With the recent emergence of another story regarding the sexual behaviour of a revered male in the entertainment industry, the subject of Aziz Ansari has swept every social media platform. Label takes a step back from the divisive opinions and asks why the pattern of conviction into reluctant sex has become so familiar to so many.
Last week, the media exploded with reactions to the story published by babe.net regarding Aziz Ansari’s date with an anonymous woman, which turned into what she called ‘the worst night of my life’. After a rushed show of wining and dining, the woman who the article names Grace was taken back to Ansari’s apartment and, despite what she described as ‘clear non-verbal cues’ to calm his advances, engaged in several sexual acts with him including giving and receiving oral sex. The reactions to this article have gained huge momentum and proven extremely divisive. On one hand, Grace’s account arrives at the height of the Time’s Up campaign, exposing the predatory attitude of a man celebrated in the entertainment industry in a Weinsteinian context. On the other hand, many argue that Aziz Ansari engaged in consensual activity, about which he was privately apologetic when informed that the encounter made Grace feel uncomfortable. However, this article is not here to add another sainting or damning opinion to Ansari. The questions that remains to be asked is this: why do people want to have unsexy, reluctant sex?
Everything that happened between Grace and Ansari was technically consensual. (The definition of sexual consent does not include a requirement for enthusiasm). Nevertheless, enthusiasm is very clearly a vital element of sexual pleasure for both parties. Imagine yourself in two scenarios. In the first scenario, you put your hands on someone’s (insert body part of choice), escalating your kissing in what you think is a desired move. The person kisses you back, pulls you closer, and puts their hands back on your (insert body part of choice). In the second scenario, you put your hands on someone, and they lean back, nervously laugh, and say that maybe you should both just relax. One scenario is sexy. One is absolutely not.
Yet somehow, the second scenario appears to be familiar in the sex lives of many people participating in dating culture. Somewhere along the line, many people have become okay with the practice of wearing somebody down until they give in and agree to have sex, mostly just to get the encounter over with and stop being bugged. Perhaps this is because the bragging rights the next day are more important to some than the actual process of whether or not the sex was fun. Or perhaps, the gratification of the other party seems less important than their own.
For whatever reason someone may pursue sex in the face of total reluctance, it has to end. Whilst open conversations about consent overlap with the gradual collapse of stigma against female sexual pleasure, it’s important that this becomes part of the conversation. The women who attended the 75th Golden Globes Awards declared that ‘Time’s Up’ for issues both large and small. This article about Aziz Ansari was not the statement of a gymnast in court accusing somebody of sexual abuse, and nor was it an accusation of rape. What it was, however, was an example of bad sex which gained huge traction for its uncanny resemblance to something many of us may have experienced. Past the bounds of consent, the conversation about sex must move into 2018 with a view to ending a culture which pursues sexual pleasure without a sense of whether or not it excites the other person. Enthusiasm, Aziz Ansari, is SEXY. Reluctance is not.