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Harrop: Bad date with Ansari wasn't really a date

Nothing TV star Aziz Ansari did during that now-infamous one-night stand constituted sexual assault. It wasn’t even a proper one-night stand. Ansari and the young woman never engaged in carnal intercourse. But the woman accused Ansari of being a sexist brute nonetheless. Herein lies a cautionary tale for all.

Given the fictional name of “Grace,” the woman told the website Babe that Ansari had ignored her “non-verbal cues” that she wasn’t interested in going all the way. The casual observer might think that sitting naked on a man’s kitchen counter—as “Grace” had voluntarily done, along with exchanging oral sex—constituted a non-verbal cue that she was game.

Anyhow, the story has aroused great interest, partly because of the accused’s celebrity, partly because he was in some ways a victim. His name got smeared across seven continents, while her identity hid under a veil.

What gives the story legs is that Ansari didn’t dispute Grace’s version of what actually happened that night, only the interpretation of what happened. Among her complaints: He served white wine when in her heart she wanted red. He rushed the check at dinner in an apparent hurry to get them back to his pad. His foreplay was accelerated and some not to her taste.

But you don’t have to read too deeply to see that Grace was offering a modern version of “Adelaide’s Lament” (see “Guys and Dolls,” circa 1950). She was expecting more gallantry than the situation warranted.

After she told Ansari that she wanted to save the actual sex for the second date, it became clear there was not going to be a second date. He intended this to be a hookup—a physical coupling devoid of emotion or long-term commitment. She, despite having behaved in the hookup mode (as a lure?), wanted this to be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Denying him sex after getting buck naked and participating in advanced foreplay was perfectly within her rights. But if she wanted a lasting romance, she should have thanked Ansari for a delightful evening at the end of dinner and headed off. He might not have called again—or responded positively if she contacted him—but that’s the risk one takes in these circumstances.

Let this also serve as a warning for male celebrities who see all the young women coming on to them at parties as easy pickings. They might avoid diving into sex with women they barely know.

And when she gives mixed cues that yes, she’s interested but no, she’s not, believe the “no.” It’s not entirely fair to put the ultimate interpretation on the man’s shoulders, but that’s the reality in contemporary sexual politics.

In any event, there’s nothing stopping them from being gentlemen and forgoing the hookup culture altogether. It’s a pretty grim scene.

As for the media, they should show more reticence toward letting accusers fire away anonymously. This goes beyond the wise tradition of not naming women who say they have been raped. (Many victims hold their privacy as a requirement for cooperating with the prosecution.)

But there are cases in which hiding identities gives license to make false charges. The most notorious example was a woman’s fake report of gang rape at the University of Virginia. It destroyed the reputations of innocent male students, sullied the school’s administration and shamed Rolling Stone, which published the scurrilous claims.

“Grace’s” story didn’t even involve rape. There was no good reason here to protect the identity of one and not the other. Ansari, meanwhile, is deprived of a “guilty or not guilty” moment.

He’s left with an ugly “she said, he said” following him for the rest of his career.


Other_views
Guest Views: How to win friends and not give influenza to people

You avoid touching door handles and other germ-laden surfaces.

No handshaking, just fist bumps.

No hugs that involve skin-to-skin contact.

You change train cars or move to the back of the bus to avoid hackers and sneezers who proliferate at this time of the year.

You keep a bottle of sanitizer handy and slather it on so often that your hands turn to sandpaper.

Yes, you did get the flu shot—as soon as it was available.

And then, infuriatingly, you get the flu.

Cold comfort (sorry) that medical officials remind Americans that the flu shot isn’t completely effective this year or any year. Scientists have to guess which flu virus or viruses will be most prevalent, and they often guess at least partly wrong. Flu is a wily foe.

This year, federal officials say, the virus hit early and hard.

The good news is that the vaccine covered the predominant H3N2 strain this season. The bad news: This virus is known for its severity and its evasive maneuvering around the shield vaccinations provide.

Every year, millions of Americans fail to heed medical advice to get the shot. Reasons (read: excuses) abound, none of them good. If avoiding the nasty symptoms of the flu isn’t enough incentive for you to get the shot—which even at this point in January is still a good idea—then consider this: Taking the shot doesn’t merely immunize you against the flu. It inoculates you from all those smug know-it-alls whose first remark upon learning of your misery is always the same: Too bad you didn’t get the flu shot. Tsk. Tsk.

Imagine your delight in issuing a stinging riposte to all those people who assume you didn’t get the shot. You can rouse yourself from a supine position, fix them with a steely glare and croak out: Yes I did, you (add favorite pejorative noun here).

That retort, however, loses its potency if you drag your flu-ridden carcass into the office, expecting to be welcomed as a noble comrade who soldiers on even with a fever, cold sweats and uncontrolled coughing. Forget it.

Anyone who comes to the office with the flu, spreading germs in his or her wake, should be treated as a pariah to be quarantined. The sufferer immediately forfeits any claim of superiority for having been immunized.

The flu spreads because people spread when they’re sick. In 2015, we wrote about MIT scientists who study sneeze dynamics and droplet formation to thwart epidemics and solve the mystery of why some people spread infection via sneeze more effectively than others.

What we learned then still applies: In enclosed spaces, like train cars, a sneeze that doesn’t get expelled into a tissue (or into the crook of your arm) releases mushroom clouds of germs that within minutes can reach ceiling height and cover an entire train car or room.

Ick.

Every boss, every co-worker, every sane person should deliver the same message to flu sufferers: You aren’t that important. We can get along for a few days without you. Or consider this: If you infect your office mates, you’ll be the one doing their work when you’re back and they’re still home in bed, suffering and blaming you. In other words, lose-lose.

The flu season still has weeks to run. Everyone who’s sick, stay home. Everyone else, good luck.

—Chicago Tribune


Letters
Your Views: The problem is Trump's message, not the messenger

In reference to the Thursday letter complaining about The Gazette printing a vulgar word used by President Trump in describing the entire African continent as well as Haiti, the letter mostly bemoans the effect on children and further promoting uncivil discourse. I would like to point out what should be obvious: The Gazette did not initiate the vulgarity; it reported it as any good newspaper should.

A coy refusal to print the word would be ludicrous. After all, it was the elected president of the United States who used the word knowing surely that most of the world, including the people of the insulted countries, would read or hear of it. This is the gist of it! This is what is truly important and what people need to know. The effect on any child old enough to notice anything other than the comics is a parental issue, yet another burden in these difficult times.

But the true and dangerous circumstance is having an elected president who so casually speaks his mind, apparently without any thought of its effect on other people or nations!

JOANNE O. ANDERSON

Janesville