Some More Thoughts On Aziz Ansari, Women’s Pain, and Shitty Hetero Sex

Note: This post is very heteronormative because the situation that inspired this post was, by all accounts, fairly heteronormative. I believe commentary and analysis should be specific to the individuals and conditions in a given set of circumstances. I in no way intend for my thoughts here to minimize or erase the experiences of LGBTQ+ survivors or male survivors of sexual violence, which require separate and nuanced analyses that go beyond the scope of this post (and let’s be honest, the expertise of this cishet writer).

Hi there. Just your everyday heteronormative millennial feminist chiming into this whole Aziz Ansari mess, because shitty sexual encounters with cishet men is something I happen to be somewhat knowledgeable about.

I just want to put it out there, first and foremost, that I believe and have empathy for “Grace,” the photographer who recounted her reportedly awful interaction with Aziz to Babe, a media website “for girls who don’t give a fuck” (okay, I have to admit I kinda love that tagline). I believe Grace’s assertion that she was harmed by what occurred and I don’t fault her for handling the situation the way that she did according to the report. Aziz has acknowledged the existence of the encounter in a public statement, calling the encounter “by all indications…completely consensual,” which honestly pissed me off, but more on that later.

Secondly, I want to say that I’ve been a huge fan of Aziz. I watched all his comedy specials on Netflix (I appreciated the chronological trajectory of how less douchey his jokes became with each special that came out); read his book on millennial dating culture, Modern Romance (interesting confirmation of what I’ve experienced but frankly, my dating blog posts are way more entertaining); and I’ve watched both seasons of Master Of None (aside from the fixation on falling in love with white women, I enjoyed the show). So reading the original report from Babe made me feel disturbed and disappointed in someone whose work I had enjoyed, which cannot be consumed in the same way again, especially considering how Aziz’s work has centered on cultivating an image of him as a sensitive, self-aware male feminist with the social and emotional intelligence to understand gendered social and dating norms. In fact, because he has made a career out of this kind of comedy is what makes this recent controversy such a betrayal to me as a fan.

Thirdly, there are people who argue that the reporting was too shitty for us to get a clear sense of what happened, thereby 1) forcing everyone outside of the encounter to speak from their own personal traumas and baggage and 2) ruining the opportunity for us to have a real conversation about misogyny and sexual misconduct. I agree that the reporting could have been better but 1) we can’t pretend that Grace’s pain and discomfort isn’t apparent in this story, 2) regardless of the quality of the reporting, everyone will always be speaking from their own life experiences and worldview on the things they read–it’s difficult to speak from a place of objectivity (whatever the hell that is, tbh) when it comes time to address something as murky and controversial as sexual assault, and 3) although not in the best circumstances, the opportunity to have the conversation is already here and the conversation is definitely rapid-fire happening, so let’s not pretend like the opportunity has been “missed” and instead let’s keep talking and unpacking this.

Based on a couple of inflammatory think pieces and a number of comments I’ve read online, the thing that most people seem worked up about is Grace reportedly describing her experience with Aziz as assault. People have dismissed it as simply bad consensual sex. Many have criticized Grace for her seeming inability to explicitly say no and leave right away once she knew she felt uncomfortable, pointing out that Aziz cannot read minds. Some have also argued that categorizing the experience as assault undermines what the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are about: survivors of “actual” assault and rape. And some have gone on further to defend Aziz and bemoan the current state of feminism that is alienating “good” men and “destroying” their careers. (LOL)

I vehemently disagree with the above opinions, and regardless of their original intent, I think they sound an awful lot like victim-blaming rhetoric.

Would I personally qualify Grace’s encounter as sexual assault? Trick question. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the person who was harmed to define their own experience. And if Grace defines that encounter as assault, then I respect her right to do so. Which brings me to why I was pissed at reading Aziz’s public statement: you can’t call an experience consensual if the other person involved disagrees with you.

He should have stated, “I assumed it was consensual” or “I inferred it was consensual” or even “I thought it was consensual,” but by stating point-blank that the encounter was “completely consensual,” he invalidates his partner’s experience. Like, can we be on the same page with this? Consent requires the consensus of all parties involved. And if two people are coming away from a sexual encounter with very different perceptions of what happened, then something is very wrong and needs to be addressed.

What I feel needs to be addressed at large is not so much the clueless and damaging actions of Aziz specifically, but rather the clueless and damaging actions of Aziz as a Stand-In For Any Cisgender Heterosexual Male Down To Fuck. Because Grace’s encounter with Aziz is unfortunately not a rare occurrence, which some of the above critics have acknowledged. Why is that bad? Because whether or not we believe Grace’s experience can legally or officially qualify as sexual assault is besides the point. The point is that Grace came away from her encounter feeling harmed, and if that is what a lot of women are identifying with when they read her account of how things went down, then shit is really fucked.

I am one of those women who read her story and cringed at the ways in which it reminded me of my own bad sexual experiences (not too many, but enough and hopefully not many more). Experiences in which the guy jackhammered his dick in me and called it a night without a single thought to my wellbeing or pleasure. Experiences in which I felt less like a human being and more like a vaguely sentient vagina. Experiences that were dehumanizing, objectifying, degrading, or just downright disrespectful.

But hey! That’s all okay, right? Because I consented to them.

But why would I consent to dehumanizing, objectifying, degrading, and just downright disrespectful sex?

Good question! I didn’t. And that’s what makes things complicated.

To clarify, I view my shitty sexual experiences with cishet men as technically consensual and I would not call any of them assault, rape, or coercion. At the same time, there’s been a huge disconnect between expectations and reality in these cases. I don’t go into a sexual encounter with the expectation that both my dignity and my cervix are going to take a severe hit. I go into a sexual encounter with the expectation that the person I am attracted to will treat me like another human being instead of a lifeless semen dumpster. And when it turns out that I’m going to roleplay the lifeless semen dumpster, it doesn’t matter how consensual I later tell myself it was, it doesn’t erase the discomfort, pain, and trauma I felt during and after these experiences. Actually, I would even go so far as to say that a couple of these incidents were a little bit rapey.

Rapey, but not rape. A fine distinction, right?

You might be confused at this point. You might be thinking, Okay, so you’re saying Grace’s story reminded you of bad consensual sex you’ve had, so aren’t you making the case for also classifying Grace’s experience as bad consensual sex?

Nope, as I’ve stated above, I am a firm believer that the person directly impacted should define their own experiences on their terms. What I’m trying to get at is, having sexual relations with a cisgender heterosexual dude can be traumatic as fuck regardless of whether you define your experience as consensual or not, and the fact that I can share this pain with another woman who identifies her sexual experience differently goes to show that the root causes of our shared pain are the same.

The root causes here would be toxic masculinity, misogyny, and heteronormativity, by the way. Or you know, patriarchy, for shorthand.

I’m sure you’ve heard this stuff before. Men have been socially conditioned to be confident and assertive, to treat women like objects, and to pursue them as conquests. Women, on the other hand, have been socially conditioned to be passive and polite, to coddle the egos of men, and to put everyone else’s needs before our own. Is it any wonder then that a byproduct of this social conditioning is shitty hetero sex at best, and outright sexual assault at worst?

Men take what they want and women get what they receive. It’s a shitty gendered power dynamic but it exists and it’s ridiculous for anyone to say that this dynamic is not pervasive in our culture–not just in the workplace, but also in the streets and in the bedroom. Which means that Aziz still had power over Grace as a man (a wealthy and famous one at that) in this reported encounter, even if he wasn’t her boss. His male privilege, wealth, and cultural capital don’t miraculously disappear just because he didn’t happen to be sexually coercing her on a film set while namedropping celebrity friends and throwing Benjamins around.

And yes, I agree individuals have agency and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions–but within the context of pervasive and toxic gender norms that also exist. What I hate so much about the backlash I’ve been reading about Grace’s perceived inaction is how the social conditioning of women has been downplayed or completely overlooked. It’s not that people defending Grace are making the argument that women are inherently too helpless or weak to speak up for themselves, as some have alleged. What we’re saying is that patriarchy has created conditions that have made women speaking up for themselves difficult, whether that’s in a factory, on a film set, or at a horny guy’s fancy apartment. And it’s not that easy to override social conditioning when it’s so deeply ingrained.

Take it from me. I’ve been told I’m strong, confident, opinionated, and independent. Yet I have struggled to assert my agency during some of my sexual experiences with cishet men. Why? Because of that damn social conditioning (which goes doubly for me as an Asian woman, ugh). I get anxious about giving feedback to my sexual partner because I worry about hurting his feelings, especially when sex already makes people feel vulnerable enough. A part of me fears that any objections or resistance on my part will escalate a situation into outright violence, and that would mean I definitely couldn’t dismiss the encounter as “just bad sex” anymore–I’d have to deal with it as assault. And even when I do muster the courage to voice my desires or concerns, I’ve had cishet men disregard them (yes, even the more respectful ones), which erodes my confidence in being listened to, makes me think I was the one who said or did something wrong, and causes me to wonder if anything I say really matters anyway.

Just think of all the emotional energy I’ve been expending, trying to create space for communication so I can articulate my needs without offending my cishet male sexual partners. I wonder how much energy was spent by them on trying to do the same. I am willing to bet money that the answer is little to none. Because wordlessly shoving their dick in me and calling it a night has sufficed.

Women are taught to be careful around men. We are also paradoxically told that it’s misandrist of us to assume that ALL men could be predators or abusers. These are confusing messages to drill into our heads. So when women take the chance to meet a strange man for a date because he’s attractive and seems cool, we do so hopeful that the man in question will respect us while also wary that things could go awry. And when he’s being disrespectful, we have to do the mental gymnastics to figure out whether the possible physical or social repercussions are worth calling him out: whether or not rejecting him right then and there will be “too rude” or “too melodramatic,” which can maybe lead to “too dangerous.” Some of us second-guess our intuition. Some of us want to play it safe and avoid confrontation. Some of us get stuck between “yes” and “no” and are punished for our uncertainty.

The onus has largely been on women to speak up, do more, and be more in regards to our entanglements and relationships with cishet men. We are told what we need to do or what we should have done. We are told that we are weak and at fault if we fail to do these things. Yes, in a perfect world free from the tyranny of patriarchy, women should be able to advocate for themselves, and ideally we would be able to do so perfectly, unapologetically, and without having to weigh the risks and possible consequences. But that perfect world doesn’t exist yet. What exists is a world in which men are at an advantage and non-men are not. So at a minimum, we need to be met halfway by our male counterparts. I would even go so far as to argue that men should meet us three-quarters of the way until we have made substantial strides in achieving social parity between men and women. For instance, it should be easier for someone who has been socially conditioned to be confident and assertive to start a conversation about sexual desires, than for someone who has been socially conditioned to be passive and polite.

What does it say about us as a society when we are focused more on grooming women to resist the advances of men, instead of demanding that men just respect women in both public and private spheres?

Which leads me to what bothers me most about holding women more accountable than men when it comes to shitty hetero sex: the implication that women must be taught to better ask for our humanity to be recognized, more so than for men to simply recognize the humanity of the women they are sexually engaging with. That’s really the heart of the matter: if you respect someone as a human being, you would care about what they thought and felt, and you would notice if they were uncomfortable. The issue is that many cishet men can’t be bothered to view women through that lens, especially when initiating sex. They can’t be bothered because society has allowed them, encouraged them, and even enabled them to be selfish and unfeeling in their behavior towards women. And apparently, teaching men to be kinder, more respectful, and more empathetic towards women is just asking too much.

(Seriously though: Why can’t we expect cishet men to just fucking ask questions or read body language? Is it that difficult to ask “Can I kiss you?” Is it too hard to observe that when someone is pulling away from you, that is a sign of disinterest? That has nothing to do with mind reading, that is just picking up on goddamn social cues.)

In short (well kind of), I believe that sexual violence is a long, discordant spectrum, with catcalling a stranger on the street on one end, sex trafficking on the other end, and bad sex somewhere close to the middle. I believe and understand how bad sex can become a slippery slope to sexual assault or rape because of how the dynamics of sex can change from moment to moment. I believe in and support ongoing, affirmative, and enthusiastic consent. I believe women have the agency to define our own experiences and the right to be trusted when we say we have been harmed. I believe we have much more work to do when a woman’s response to Grace’s story is “Ha! You’re stupid, I’ve suffered worse than that and I’m fine!” I believe we will not progress as a society if we are only willing to exercise empathy for the stories of people who meet our legal definitions and socially accepted expectations for what trauma looks like. I believe patriarchy has created conditions that have made it risky and at times downright dangerous for women to vocalize dissent, and the onus is on individual men to leverage their privilege to help change these conditions so that women aren’t afraid of advocating for themselves, whether in a professional or personal setting. I believe that rather than diluting movements against sexual harassment and assault, stories like Grace’s give them greater complexity and nuance, because we are asking people to look beyond the minute details and at the bigger picture of gender-based violence perpetrated by cishet men, in which the safety and wellbeing of all women and femmes have been systematically compromised in so many different ways, all of which are worthy of our time and attention and empathy. And lastly, I believe that the pain of women, in all its heartbreaking shades, need not reach society’s threshold in order to be validated.


Thank you to my friends Jakki and Allison for unintentionally helping me write this post.


“What happens to Aziz Ansari isn’t the point” by Molly Brown (Washington Post)

“On Aziz Ansari And ‘Bad Sex'” by Katie Anthony (Bust)

“On Aziz Ansari And Sex That Feels Violating Even When It’s Not Criminal” by Emma Gray (HuffPost)

Kat Blaque’s Facebook page (she wrote a very thoughtful post on the matter on 1/17/18, just scroll til you find it)

Guerrilla Feminism’s Instagram (check posts made during the week of 1/14/18 – 1/18/18)

“The Aziz Ansari story is ordinary. That’s why we have to talk about it.” by Anna North (Vox)

“The Patriarchy Strikes Back” by Sarah Jones (New Republic)


“Why Sex That’s Consensual Can Still Be Bad. And Why We’re Not Talking About It.” by Rebecca Traister (The Cut)


I’m Not Dead

tw: suicidal ideation

When I was seven, I wrote on a piece of paper about how sad and alone I felt because no one understood me. I made the mistake of writing this deeply anguished reflection at my cousin’s house, where privacy was not an option. Soon enough, my cousin and her friends had come back to her room where I had been hiding, and snatched up the paper I had poured my heart into.

“No! Don’t read it!” I pleaded, trying to get it out of my cousin’s outstretched hand.

“What does it say?” her friends asked.

I watched my cousin’s brow furrow as her eyes skimmed over my neat, round handwriting. “It’s just about feelings,” she finally said, and didn’t share the paper with anyone else.

I remember feeling a wave of relief wash over me, knowing that she would keep my secret.

This memory still lingers in my mind to this day, nearly twenty years later. I think it’s because it marks one of the first moments this all began: this ebb and flow of chronic melancholy that has haunted me for most of my life.

Some people might ask, don’t you mean depression? And honestly, I’m not sure. Sometimes I use that word because it’s the easiest way to encapsulate my experience, but I’ve never been officially diagnosed. And according to the Internet (which of course you can’t always believe, but still), depression isn’t just about being sad. And I don’t know if there’s anything more to my condition, other than a deep, impenetrable sadness I default to when I’m alone with just my thoughts.

There’s usually a process to it. Sometimes it starts with uncertainty about little things, oftentimes nothing of consequence. Maybe I’m walking down a hallway and try to say hi to an acquaintance, and she doesn’t acknowledge me. Or a group of people sitting by me are laughing and I swear they’re looking at me as they’re doing it. Not knowing what other people are thinking when they see me or interact with me, leads to mounting feelings of dread, a queasiness in my stomach, a racing of my heart. Then the void gets filled with my own toxic, poisonous thoughts: I definitely did something wrong, said something wrong, they definitely do not like me, I am definitely a walking human error and my only solution is to crawl under a rock and die.

Other times, it begins with a negative response from someone that they may quickly forget within minutes but I end up holding on to forever: a scolding from a teacher on breaking a minor classroom policy, or a joking but biting remark from a friend. The hurt will fester inside me and along with it come those toxic thoughts again: I definitely did something wrong, said something wrong, they definitely do not like me, I am definitely a walking human error and my only solution is to crawl under a rock and die.

By this point, I am overwhelmed with existential feelings of rejection, shame, loneliness. I think things like, Nobody likes me. I keep fucking up. I’m going to die alone. I have no purpose in life. What’s the point of living? 

I’ve fantasized about dying, off and on throughout my childhood, adolescence, and adult life. I’ve gotten excited at the thought of being hit by a car and getting killed instantly. But the most important part is my funeral. Who will attend and how everyone will react. The things they would say once I’m gone. Maybe that’s when people will finally care, is the refrain that echoes in my mind. I’ve also romanticized suicide. What a tragic, courageous way to die. I could never do that. But if I could, how would I end my life? Jumping off a bridge and drowning? Swallowing pills? Throwing myself in front of an oncoming train?

I keep waiting to outgrow this unhealthy train of thought, but it catches up to me, especially in the past two years, when so many life stressors have built on top of each other in layers I am too overwhelmed to tease apart and remedy. What if…? Life is so exhausting. I’ve done enough. There’s nothing to look forward to. How long would it take for people to notice if I kill myself? 

On the bright side, I’ve combated these thoughts just as quickly as they’ve entered my head. No, you can’t. You can’t do this. Be grateful. You don’t have it so bad. Your family will never get over this if you die. You don’t want to hurt your family and friends, do you?

In a way, it’s been a morbid game of truth or dare I’ve played with myself:

Truth or dare.


Would you kill yourself?

No. I’ve thought about it. But no, I wouldn’t.

Truth or dare.


I dare you to kill yourself.

On my 26th birthday, I listened to Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” song for the first time and bawled my eyes out, especially when I heard him sing, “I want you to be alive,” because it hadn’t hit me until then how much I needed to hear someone say that to me.

The third time he sings the chorus, he changes the line to “I finally want to be alive.” Something inside me cringes at that part because I don’t know if I can ever genuinely sustain that feeling. It just sounds easy to transition into that mindset when it’s a lyric in a catchy four minute song.

A part of me knows this all sounds very melodramatic, and not quite in line with my life. I think this is because I have done a decent job of holding it together so I can avoid other people worrying or pitying me, or becoming a burden. People come to me with their emotional baggage. If I do it to other people, I try my best to keep my presentation as contained as I can. I usually save the actual emotional wreckage for later, when I can retreat to the privacy of  my car or my bedroom. Once, when I gave the slightest indicator that I was having a hard time to a friend, she expressed surprise and some disbelief. “But you seem so together,” she said.

And so I do.

I don’t know all the root causes of this melancholy. I can only guess. Maybe it’s because my family was so dysfunctional, maybe it’s because I grew up poor, maybe it’s because I was bullied as a kid, maybe it’s because my dad died when I was so young, but most of the time I’ve brushed this all off. So what? All of this stuff isn’t that terrible. Almost everyone has a dysfunctional family. It’s not like you were living on the streets, begging for scraps. I was guilty of also bullying other kids. And other people grow up with a single parent and turn out fine. There isn’t anything so awful in my past circumstances that should warrant this level of emotional turmoil.

All I know is, I am scraping by with some measure of self-worth I’ve worked hard to obtain and keep in the past seven years. Yet I can’t seem to progress much farther than deciding that I no longer want to hate myself.

Inspired by a friend of mine, one of my resolutions this year is to be kinder to myself. But I don’t understand how to do it. It seems kind of stupid to have it as a resolution, now that I think about it. I haven’t figured it out in the past twenty years, what makes me think I can figure it out before this year is over?

A therapist would be able to help, you might suggest. I hope so. The last therapist I worked with thought I should continue with therapy. I told her I was too broke, in a fancy white people roundabout sort of way: “I’m struggling financially at this time and I don’t think I’m in a position to afford therapy, although I would like to reconnect with it in the near future when my situation is more sustainable.” Maybe someday. What’s more important, therapy or opening a retirement account?

Last week I dared myself to Google “how to kill yourself painlessly.” I did. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately popped up. I read a list of suggestions that were paradoxically prefaced with a cautionary disclaimer that emphasized seeking help. Going through the list felt funny, like I was reading a bad fanfiction story removed from my actual life. I guess that’s a good thing, though.

I’ve always been pretty indecisive. Probably the only arena in which that is a valuable trait is suicidal ideation. I mean, death is so permanent from my understanding. I’ve never been good at hard decisions like that.

For now, I’ll keep hiking on trails that muddy my shoes and set my mind at ease. Laugh long and loud with friends. Write in the solitude of my room. Go to work when I can muster the energy, which has to be often by necessity. Promise myself I’ll get my room together soon, unlike the entirety of my life which is much harder. Listen to music that somehow holds my sadness in a way that I don’t think people can. Smile and tell people I’m okay, even when I’m not. Cry in my car and in my room and wonder who can bear witness to this ugliness, and would I want them to. Practice gratitude and try to hold the toxic thoughts at bay. Sometimes I’ll succeed, and sometimes I won’t. I guess that’s how it goes.

Sorry. That’s the only cliché I could think to end on.


Dear Clementine

Oh, you knew it was too good to be true, didn’t you? You spilled your feelings too quickly, and watched them go to waste. You screamed from the rooftop, and all you got was silence. You spent your happiness on something that couldn’t last.

You caught on. The way it hit you in the gut, that things would fall apart, like they always do. This was inevitable. Because you’re fucked up in the head, and that has to come out eventually. Because burning bridges is the only way you can connect with men. Because when it comes to you, desire has a fast approaching expiration date.

They come here, strangers. Intrigued by the glimpse you offer them. Not realizing that the bigger picture is much uglier to face.

What can you tell them? When they see an opportunity instead of a warning sign?

“Oh, hi. I’m pretending to be well-adjusted so you will like me enough to fuck me but honestly I’m too dysfunctional to actually see this through.”

“Oh, hi. You’re a piece of shit, I’m a piece of shit, this isn’t going to work, but we’re probably going to keep following the script until we crash and burn. That cool with you?”

“Oh, hi. You’re just another guy I will never see again, so tell me all your baggage upfront so I can fuck you in peace, knowing it was already a mistake.”

You should know better than to chase after men whose interest was first piqued by your darkness.


Bad Feminist

You’re a bad feminist
because you keep crying about boys
who don’t give a shit about you
You’re a bad feminist
because you preach self care to your friends
and self-destruct when no one’s around
You’re a bad feminist
because you like to say fuck the male gaze
while forcing yourself to slap on makeup
and shave your legs before every date
You’re a bad feminist
because you let your insecurities spread like wildfire
until everything has been burned to the ground
You’re a bad feminist
because you quit therapy
even though you’re an emotional breakdown away
from sabotaging everyone’s happiness
You’re a bad feminist
because all you do is write about your mother
in a language she can’t read
while you ignore her calls
because you’re fucked up
and hearing her on the phone
makes you feel even more fucked up
You’re a bad feminist
because your biggest and most frequent lies
are “I’m okay” and “I’m fine”
You’re a bad feminist
because you keep screaming love yourself
(please please please just love yourself)
to all these empty fucking rooms
that make up that sad excuse of a thing
you call your beating heart


One Year Later

same place,
different boy
but this time,
I’m in control
this time,
I’m on top
this time,
it’s my car in the dark
and I’m the one wary
of getting caught
this time,
my breath comes out smooth
instead of sharp
this time,
he’s the one
who can feel my beating heart
this time,
the kissing doesn’t stop
and this time
doesn’t feel like a loss


catch the moon.

I can’t stop
coming undone
when I’m stuck
on this cluttered freeway
chasing the moon
when no one is around
to watch me unravel
and the darkness is a cover
for another breakdown
I tell myself to breathe
but all I taste is wet salt
all I taste is loneliness
emptying my insides out
I pat down my cheeks
checking for mascara tracks,
hoping to be told
“you look pretty
for a train wreck”
This moment will pass
I tell myself
I tell myself a lot of things
That’s all I ever do
I swear I’ll get better
I swear one day
my car won’t be
a place of mourning
I swear one day
I’ll drive and
I’ll catch the moon