When I was a girl, rape was what happened when a man brandished a gun or knife, dragged you into a dark alley, and had sex with you. That was easy to understand.
Then, when I was a young adult, the concept of date rape was introduced – that it could be someone you knew, and there might be no weapon involved, just a stronger man holding you down. Also easy to understand. There was also a brief pass through the concept of marital rape, with John and Greta Rideout suddenly everywhere, testing the idea that a man didn’t have an absolute right to sex with his wife whenever he wanted, and that cause was strange, then righteous, then infuriating (with the Rideouts reconciled after his, guess what, acquittal).
Date-rape drugs were next. Remember roofies? Where do you get roofies? I am not deeply immersed in drug culture, but I know my way around a little, and I’ve never seen or been offered a roofie. A third, fourth, sixth or ninth cocktail? Now there’s a date-rape drug that doesn’t get its due.
Then, in the ’90s, Antioch College instituted its widely ridiculed sexual consent policy, and by widely ridiculed I mean it was an SNL sketch that very weekend. Antioch eventually went out of business, but that was a hardy seed it planted, because it flowered into how we now talk about sexual encounters: They must be consensual, and they must be consensual at every step of the escalation, and that consent can be revoked at any time. Already stuck it in? Sorry, guys, if she tells you to take it out, you have to. No one cares about your sexual frustration; that’s why your hands reach all the way down there.
This is where I began to step off the train. I like sex, but I don’t like sex that proceeds like a contract negotiation. Once the clothing starts to come off, I think it’s safe to make some assumptions. If I don’t like what you’re doing, I’ll speak up. I don’t want to answer “is this OK? Is this OK?” every few minutes. But at the same time, I see where that might be a useful framework, especially for college students who are still figuring this stuff out. Sex and navigating intimate relationships are skills you have to learn, and if these policies are essentially training wheels for the early years, no harm done.
Which brings us, as you knew it would, to Aziz Ansari, who is probably pacing his apartment rage-smoking, or maybe in a Xanax haze, or otherwise coping with the agony of being revealed to the world as a lousy hookup at best, and a near-rapist at worst. And here is where I step all the way off the train. Because the next stop is Pencetown, and I ain’t going there.
Either women are strong, independent individuals with the capacity to say what they do and don’t want in an intimate relationship, or they are delicate flowers who put out “cues” that men must decipher, and woe betide if they get their signals crossed.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky. Or read up. A lot of us have been talking about being older lately; never have I thanked the fates for my arthritic knees and wrinkly ass more than this week, when the thought of having to navigate this dating moonscape made me quake with fear. Because evidently you can go back to a guy’s place, take off your clothes, perform oral sex on one another, change your mind because “things are going too fast” and also because he’s a lousy kisser, and still feel you were wronged somehow, because he also served you the wrong wine and he did that thing with his fingers and, and, and…
This young woman sounds, at the very least, deeply confused. It’s also possible she’ll grow into the sort of woman who gives her husband the silent treatment, and when called on it, says, “If I have to tell you what you did, then you’re even more wrong!” Maybe these two deserve one another, come to think of it.
I’m with Gene Weingarten. This was a terrible piece that should never have been published, and could do significant damage to an important cause. But I guess progress is rarely linear. We’re still figuring out how to get along with one another. I expect we always will.
So. Nearly the midweek. And the decline of facts continues apace:
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — When truck driver Chris Gromek wants to know what’s really going on in Washington, he scans the internet and satellite radio. He no longer flips TV channels because networks such as Fox News and MSNBC deliver conflicting accounts tainted by politics, he says.
“Where is the truth?” asks the 47-year-old North Carolina resident.
Don’t have much to say about that, just throwing it out there. There might be hope for journalism yet, but I’m not sure how.
Finally, this horrifying thing from an English-language Russian news site. It’s easy to say “nothing will come of this,” but that requires ignoring history, in which genocides and purges always start with this sort of propaganda, and rarely end well.
But now it’s Wednesday, or nearly so. Over the hump.