Following his win for "Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy" at the 2018 Golden Globe's, Aziz Ansari should be having the time of his life. However, on Jan. 13 Babe.net published a story about 23-year old photographer who used the pseudonym Grace, and her alleged experience on a date with Ansari, which she claims escalated into sexual assault. Ansari has since responded to Grace's story, saying that the incident "by all indications was completely consensual," but the allegations also speak to a much bigger story. Since, tweets about the Aziz Ansari sexual misconduct allegations have highlighted a major problem, and we need to talk about it.
The Babe story, titled "I Went On A Date with Aziz Ansari. It Turned Into The Worst Night Of My Life," details Grace's alleged experience of meeting Ansari at a party in 2017, and then going on a date with him. Following the date, Grace says the two of them went back to Ansari's home where things allegedly "escalated." According to her story, Ansari allegdly pushed for sexual activity beyond her boundaries, continuing after she allegedly asked him to stop and, she claims, pressuring her to engage in sexual contact she didn't want. Following the encounter, Grace allegedly reached out to Ansari, relaying that she felt "violated" by the experience.
Ansari provided a full statement to Elite Daily in response to Grace's accusations, sharing his version of events. He said,
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 okay,' upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. 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.
These allegations have attracted much attention from media outlets, leading to tweets surfacing in response to Grace's alleged experience. But past Ansari and Grace, these tweets highlight a major problem. That is, how a "bad date" is often used as a cover-up for sexual assault.
These tweets showcase the troubling confusion about what counts as "real" sexual assault and what is just a so-called bad experience. For some, situations such as these represent a "gray area," where it's unclear of how to exactly label such an experience. While for others, the definition is very clear cut. In situations such as these, the differentiating viewpoints between what some view as a "bad date" while others view as assault becomes clear.
Some people thought the story didn't warrant the outrage.
And some people thought the line was pretty clear.
According to the National Center for PTSD, four in five women who experienced sexual assault were assaulted by a known partner, such as a husband, partner, friend, or date. Our Watch, an organization dedicated to fighting violence against women, performed a 2016 study where they interviewed 604 people ages 12 to 20 about their experiences with sexual misconduct. Their findings concluded that a quarter (25 percent) of individuals believe it's "normal for a boy to put some pressure on girls to do sexual things." Which by the way, that's called coercion; it's a form of assault, and it's never OK.
Grace herself shared her experience battling these thoughts. In her account to Babe, she said,
I was debating if this was an awkward sexual experience or sexual assault. And that’s why I confronted so many of my friends and listened to what they had to say, because I wanted validation that it was actually bad.
The past few months have certainly shed light on the conversation towards sexual assault, which lends itself as a step forward towards shifting cultural "norms." Change cannot be made unless we're listening and paying attention to one another. Perhaps the debate over the allegations against Ansari are a reminder that whether it's with your sexual partner, or someone you just met, everyone's personal story is important and valid.