are not romantically interested in someone is a huge mixed signal. If you aren't romantically interested and you know that the other person is interested in you, go find your "nookie" somewhere else. If you make out with someone on a date, that person is going to expect to hear from you again and is going to expect that the two of you will be going out on another date. Why wouldn't he or she expect that? And keep in mind that even if the kiss was "just okay" the recipient is still going to expect another date because first date kisses always get "do-over" because of the awkwardness of the moment.
No kiss also gives a signal. If someone goes in for the kiss kill and you turn your cheek, turn away or greet them with sealed lips, even out of nervousness, this will imply that you are not romantically interested. If you were actually interested in the person and sent the wrong signal by accident, you need to let the person know asap. Perhaps the next day, send a text and be cute, "had fun last night, looking forward to trying that "end part" again. :)". The best way to clarify a mixed signal is to give a clear signal or at least a signal that has a hint of clarity!
Samantha Daniels is a well known Professional Matchmaker, President of Samantha's Table Matchmaking and the author of Matchbook: The Diary of a Modern Day Matchmaker (Simon & Schuster).
Follow Samantha Daniels on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MatchmakerSD