The Babe article – which by now surely you have all read – that covered one woman’s date with comedian Aziz Ansari and all the problematic events within it has been at the forefront of our society’s conversation about consent now for weeks.

Quick Cliff’s Notes. A woman who in the article goes by the name of Grace went on a date with Aziz, which resulted in the two of them returning to his apartment and engaging in sexual acts that may/may not have occurred without her explicit consent.

The article has made many people extremely confused. The main conversation it’s stirred up? What exactly is consent. If someone doesn’t specifically say “stop” or “no”, or says a bunch of “no’s” but eventually says yes… then aren’t they consenting? Were the events Grace describes a case of sexual misconduct, or was it just two people having an awkward sexual encounter that one party eventually regretted?

Look, I’m not here to give you answers on the Aziz events. I wasn’t there, and I’m also not an expert. And frankly – I’m not sure myself.

But I am going to tell you what men, in my opinion, need to start considering when it comes to sex and dating. Something the article stirred up for women, because goddamn, we deal with this shit all the fucking time.

WOMEN DON’T NEED TO BE COERCED

While I’m personally on the fence as to whether the Aziz article shows sexual misconduct on his behalf, I will absolutely say that the actions described show him trying to coerce Grace into sexual acts she wasn’t enthusiastically offering up. And that’s not okay.

This is an ongoing issue for women in the world of dating/sex in the modern age. You know that old-school, archaic slut/virgin dichotomy? Where you’re slutty if you just offer up your body to a guy, so you need to refuse their advances a bit so they know you’re not “easy”? It was bullshit then, and it’s even more bullshit now. But for some reason, we’re still stuck in that mentality. That “rule” they lived by? We’ve applied it to sex and dating today, which makes zero sense.

We live in an age where we have dating apps that require women to make the first move. Where casual sex is encouraged and accepted for all genders (I mean, we totally still have double standards. But compared to the olden days). We do not live in 1950, so why are men still chasing women the same way?

Women don’t need to be coerced into anything. If a woman wants to go out with you, she will accept your request the first time you ask. If she wants to give you a blow-job, she will give you a blow-job. And so on.

My perfect example of this was when I was insanely drunk and waiting for my cab on Oxford St in Sydney. I’d eaten and then subsequently spewed up an entire burrito in a back alley (sorry, whoever’s house that was in front of). I was sweaty and gross from dancing. In short, I was DONE with my night.

A group of guys came up to my sister and I, and asked us if we would go and get a drink with them. We politely explained we were super drunk, super tired and waiting for our cab. They asked again. “Come onnn! It’ll be fun!”

FYI – this is fine. I’m not pearl-clutching – I’m aware that if you really want something, sometimes you’ll ask twice with more emphasis, right? I don’t personally consider that coercion. We’re human beings, we’re not perfect. We politely declined again. This is where it got shitty.

The guys kept bugging us. We started getting more abrupt because hey, we were fucking exhausted and over it. I would say they asked us, with varying levels of pressure, around six times before getting mad at our constant refusal, calling us dykes, and leaving. The “dyke” slur in and of itself is an entire other issue I’ll leave for a separate article. But if we focus on the coercion for now – this is so fucking common, guys. I can’t think of one woman who doesn’t have a story like this, where a man or group of men just would not take no for an answer.

LET’S TALK ABOUT NON-VERBAL ENTHUSIASM

Okay. So in my scenario, I was literally saying no. Verbally. Can we all agree if someone verbally says no, you don’t keep pushing and pushing for a yes? I think we can.

But what about Grace? She doesn’t really say no to Aziz. Her behaviour that she describes is unenthusiastic. She’s not saying no, so it’s cool… right?

Nope. Somewhere in our 00’s high school sex learnings, we got “no means no” stuck in our heads. That’s been our touchpoint for consent for years. If someone says no, the deal is off. Hell, it’s been decades of that message. And it’s a good message! It absolutely is.

But there’s more to consent than that. What about an extremely drunk, half-responsive woman? Someone who only physically resists advances?

I’m not sure where I stand in terms of whether Aziz sits in the same camp as other Hollywood sex pests. But I absolutely believe he didn’t read the room. And not in an ignorant, “I didn’t realise!” way. He flat-out refused to read the room, and that’s the issue here.

There’s all kinds of ways we physically communicate, and no one expects anyone to be a mind-reader. What we do expect is common sense and caring about what the other person wants – and doesn’t want – to do. Enthusiasm isn’t a woman jumping on you – I’m aware that sex and sexual acts are not a cookie-cutter type of scenario. But non-verbal enthusiasm is obvious, and when it’s not there – you absolutely know.

If you push a girls head down to your dick and she resists – that means no. If you grab her boob and she pushes your hand away – no. If you are kissing her and she’s stiff and unresponsive – no. I don’t think this is mind reading, it’s bloody obvious.

My take? Don’t be scared to make moves. Just observe – and respect – whether those moves aren’t received.

THERE ARE OTHER WORDS BESIDES ‘NO’ AND THEY STILL MEAN ‘NO’

Back to ‘no means no’. The issue here is we have been conditioned to think the only word that matters is ‘no’. But it’s not. When Grace told Aziz to ‘slow down’, that is essentially saying ‘no’ to the acts he was gunning for. His reaction should have been to dial it back and remain dialled back, unless she ramped things up again. Instead, he “slows down” briefly each time, before again trying to push her across the line into sex.

I just don’t think being aware of what constitutes a “no” is too big an ask of men. ‘Slow down’, ‘I want to take it easy’, ‘chill out’ – all of this is how we all communicate ‘no’ or ‘stop’ politely in this day and age. We know this. So why is it when we get into sex and dating, we don’t see it the same way?

If I’m blunt, I would say we lean on the “no means no” excuse when we want to push for something we are completely aware the other person doesn’t want. Constantly we hear of men using the phrase “she didn’t actually say no” to excuse shitty, pushy behaviour. Stop that.

NONE OF THIS MEANS WOMEN HATE MEN OR SEX

Loads of women like sex. Loads of us like dating. We don’t need to be convinced of it – if we’re keen, we are aware we have the agency in this time of history to go for it. So making like this conversation is only had by women who hate men or sex is ridiculous. The entire point we are making is that because we like sex, we don’t need to be convinced into doing it.

Instead of writing this off as some ~crazy woman~ who hates men and is one of those “aggro feminists”, use it as an opportunity to look at your own behaviour and check yourself. And I stress – it’s not about making moves, being experimental in the bedroom or anything like that. It’s about respecting boundaries, however they’re communicated to you.

Image: HBO / Girls