On Saturday night, babe.net published an article titled, “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life.” The article features sexual assault allegations against Ansari by a woman named Grace, whose full name was left unreported to protect her identity. Grace says her and Ansari met at a 2017 Emmy Awards after-party, which led to a later date. After a dinner date, Grace and Ansari went back to his apartment. Grace says she willingly participated in some sexual acts, but it quickly escalated to a point that she wasn’t comfortable with. She said Ansari repeatedly seemingly ignored her discomfort at his aggressive sexual advances. She said he continued to try to touch her even though she said she used “verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was.”
This allegation is one among many in the past weeks and months regarding men in Hollywood.
However, this story seems to have caused more of a mixed stir online than other recent allegations. The Twitter responses to the original tweet include various debates about whether or not this account was “truly” sexual assault.
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
Ansari has painted himself as an ally, as someone who understands dating and consent. He a released a book, Modern Love, that’s all about the pitfalls of modern dating. He wore a #TimesUp pin at the Golden Globes last weekend. On the most recent season of his Netflix show Master of None, a major plot point includes a character named “Chef Jeff,” who gives Ansari’s character Dev an important career break. Then it’s revealed that Jeff is being accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct.
Ansari’s seemingly ‘woke’ personality has lead people to be surprised and disappointed by this allegation. His past actions are very possibly the reason why a lot of people are having trouble believing it.
A lot of responders discount Grace’s allegation.
Many of the Twitter responses include that Grace’s account involves “mixed signals” and that in her account she never exactly said “no” outright. Some are defending Ansari, calling the allegation a major miscommunication. Others are asking, why wouldn’t she leave if she was uncomfortable? Some are just calling it a “bad date.” Some worry that this account could take away from the experiences of other sexual assault victims or hurt the #MeToo movement.
Why was this a story? If she was uncomfortable she could’ve left. As someone who has actually been drugged & raped & didn’t have a choice, I’m appalled at the false equivalency.
— Lisa #CancerSucks (@CancerSucksLisa) January 14, 2018
Want to add I say this with all due respect, but there are certain things about this account that are blatant mixed signals and it is incredibly unfair and irresponsible to ignore the fact that to most partners in this setting would view this as a consensual sexual encounter.
— Abigail (@Abigail_Hope_) January 14, 2018
The other side of the argument focuses on the possible sexual coercion in the situation.
People are asking: as a famous actor, does Ansari have power that he abused by avoiding her signals? Some are wondering if coercion is more common in sexual encounters than many would think.
I think men are defending Aziz Ansari because his behavior is really common. I think they see themselves in that scenario, they don’t want to believe that it’s wrong. If you’re having to convince someone to do it, she doesn’t want to. Coercion is not consent.
— mother of rugrats (@nerdyburp) January 14, 2018
Others are saying although she participated in other sexual acts throughout the night, that does not mean her consent can be ignored later.
Some have raised the point that “mixed signals” are not an excuse for ignorance of people’s discomfort. They say even though she didn’t outright say “no,” her body language should’ve been enough. A point that is worth nothing is a lot of people see themselves and negative dating experiences they’ve had in this situation.
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.
— Melinda Taub (@MelindaTaub) January 14, 2018
It’s an obvious fact that sexual assault survivors are afraid to speak up out of fear of backlash and ingrained stigma.
This fear can grow when the situation can be normalized into something that’s not a big deal. Many people tweeted that they have had similar, unpleasant experiences during a sexual encounter. The responses show that for many people, this account can easily be placed into the category of a “bad date” instead of a traumatizing experience. Some say this is a problem in itself that needs to be addressed.
Aziz Ansari has yet to make a statement.