When the article on Aziz Ansari came out, I was completely shocked at the some of the backlash Grace, the writer, received. People were saying she should’ve just walked away or she should’ve said no more assertively. Others said that the incident was normal and that she was just overreacting to a normal date gone bad.
Debates on power dynamics and slut-shaming went back on forth online (and in person) as people addressed whether or not Grace’s case was harming the #MeToo movement.
I found myself in conversations with friends and family members where we tried to navigate a ‘safe’ way to go about discussing the issue. So when the Saturday Night Live skit of a group of people who awkwardly try to discuss the allegations against Ansari came out, I felt like I couldn’t relate to anything more.
One of the biggest issues people, like Sonny Bunch, had towards the article was that it was hindering all the work that activists had put into the #MeToo campaign. For Bunch, Grace’s allegations were simply not as bad as the ones brought up against Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey.
He didn’t force her to have sex with him, and hey, he even apologized for the fact that she felt uncomfortable!
While everyone has the right to voice their opinions on the matter, what Bunch and others like her don’t realize are the repercussions their statements could have.
Just because she wasn’t raped, does not mean that her story is less important than others.
Sexual harassment does not only include forced penetration. It is catcalling, unsolicited sexting, and/or touching someone who clearly doesn’t want to be touched. There are so many things besides rape that constitute assault.
One of the points the #MeToo campaign addressed was that no matter how small your story is, it is just as important. But when we dismiss stories similar to Grace’s not only are we normalizing so many forms of sexual assault, we are also discouraging others from coming forward.
A trans woman might no longer feel ready to talk about being catcalled in the street. A man whose boss is a little too touchy for his liking might be afraid of getting laughed at. A teenage girl who received an unsolicited naked picture wouldn’t want people saying she asked for it. Why should they be made to feel like their voice is not good enough because their bodies were not physically violated?
If your looking for proof of how detrimental ignoring victims of sexual assault can be, look no further than Larry Nassar.
If people had addressed the allegations brought up by the first woman who came forward, then the other violations of over 200 women and girls’ bodies could have easily been prevented.
We have to change the way we talk about sexual assault. This is not something we can tip-toe around anymore. One in every three women has experienced physical or sexual violence worldwide. It is a reality that happens all the time and to different extents.
We have to hold people accountable for their actions.
Men and women need to stop normalizing these behaviors as “boys being boys” or a date gone bad. If someone doesn’t ask for a nude picture, don’t send one. If someone repeatedly tells you not to touch them, back off.
If someone looks uncomfortable by what you’re saying/doing, consider what you did to make them feel that way.