Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the position of the Minerva Quest or its affiliates.

“Whether what Aziz did constitutes sexual assault or not isn’t the issue,” writes Anthony Kozlowski in a January 15 article.

For those unaware of the recent story concerning actor, writer, and comedian Aziz Ansari, let me take a moment to fill you in.

A Brooklyn photographer going publicly under the alias Grace met Ansari at an after-party for the 2017 Emmy Awards. The two flirted a little and went on a date the following week. The date did not go as Grace hoped. Ansari poured the wrong wine and asked for the check too quickly. The two went back to his apartment and began to kiss and undress each other. Grace was surprised at how quickly things were moving, but didn’t say anything or pull away. Ansari suggested he get a condom, but Grace did not feel comfortable with penetrative sex. The two performed oral sex on each other. Grace alleged that several times during the interaction Ansari moved her hand toward his genitals, and each time she would move it away. When this first sexual encounter was over Grace commented about how perhaps next time things could go further. Even if she intended this to be a deterrence, she did explicitly mention another potential date. The two sat down on Ansari’s couch and soon began to kiss again. For a second time, Ansari proposed intercourse, and again Grace refused. They got dressed and watched Seinfeld. Ansari moved to begin another intimate encounter, Grace, still not interested, decided to go home.

The next day she received a text message from Ansari saying, “It was fun meeting you last night,” to which she responded, “Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me. You ignored clear non-verbal clues; you kept going with advances. I want to make you aware so maybe the next girl doesn’t have to cry on the ride home.” Ansari answered her very humbly, “I’m so sad to hear this. Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”

Now that we know the story, let’s turn our attention back to what Kozlowski wrote in his article.

Grace’s date with Ansari without question sounds like it did not go the way either of them was hoping. Dates are like that sometimes. But nowhere in any of what she said is there any indication that Ansari assaulted her. Even her “non-verbal cues” are a tad confusing given her continued participation in the sexual encounter, only opposing penetrative intercourse, but clearly consenting to other things. Say what you will, but that matters. It matters a lot.

And I’m going to explain why.

Having experienced sexual assault and harassment, not in the buyer’s remorse or that-date-sucked way, but in the literal as-per-the-legal-definition way, I can say with confidence that there is a difference between what Grace describes and what it actually means to be sexually assaulted.

When these women choose to equate their bad date with my very real assault, it degrades my experience.

Grace is one of many in recent weeks to come out with stories of inappropriate behaviour that they have chosen, for whatever reason, to label as sexual assault, apparently not understanding what that really means. And what these women — who have, no doubt, had a bad or embarrassing experience — don’t seem to think about is what their actions mean to people like me.

I was not raped. I would never equate what happened to me with being raped, because having been assaulted I understand the difference between what happened to me and how much worse it could have been and how genuinely horrible and traumatic rape would be.

When these women choose to equate their bad date with my very real assault, it degrades my experience. It puts what happened to me and to girls like me — who have genuinely been assaulted and harassed — on the same level as a photo taken in ill-taste or a date where he misread the signals. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of what sexual assault really is and a lack of compassion for its victims.

I was not in any way engaged in a sexual interaction with the people who assaulted and harassed me. There were no signs to misread.

You left. You told him that he made you uncomfortable. He apologized.

No one apologized to me. No one is going to.

Yours was unfortunate. Mine should never have happened.

There is no pride in being assaulted. I blocked it out, it took me years to be able to talk about it with even my mom. Talking about in the vague terms I’m using here makes my hands shake. I have no desire to proclaim my story to the world, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want five minutes of fame from it. I’ve moved on with my life. I want those things not to have happened to me, I want to forget that they happened, but I can’t. You can forget about a bad date; you’ll probably forget about a lot of them. Make no mistake, it is not the same thing as having to physically push someone away after saying “no” and “stop” multiple times had no effect.

I chose not to pursue legal action. I did this because I really did have a choice. Had I have pursued legal action, the lives those men are living would be very different from how they are today.

Before the court of public opinion sentences yet another person to the guillotine of social extinction, let’s make sure he’s actually guilty of his crimes.

I made this choice because any accusation, regardless of the legal verdict, would have ruined lives, they would forever have been marked as that-guy-who-assaulted-that-girl-that-one-time, and I didn’t want to be responsible for that and what it would mean for their loved ones. I respect women and men who have had my experience, or a similar one, and made the opposite decision. It’s a judgement call and not an easy one.

If it came out that one of the people who hurt me had hurt others as well, I would add my name — my real name — to the list, I would not hide behind a fake name in proclaiming a true experience.

Grace, I’m sorry that you had a bad date. I’m sorry that your night out with a celebrity didn’t go as you dreamed. Some dates are like that. Some guys will act without thinking. It’s a shame, but it’s not the end of the world. There will be other dates, some that will be just as bad, but with people who aren’t easy revenge targets because they are not in the public eye. I hope that you have more good dates than bad ones, and I pray with all my heart that you never have to know what it really means to be assaulted.

Mr. Ansari, you did not sexually assault anyone. Perhaps you could have been more aware, but it seems that you got a lot of mixed signals from Grace and it’s easy to see how you thought things were going one way when really they were going another. I hope that your work is not impacted by a bad date. It seems unfair that everyone else has bad dates and goes on with their lives while you are at high risk of paying a heavy price.

So yes, Mr. Kozlowski, it does matter whether Ansari did or did not assault Grace. Before the court of public opinion sentences yet another person to the guillotine of social extinction, let’s make sure he’s actually guilty of his crimes.

For those of you wondering what this means for the #metoo movement, I encourage you to watch this video.

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