It shouldn't need to be said, but here we are (again):
Women, all women, should have agency over their own bodies.
Absence of no doesn't mean yes.
Coercion is not consent.
It's not up to women to change how they react. It's up to men to change how they act in the first place.
The public response to the Aziz Ansari story has been disturbing – and triggering – to watch unfold. People, including many women, surprisingly, are describing the event as simply a "date gone bad". But is it really? Maybe it's because I've been in a similar situation and know the god-awful dread of feeling trapped in the presence of someone that is making it clearly known they don't respect you and won't adhere to your persistent wishes but I feel this was not simply courtship gone awry. This is premeditated behaviour meant to demean and dehumanize women for the sole benefit of male ego. And it is more common than you think.
The debate seems centred on defining degrees of severity regarding sexual assault but conversation should actually be about consent. There are no shades of grey when it comes to consent. Just yes or no. If a woman is not into your advances, then leave her alone. Period. Don't badger her. Don't further try to coax her. Just stop.
"Well, she could've just left."
Well, HE could've just stopped.
"Well, she should've known better."
Well, HE should've known better.
As a society we've consistently denied women sexual autonomy, then act surprised when women have trouble asserting themselves when it comes to sex. This story is not just about an anonymous woman dubbed Grace in the media who was appalled that a celebrity she looked up to didn't live up to her ideal. This is about all the Graces, the Carols, the Deborahs et all that have learned to be accommodating towards men in difficult situations because eventual compliance can be the only weapon we have against escalation towards something worse. This is about how much of one's dignity we are willing to negotiate away just to secure a relative feeling of "safety". This is about male entitlement in all aspects of society.
The balance of power sits with men.
The balance for change needs to sit with them as well.