Grace said that the 34-year-old comedian repeatedly ignored verbal and nonverbal cues during a date last September. The allegations include Ansari repeatedly pulling Grace’s hand towards his genitalia, following her after she walked away from him, and shoving his fingers down her throat—all in defiance of her body language and requests to slow down. “I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested,” Grace said. “I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.”
Ansari issued a statement on Sunday (January 14), saying that he thought the sexual activity “was completely consensual.” He went on to say, “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.”
The article ignited impassioned debate across news and social media. Here are three must-read reactions:
Author Lindy West for The New York Times: “The notion of affirmative consent did not fall from space in October 2017 to confound well-meaning but bumbling men; it was built, loudly and painstakingly and in public, at great personal cost to its proponents, over decades. If you’re fretting about the perceived overreach of #MeToo, maybe start by examining the ways you’ve upheld the stigmatization of feminism. Nuanced conversations about consent and gendered socialization have been happening every single day that Aziz Ansari has spent as a living, sentient human on this earth. The reason they feel foreign to so many men is that so many men never felt like they needed to listen. Rape is a women’s issue, right? Men don’t major in women’s studies.
“It may feel like the rules shifted overnight, and what your dad called the thrill of the chase is now what some people are calling assault. Unfortunately, no one—even plenty of men who call themselves feminists—wanted to listen to feminist women themselves. We tried to warn you. We wish you’d listened, too.”
Activist and writer Deepa Iyer on multiplatform news talk show, “Rising Up With Sonali”: “It’s important to remember that there are going to be encounters and episodes that don’t necessarily fit this sense of ‘legal’ versus ‘not legal.’ We have gotten to the point where it seems like it has rise to the level of what Harvey Weinstein and company have done in order for us to have empathy, feel concerned, be reflective or have open dialogues. I think that this scrutinizing of, ‘Well, what should Grace have done? Why did she stay so long? Why couldn’t she have called a cab? What was her agency?’ These questions and the other questions around the reputational harm to Aziz Ansari seem to be the two sets of conversations that people are having. But I think what we need to actually talk about is around coercion, consent, the sexual entitlement and messages that men get, what are the ways that women express agency—those are the dialogues that we actually need to be having.”
OurStates.org co-creator* Aditi Juneja, via Medium:“The defenses of Ansari that I have seen from within the South Asian community, in more casual settings, similarly fail to consider the experiences of South Asian women, and focus on the way these accusations stain the reputation of our culture as a whole. I believe it would be more productive to focus less on what White people may extrapolate from these accusations, and focus more on whether those extrapolations have merit. Asian-American women, like women across racial groups, experience high rates of domestic and sexual violence. It would not be absurd to think Ansari represents a broader problem.”
“I am not blaming South Asians, or the broader Asian-American community, for Ansari’s behavior. Rather, I am suggesting that it is an opportunity for us to actively participate in the broader American conversation happening about sexual assault, sexual harassment and healthy sexuality through an intersectional lens that considers the experiences of South Asians who are not heterosexual cisgendered men.”
*This post has been updated to accurately refer to Juneja as co-creator of OurStates.org.