This Twitter Thread Is Required Reading If You Care About Consent

In a literally perfect thread, the New York-based writer explains why some women don't feel like they can expect mutual pleasure from sex

Ashley C. Ford Twitter: Author Ashley C. Ford wearing a beige sweater and dark blue jeans.

(Photo, Rex)

When Babe, a Brooklyn-based women’s news and lifestyle site, published a story about an anonymous source’s date with Aziz Ansari that, as the article’s headline proclaimed, “turned into the worst night of [her] life,” it pushed the conversation about consent in new, difficult directions. Though “Grace” (the pseudonym Babe used for the source), did consent to the sexual encounter she describes, Ansari’s behaviour was suspect—he was clearly coercive, seemingly misunderstanding, or perhaps ignoring, his partner’s non-verbal cues.

But that point—that consensual sex can still feel bad for women, and that’s a problem—hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves. Partially, this is because Babe ran Grace’s story as, “a bizarre hybrid of reported piece and personal essay, with editorial comments inappropriately interjected,” which does a disservice to the both Grace and the site’s readers, as Jill Filipovic explains in The Guardian. “It seems to have been reported only because there was a celebrity name attached,” she says. “And not even because the celebrity broke the law or leveraged his power to do wrong, but because he was sexist and sexually entitled—while despicable, that’s shaky grounds for broadcasting an individual’s sexual play-by-play. As a result, we’re arguing about whether Aziz Ansari is a sexual assailant, and missing the more relevant conversation about sex, male entitlement and misogyny in the bedroom.”

But it’s also because that “more relevant conversation” is just really hard to have; Ansari’s behaviour wasn’t illegal, but it was a distressingly common example of how men are conditioned to approach sex—almost as a goal to be accomplished, not a shared experience between partners—and how women are conditioned to accept it. In that context, it’s easier to understand how many people, how many women, felt uneasy about seeing Grace’s experience fall under the umbrella of #MeToo. It would require us to look back at past relationships with a careful eye… and maybe see them in a disturbing new light.

Enter this literally perfect Twitter thread from writer Ashley C. Ford, who used a conversation with her college roommate as a jumping off point to talk about why some women don’t feel like they can expect mutual pleasure from sex and why it is so. profoundly. fucked. up.

“After years of men laying on top of her limp body and ‘taking what they can get,’ she had absolutely been harmed”—can anyone really argue with that? It hurts women when their partners feel entitled to their bodies, with little regard for their wants and desires. And not just women; Twitter user @itscottmichael replied to Ford’s thread with an example of how this problematic dynamic appears in the gay community.

As Ford explained in an appearance on BuzzFeed News’ AM to DM on January 16, even if Ansari’s behaviour wasn’t assault, it was on a “spectrum of harm.” And that’s why it’s not a “distraction” from “real issues” to talk about men who don’t abuse, but do coerce. That’s one of the real issues. This conversation shouldn’t be restricted to calling out people who use their professional power to take advantage of their employees, or who are violent, or who behave in ways clearly contrary to the law. We also have to talk about the way we approach sex in our day-to-day lives, how power dynamics come into play and just what we expect from our sexual partners, even if it’s confusing or hard.

Otherwise how will anything really change?

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