During the last week, the world was debating whether or not actor Aziz Ansari assaulted a woman named “Grace” who he shared an evening with several months ago or if it was just a “bad date.” The public seemed to be split 50/50. Which boggled my mind. Being that several times Grace told Ansari (who was quite aggressive) “slow down,” “let’s just watch TV,” and “I don’t want this to be forced,” but Ansari continued his advances, it was so clear to me that this man assaulted her. What is assault if not unwanted touch?
But then the strangest thing happened. I wasn’t simply disagreeing with half the country, who remained unknown to me. I found myself caught up in an online debate where other women (who I know and respect) were saying this was not assault. Why not? Because “this is just how men are in the hook up scene.” And they know this because they were part of it in their youth. And I was SHOCKED to hear how common this is according to them, and well, I guess half the country. Because I was never was part of it. I became Orthodox before (and maybe in order to avoid) that stage of life.
The truth is that for years I have wondered how women can possibly do OK in the hook up scene. That is not to say the Orthodox system of shidduch dating is perfect by any means, but hook up culture always seemed to leave women worse off than men. It is a disposable system, with strangers using strangers. But I have heard women explain that they are totally fine with the arrangement. So if the using is mutual and both parties leave the encounter happy with how it went, while it is not how I’d conduct myself or raise my children to behave, I am loathe to tell grown adults what they should or shouldn’t do.
However, if half the country considers a guy who doesn’t just use another stranger for his benefit but abuses her for his benefit to simply a “bad dater,” then perhaps my initial fears were founded. Perhaps hook up culture really does leave far too many women in compromised positions and lets slimy guys just get what they want no matter the cost. Perhaps we do need to reexamine the status quo.
While most people would consider the Orthodox Jewish approach to intimacy to be anti-women, when practiced correctly, it is in fact very feminist in its approach. Sex is not about using and moving on. In Jewish law and philosophy, intimate touch is borne out of intimate feelings and shared goals and building a life together. Jewish law and thought very much understand and even explicitly instruct men on how to engage their wives intimately. It begins with connecting through conversation, exchanging romantic language and slowly building from there. And unlike the world that Ansari lives in, Jewish sources place a woman’s needs before her husband’s.
The #metoo movement will never end if we simply out the bad guys. We also need to out the bad systems that allowed the bad guys to flourish. No matter where we find them.