Beyond Grace & Aziz Ansari

How gender norms shape our ideas about consent, coercion & sexual pleasure

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In a recent story published on the website, a 23-year-old woman named “Grace” charged Aziz Ansari with pressuring her to have sex, setting off a fierce debate about the difference between consent and coercion. Much of this debate has centered on whether or not Ansari’s behavior was illegal, and whether or not Grace should have simply walked away.

We asked social psychologist Lynn Phillips, the author of the acclaimed book Flirting with DangerYoung Women’s Reflections on Sexuality & Domination, to weigh in on how this debate has been playing out.

“I think what’s important to recognize is that there’s a great deal of space between what might legally be described as a crime, as rape, and what’s willing, enthusiastic consent,” Phillips told us. “That’s the space where too many women live their lives, live their sexual lives. We need to broaden our conversation and look at the complexities of sexuality and the ways that men and women have been socialized to think about desire and pleasure and entitlement and power, and that’s where I feel like we can really move forward.”

You can watch our full interview with Phillips here.

To help make sense of the broader issues at stake not only in this case but with the larger #MeToo movement, check out our film adaptation of Flirting with Danger, which features dramatizations of interviews Phillips has conducted with hundreds of young women, explores how the wider culture’s deeply gendered and frequently contradictory messages about consent, coercion, pleasure, and sexuality enter into women’s most intimate relationships with men.

As the long-overdue national conversation about sexual harassment and abuse continues, we see Flirting with Danger as a powerful educational tool and a vital classroom resource.