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Aziz Ansari Coercion is not consent

Coercion is not consent. It is sexual abuse. It is sexual assault. It is rape. And “no” is a complete motherfucking sentence.

[TW/CW: Descriptions of sexual assault, violence and rape culture.]

With each 24-hour breaking news cycle I wait for the inevitable fall of another admired hero. I’ve almost gotten used to the gut-punch that comes with hearing about some new awful thing a beloved artist has done. And this weekend our feminist ally and Desi trailblazer of representation and inclusion, Aziz Ansari fell from that pedestal after a piece was published on Babe.net over the weekend.

I’ve lauded Ansari’s work on “Master of None” to no end. I’ve seen his stand-up comedy live. I’ve been a huge supporter of his since he first appeared on “Parks and Recreation”, bringing some much-needed South Asian representation to primetime television. The fact that he was an “out” feminist ally who openly spoke about his developing feminist consciousness, encouraging other cishet men to follow suit, only solidified his place as a Desi prince amongst Hollywood royals.

So I’ll be honest: When the allegations about Ansari’s inappropriate sexual behavior while on a date broke, I didn’t want to believe them. As I read through the details of what happened, I found myself saying, “This isn’t sexual assault. This is several bad dates I have been on in the past. His behavior is totally normal. Why is she making such a big deal out of this?”

And until that moment, I didn’t realize that a part of me is still conditioned to protect the patriarchy in which I was raised and which continues to rule the world, dictating that women and femmes’ autonomy isn’t actually our right. It took a beat to realize that as much as I am aware of the cisgender men-behaving-badly excuse, without a hint of irony I was suddenly normalizing Ansari’s behavior as fitting that mold. Even worse, I was not seeing an issue with it because that is what men on dates do. It took longer for me to come to terms with why I was able to justify this situation in particular.


I’ve been raped and sexually abused by partners in the past. I’ve been sexually assaulted by strangers grabbing at me in public. Those situations were clear-cut violations. But what about those times when I said no, but the man persisted to the point where I gave in because it was the only way to make him leave? And I eventually consented because I was scared of an escalation that could be so much worse than just gritting my teeth, turning my head to the side, and waiting for it to be over so I’d never have to see him again? What about all that?

I didn’t want these allegations about Ansari to seem as bad as they are, because it means revisiting several inappropriate encounters in my past as what they actually were: sexual assault. One time in particular stands out.

In 2005 I was living in Seville, Spain. It was my first time living on my own and I was enjoying the freedom that came with it. I’ve always been a serial monogamist—a result of profound trust issues related to the sexual abuse I’ve survived—but during my stint in Seville I decided I would try out casual dating. One night, a friend took me to a specialty vinoteca that made orange blossom wine. It was gorgeous, and so was her friend, the bartender. He was a Spanish Keanu Reeves, tall and broad-shouldered with long dark hair and Keanu’s brand of soulful eyes. He said I reminded him of Frida Kahlo with my elaborate hairdo and outfit and that was all it took. We exchanged numbers and I’d go visit him at the bar. During his breaks we’d talk about books, art, philosophy, and he just got better and better looking.

[TW: description of violence and sexual assault over the next three paragraphs]

One night, I decided I trusted him and invited him back to my place. But once we were away from the flirtation of the bar and walks through picturesque Sevilla, he changed. It was as if a switch went off. Where he seemed gentle and sensitive before, he was aggressive and mean. We had barely just kissed when suddenly he was demanding anal sex. He pushed me down onto my bed and I scraped my arm on the rough cement plaster finish of the wall. It left a huge blood smear that didn’t daunt him, nor did he care that I was bleeding. I want to do you up the ass. You American girls love it. Let me do it. No, I said. A vehement no. Again and again no. But as he pawed at my body, trying to get my clothes off, that was all he would say. Let me do it. Let me do you up the ass.

By this point I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted him gone. And I started to get properly scared. He was much bigger than me. And muscular. When I told him to get out of my apartment he flat-out refused. When I tried to leave, he blocked the door and pushed me back into my room. My roommate was at his girlfriend’s that night. I had no back-up. By now he was on top of me, panting about doing me up the butt. What was to stop him from actually doing it? Fear turned to terror. He’d already hurt my arm and didn’t give a shit, what was to keep him from hurting me even worse?


There was nobody to hear me scream for help. I did the only thing I could think of to get rid of him: I told him he could just have vaginal intercourse. A few awkward (and painful) pumps later he was finally gone from my apartment. I had a collage of photos on my closet door of friends and family. Before he left he took one of the pictures of me and my dog. A trophy? I considered it a victory that he bothered to wear a condom.

Reading Grace’s harrowing account of her night with Ansari brought back this incident like it happened yesterday. How could I have even imagined justifying Ansari’s actions when I’d been through something scarily similar that left me feeling disgusting, ashamed, and completely violated, just like Grace? I was coerced into consenting.

I didn’t tell anyone about what happened to me, and even went back to the bar where he worked because I thought it would make the whole thing less non-consensual. It didn’t. I felt worse. And after that I really couldn’t tell anyone because why would I go back to see him again if that’s how he treated me? I knew enough to expect gaslighting. And so I tucked that experience away. It was safer.

One of the most uncomfortable things about Grace’s date with Ansari—aside from the nastiness of what happened to her and her body—is that it is forcing many people to look at past events and behavior in a different light. These encounters that made us scared for our lives, or that we would get hurt worse for not bowing to the kind of sexual coercion described in Grace’s account.

It’s sickening that a self-purported feminist—who has said things like, “No normal men push the limits of consent”—would do this to a woman, made ever worse by Ansari’s public support of the #TimesUp movement at the Golden Globes. How could he of all people think that any of what he did is okay? And if a male feminist doesn’t get it, then where does that leave us with the rest of the un-woke men?

Yes, y’all, time is up for this bullshit. Time is up for non-cisgender men having to put up with these coercive incidents and write it off as cisgender men doing what they do. And time is damn well up for perpetrators of assault getting away with it.

Coercion is not consent. It is sexual abuse. It is sexual assault. It is rape. And “no” is a complete motherfucking sentence.




Sezín (rhymes with Celine) Koehler is a biracial Sri Lankan American novelist and blogger whose writings have been featured on Teen Vogue, Broadly, The Mary Sue, Huffington Post, Sociological Images, Pacific Standard, Ms. Magazine, and more. An adult Third Culture Kid, she has lived in 13 countries and 18 cities around the world, and currently calls Lighthouse Point, Florida home.

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