LeSage of East Boston is 34, single, and on the dating scene. Dating has
always been a somewhat fraught experience for LeSage, but lately, he —
like many men — finds himself particularly at sea.
encounters with women, how does he ensure he doesn’t step over a line?
hastens to note that he knows no man should ever force himself on a
woman, but far short of that, how should he act?
could argue that a lot of girls don’t like passive men,” LeSage said.
“So if you aren’t a little forward you lose. It’s almost a leap of faith
this time of upheaval, with the news supplying a steady diet of new
accusations of sexual misconduct, and with social media aflame with
differing beliefs about the appropriate response to those accusations,those
in the dating world find themselves navigating especially perilous
anxiety emerges in the offices of therapists and in bars, where singles
find themselves confused about what’s OK and what isn’t, especially in
the days since the Internet blew up over a woman’s anonymous accusations
of sexual misconduct against comedian Aziz Ansari.
woman called the date “the worst night of my life.” Ansari said in a
statement he thought the encounter was consensual.
a watering hole on State Street where LeSage was hanging out one recent
evening, Tito’s vodka and Bud Lights flowed and vivacious singles with
good hair and on-trend outfits smiled and flirted. But beneath the
surface, it was all tension.“You can offend anyone by saying anything,”
said Angela Sodano, 37, a financial services worker, summing up the
wariness surrounding the topic.
another night, in another bar, this one in Coolidge Corner, Angelina,
34, sat with friends and graphically described how a significant way
people meet now — via online dating — leads to seriously mismatched
she posts a profile picture of herself wearing a low-cut dress that
shows her cleavage, many men message her, she said.
think she’s easy,” a pal called out.
like I’m saying, ‘I’m wearing a dress, let’s have sex,’ ” Angelina said.
when she takes down the picture and posts only photos of herself covered
up, she hears from no one.
on her perception that she loses either way, and that men have it much
easier, she mentioned her resolution for 2018: “To have the confidence
of an average white male on a dating app.”
in an age when an anonymous woman’s accusation — accurate or not — can
derail a career, men don’t feel they have it so good.
with friends a few tables away from Angelina, Adam, 24, a graduate
student at Boston University, said these are scary times to be dating.
social media, everything is in the public eye,” he said.
— described by his female companions as “one of the good guys” — said he
likes to ask for consent for any sexual activity, but then his friends
burst into an animated discussion about the real-world challenges.
you go home with a guy at 3 a.m.” from a bar where you’ve been drinking,
the guy’s probably not going ask, “Is it OK if I . . . ?” said
Michelle, another BU graduate student.
and every woman interviewed, said that drinking can lead a woman into a
bad situation she would have known to avoid if she were sober.
Ansari story exploded on a site called babe.net, with a headline that
read: “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night
of my life.”
that piece, the #MeToo movement’s intense focus on sexual issues in the
workplace expanded ever deeper into the dating world.
Ansari story detailed a September date, on a warm evening, that started
with wine at his TriBeCa apartment, moved to an oyster bar, and back to
his place, where, she said, she felt pressured to go along as he became
sexually aggressive. They did not have intercourse.
encounter left her feeling “violated.”
cried the whole ride home,” the woman told Babe.
has denied sexual misconduct. “[W]e ended up engaging in sexual
activity, which by all indications was completely consensual,” he said
in a statement in response to the story.
next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed
okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable,” Ansari wrote.
“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.”
the article was published, Ansari was considered one of the woke men,
and it seems his public support for the movement against sexual
harassment — he wore a Time’s Up pin at the Jan. 7 Golden Globes — may
have triggered the aggrieved woman to tell her story publicly.
think that started a new fire,” the woman, called Grace by the reporter,
told the website, “and it kind of made it more real.”
accusation against Ansari has not only put him in the crosshairs, but
further divided feminists.
in the Atlantic, in a story headlined, “The
Humiliation of Aziz Ansari,” Caitlin Flanagan calls Babe’s
3,000-word story “revenge porn.”
clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate
her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari,” Flanagan
wrote. “Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career,
which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct,
from the grotesque to the disappointing.”
Boston, Rich Domenico, a clinical social worker who specializes in
relationship issues and sex therapy, sees the fear in his single male
clients, men in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who are afraid they’ll be next.
relayed an almost direct quote from a client: “She hasn’t called or
texted me since our date three nights ago and I’m freaking out that she
wasn’t as into it as she seemed at the time.”
other side of that fear — the fear of being sexually assaulted — can be
seen on Her
Campus, a Boston-based website for women who are college age or
slightly older. Last week, as the Ansari story was dominating headlines,
Gina Escandon, an associate editor who focuses on sex and relationship
issues, sent an e-mail blast to 2,000 women asking for essays on the
topic and giving prompts:
Aziz Ansari encounter is too familiar for many women & that’s
unacceptable.” “Why we need a discussion surrounding the nuanced, less
clear-cut cases of sexual assault.” “Just because he labels himself as a
woke feminist ally, doesn’t mean he is.”
noted that the anonymous Brooklyn photographer who accused Ansari was 22
at the time of their date, an age right in her site’s demographic. “It
really hit home,” she said.