Updated on Jan. 14 at 10:00 p.m. to include Ansari’s statement.
In the wake of Time’s Up and #MeToo, another powerful Hollywood man has been accused of sexually predatory behaviour. This time, it’s Master of None creator Aziz Ansari, who is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. In a story published by Babe on January 13, a 23-year-old female photographer going by the name “Grace” spoke anonymously with the publication about an evening with Ansari that took place in September 2017. In a detailed account, supported by text message screenshots, Grace describes how a consensual date devolved into what she describes as Ansari pressuring and coercing her into sexual activity, calling it “by the far the worst experience with a man I’ve ever had.” The story is also prompting what essayist Eve L. Ewing calls the “need to have a fuller conversation about what consent means & looks like.”
Grace recounted to Babe how her first date with Ansari quickly escalated from dinner at an oyster bar to her engaging in sexual activity with the comedian, despite feeling pressured, uncomfortable and overwhelmed, feelings she tried to convey to him. Babe reporter Katie Way writes that throughout the course of Grace’s time at Ansari’s apartment—during which Ansari allegedly repeatedly moved her hand to his penis and stuck his fingers in her mouth—Grace “used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was.” Grace told Way: “Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points. I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”
“Whether Ansari didn’t notice Grace’s reticence or knowingly ignored it is impossible for her to say,” writes Way. “I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested. I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored,” Grace told the reporter. “I believe that I was taken advantage of by Aziz. I was not listened to and ignored.”
I talked to a girl who says she went on a date with @azizansari in an exclusive for @babedotnet. She told me, “It was by far the worst experience with a man I’ve ever had.” I believe her. #TimesUp #MeToo #AzizAnsari https://t.co/p7q0fjSsh0
— Katie Way (@k80way) January 13, 2018
The allegation comes less than a week after Ansari won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy for his work on Master of None. Ansari has long called himself a feminist, writing about and denouncing sexual predatory behaviour on Master of None and even publishing an entire book on love and dating. Actor James Franco also took home a Golden Globe award on January 7, just days before the Los Angeles Times published an investigation detailing the accounts of five women accusing Franco of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behaviour. Both Ansari and Franco attended the Golden Globes wearing Time’s Up pins on their suits, seemingly supporting the movement against inequality and harassment in all industries, although neither mentioned #TimesUp in their acceptance speeches.
While several responses on Twitter are, perhaps predictably, questioning whether or not Ansari is even guilty of sexually exploitative behaviour at all (reminder: believe women)—and some are simply expressing their shock at the accusations levelled against Ansari—many women note just how relatable the experience of succumbing to sexual advances despite not wanting to really is.
One thing I can say is that even men I trust and like have told me that they were socialized to believe that, if a woman says “no,” you should test that boundary to make sure she means it. That ideology lays the groundwork for this four-hour “just checking” kind of assault.
— Sady Doyle (@sadydoyle) January 14, 2018
Writer Morgan Jenkins summarized this in four concise words: “Coercion is not consent.”
Coercion is not consent. Write that down. And if you need to defend that it is, either you have had nonconsensual experiences or you have inadvertently put someone in that position.
Either way, you have to reckon with that.
— Morgan Jerkins (@MorganJerkins) January 14, 2018
Feminist author Jessica Valenti tweeted about the response to Grace’s experience, illustrating how this story is as much about Ansari’s predatory behaviour as it is the prevalence of what so many men perceive to be totally “reasonable sexual interactions.”
“A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.”
A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers “normal” sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) January 14, 2018
The day after the incident, Grace told Babe that she wrote a long text to Ansari, saying, in part: “I just want to take this moment to make you aware of [your] behavior and how uneasy it made me.” To that text, Ansari replied: “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”
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
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee writer Melinda Taub tweeted about the story as well. “I feel like this will get lost in the convo about if Aziz Ansari Did Sexual Assault – but that feeling when you you shut down and stop responding, and the guy just keeps going and you realize that he doesn’t care if you’re in your body or not? It’s awful too.” She also offered up this advice:
Hot Sex Tip: If she is sending you Mixed Signals, and some of the signals are “I am scared and sad about this sex,” stop.
— Melinda Taub (@MelindaTaub) January 14, 2018
Ansari issued a statement on January 14 acknowledging the accusations. The full statement reads as follows: “In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date. We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual,” the statement reads. “The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable,” corroborating Grace’s account to Babe. “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. I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”
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