In the past week, allegations of sexual misconduct were released by a website called Babe. According to the allegations, Mr. Ansari asked a 23-year-old out on a date that, in her opinion, turned into a nightmare and led her to conclude that she had been sexually assaulted.
My Background Working with Sexual Assault Survivors
I want to be clear that I consider myself an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. In the past two weeks, I have walked 3 personal friends through reporting very significant date rapes. All three of them made the choice to report it to police, to have a rape kit completed and go through the process of getting a restraining order. All three women were scared and told themselves that maybe it was a “hookup that went bad.” In their cases, there was nothing that put them at fault. These situations were clear abuses of power and caused physical and emotional harm. Judges did not stall in giving these women their restraining orders. One of them has been harassed by his family members and wishes that she didn’t report the incident just so the re-traumatization would stop. Date rape happens more often than we think. I routinely deal with this in my professional career as a psychologist and have special training in the assessment of domestic violence and abuse (including sexual abuse).
The Ansari Allegations Raise Other Issues: What Does it Mean to be a Man?
I, however, do not see the Ansari allegations in the same manner. Rather, the allegations bring to light a huge problem we have with American dating and hook up culture: None of us really have a clue on how to communicate about dating, relationships, and sex. We are too afraid to just be honest about what it is we really want. Every woman in New York has had a version of this dating story but with differing outcomes.
It is hard for women, let alone young women to really understand what it is like to be a man in the United States. I’m obviously not one but I do work extensively with men who struggle with their personal definition of masculinity. They worry that if they don’t make a move that women will think they are not interested. They now worry that if they do make a move, they will be at risk for sexually harassing their date. What most women don’t know is how much men’s masculinity is tied to their ability to get women to like them and ultimately sleep with them. Most of my coaching conversations with men under 40 revolve around how to increase the number of women they sleep with. It often becomes my job to dig a little deeper as to why they are not yet ready for a serious relationship. The response is almost always related to previous rejection and pain associated with a bad experience with a woman. Women simply do not understand the power they have to make or break a man’s ego at a young age. Eventually many grow up to use women as a form of validation that they are indeed “a real man.” Tinder becomes a tool to recieve the self-esteem boost he lack on the inside.
Why We Can’t Always Simply Blame Men
To further complicate things, we can’t blame all men for this point of view. We essentially train them to be this way as teens and young adults. We teach them that women like assertive and confident men. We teach them that persistence is the key to getting a woman to sleep with you. We teach them that if they want something, they need to go get it. We mistakenly tell them to “man up” when they are struggling to express their emotions. The documentary The Mask you Live In beautifully discusses the toxic culture of masculinity we have cultivated in this country.
We DON’T teach young men how to read body language or read the state of mind of their date. We don’t teach them that they are more likely to misinterpret a woman’s interest in sex. We don’t teach them how to calibrate their approaches to fit the woman sitting in front of him rather than memorizing a list of universal rules. We don’t teach them that the REAL definition of seduction is about being selfless and socially calibrated so she feels safe enough to pursue sex, a hookup or a relationship. The real definition of seduction is more about sensuality and respect – the very things women need biologically to feel comfortable with having sex with any man.
Rather than learning these skills young men, who were not good with women at a young age, focus on achieving high levels of financial success and/or status. While women may be more likely to make more careful determinations of whom they share their bed with as they become more successful, most men do not think that way. Success and wealth can become a tool of manipulative seduction whose aim is to get a beautiful young woman into bed as quickly as possible. These men truly believe that being seductive means using explicitly sexual language and acting sexual. They simply do not understand that the real definition of seduction requires an understanding of the other person as a human being and selflessly providing what she needs to feel comfortable enough to consent to sex.
Most Women Want to Have Sex Way More than our Culture Allows us to Believe
What is funny about this viewpoint is that most young women today would be more than happy to sleep with a man quickly if he treated her like a gentleman, made his intentions known, and asked for her opinion or allowed her to lead. There is no shortage of one night stands in NYC. Many men and women happily hookup without a problem and the men that are successful with women do not have to work so hard – their behavior makes her feel safe enough to consent in the affirmative. It is a healthy interaction where both parties feel happy with the outcome.
So here is what I think went wrong in the Ansari situation: She expected to be courted and respected because that what she needs to be turned on. He failed by this account. She gave him complete control of the date. He thought he was on a roll and that it was time to seduce her into bed. Had his approach been completely different, one in which made her feel taken care of and respected, I doubt that this would have been the outcome. Had he made his intentions known from the start by telling her he was not interested in anything more than a night of fun, it would have given her the opportunity to consent or not. The problem may have been sidestepped all together.
For everyone to move forward, we really need to be mindful to deal with the lack of respect we have toward each other in general. Online dating has commoditized women and women are tired of feeling like an object. Women also need to communicate with men when they do things we do not like. Simply stopping communication and disappearing does not help to resolve the issues that transpire. We as a culture can put a stop to these types of behaviors if we are simply brave enough to communicate and behaviorally match our actions to our words.
We are all going to have problems in the dating department – I just hope this story encourages women to assert themselves without anger or defensiveness so that men can learn how to treat women appropriately and women can learn to simply walk away from experiences that make them uncomfortable sooner. I also hope that men can begin to simply be upfront and honest about what they want to avoid this type of mismatch. If you just want sex, find the woman who just wants sex. Be open, honest, and direct. You may be surprised how many people are willing to share your vision and how happy that relationship oriented women will be if you stay away from attempting to seduce them with overly sexual behavior on a first date!
If all else fails, keep it classy – in today’s world, you can’t risk ruining your reputation over a bad sexual experience.
Dr. Jennifer Rhodes
Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships
Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist. She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world. Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought out media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality, dating, divorce, and relationships.