On Saturday, January 13th, an anonymous woman shared her account of being sexually assaulted by Aziz Ansari. The woman, who remained anonymous but used the pseudonym “Grace,” recounted an extremely detailed and upsetting date gone wrong with the comedian. The reactions to the alleged assault ranged from empathetic to outraged to shocked and hurt.
Then, on Sunday, January 14th, Aziz Ansari issued a statement responding to Grace’s allegation of sexual assault.
“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.”
Ansari continued, saying he reached out to Grace privately after reading her story.
“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.”
Aziz Ansari concluded by acknowledging #MeToo and #TimesUp.
What Aziz Ansari describes in his statement — that he interpreted Grace’s cues as “completely consensual” — is where the problem lies.
People should only interpret a sexual situation as consensual when consent is enthusiastically and clearly given. Grace explained that she gave off “verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was.” It is extremely problematic for men to interpret cues like this as consent.
In line with Ansari’s statement, some men have responded to Grace’s story by alleging that his behavior was simply “jerky” and not assault. Women took to Twitter to shut these men down and explain why it is not ok for men to behave the way Ansari did in a sexual encounter. As Twitter user Jenjen succinctly pointed out, “Coercion is not consent.”
It’s scary to find out that a celebrity who so many people thought of as an ally might not be. We applaud Grace for sharing what happened, which couldn’t have been easy. Hopefully, her story will help educate people on the importance of consent.