The Gray Area of Consent



Is a yes to a kiss a yes to a touch? Is a yes to a touch a yes to sexual acts? Is a yes to sexual acts a yes to sex?

These are some of the questions that have surfaced in the wake of one woman’s experience with actor and comedian Aziz Ansari.

The woman, who remains anonymous but goes by the pseudonym Grace, told website her version of what transpired between her and Ansari on a date last September.

And that’s where people got confused.

Ansari responded to Grace’s memory of that night with a statement two days after the article was published.

“The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable,” Ansari said in the statement. “It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”

Ansari’s response highlights exactly what is wrong in the pair’s encounter and, moreover, within consent and relationships.

Ansari said everything “did seem okay” to him, contradicting the details of Grace’s account, including both verbal and nonverbal cues. The cues ranged from saying “let’s chill,” “next time” and “I don’t want to feel forced,” to pulling away and getting up to leave.

The sad reality is that encounters like this are all too common for women who go on dates or are in relationships, often because of a reluctance to say no out of fear or guilt.

“There are so many times where I’ve felt forced by a guy to do something I wasn’t comfortable with just because he said ‘come on’ or ‘please’ multiple times,” an anonymous female FDU student said. “Sometimes I’d say no but then they’d say please again so I felt bad not doing it, or I wouldn’t say no and would instead give physical clues like tensing up but still had to do it.


“I can’t even count the number of times it’s happened, and it’s unfortunate because it’d always be something I really didn’t want to do but felt like I had to because I’d be prude or not pleasing enough if I didn’t.”

Many may feel pressure to go further with sexual acts because they had already said yes to one act, which should not be the case. Consent is not as hard or as much of a hassle as it is made out to be.

Kissing someone and want to go further? Ask if they’re okay with doing the next act. They said yes? Go for it. They said no? Accept it and live with it.

“Sometimes, even if I agreed to have sex with someone, they would take that as an ‘okay’ to do literally anything else, which would surprise me,” the anonymous student said. “I would even say ‘Woah’ or something to show my surprise, which was just met with a continuation anyway.”

This gray area is the lesser talked-about aspect of the current sexual harassment movement currently going on in the country, partially because it’s not illegal to coax someone into doing something sexual after asking them “please” until they just give in.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. In fact, it may be argued it could be the most important because it’s likely the most common.

Discussing the line between actual consent and forcing someone into consent is a conversation that has taken far too long to be had.

The encounter that Grace had is unfortunate, and what’s more unfortunate is the fact that it is not an isolated incident.

So, when we talk about consent, pressure and blurred lines, people need to keep in mind that these incidents aren’t just “bad dates” or examples of someone being “led on.” They’re examples of women being pressured into situations that they feel they can’t say no to.

Just because that’s not illegal, doesn’t mean it’s okay.