Aziz Ansari And His Ilk Show Just How Bad Hook Up Culture Is For Women

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.

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  • Avatar photo Tzefanyah says on January 22, 2018

    I’ll sidestep any references to shidduch dating, since it has no direct bearing on society at large, nor particularly on this story.
    The American rules and customs of dating have morphed dramatically over the centuries, and are indeed still evolving. Our society is so multicultural, the dating scene can even vary by region. That said, we do have many social mores that are in common enough to be able rely on a certain set of expectations.
    With the advent of social media and dating apps, it has become easier than ever to find a willing partner with which to spend the evening or indeed, the night. One’s personal expectations after the initial introduction could however, be disappointed. In the case of Aziz Ansari and his date, although I cannot say conclusively, I believe this to be the case. This doesn’t make her a bad person, to my way of thinking. It simply is what it is. A societal norm.
    Having dabbled in the entertainment industry, I can assure you that many a would-be suiter (both genders, all orientations) has been disappointed to find that their celebrity of pursuit was not interested in “taking it slow,” or “getting to know one another,” or anything even resembling a serious relationship. The overwhelming majority of these dejected individuals simply move on, chalking it up to a negative experience. Lesson learned. Now however, we have a #MeeToo movement.
    So, if (and primarily if) you’re a heterosexual woman, your best laid plans gone astray can be chalked up to male boorishness. If you word it right, and express it through the right venue, your dejection could possibly lead to the ending of the career of your previously intended celebrity love. This is the very type of thing the movement doesn’t need. In fact, I can’t imagine anything that could sink it faster than the piling on of self-proclaimed “assault” victims who could have simply said, “Oh, is that what you had in mind? No thanks. Not with me. Good-bye.”
    End of assault.

  • Avatar photo Catholic Mom says on January 22, 2018

    I was one of the commenters in the NY Times article. The problem is — she was trying to use him too. She wanted to go on a date with a “celebrity.” She hit on him at a party and basically got him to invite her out. She picked him up at his apartment, went out to dinner with him (which he paid for) then immediately went back to his apartment. (She stated that he seemed unduly anxious to get back there — duh!! — which bothered her, but she wasn’t drugged and dragged there.) When they got there, it turns out that HE JUST WANTED HER FOR SEX! Say it ain’t so!!!

    Of course the hook up culture is terrible for women. On the other hand, you can’t stop adults from doing what they want to do. But let’s not then clutch our pearls and be shocked, shocked!, that it turns out that men participate in the hook up culture for cheap sex and that if you go alone to a man’s apartment (or dorm room) after a date, the man is going to try to have sex with you. You have to be an idiot not to know this. Women have understood this for thousands of years. It’s only lately that it seems to come to them as a complete surprise.

    • Avatar photo Tzefanyah says on January 22, 2018

      I agree with you, but with one addition. The hook-up culture is only “terrible” for the women (and men) who don’t get what they came for. For those that do, regardless of gender, it’s a game well played.

    • Avatar photo Michelle says on January 23, 2018

      The old adage goes like this . When men gets old they only regert the things they didn’t do. When a women gets old she regerts the things she did do.

  • Avatar photo AJ says on January 27, 2018

    Ben Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew who’s a conservative political commentator says Aziz Ansari isn’t guilty of sexual assault and women shouldn’t expect men to read their minds.
    If Orthodox Judaism is clear on this issue, it seems strange that an Orthodox Jew like Ben Shapiro would get it wrong like this. Do you have any thoughts?

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on January 27, 2018

      Thanks for your comment, AJ. First off, the purpose of the article wasn’t to comment on whether or not what Ansari did was assault from a halachic perspective, it was to discuss how damaging hook up culture is for women. Number two, Shapiro is not a rabbi, he is a political commentator who happens to be an Orthodox Jew. Being that Jewish law does not allow a man to force a woman sexually and prioritizes her pleasure, it would seem that when a woman does not show signs of enjoying the encounter then the husband is no longer fulfilling his martial duties or observing Jewish law correctly.


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