After recent allegations of sexual misconduct by actor Aziz Ansari came to light, some social media users have labelled Ansari’s encounters with a woman named “Grace” nothing more than just a bad date.
Ansari, who released an official statement on Saturday to People magazine, said he thought the relationship he had with the 23-year-old in 2017 was “completely consensual.”
“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,” the comedian told the magazine. “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 … 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,” he continued.
The allegations were first reported by Babe.net, after a Brooklyn-based photographer who went by Grace, shared her experiences of going on a date with the 34-year-old Master of None star when she was 22.
Calling it the worst night of her life, Grace recalls meeting Ansari at a 2017 Emmy Awards after-party, and going on a date a week or so later. After initially meeting for a drink at his apartment, the two ended up at a nearby restaurant.
“When the waiter came over he quickly asked for the check and he said like, ‘Let’s get off this boat.’ Like, he got the check and then it was bada-boom, bada-bing, we’re out of there,” she told Babe.net.
Their night out quickly turned into a series of unwanted sexual encounters, she said, adding he wouldn’t let her move away from him. Grace used verbal and non-verbal cues to show Ansari how uncomfortable and distressed she was, but the comedian didn’t pick up on any of them.
Over the weekend, some social media users described Grace’s encounters with the actor nothing more than a “bad date.” Some argued she should’ve left his apartment or told him to back off, Grace said she only told Ansari directly she was uncomfortable via text the next day.
Aziz Ansari situation wasn’t sexual assault. That was a bad date with a clown. I would have left when I didn’t get to choose my wine. Damn sure would left after he asked for a check w/o me finishing my food. Not every sexual encounter is assault.
— Veronica Carrington (@TanyaMiecy) January 14, 2018
Others, like Twitter user Black Marvel Girl, quickly pointed out how calling it a “bad date” shows how complex rape and sexual assault can be.
“If you think the story about Aziz Ansari is just a ‘bad date’; then you literally don’t understand how complex rape and sexual assault can be. If a person is repeatedly telling and giving you indications they do not want to have sex w/ you, then you should stop & not try anything.”
Many agreed with her point of view.
If you think the story about Aziz Ansari is just a "bad date" then you literally don't understand how complex rape and sexual assault can be. If a person is repeatedly telling and giving you indications they do not want to have sex w/ you, then you should stop & not try anything
— Black Marvel Girl (@BlackMarvelGirl) January 14, 2018
A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers "normal" sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) January 14, 2018
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Please, let’s use the Aziz Ansari story to discuss how complex consent can be. If you’re tempted to think it was “just a bad date,” please, talk to the women in your life. My heart aches for how many have been through similar.
— Kate Leaver (@kateileaver) January 14, 2018
Reactions to the Aziz Ansari story remind me that we need to unpack what we mean when we excuse away terrible behavior as a "bad date" or a "bad hookup."
You'll find an awful lot of coercion and assault covered up by the vagueness and ubiquity of these terms.
— Lily Herman (@lkherman) January 14, 2018
Men saying re Aziz Ansari “just a bad date” or “he just misread the signals” or “what did she expect was going to happen”. If this story is uncomfortable because the behaviour is too familiar to you, please confront it. Don’t dismiss the victim. Take a look at yourself.
— Kirsty Capes (@kirstycapes) January 14, 2018
“Writing-off non-consensual encounters like this one as ‘bad dates’ minimizes a traumatic experience. Better education is needed about what consent looks like so that partners are continuously checking in with each other and are respectful of boundaries,” says Paulette Senior, president and CEO if the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
She says when it comes to sexual harassment and assault, perpetrators often believe they’re following a “normal sexual script” when they’re actually being ignorant of nonverbal cues. They also have never receive proper consent from their partners in the first place.
“Ignorance is not an excuse. Nonverbal cues hold weight, and sexual partners have a responsibility to pay attention, ask for consent repeatedly throughout an encounter, and respect when someone says no, as well as check in if the other person is saying nothing at all. Consent must be positive and ongoing – showing through both words and actions that you freely agree to participate in sexual activity. Consent can be revoked at any time.”
She adds experiences like these show a bigger picture on how little people understand consent.
In 2015, the foundation ran a campaign (GetConsent.ca), and through a survey found while 96 per cent of Canadians agreed sexual activity must be consensual, two-thirds (67 per cent) did not fully understand how to properly give or get it.