An anonymous accusation of sexual misconduct against Aziz Ansari has prompted an impassioned debate over whether the popular comedian’s alleged behavior constituted abuse, as well as the power and scope of the #MeToo movement. In an explosive report from the website Babe, a photographer using the pseudonym Grace shared her account of a date she had with Ansari in September. At the time, she was 22 years old and Ansari was 34.
Ansari, she told Babe, had advanced on her swiftly after they walked to his apartment following a dinner date at a Manhattan restaurant. She said that Ansari repeatedly pressured her for sex, and that when she demurred he briefly performed oral sex on her. Afterward, she claimed, Ansari proceeded to literally chase her around the apartment as she attempted to communicate, verbally and nonverbally, that he was moving too fast for her. When Ansari asked her explicitly for sex again, Grace told him, “I said I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.”
Ansari, she said, initially backed off after the rebuff, and said that they could just sit on the couch. But instead of letting her calm down, he told her “to go down on him,” which Grace said she did because she “just felt really pressured.” He then asked her for sex once more, and after she again refused he told her they could “just chill” on the couch for a while. Ansari, she claimed, still wouldn’t leave her alone even after she grew increasingly upset, and she left the apartment soon thereafter “[feeling violated].”
This is the text Grace* sent Aziz Ansari after their date which left her feeling “violated”. She tells Ansari how uncomfortable he made her feel, saying “you ignored clear non-verbal cues” and “kept going with advances.”
— babe (@babedotnet) January 14, 2018
In a statement made in response to the article, Ansari, a self-proclaimed feminist who was seen wearing a Time’s Up pin when he accepted a Golden Globe award last week, acknowledged her account, but said that at the time the sexual activity described was “by all indications … completely consensual.”
“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,” said Ansari. “I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said. I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”
In an essay for The Atlantic, writer and author Caitlin Flanagan questioned why Ansari’s anonymous accuser felt victimized, suggesting that the account, while possibly upsetting, was in no way descriptive of a non-consensual encounter and that publishing the story had “destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.” She said the piece amounted to “3,000 words of revenge porn.” A similar argument by Bari Weiss in The New York Times argued that the only real crime Ansari was guilty of was “of not being a mind reader.” Others, including feminist writer Jessica Valenti, have suggested that the account exemplifies the “oftentimes harmful” reality of “what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters,” and reiterated that the woman had the right to speak out — and that it was up to others to determine whether and if Ansari should face consequences.
Meanwhile, many questioned the ethics of Babe, until this weekend a relatively unknown website that covers women’s issues, and its decision to publish the story. Joshi Herrmann, the editor in chief of Babe’s parent company, told CNN he stood by the decision. “It’s newsworthy because of who he is and what he has said in his standup, what he has written in his book, what he has proclaimed on late night TV,” Herrmann said. “Her account is pointing out a striking tension between those things and the way she says he treated her in private.” He added, “”We would publish this again tomorrow.”
One journalist who is strongly against the anonymous accusations is HLN’s Ashleigh Banfield, who took to the air Monday night and read a scathing open letter in which she condemned Ansari’s accuser. Watch that below.