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But in one essential aspect they reminded us that we were strong in a way that so many modern girls are weak.They told us over and over again that if a man tried to push you into anything you didn’t want, even just a kiss, you told him flat out you weren’t doing it. You were always to have “mad money” with you: cab fare in case he got “fresh” and then refused to drive you home.Sexual mores in the West have changed so rapidly over the past 100 years that by the time you reach 50, intimate accounts of commonplace sexual events of the young seem like science fiction: You understand the vocabulary and the sentence structure, but all of the events take place in outer space. This was my experience reading the account of one young woman’s alleged sexual encounter with Aziz Ansari, published by the website this weekend.
In fact, the bitterly disappointed girl crying in a taxi muttering, “They’re all the same,” was almost a trope.
Make a few changes to Grace’s story and it would fit right into the narrative of those books and magazines, which would have dissected what happened to her in a pitiless way.
When she saw Ansari at the party, she was excited by his celebrity—“Grace said it was surreal to be meeting up with Ansari, a successful comedian and major celebrity”—which the magazines would have told us was shallow; he brushed her off, but she kept after him, which they would have called desperate; doing so meant ignoring her actual date of the evening, which they would have called cruel.
Agreeing to meet at his apartment—instead of expecting him to come to her place to pick her up—they would have called unwise; ditto drinking with him alone.
Drinking, we were told, could lead to a girl’s getting “carried away,” which was the way female sexual desire was always characterized in these things—as in, “She got carried away the night of the prom.” As for what happened sexually, the writers would have blamed her completely: What was she thinking, getting drunk with an older man she hardly knew, after revealing her eagerness to get close to him?
The signal rule about dating, from its inception in the 1920s to right around the time of the Falklands War, was that if anything bad happened to a girl on a date, it was her huge careers; the kind of world-conquering, taking-numbers strength that is the common language of the most-middle-of-the road cultural products aimed at today’s girls was totally absent.
They told you to slap him if you had to; they told you to get out of the car and start wailing if you had to.
They told you to do whatever it took to stop him from using your body in any way you didn’t want, and under no circumstances to go down without a fight.
But, like the recent story “Cat Person”—about a soulless and disappointing hookup between two people who mostly knew each other through texts—the account has proved deeply resonant and meaningful to a great number of young women, who have responded in large numbers on social media, saying that it is frighteningly and infuriatingly similar to crushing experiences of their own.