Coming off the Babe article about Aziz Ansari, I found myself struggling to say #MeToo in support of the writer. It’s not that I didn’t think her story was valid, but I didn’t know if I could put the words assault there.
I’ve been sexually molested and assaulted. Those men clearly violated my wishes and explicit and repeated no’s. But when I read the article, I wondered if it was fair for the author to accuse Aziz Ansari of not being able to read her non-verbal cues. And I found myself agreeing to points brought up in a NYT op-ed, Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.
Was I brought up in a culture to think that sexual coercion is...okay? Almost expected? And that we’ve been socialized into thinking that this isn’t a form of assault. And just...part of a bad date? I was struggling with some of these questions. I was struggling to say #MeToo.
And then I experienced it.
I was flying back to Boston from Bangladesh with a layover in Istanbul. I was making myself comfortable at my transit hotel when a man recognized me at the reception. He said he saw me at the airport. I smiled and continued with my day. We went into the elevator together as we were on the same floor. Nothing wrong here.
As I was about to step into my room, he asked me out for coffee. I wanted to say no. I didn’t get a good feeling from him. Yet the words couldn’t come out of my mouth. I didn’t want to seem...rude. He put me in an awkward situation where I felt bad saying no in order to save face; in reality I wanted nothing to do with him. I said maybe. And that I could meet him for breakfast. Breakfast seemed safe. It was in a public space after all.
I didn’t want him waiting outside of my room for me so I left for breakfast 10 minutes early. As expected, he found me at my table, saying he was waiting for me. I encouraged him to go get his breakfast as I felt a pit in my stomach. I knew I wasn’t looking forward to the next 30 minutes.
Did anything assaultive happen? No. We made very awkward conversation. I found myself usually looking away from him, waiting for at least 30 minutes to pass so it didn’t seem like I cut the encounter short. He kept repeating my name over and over again. And the way he did seemed like he enjoyed the sound escaping his lips. It made me very uncomfortable.
He asked me to go out of the hotel into town. I politely declined, citing tiredness and wanting to take a nap. We went back to our floor. He repeatedly called me beautiful. I accepted the compliment and tried to laugh it off, but all I wanted to do was escape to my room to end the affair. I wasn’t saying no. Yet my body was screaming it. He couldn’t read my body. Was that my fault or his?
Finally, my room. I thought I had escaped. And then, I get a phone call. He asked me for coffee...in his room. I said no. He said my room. I said no. He kept insisting. I said no. No. No. I wished him a safe flight and hung up the phone on him mid-sentence. 10 minutes later, he called again. But I didn’t answer.
Did he assault me? No, he didn’t (at least, not in the way I’ve been socialized to think about assault). But was anything in that entire scenario remotely comfortable? Absolutely not.
I found myself telling my friend I shouldn’t be so nice. Perhaps I should be ruder. Perhaps I have to work on my bitch face. He reminded me that I shouldn’t have to do anything. And it’s these little moments I’m reminded of the world I live in where I put saving face over my own safety and comfort.
So ya, #MeToo. Me fucking too.