A woman's account of feeling sexually 'violated' by comedian Aziz Ansari has sparked the first big debate around the #MeToo movement

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  • A woman accused the comedian Aziz Ansari of continually trying to have sex with her after a date in September even though “she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed” she was, she told the publication Babe.
  • Ansari said in a statement that from his perspective all indications were that the encounter was “completely consensual.”
  • The report sparked a lot of controversy over the weekend after The Atlantic and The New York Times published op-eds articles in defence of Ansari.
  • Some criticised Babe for publishing the account, but the editor-in-chief defended the decision.

Over the weekend, the publication Babe ran a report detailing a woman’s allegation that the award-winning comedian Aziz Ansari repeatedly tried to get her to have sex with him even though “she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed” she was.

The report has since gone viral, and op-ed articles in defence of Ansari in major publications, including The New York Times and The Atlantic, have gotten both criticism and support.

The Babe report – titled “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life” – is written in the third person, though the title suggests it’s written in the first.

The woman, a 23-year-old photographer, told Babe that when she left Ansari’s apartment she “felt violated.” She described it as “sexual assault.”

Ansari said in a statement that from his point of view all indications were that the encounter was “completely consensual.”

The 34-year-old comedian, who wore a pin in support of the anti-sexual-harassment Time’s Up movement at the Golden Globes – where he won best actor in a comedy series for his work on “Master of None” – has in the past received praise for supporting women.

An episode of the second season of “Master of None” shows the aftermath of sexual-harassment allegations surfacing online. In it, Ansari’s character is shocked to find out his colleague and friend was capable of such behaviour.

Since the report surfaced on Saturday, some have come out in support of Ansari, while others have debated whether his actions constitute “sexual assault.” Here’s everything you need to know about the allegations and aftermath.


On Saturday, Babe posted a story detailing a woman’s accusation of a disturbing sexual encounter with Ansari.

Greg Doherty/Getty Images

The woman, a 23-year-old photographer who was given the pseudonym Grace in the Babe report, said she met Ansari at the 2017 Emmy Awards. He gave her his number, and they flirted over text for about a week before going on a date in New York City.

The woman told Babe that when they got back to Ansari’s Tribeca apartment, he made a move while she was sitting on his kitchen counter.

“I said something like, ‘Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill,'” she told Babe.

But she said he continued kissing her and performed oral sex on her. She said she performed oral sex on him as well.

She also said Ansari moved her hand onto his penis multiple times. “He really kept doing it after I moved it away,” she told Babe.

Ansari kept trying to have sex with her throughout the night, she said.

She said that she eventually told Ansari she wanted to leave and that he got her an Uber back to her Brooklyn apartment. She said she cried all the way home.

She told Babe that Ansari texted her the next day saying he had fun on the date. According to a text message exchange that she showed the publication, she replied that he’d upset her with his advances.

The exchange shows that Ansari replied that he was “sad to hear this” and said: “It would never be my intention to make you or anyone feel the way you described. Clearly I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”


In a statement, Ansari said he thought the sexual encounter was consensual.

Noam Galai/Getty Images

Ansari said in a statement on Sunday:

“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 next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed ok,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem ok 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.”


The New York Times published an op-ed article calling the accusation “the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement.”

Twitter

In a Monday op-ed article – titled “Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.” – The New York Times’ Bari Weiss wrote that the report in Babe was “arguably the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement,” which encourages people to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault.

Weiss, who has previously expressed right-wing views, also wrote: “There is a useful term for what Grace experienced on her night with Mr. Ansari. It’s called ‘bad sex.’ It sucks.”

The op-ed article received a lot of backlash on Twitter, and it was the top post on the front page of Reddit on Monday night.

Aziz tweetTwitter

But some agreed with the take:

Aziz tweet

The Atlantic also published an op-ed article with a similar defence of Ansari in which the writer called the Babe report “revenge porn.”

In the op-ed article, Caitlin Flanagan speculated that the woman “hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend” and that she was bitter after a bad date.

Many people on Twitter expressed disappointment with the op-ed article.

Aziz tweet
Aziz tweet
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But some came to Flanagan’s (and Ansari’s) defence.

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In an open letter, the HLN host Ashleigh Banfield said the woman who accused Ansari had “chiselled away at a movement.”

Speaking directly to Ansari’s accuser on her HLN program, “Crime & Justice,” Banfield said: “By your own clear description, this was not a rape, nor was it a sexual assault. By your description, your sexual encounter was unpleasant.”

Banfield said the woman had “chiselled away at a movement that I, along with all of my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades – a movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I, too, have struggled through at times over the last 30 years in broadcasting.”

“The #MeToo movement has righted a lot of wrongs, and it has made your career path much smoother … what a gift,” Banfield said. “Yet you looked that gift horse in the mouth and chiselled away at that powerful movement with your public accusation.”


Some also criticised some of the editing choices in the Babe report.

Some said the report didn’t include any strictly illegal activity and did not occur in the workplace. Others also latched onto an anecdote in the Babe report about wine.

The reporter, Katie Way, quotes Ansari’s accuser commenting on the wine they drank on the date: “‘It was white,’ she said. ‘I didn’t get to choose and I prefer red, but it was white wine.'”

In an op-ed article for The Washington Post, Sonny Bunch wrote: “There’s no grander point about consent in this anecdote – if she had asked for white and he had laughed at her and said no and forced her to drink red, well, ok, maybe that would fit a piece like the one we are reading. This isn’t that. It’s simply out of place in a piece that should have immense gravity.”


People have also struggled with how to define Ansari’s behaviour as described in the report.

In The Post, Bunch wrote:

“The only issue with all this is that this story about Ansari is nothing like the ugly tales of sexual abuse that have wafted out of Hollywood over the past six months or so. Not really. From Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual assaults and use of blacklists to Kevin Spacey’s predatory behaviour toward young men to Louis C.K.’s masturbating in front of people without asking, these were all stories that were both criminal in nature and involved an abuse of power over underlings.

“The #MeToo movement’s story has been a relatively straightforward one that garners support from both sides of the aisle and all decent people, because it is a tale of how powerful people humiliate and subjugate those who want nothing more than a chance to chase their dreams.”

Some debated whether “sexual assault” was appropriate to describe the behaviour in the report. A tweet addressing that went viral over the weekend:

https://twitter.com/Rrrrnessa/status/952923357930053642?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw


Despite criticism, the Babe editor-in-chief stood by the decision to publish the story.

NetflixAnsari created and stars in the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Netflix series ‘Master of None.’

Joshi Herrmann, the editor-in-chief of Babe’s parent company, Tab Media, told CNN Money, “We would publish this again tomorrow.”

“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.”


Some people have defended the woman, calling Ansari’s behaviour part of a problem in our culture.

Netflix

A lot of the criticism of Ansari stems from his image as a feminist and his wearing a Time’s Up pin at the Golden Globes.

An episode of his Netflix show, “Master of None,” that detailed fictional sexual-harassment allegations received high praise when it debuted.

Anna North, a Vox reporter, wrote on Tuesday that the behaviour detailed in the Babe report revealed “broken attitudes” toward sex:

“Unlike many reports that have emerged in the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Grace’s story is not one of workplace harassment. But what she describes – a man repeatedly pushing sex without noticing (or without caring about) what she wants – is something many, many women have experienced in encounters with men.

“And while few men have committed the litany of misdeeds of which Weinstein has been accused, countless men have likely behaved as Grace says Ansari did – focusing on their own desires without recognising what their partner wants. It is the sheer commonness of Grace’s experience that makes it so important to talk about.”

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