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If Aziz Ansari Were a College Student, He Could Have Been Expelled for Less

Campus Title IX policies punish male students for similarly problematic sexual encounters.

Aziz AnsariKevin Sullivan/ZUMA Press/NewscomLast week, babe.net published an anonymous woman's account of her date with actor/comedian Aziz Ansari, who she says pressured her into uncomfortable and unwanted sex, failing to heed her "verbal and non-verbal cues."

In response, the internet has produced wave after wave of takes. The Atlantic's Caitlin Flanagan said the article was "3,000 words of revenge porn" and unfit for publication. Vox's Anna North characterized Ansari's behavior as common among all-too-many men, and thus worth discussing. The New York Times's Bari Weiss wrote that if Ansari was guilty of anything, it was "not being a mind reader," and fretted that this incident could tarnish the #MeToo movement. Reason's own Elizabeth Nolan Brown thought both parties—as well as men and women in general—could benefit from more communication about sexual desires.

These are wildly different takes, and there are dozens more perspectives offered in The Washington Post, National Review, Jezebel, on Twitter, and elsewhere. But most of the takes have one thing in common: they explicitly reject the original article's assertion that Aziz Ansari committed sexual assault. Ansari behaved badly, and there is much to be said about how he ignored his date's wishes, thought only of himself, and expected sexual gratification at every turn. But he is not a rapist, most people seem to agree.

And yet, boorish behavior similar to Ansari's—behavior that most pundits say they consider gross but not criminal, at least in Ansari's case—is routinely investigated as sexual misconduct on university campuses. Ansari is lucky he's not a college student; otherwise he could have been accused months or a year after the incident, investigated by a lone administrator with sole power to decide which witnesses to interview, called before a hearing to answer charges he does not fully understand, forbidden from consulting a lawyer or cross-examining his accuser, found responsible for sexual misconduct under a preponderance of the evidence standard, and expelled from campus as required by Title IX, the federal statute that mandates gender equality in schools.

I've covered scores of campus sexual misconduct disputes for Reason. Frequently, the details of the incidents sound a whole lot like the Ansari mess: intoxicated participants, a mutual desire to engage in some level of sexual activity but different expectations as to how far and how fast things should go, "non-verbal cues" that were ignored or perhaps just misunderstood by one party, agreement that a phase of the encounter was consensual but disagreement as to when and whether consent was withdrawn, and gradual re-thinking of the experience as full-on assault. "It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault," Ansari's date, known as "Grace," told babe.net. "I was debating if this was an awkward sexual experience or sexual assault." Student-victims often take a long time to make up their minds about this, too. As Emily Yoffe has noted, about 40 percent of student-victims don't report their alleged rape right away—these complainants wait an average of 11 months.

Consider a few Title IX cases where young men suffered severe consequences for engaging in behavior quite similar to Ansari's, or even less obviously bad.

At Occidental College, a male student, "John Doe," had sex with a female student, "Jane Roe." Jane had every intention of sleeping with John—she had asked him to keep a condom handy. Later, she felt badly about the experience, and was persuaded by a sociology professor that because she was impaired by alcohol during the encounter, she couldn't have given consent. John was eventually expelled.

At Amherst College, two intoxicated students, "John Doe," and "Jane Roe," retired to a dorm room, where Jane performed oral sex on John. John would later claim he blacked out while this was happening, and had little memory of it. Amherst administrators deemed his story "credible," but noted that drunkenness was never an excuse for engaging in nonconsensual sex—which is what Jane accused John of, two years later. He was expelled.

Two Michigan State University students, "Nathan" and "Melanie" agreed to meet up for sex in the summer of 2014. According to Bridge, Melanie was interested in an emotional, romantic relationship, while Nathan just wanted casual sex with a friend. They were interrupted during their sexual encounter—they were doing it in a car—which made Melanie extremely upset, and called to mind a traumatic experience from her past. Nathan, according to Melanie, did a bad job of comforting her, and then tried to resume the encounter by reaching under Melanie's shirt and touching her bra. She said no, and he stopped—and that was the end of their relationship. A year later, Melanie underwent surgery to transition to a man. Afraid of running into Nathan in the men's restroom at MSU, she filed a Title IX complaint alleging that he had violated the university's sexual misconduct policy during the rendezvous in the car. Nathan was found responsible.

At the University of Southern California, "Jane Roe" and "John Doe" met up at an off-campus fraternity party and started dancing. Later that night, they went to a bedroom to have sex. Both agreed that this first encounter was consensual; it was the second encounter that Jane later disputed. This time, two other males—students from a different university—joined them. The sex became rougher than Jane wanted, and one of the other students—not John—slapped Jane on the butt. She started to cry, and the encounter came to a premature end. Jane needed counselling after the incident, and eventually decided to initiate a Title IX complaint. Since John was the only other participant in the orgy who actually attended USC, he became its subject. Jane admitted that John hadn't raped her, but he had failed to prevent the other guys from slapping her—he wasn't attuned to her needs, or looking out for her interests. Accused of 11 separate sexual misconduct violations, John was found guilty of two and suspended for a year.

I could cite dozens more cases of drunken hookups gone wrong, misinterpreted signals, and unmet expectations that culminated in powerful institutions punishing young men for sexual assault. If it would be wrong to call Aziz Ansari a rapist, it was wrong to call these young men rapists. And it would be wrong to export the campus policies under which these young men were found responsible—low evidence standards, affirmative consent, automatic belief in the honesty of accusers—to the rest of the country (something many activists want). Let's hold real sexual abusers accountable without discarding important protections for the accused in the process.

Photo Credit: Kevin Sullivan/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Can we refer to him by his proper title? "Golden Globe Winner, Aziz Ansari"?

  • albo||

    "an unsolicited finger in the anus, while crude, is not criminal"

  • Bearded Spock||

    Especially if part of a roadside cavity search for drugs....

  • el jaguar||

    "I was teething traci's tiny suntanned titties
    while she was doing something crazy with my nuts
    i said baby where're you going
    she said boy you'll soon be knowing
    then she plunged her pudgy pinky in my butt"

    "Puddin' and Cheese" by The Scabs, circa 1997

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    I guess Robby's back.

  • Bearded Spock||

    To be sure, this is not conclusive proof.

  • Robby Soave||

    I'm back. Turned in my book, "Signaling to the Left That I'm One of the Good Ones: A So-Called Libertarian's Quest for Social Acceptance at Cocktail Parties"

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    How was the signal received?

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    I think I speak for all of us when I say: you did not post here for several months.

    And I thought being invited was all that matters.

  • Rockabilly||

    I just bring an ounce of homegrown and I'm accepted .

  • GeneralWeygand||

    Surely ENB wrote the preface which should have amplified the signal

  • Bearded Spock||

    Awesome. Will personally-autographed copies be available during the next Reason Webathon?

  • Eidde||

    It will come with the tote bag.

  • GILMORE™||

    "I'm back. Turned in my book, "Signaling to the Left That I'm One of the Good Ones: A So-Called Libertarian's Quest for Social Acceptance at Cocktail Parties"

    "'To Be Sure' - How To Split Hairs, Without Split Ends: the Robby Soave Guide To Journalism and Haircare"

  • Tony||

    I don't know why you guys don't ever consider that if you're not being invited to parties, maybe the problem isn't with the parties.

  • Red Tony||

    Past Me speaks from experience. We're horribly boring at parties, and that's why we never get invited.

  • Tony||

    I threw a party 10 years ago that people still talk about.

  • hello.||

    I believe it.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Threw them out?

    Threw up?

    Through and through?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    We refuse to drive on government roadz to get there.

  • Brandybuck||

    About time someone other than Nick and Matt write a book...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The Atlantic's Caitlin Flanagan said the article was "3,000 words of revenge porn" and unfit for publication.

    Aziz and Grace in What DJ Roomba Saw.

  • Bearded Spock||

    "...he ignored his date's wishes, thought only of himself, and expected sexual gratification at every turn."

    Sounds like the average high school senior.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    HE GAVE HER ORAL. That's the most unselfish thing a man can do.

  • Tony||

    Amen.

  • tgrondo||

    "HE GAVE HER ORAL. That's the most unselfish thing a man can do."

    Maybe....Mr Ansari is rotten at oral sex....

    You know..... like maybe he learned everything he knows about oral sex from watching porn.....

  • Azathoth!!||

    "It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault," Ansari's date, known as "Grace," told babe.net. "I was debating if this was an awkward sexual experience or sexual assault." Student-victims often take a long time to make up their minds about this, too. As Emily Yoffe has noted, about 40 percent of student-victims don't report their alleged rape right away—these complainants wait an average of 11 months.

    Here's a good rule of thumb--if you're not sure if you were raped, you weren't.
    If you're not sure you were the victim of sexual assault or harassment, you weren't.

    If, 11 months after the fact you become convinced that there was some part of a sexual encounter that you don't remember if you actively consented to or not, resolve to be more outspoken instead of screaming rape. Because you weren't.

  • Tony||

    That's the corollary to my rule: you should be able to tell if you're raping someone or not.

  • ||

    Reason's own Elizabeth Nolan Brown thought both parties—as well as men and women in general—could benefit from more communication about sexual desires.

    Aw, Christ!

    *Seeks out nearest televised sporting event and declares fandom.*

  • Eidde||

    Exile him! Book him a Passage to India.

  • Eidde||

    (Just reminding you of a better story, not piling on to this guy)

  • Tony||

    I feel for heteros, really. Men contending with women, women contending with men. Isn't it just all a cyclone of lies and persuasions? A threading of the needle so as not to offend the strong-willed equality warriors, while not turning off the ones who want to be treated like fairy princesses?

    And from women's perspective--men being both objects of desire, for even more complicated reasons, yet also a constant potential physical threat requiring putting a guard up men may never fully appreciate except in a prison shower.

    Women not understanding just how horny men are. Men not understanding, well, whatever it is women want. (They don't seem to like to say outright, for leverage I guess.)

    It's hard enough when it's two guys alone in a room. Both are in theory horny, the only thing to figure out is whether they're horny for each other. And booze usually solves that problem.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Women are horny too. Maybe not in your own personal experience, but they are.

    They're also not as fearful of men as some people have been suggesting in articles and in standup routines. Women don't walk around cowering in fear at the incredibly remote prospect of being raped by someone bigger than them any more than physically weak men walk around cowering in fear that they're going to be raped by a bigger man. Well, I suppose some do, but they're as delusional as the people who think that the next airplane they take is going to fall out of the sky, or the next tall building they're in will be hit by angry muslims.

  • Incredulous||

    This sexual assault witch hunt is so completely fucked up. Now, all sex is rape, men are all rapists and every woman is a rape survivor. I wish I was fucking exaggerating. We've lost our fucking minds. Fuck.

  • Mcgoo95||

    I think you mean. Shit. Shitting is not yet a crime.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    I think it's a bit like the latest CA secession scheme; from the map it looks like the entire CA interior and norther third want to break off into "New California" and leave the coast from Frisco to San Diego to their own problems, excessive taxation, and mis-governance. Fringe elements are vocal, snarky, elitist and self-righteous [redundant I know, but just cannot help myself when the synonyms start] and it's only us flyover bumpkin hoi polloi that keep them from realizing their agenda for themselves via their designated victim beneficiaries. Given that most of the media and university faculty and staff are in bed with this element, it often seems like they have taken over the world from their bully pulpits.

  • Leader Desslok||

    Now, all sex is rape, men are all rapists and every woman is a rape survivor.

    I think that was the whole intention of modern feminazis.

  • icutrauma11||

    What I gather from the Title IX incidents are that the women are vengeful. They put themselves in a position of compromise and becasue it did not end exactly as they wanted they sought out to destroy.

    As far as knowing what women want. She wanted someone that was famous and had money. I doubt she ever dated a hard working carpenter or nurse assistant. In fact how many of you men know beautiful women that do? Even if the women do marry a man, just like they may decide they did not consent on the date a year later and charge you with rape, they will petition for divorce because they did not consent to the unhappiness they are in except they will want your money, house and endless alimony.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    The majority of women are just that, women, with as many faults as men but basically decent and needing to learn it isn't always all about them. There are some as you describe, for whom there is a special lexicon. I suspect your experience has been with this particular variety, that Cannot Understand Normal Thinking?

  • silver.||

    Ah. Yes, my last ex took issue with logic. She'll take to the grave her self-assured knowledge that the A/C in a car needs to be on to use the heat because it, "conditions the air like it conditions your hair." Nevermind my years of thermodynamics classes. A cute jingle is all that's required to make something true.

  • DenverJ||

    Most new cars have the AC come on when you use defrost, to pull moisture out of the air before it hits your windshield.

  • Iheartskeet||

    Interesting. Higher education has gotten insane with a Title IX. You don't say. Wow.

    In any other Reason article blame would be assigned to those who created or fueled the problem, and we'd hear about the noble few trying to fix it.

    I wonder why we don't now. Oh wait. I DO know.

  • ||

    Ansari's biggest crime is being untalented. That and saddling mankind with the execrable "Master or None".

  • Iheartskeet||

    Really ? I think he is a damn funny standup, and MON was at least above average. He is just one of many entertainers with hypocritical and moronic political views, who are also funny.

    I mean Modern Family won awards too, and it's one of the stupidest f-ing excuses for a sitcom I've ever sat thru.

  • ||

    Liberals: Ansari is not a mind reader! What was he supposed to do?
    Also liberals: Betsy DeVos is the DEVIL for rescinding Title IX witch hunt investigations that expel college students for doing much less than was Ansari did.

    Pick one, a**holes.

  • wally009||

    Aziz Ansari is perverted animal and must pay for what he did.

    He forced innocent young woman to cry in Uber all the way home. Hurt her feelings. Make her feel worthless.

    She expected red wine but was offered only white. He invited her over, and, when she accepted, he seduced her to gave her oral sex and then expected her to return.

    This is unacceptable forcing. Total violation. He must pay dearly for this. Stop him. Boycott him. Sue him.
    Women must take what is ours, and hit those animals where it hurts them most, on their purse.

  • Gina_B||

    At Amherst College, two intoxicated students, "John Doe," and "Jane Roe," retired to a dorm room, where Jane performed oral sex on John. John would later claim he blacked out while this was happening, and had little memory of it. Amherst administrators deemed his story "credible," but noted that drunkenness was never an excuse for engaging in nonconsensual sex—which is what Jane accused John of, two years later. He was expelled.


    Why is it that alcohol renders only women unable to consent?

  • Dan S.||

    Colleges can, and perhaps should, have higher standards as to how students should treat each other than simply avoiding violations of criminal law. But if they do, those standards should be clear, and they should be ones that seem to make some sense. No such standards can be read into Title IX, which is a simple statement that colleges should not discriminate on the basis of sex.

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