After an exposé titled, “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life” was published on the Babe.net in January, controversy sparked surrounding Ansari’s actions during this date.
Considering Ansari is a well-received actor and supporter of the “Time’s Up” movement against sexual assault, the article has gotten heightened attention from the public—some condemning Ansari and others defending him.
While no voice in the movement against sexual assault should go unheard, this specific situation has too much gray area to disparage Ansari’s acting career.
In the article, a woman going under the pseudonym of Grace recounts her date with Ansari in excruciating detail. Calling it the “worst night of her life,” according to Babe, she described how Ansari didn’t ask for her preference of white or red wine, rushed through dinner to get her back to his apartment and ignored her “verbal and non-verbal cues,” indicating her discomfort as the night progressed.
Ansari made sexual advances toward the woman after inviting her up to his apartment and Grace then asked politely if they could slow down. When Ansari continued to make advances, Grace recalled that “most of her discomfort was expressed in her pulling away and mumbling,” according to Babe.
An important part of the call for gender equality centers on women being able to make and control their own decisions.
Rather than just leaving when she felt uncomfortable, Grace stayed at Ansari’s apartment, perhaps because she was star struck by being on a date with a celebrity or for other unknown reasons. This woman, however, could have left whenever she liked. Ansari is not being accused of preventing her from walking out the door.
Furthermore, when people hook up situations like these become prominent; a gray area forms from a lack of communication within hook-up culture.
It was clear in Grace’s recounting that Ansari made obvious moves signaling he wanted to hook-up: this can be seen by him rushing through dinner and inviting Grace to his apartment. The article from Babe reports that Grace was not interested in having sex, but knew he was.
Ansari’s actions are not to be condoned, but the woman claiming that this incident was “the worst night of (her) life” is not appropriate. Ansari should not be accused of sexual assault or rape to the degree that parallels the actions of Harvey Weinstein or Larry Nassar.
In situations where consent is ambiguous, such as this one, both perspectives are important in understanding what happened to the full degree. In a statement Ansari released, he stated that “everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.”
Before pointing the blame to either Ansari or Grace, it is important to address the societal norms of both the female and male gender. When women are straightforward about sex, their reputation can be disparaged. As a result, more pressure is put on men to be direct and outgoing if they are interested in having sex. It is clear these gender norms played out heavily in this particular incident.
To avoid further situations where both parties have misunderstandings, a shift in the gender dynamics is vital. If a woman does not want to do something, she can leave.
Additionally, Ansari’s aggression and misreading of the situation should not be condoned, however, it would be unfair for his career to be permanently damaged from one bad date.