It sounds like we have some questions about where we are in terms of Aziz Ansari behaving abominably, Grace's role in what happened, how this event relates to the broader #metoo movement.

is he nice?
or evil?
and who am i?
and what is earth?
and where are we?
and who's in charge?
and why isn't anything easy?
and where are the muffins?

Welcome to FAQ.

These are a few of the most common questions I've seen, collected from comments on Twitter, Facebook, my own blog, and other response pieces.

These answers are mostly sincere and just a little smartassed.


Why aren't you writing "Grace" in quotes?

Because this is my blog, not the Washington Post. And it's fucking annoying to add quotes around a name that I'm going to be writing a thousand times in this post.

You know who I'm talking about when I say Grace-no-quotes, right?

You're not at the end of the blog post like, woah, I thought you were talking about Princess Grace of Monaco, right?

huh
i had no idea
that she preferred red wine
with her lobster rolls

OK, so. Moving on.

Speaking of all that extra detail about how he ordered red wine even though she likes white, and leaving the table in a hurry... doesn't it seem like Grace was working really hard to make sure we all thought Ansari was a jerk?

You spotted that, too?

I'm going to ask you to draw a firm line between Grace the person and Grace's story in babe.net. It's easy for us to conflate the two, but it's really, really important that we not confuse the story with its telling.

Frankly, the reporting on babe.net was inexcusably sloppy. But don't take my word for it. Just ask Julianne Escobedo Shepherd at Jezebel, who identified the article as amateurish and botched in her piece, "Babe, What Are You Doing?"


...

from jezebel

This article is written very, very badly. And I'm not just talking about personal style. I'm talking about treatment of the subject matter as salacious gossip, while in the same breath identifying what happened as a serious crime. If you're writing an article about an assault, you don't include every breathless, humiliating detail.

This article has the sensational click-power of a sex tape, 
but is also asking us to take it seriously
as fact-based documentation
of sexual violence or misconduct. 

Of course we're having a hard time believing that it's reporting. It doesn't look like reporting. It looks like gossip.

Grace has every right to tell her story, and it's a goddamn shame that babe.net fucked her over so badly with this crappy article. I think that Babe.net sold Grace for clicks. It's also important to know that it's extremely unlikely that Grace had any input or oversight on the writing of this article. Her only chance to shape this narrative was likely in the way she told her story to the reporter who interviewed her, and when she's recounting a night that she describes as the worst of her life, it's not surprising that she might ramble or dwell on insignificant details (cough cough red or white).


Sure, he acted like a pig. But was it really ASSAULT?

So imagine you leave your garage door open, and you see your neighbor across the street. You wave, he comes over, you chat in your driveway for a minute.



You go back inside. Later, you come out to find your lawnmower is gone.



After you call around a little, you discover that your neighbor took your lawnmower out of your garage.

Now, you call this a theft. Hey, you took my mower.


bro
not cool


Your neighbor says, woah, nuh uh, I was just borrowing it. You invited me over. You left your garage door open. The mower was right there. We live across the street from each other. I assumed you wouldn't mind if I borrowed your mower.




Both you and your neighbor agree that he took the mower without asking. Both you and your neighbor probably agree that he should've asked. But at the time, he decided not to ask and just took what he wanted.

Is that a theft? Or is that just a shitty neighbor?

If everyone in the neighborhood was like, "Calm down, he didn't steal it. That's not a theft," would that change your feeling that he did steal it? It's your garage. It's your mower. You're the one who came out to find it missing, only to discover that someone you thought you could trust stole it.

When the facts aren't in question, 
the only thing left to divide people 
is how much they care 
about other people.
And that's a hard fight to win.

Now consider this. Which is the more effective conversation for the community to have:

a) Did he steal the mower or just borrow it?

b) What can we all do to make sure that people don't confuse open garage doors with free garage sales?

mic drop


Couldn't Grace have avoided this whole thing by not going to his apartment? Why do women do this to themselves? Good women keep their legs together or they get what they are asking for.*

Hi Doris! Thanks for chiming in.



Edited: I wrote this section to call out a specific kind of comment that was made by many women in their 60's, 70's, and 80's who called themselves feminists and then suggested that Grace, and often by extension all young women, are asking to be assaulted by engaging in sex with young men. It felt like an important element to include in the FAQ. However, a reader brought to my attention that some of the jokes I made in this section were just as mean-spirited and ageist as the original comments by these women (there was a whole thing with an avocado). 

I usually leave up content that I've learned is offensive, as a way to not be shady and hold myself accountable and also so people can learn from my mistakes. But this section was just mean joke after mean joke, and especially after reading Katie Way's email to Ashleigh Banfield, where Way (22 years old, as we learn in the email, and the writer of the original Babe.net piece) is so cruel, snide, and unprofessional to the older TV commentator, I was very uncomfortable by how similar her reprehensible message was to the "jokes" I cracked here. So I am removing the jokes but leaving the gif and the meat of the answer to the question.



And to answer your question, yes, she could have avoided this situation by not going to his apartment.

She could also avoid food poisoning if she never ate, but that's not how humans work. We have appetites: for food, for sex, for human connection.

Why is your solution that women should starve?


*This is a real quote, though names have been changed to protect the irritating.



Did Grace really say no though?

There are lots of places where I'll agree to disagree with you, but this isn't one of them.

She said no. Yes, she did.

And to me, the telling detail here is in the fact that he pulled her hand to his dick 5 to 7 times throughout the encounter.

Why would he have to pull her hand to his dick more than once, if she was into his dick?

Did he think she didn't know where his junk was located? Was he giving her a weiner tour? "And right here between my legs, you'll find MY BEST FAVORITE THING. Yep, right here. Nope, not on the counter, here between my legs. Nope, silly girl, not in your lap, right here."

Did he think she forgot about it? DID WE JUST CRACK GRACE'S SECRET IDENTITY???

huh
so
grace isn't white

Did he stop to consider the fact that she was removing her hand on purpose?

People know where junk is located. If you offer it, and they take it, that's an enthusiastic yes.

If you offer it, and they touch it for long enough to not piss you off and then find something else to do with that hand, that's a no.

"But she touched it!"
But did she keep touching it?
No.

Mumbling no is a no.

Pulling away is a no.

Saying "next time" is a no.

Literally anything less than "OMG YES!" is a no.

And if at any point in the hookup you notice that you're repeatedly pulling their limp or resistant hand to your junk, or they say "You guys are all the same," which has never not once not ever meant "You guys are all the same and you're a goddamn stallion," then you're hearing a no. That's allllll a no.

If you didn't know before, you know now. Do better.


But shouldn't she have just said a "NO" no? Like the way I would have said it if I'd been there?


Oh you mean like this?


nope
too small
OK, so maybe like this?


mmmmm
guys get boner face blindness
so they won't be able to see any of that really
do it better
Um ok... sooo.... 


yikes
calm down
that literally looks insane
that no is like
way too big
for one little hand in your mouth
eight to twelve times

I mean, I guess in a perfect world, Grace would have blown a whistle, popped a flare, and started screaming "STOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOP" the second that something happened that she didn't want.

But the world ain't perfect, people don't abandon a lifetime of habits, instincts, and conditioning to be pleasing as soon as you decide that it would please you if they could stop pleasing other people, and there are no magic words.

No matter what women do in compromising situations, there's always something more she should have done, says The Internet on The Day After.

If she'd said no six times and he'd persisted, you could ask why she didn't say no louder.

If she said no loudly and he kept going, you could ask why she didn't scream no and hit him.

If she screamed no and hit him and he held her down, you could ask why she didn't kick him in the balls and call 9-1-1.

If she kicked him in the balls and called 9-1-1 and he curled in a ball and cried, you could ask why  this damaged girl freaked out so hard. #girlsarecrazyiguess

She could have just said no.


Are guys actually capable of understanding nonverbal cues though?

Let's find out!

Guys, look at the girl in this gif and tell me what you see:



If you answered, "She wants it hot, wet, and in her mouth," then I can only assume you're referring to her coffee because unless you have a disability or difference that prevents you from reading social cues (and Ansari does not), YOU CAN CLEARLY SEE THAT THIS WOMAN IS UNCOMFORTABLE.

Follow-up question:

What if she were naked, with that same facial expression and body language? Would you be like BOI-YOI-YOI-YOING, this girl wants my dong! Hope not.

Follow-up question part 2:

What if she were in your apartment, removing your fingers from her mouth and saying "Slow down"?
Would you interpret that as, "Oh, okay, she wants to blow me now." Please say no.

Of course guys are capable of understanding when someone is uncomfortable.

OF COURSE YOU ARE. I refuse to accept that men are that stupid. I know too many good, smart guys to let the narrative become, "Once we reach a certain level of arousal all we can see is holes in your body."

I cannot even hear the argument of "But men are so dumb they just don't understand" anymore. It's insulting to men to assume they're incompetent, and it places sole responsibility for anything that happens on the other person in the room.

If you are reading this, you know what uncomfortable people look like. Don't fuck uncomfortable people. Don't pre-fuck uncomfortable people. Leave uncomfortable people alone.



Do you have a podcast episode about some of this?


Yes. It is insightful and funny and full of swears and a great story about Dave the Period Fairy.





So does she have any agency here? I thought women were powerful equals, but it seems like we're all agreeing that she was a poor helpless victim. So which is it?

So this question seems to boil down to confusion that women can feel empowered in one sphere, and vulnerable in another.

You're saying, women are so strong and smart and equal to men at work... but in sex women routinely go quiet while in a state of extreme fear or equivocation. What gives?

So real quick, just gonna outline why, for most of us, work is different from sex.

So for most of us, we're not naked at work. Ha ha ha, but seriously folks. Clothing does more than protect our skin from prickly shit; it protects our most vulnerable parts from harm. There is a reason that physicians and nurses aren't supposed to discuss medications or ask you questions about your medical history while you're undressed.

Also, for most of us, being penetrated (or the possibility of being penetrated) is not part of our work. Ha ha, I know, but seriously folks. If you've never taken one, you do not understand the unique vulnerability of literally allowing another person to enter your body.

Also, for most of us, if we embarrass or displease or shut down a coworker, he isn't in a state of arousal. On top of us. At work. HA. HA. I KNOW. BUT. SERIOUSLY. FOLKS.

Also, for most of us, we don't work in spheres where we understand that the danger of being hurt by your "work partner." If half of all murdered women died at the hands of a co-worker, I promise you Sheryl Sandberg's book would be called, "Be Nice and Live," not "Lean In."

*** Edited to add! I just thought of this! Women have professional role models! We see women excelling at work. We see professional women on TV and in the world. We're friends with them. We're related to them. We are them.

But when was the last time you saw a woman in a position of power in a sex act with a man? We don't see a lot of empowered lady sex role models. That does make it harder for us to imagine what strength in sex would look like, or that it is even possible for a woman to exercise agency in this sphere. If you don't agree with me, that's fine. I still like you. xoxo



Why didn't she just leave?

Sweet Baby Christ in Pampers, is GRACE STILL IN AZIZ ANSARI'S APARTMENT?!?!?!

I'm obviously being an assole, but I'm being an asshole to remind you that she did leave.

Thanks to the sloppy reporting at babe, we have no idea how long this encounter really lasted. But she did leave.

You're asking why didn't she leave earlier.

The answer is that she didn't go out on this date so that she could feel humiliated and find out that Ansari was a dick.

She went out on this date to have a good time. She wanted to connect with him. She wanted to enjoy herself.

And the first time you make out with someone, there are always little course corrections that have to happen, for both parties. So okay, he starts moving faster than she wants, and she says "Woah slow down," and then he doesn't really slow down. She starts to think, "Is this pace actually BAD or is it just different from what I'm used to? I'm not comfortable but maybe I could get comfortable. I already asked him to slow down. Maybe this is okay?"



A few minutes later: "Nope, don't like this. Don't like this at all." But now she's been there long enough that she feels like she might really owe it to both of them to give it another try.

And so on. And so on. She said "No," to him, and when he tried to bypass that no she said, "Maybe" to herself, until she couldn't say maybe anymore and then she left.

So okay, can we go bigger than this question, and call it what it is: "Why didn't she do what I did, or what I imagine I would do in the Die Hard version of my own life?"

I have a truth bomb for you.

You will never fully understand why other people do the things they do or when or how they do them. You aren't her. You weren't there. You will never, ever understand. Neither will I.

Somehow we have to find a way to believe they both Ansari and Grace are fully human, and therefore deserving of your empathy, and at the same time completely unknowable.


Why did she have to publicly call him out like this? God, it feels so humiliating and unnecessary.

I don't know.

Maybe she was furious to see him accepting a Golden Globe with a Time's Up pin.

Maybe she thought her story would spark an important conversation about consent and socialized sexual indifference to women's dignity.

I took a memoir workshop a couple of years ago and by far the hardest thing for the women writers to overcome was the sense that they didn't have the right to tell stories about things that had happened to them. The guys had no problem telling their stories. The women had to be told, explicitly, that their stories belong to them, and they get to tell them the way they want to.

So that's not how I would tell my story. But it's how Grace told her story, and that story belongs to her.

THAT BEING SAID. I doubt very much if Babe.net told Grace's story the way she wanted it told. This is pure conjecture. I have no evidence to support my opinion on this matter. I just know that if I'd had to read a million people making fun of me for wanting red wine with lobster, I'd be pretty pissed that the "journalist" who "interviewed" me didn't do a better job of telling my story without including insignificant details that arm skeptics who were never, ever going to believe me anyway.

Babe.net is on my shit list.



Why does she get to call him out and stay anonymous?

Because historically women who report acts of sexual assault (Shhhhh yes I know not everyone agrees that this was an assault, but Grace and Babe.net believe it was and therefore treated it as such) are given anonymity to keep them from being harassed. That's just how it works.

Are you worried it's fake because she didn't give her name to the public? I'm not sure where the complaint is on this one.

Are you feeling sorry for Ansari? Ha. Sorry Ansari. Haha. That rhymes. I'm punchy. It was a long day.

Okay. Have empathy for him. He's surely had an abominable few days.

But if you're going to have empathy for him, you have to have empathy for her, too. She had a shitty few days, too. Actually, she had way more shitty days than he did. It's not a competition, but if it were she would definitely be winning the "Who's Had More Shitty Days" competition, the prize for which is a drooling, poorly-written viral expose of your sex life! Wheeeee!



I am mad at Aziz Ansari for being a pushy sex partner. Am I  Islamophobic?





Stop reading The Craplantic.

That piece suggested that the allegations against Ansari are rooted in white liberal girls wanting to go after brown people. And while that may be true sometimes, that's not what we're talking about here. Ansari did something shitty and anger is a reasonable response.

Some examples of not reasonable responses include:

a) Slinging Islamophobic slurs at Ansari. (Don't ever do this.)

b) Assuming that a single person's actions on one night represent all Indian men or all Muslims. (That's bigoted)

c) Assuming that a single person represents all Indian men or Muslims, NOT WANTING to paint all Indian men or Muslims with the same brush, and therefore deciding to excuse otherwise inexcusable behavior that has nothing to do with his ethnicity or faith in order to prove that you're not Islamophobic. (That's annoying, tokenizing, counterproductive, actually just as bigoted as the second thing because you still think one person represents an entire population.)



Is #metoo hurt by accusations like these? IS #METOO OVER??? DID GRACE JUST KILL #METOO?!?!?!







ALRIGHT EVERYONE JUST CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

Pretend we're making brunch here, okay? We invited everyone from the neighborhood-- close friends, total strangers, everyone who wants to come is invited.

And what just happened is, someone brought a quiche that half the group thinks is undercooked, and the other half thinks is a perfectly fine texture for a quiche, except for a couple of people who think this is the BEST texture for a quiche.

ARE WE CANCELING BRUNCH AND BURNING DOWN THE BUILDING?

No. We're staying at brunch. It's BRUNCH TIME. It's actually a little PAST brunch time if you ask me, but what's done is done.

We're sticking around and we're talking about quiche.

We're learning about other people's quiche preferences and mores. We're listening to each other about quiche.

And if you don't want to eat it, don't. Scoop up the fucking fruit salad and get a slab of french toast casserole, OK? Jeez. There is SO MUCH FOOD TO EAT AT THIS BRUNCH, seriously. Have you ever been to a brunch where you wanted to eat everything? And have you ever been a part of a culture shift where you agreed with every single person who wanted on board?

What did you think was going to happen when women started telling the truth about all the parts of their lives that are unpleasant or humiliating, but not illegal? Did you think you were going to agree with everybody about what constitutes assault, or how best to win male allies? Did you think you were going to agree with me all the time? Of course not. Of course not.

Do you think that tomorrow Reese Witherspoon is going to call a press conference being like, "Time's Up's time... is up. It's over. Because of Grace."

The expectation that we have to conform to a single voice at all times or call ourselves a failure is stupid and insane. So our choice is "Never disagree" or "Quit trying?" False. Stupid insane choice? Rejected.

For fuck's sake, if you didn't hear me the first 8,000 times, THIS IS COMPLICATED. Stop making this an all-or-nothing affair, or canceling brunch because you disagree about the optimal texture of quiche.

Grow up. Calm down. Pay attention. Listen. Move forward.

#MeToo is not about placing additional restrictions on how and when women can talk about their lives. #MeToo is about giving women space and time to speak.

And it exists. It is greater than one person, one badly-executed article or one accusation that asks us to look closely at our social norms and discover that we disagree with a lot of people that we thought were #100 with us. That doesn't mean that person is your enemy now. It just means you know your friend better.

Would you stop hanging out with your friend if you found out he liked jiggly quiche? Please say no.



My best friend and I disagree on whether Grace is bad or Ansari is bad. Are we not friends anymore?

Well that depends.

Does someone always have to be bad, and do you always have to completely agree with your friends?

If so, then yeah, sounds like you are four years old and so is your best friend, and you both need some fishy crackers and a nap before you take another swing at life and/or make any long-term decisions about your friendship.



If I think that the article on Babe was poorly written, or Grace's account seems overblown, or her classification of the hookup as an assault really doesn't sit well with me, do I lose my feminist card?

NO.

There is no Feminist High Council that decides who is and isn't a feminist. This conversation isn't about proving you allegiance to Big Sister, and who you're willing to murder to prove it.

We aren't picking teams for dodgeball; it's not as simple as picking a color for your jersey.

Our disagreements and qualms are a chance for us to have a conversation, not just with other people but with ourselves. These divergences reveal ideas worth exploring.

The feminism I practice encourages people to ask questions of themselves and each other. We can't grow if we don't crack our seeds, right?



I still don't know how I feel about this. 




Are you a smug bitch*?

Hi Chad! Thanks for chiming in.

You're goddamn right I am.


*real DM, not by anyone named Chad.


I badly need to read something light, short, and funny that has nothing to do with Aziz Ansari or sexual assault.

Here you go!


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Yesterday I read a piece in Babe. You know the one.



The piece by Katie Way tells the story of a young woman whom we know as Grace who met Aziz Ansari, went on a date with him, and then engaged in sexual contact with him that was deeply uncomfortable and upsetting.

The allegations against Ansari open up the next, harder, messier chapter in the #metoo movement, one in which the vast majority of us are no longer able to simply say, "If you're not with us, you're against us."

The line in the sand is hard to see here. This is the one that is forcing me into a place where I'd rather not go. This is scary to write and publish.

So far I as I can tell, these are the teams.

In Grace's corner: 
This was a sexual assault. 

Twitter is hopping with women coming forward with their own hookup stories that run the range from mildly icky to flat-out horrifying.

In Ansari's corner: 
This was really bad sex. 

People are starting to roll their eyes at what passes for sexual assault these days.

And The Atlantic published a piece called "The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari," subtitled, "Allegations against the comedian are proof that women are angry, temporarily powerful-- and very, very dangerous."

(In unrelated news, hi The Atlantic. If you want to find out how dangerous angry women are for being called temporarily powerful and also for having their anger once again weaponized against them in an attempt to shut them up, then give me a call.)
(In other unrelated news, if The Atlantic burns down today I'm going to need an alibi.)

In the "I'm freaking out" corner: 
(silence)
(texts a friend: 
Did you see this Ansari thing? Hmm.)

I wouldn't presume to speak about why any other women are struggling to stand with Grace on this one, so I'm just going to tell you why it's hard for me.

Yes, this one is hard for me. Please keep reading.



Edited to add: 
Mouthy/Messy/Mandatory's podcast episode: "Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Aziz Ansari."






I read Grace's story with amusement, embarrassment, and creeping unease.

I was not outraged. Well, I am outraged at The Atlantic, Liam Neeson, and Twitter. But I was not outraged at Ansari. I felt uncomfortable.

Grace's story is so familiar that I laugh at it without smiling. It's the story of so much bad sex.

I have had my fair share of what I'd call "crappy dates." And what I call crappy dates looks an awful lot like what Grace calls sexual assault. It's like we went on the same dates, wrote down the same details, and told two very different stories.

Here's mine:



And be honest. 

If you got to choose a narrative for your life, which cut would you pick? The one where Clarice descends into cannibalistic hell and fights for her life? Or the one where she's caught in a jaunty love triangle with a couple of quirky gents?

And that's the thing: we do get to pick how to decide to tell our stories, at least to ourselves. I've dated a few Dr. Lecters, and like Clarice Starling I escaped with a few tears, a few shivers of disgust, and a few stories that I rarely tell. I decided not to call those encounters assault. I decided to make those nights the bad-date montage in act one of the story of my happy life.

That's how I moved forward.

Grace's story is common. It's so common that I don't have to imagine it because I remember it. I laugh about it without smiling. It's the story of so much bad sex. And when I hear that bad sex described as a sexual assault, it forces me to reexamine my own history. And see, I just started feeling strong again. 

I believe her; I don't agree with her. 
I'm telling you this not because I think she is wrong, 
but because I think I am. 

You have to understand that many women approach humiliating and uncomfortable sex from a place of "it's not that bad."

Part of "not that bad" is a preemptive minimization of our experiences. You know, the way Fat Amy calls herself Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect so that the other girls can't do it first? It's our armor.

I know what people will say when I tell them that I had a professor who put his arm around me (I was 19) and asked why we weren't dating, while his hand stroked the bare skin of my shoulder (it was spring.)

I am waiting for people to say, "So he just... put his arm around you?" I am waiting for them to ask for a gasp-worthy punchline: actually I was 12, or a tit grab, a ten-pound helmet into his lap, an offer to exchange nude selfies for a better grade. They're already imagining there is more to the story. There really isn't.

I don't want to have to up the ante, tell another worse story to prove that I had the right to be uncomfortable when my professor stroked my bare shoulder in a dark theater. I don't want to have to buy my friends' support with maximum humiliation.

I have no interest in turning my sexual history into social currency; exchange rates are so unpredictable.

So I hurry up to add, "It wasn't that bad." That way, the people I'm telling have to convince me, "No, that really wasn't cool." If you push, people push back, that's just human nature. If you pull away, they come to your side and find you. They can't resist.

So I say, "It's not that bad," and I hope they'll come over to my side, and find me.

Does that make sense? This is complicated.

Ansari's behavior, as it is described in the article, is fucking awful and ordinary. So many men learn how to perform sex by watching porn, itself a performance of sex that for the most part treats women like props.

Women have had so much bad sex that our scale for sex has been skewed so it shows every shitty sex encounter as 10 pounds less shitty than it was.


Jabby and fumbling and pushy and transactional? He convinced you to say yes even though you said no a bunch of times? OK, but did he leave bruises? No? Did he leave the condom on the whole time? You think so?

Then we're going to call that one, "meh" and lock it up in the "Not that bad" vault. You don't want to make a big deal out of this - people will ask why you didn't just leave





But Grace's story re-zeroes that scale, and suddenly everything in my past that's already beyond fixing is +10 worse.



Jabby and fumbling and pushy and transactional? He convinced you to say yes even though you said no a bunch of times? 

That's coercive, nonconsensual sex. You have a right to feel violated. 




No! It was meh! We already decided, no take-backsies!

I'm a kid in a corner kicking the wall with my fingers in my ears.

No, no, no! I don't wanna! I'm rom com Clarice! I'M ROM COM CLARICE!

this isn't creepy
it's fine
this isn't scary
it's nice

see?
he just said hi
with nice eyes
and she was like
oh you

see?
it's fine
i'm fine
everything's fine

Women have already taken enough of a painful personal inventory to be able to say #metoo; I am not eager to go back over what I've come to comfortably accept as "crappy hookups," or "shitty sex," and come to realize that yes, that was sexual assault too. 

If we begin to call all sexual assault what it is, we will have to voluntarily admit more pain into our lives, pain that we have up to this point refused to let in the door. If we call this kind of sexual encounter an assault, then women who have been weathering what they call bad sex will suddenly have justification for the icky feelings and shame that follows them home in the cab. And yet, we'd really rather just hit the showers.

I've taken that cab, crying. And I've taken that shower. And I would never have told the story, because I would have been afraid of someone thinking, "That's not that bad," the way I just fucking did. I don't have to imagine what happened to Grace because I remember it.

This is complicated.

And yes, guys, what Grace described is totally normal for a woman. This is a normal sex encounter. The women that you're seeing scoff at her? They aren't scoffing because they think a guy would never do that. They're scoffing because they believe every single word she said. They don't have to imagine it either.

This is a common, normal hookup. A shitty, painful hookup where Grace's comfort and pleasure were like #7 on the priority list. Mean, punishing sex is normal. And awful. Our normal is awful.

People are quick to label sex crimes as deviant or aberrant, but the truth is that sexual violence is socialized into us. Men are socialized to fuck hard and often, and women are socialized to get fucked, look happy, and keep quiet about it. 

Aziz Ansari has been socialized.
And if we don't like the way socialized men do sex, then we need to take a hard look at our society, friend.

Now, I want to be clear. Ansari is 100% responsible for what he did. He behaved like a sexual bully who hurt and humiliated a woman while he acted out a fantasy that was his and his alone. He treated her like a prop. And if you don't understand why that's shitty, ask yourself how much your hand enjoys jerking you off. Ansari is responsible for knowing better, and caring about whether his sexual partners are comfortable, safe, and enjoying themselves. Even though nobody ever taught him that's a "normal" way to do sex. It's his job to help change the normal.

As a woman, I am supposed to take what's given to me, to shrink my pain, ignore my bad feelings about what just happened, and generally be FINE WITH EVERYTHING! Also I have to have a good banana bread recipe.

so like that
except instead of being in a room on fire
you're in an apartment and someone is sticking his fingers in your mouth
over and over again

What I'm realizing now, after reading Grace's story and the responses to it, is that when I shrink my own pain, I also shrink my empathy for women who feel the same pain and feel it full-size. I resent Grace for talking about her hookup as if it's an assault. I'm mad at her for talking about it at all.

But that's not because she was wrong to talk about it. And it's for sure not because she was wrong to go on a date, drink wine, or try to have a pleasurable sexual encounter. She wasn't. She wasn't wrong.

It's because if what happened to her is a violation, then we are all violated. And everyone is a violator. And that's a scary fucking world to live in. I don't want that to be the world I live in.

Can it be that we are so okay with being hurt as women 
that we are skeptical of the idea
that sex shouldn't be humiliating or scary?



FUCK 

I THOUGHT THIS WAS A ROM COM.



If you shared my hesitation to stand up with Grace on this one, I'm just asking you to hang out and ask yourself why. You don't have to come up with answers. It's enough to notice and wonder.

These uncomfortable conversations are part of #metoo, as much as the truth telling and hearing. The only easy day was yesterday, when we found ourselves mostly in agreement that Weinstein is a slimy bag of dicks, and Spacey is a scummy, flesh-eating bacteria.

This was never going to be easy or smooth. It's absurd to think that we'd be able to push through what Frances McDormand called a tectonic shift without revealing fault lines we didn't know were there. We're going to find ourselves on opposite sides of things. We're going to disagree. And we're going to get uncomfortable. Remember that you, too, are socialized. Even though you've been hurt, you are also trained to hurt others. I am; I do. I'm trying to do better.

My 5-year-old Chicken told me the other day, 
"I think the opposite of brave isn't scared.
The opposite of brave is quiet."

Remember, we don't fail when we disagree. We fail when we go quiet and walk away. Stick around. Be honest. Don't be scared. Or be scared, but don't be quiet.

And if you need a break, you can always just pop in a rom com.


wait



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... AND CHECK OUT MY NEW PODCAST!
with Ronit Feinglass Plank

So you did something.

And it wasn't great.

Or maybe it was all the way terrible. You know what you did.

Now you need to apologize.

I see you opening your mouth.

QUICK!

Before you say:

But I didn't mean to!

I was drunk!

I'm sorry your feelings are hurt.

But THAT guy is engaging in ethnic cleansing!


PUT THREE FULL-SIZE MARSHMALLOWS IN YOUR MOUTH.

OK. Now listen.

I only have a matter of seconds before those 'mallows disintegrate.

Here's how you apologize:

1. Identify what you did wrong.
2. Take full responsibility for what you did wrong.
3. Express understanding of the impact of what you did wrong.
4. Communicate genuine remorse for what you did wrong.
5. Make a promise or plan to do better in the future, or demonstrate that you value this person.


Shit. That was a lot of information.

But you heard me, right? And you probably know all of this already... right?

You swallowed those 'mallows? Alright, let's take a swing and see where we are. Go ahead.


I'm sorry that your birthday party got ruined--



PUT FOUR FULL-SIZE MARSHMALLOWS IN YOUR MOUTH.

Identify what you did wrong. 
Not that what was done wrong. 

This isn't Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where stair cases "get moved" and hippogriffs "maul Malfoy."

This is the real world and birthday parties don't get ruined. Someone or something ruins them. In this case, it was you. It may seem like a small change, but it makes all the difference in the world.

YOU did it. Say so.

OK? You swallowed? Ready to try again?

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.

Good.


Joe thought it would be funny if we swapped out your birthday slideshow for a collection of your swimsuit pictures --





You know what's coming. PUT FIVE FULL-SIZE MARSHMALLOWS AND A SPOONFUL OF PEANUT BUTTER IN YOUR MOUTH.

Take full responsibility for what you did wrong. 
Joe is Joe's job. 
You do you, boo boo. 

There is literally no reason to involve any other person in an apology that you are delivering to another individual, unless at some point during the delivery of your apology another person comes up and is like "Hey Chad, do you have my Gossip Girl box set you borrowed," and you're like, "Oh hey Tina, I'm right in the middle of something, I'll check in with you in a sec."

Any mention of another person, place, thing, or entity reads as you shucking your responsibility. And you need to take responsibility for what you did if you are sorry for it.

Repeat after me:

Society did not ruin the birthday party.
Your mean stepfather did not make a tit joke to your coworker.
Your porn addiction did not steal money from your grandma.

Your apology should have only singular personal pronouns in it. I, me, my. If you start to say we, you're sharing responsibility. And that's not your job right now.

There will be time for reasons and explanations and getting to the bottom of whose idea was whose, and that time is called "therapy" and occasionally "court." That time is not now, while you are apologizing.

OK? You good? Need a glass of milk or something? Alright, let's hear it.


I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.
I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow 
of swimsuit pictures of you.

Mm hmm...

We-- I mean, I
didn't mean to hurt your feelings. 
We-- shit!
I was trying to be funny and like help the party be memorable. 
I didn't think you'd mind because it's not like you're ugly. 



Open up, Chad. Here come the choo-choo, and it's hauling six full-size marshmallows and a half-dozen hot dog buns. Breathe through your nose.

Express understanding of the impact of what you did wrong.

I literally cannot scream this too loudly:

WHAT YOU MEANT TO DO
DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER. 

If you ever catch yourself starting a sentence, "I didn't mean to..." or "I was trying to..." you need to stop. Freeze as if a bee flew into your mouth. Stop as if The Rock just walked by and smiled at you.

omg
he's adorable

When you begin to explain why you weren't really wrong to do what you did, you prove to the person you're apologizing to that your #1 goal is to appear kind, when your #1 goal should be actual kindness.

Also, if you talk about your good intentions rather than your crappy impact, then your entire apology becomes about convincing this person that their feelings are imaginary and their instincts cannot be trusted. And that's not how we play in pre-k.

Imagine how you'd feel. You're standing in a room with all of your family and friends and colleagues, and the lights go down, and suddenly everyone is standing in the dark staring at a picture of you in a swimsuit.




Imagine how that'd feel. Imagine knowing that every time you stand up to lead a meeting, the people who were at your birthday party will recall your hairy belly button. Imagine that.

That feeling you're having right now is called empathy. It might feel scary and uncomfortable when you give yourself time and space to really sink into the ways that you fucked up and hurt somebody. But believe me when I tell you that this expression of understanding is possibly the most important part of the entire apology.

You can't just slap a band-aid on a cut without cleaning it first. As with cleaning a wound, you have to explore the hurt fully. It hurts more to clean it, but without that full understanding, the apology is just a band-aid over a festering wound.

OK, now try again.

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.
I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow
of swimsuit pictures of you.

I embarrassed you in front of people you love and respect on a night that you were supposed to feel special and loved. That was really insensitive and mean. 

OMG yes.

...
Okay so, we good?



SEVEN 'MALLOWS AND A CRONUT. SHUT UP AND EAT IT.

Express genuine remorse for what you did wrong. 

I know, you might be thinking But haven't I done that already? I said sorry first, and then I took responsibility, and then I demonstrated understanding... 

No, you need to express genuine remorse again. Why? Because you fucked up.

Woah, that cronut went down fast. OK. Here we go.

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.
I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow
of swimsuit pictures of you.


I embarrassed you in front of people you love and respect on a night that you were supposed to feel special and loved. That was really insensitive and mean. 



Words cannot express the depths of my shame. Apparently I devastated your sense of self-respect and utterly shattered our friendship. If you were to never speak to me again I wouldn't blame you. I deserve to be flogged, flayed, drawn and quartered for my crime. STRING ME UP UPON THE BATTLEMENTS--






EEEEEEASY CAPTAIN.

So what you're doing now is both highly entertaining and total bullshit.


The size of your remorse has to match the size of the crime. 

Too small and you don't take responsibility; too big and you shift the focus of empathy back to you and beg the other person to tell you that "it wasn't that bad." 

Did you shatter your frienship? Maybe. But that's not your place to say, and you aren't the one who should be comforted here.

Think of your apology as the dish soap 
that you use to clean a pan. 
Use too little and the pan won't get clean.
Use too much and suddenly you can't see the pan 
under all those bubbles.

OK. (Cracks neck.) It's cool, you're learning. It's a process. You've got this. Go.

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.
I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow
of swimsuit pictures of you.


I embarrassed you in front of people you love and respect on a night that you were supposed to feel special and loved. That was really insensitive and mean. 


I'm so, so sorry. 
I couldn't even sleep all weekend and... 
wait, I'm making this all about me again, aren't I? 
I should just stop talking now, shouldn't I?




You are almost done. 

Make a plan or promise for the future,
and tell this person why you value him or her. 


OK, whole thing. From the top.

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.

I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow of swimsuit pictures of you over the years.

I embarrassed you in front of people you love and respect on a night that you were supposed to feel special and loved. That was really insensitive and mean. 

I'm so, so sorry. 

I promise never to embarrass you like that again. I care so much about our friendship and I want to do whatever I can to earn your respect again.


Thank you.
That was perfect. 


Now, just for shits and giggles, let's look at the apology you almost gave:

I'm sorry that your birthday party got ruined.

Joe thought it would be funny if we swapped out your birthday slideshow for a collection of your swimsuit pictures.

We didn't mean to hurt your feelings. We were trying to be funny and like help the party be memorable. We didn't think you'd mind because it's not like you're ugly. 

Words cannot express the depths of my shame. Apparently, I devastated your sense of self-respect and utterly shattered our friendship. If you were to never speak to me again I wouldn't blame you. I deserve to be flogged, flayed, drawn and quartered for my crime. STRING ME UP UPON THE BATTLEMENTS AND LEAVE MY ENTRAILS TO FEED THE RATS AND ROT IN THE SUN.

OK, so we good?




Yikes, right? Isn't it amazing how few words you changed to turn a bullshit apology into a real apology?

And once you understand why a bullshit apology is so thoroughly bullshit, you'll start to hear them everywhere you go. Sorry about that. I kind of feel like I just Matrixed you against your will.

tell me you're sorry i'm so sensitive
tell me
i fucking dare you
make me a murderer

And here's the thing - good people make bullshit apologies all the time. Your niceness is a separate issue from whether you've ever developed the skill of apologizing well. You're probably also terrible at golf if you've never really worked on it, but that doesn't make you a fundamentally inferior person.

Keep working on it. It is so easy to slip and start making about what you meant to do, or to skip that critically important piece of demonstrating empathy when you hit the express lane to, "OK? We good?" 

Just remember how big a difference there is between the apology you almost gave and the apology we worked out together.

And also remember this:

No matter how well you apologize, 
you will still face consequences for what you did.

You might deserve to get fired. She might leave. He might never be a friend again. Your apology can't undo any of it. 

Your apology is not your exit slide 
off the airplane that you crashed. 

No apology on Earth can remove you from the reality that you hurt someone, broke a rule, broke a law, fucked up profoundly. No apology on Earth is a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. But you apologize anyway, and you do it right.

Your apology is you
helping everyone else off the plane.

Because it's the right fucking thing to do. Because that's the only way through. Because a real apology is the difference between a plane crash and a plane crash with casualties. So do what you can, think about everyone else who was on that plane, and accept the consequences.

Now download this image, save it to your faves, and go brush your g-d teeth. #Mallows





Follow KatyKatiKate on Facebook & Twitter

Get an email when I post something new

I don't make a dime
100% of proceeds go to RAINN
& Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault

This is my work
If you found this post valuable
support my work through Patreon 
or Paypal (katykatikate at gmail)

... AND CHECK OUT MY NEW PODCAST!
with Ronit Feinglass Plank