Aziz Ansari became the latest name to trend for all the wrong reasons this week, when a writer at blog babe.net interviewed a female photographer they identify as “Grace,” who claims a date with him “turned into the worst night of my life.” Ansari’s been the target of a firehose of criticism since the story broke, but what really happened?
Could the adorkable guy from Parks & Recreation and Master of None really be a Harvey Weinstein-style creep?
Lawyers have an argument technique where you assume the opponent’s accusations are all true, and then give a reason why they are still wrong nonetheless. It’s often done with the Latin word arguendo, which translates to “for the sake of argument,” meaning that you aren’t admitting anything, but just playing a hypothetical game. You might see it in a legal pleading: “Assuming, arguendo, that Plaintiffs are correct the product we sold them arrived damaged, they are still not entitled to a refund because they failed to report the damage for over six months.” Something like that.
So let’s assume, arguendo, that Grace is telling the truth about her interactions with Ansari. What do we know?
They met at a party and flirted over their similar old-fashioned film cameras. They exchanged flirtatious text messages for about a week, and he asked her out to dinner.
Before the date, Grace was “excited” about going out with a “major celebrity.” She took care to pick out her outfit and met him at his apartment, which is described as “an exclusive address on TriBeCa’s Franklin Street, where Taylor Swift has a place too.”
When she got to his apartment they chatted for a bit and drank some wine, but not the kind she liked. It would prove to the the first on a long list of times during their date where Grace is unhappy or uncomfortable with something, but doesn’t clearly verbalize it.
“It was white,” she said. “I didn’t get to choose and I prefer red, but it was white wine.”
She drank it anyway. They walked to a nearby restaurant, had dinner, and then Ansari “quickly” asked for the check, surprising her with his “abruptness” and eagerness to leave.
They went back to his apartment, and it quickly got sexual:
Within moments, he was kissing her. “In a second, his hand was on my breast.” Then he was undressing her, then he undressed himself. She remembers feeling uncomfortable at how quickly things escalated.
When Ansari told her he was going to grab a condom within minutes of their first kiss, Grace voiced her hesitation explicitly. “I said something like, ‘Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.’” She says he then resumed kissing her, briefly performed oral sex on her, and asked her to do the same thing to him. She did, but not for long. “It was really quick. Everything was pretty much touched and done within ten minutes of hooking up, except for actual sex.”
She went on to describe how he repeatedly put his hands in her mouth and vagina, and kept putting her hand on his penis.
Ansari also physically pulled her hand towards his penis multiple times throughout the night, from the time he first kissed her on the countertop onward. “He probably moved my hand to his d*** five to seven times,” she said. “He really kept doing it after I moved it away.”
Grace said she used “verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was,” but also described that as mostly “pulling away and mumbling,” which she acknowledges he may not have understood.
Whether Ansari didn’t notice Grace’s reticence or knowingly ignored it is impossible for her to say. “I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested. I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.”
Eventually, Ansari wanted sex, and asked her several times, “Where do you want me to f*** you?” — which she found “tough to answer” because she “didn’t want to f*** him at all.”
She excused herself, spent a few minutes in the bathroom, and then came out and told him she didn’t want to have sex. Here’s what happened next, according to Grace:
Then she went back to Ansari. He asked her if she was okay. “I said I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you,” she said.
She told babe that at first, she was happy with how he reacted. “He said, ‘Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun.’ The response was technically very sweet and acknowledging the fact that I was very uncomfortable. Verbally, in that moment, he acknowledged that I needed to take it slow. Then he said, ‘Let’s just chill over here on the couch.’”
This moment is particularly significant for Grace, because she thought that would be the end of the sexual encounter — her remark about not wanting to feel “forced” had added a verbal component to the cues she was trying to give him about her discomfort. When she sat down on the floor next to Ansari, who sat on the couch, she thought he might rub her back, or play with her hair — something to calm her down.
Ansari instructed her to turn around. “He sat back and pointed to his penis and motioned for me to go down on him. And I did. I think I just felt really pressured. It was literally the most unexpected thing I thought would happen at that moment because I told him I was uncomfortable.”
OK. Let’s analyze this.
She told him she didn’t want to “feel forced” into sex, after they had already gotten naked and performed oral sex on each other, he “motioned for [her] to go down on him” again, and, in her own words: “And I did.”
She is complaining that this was “unexpected” and he didn’t understand how “uncomfortable” she was, but instead of saying so, she performs oral sex on him again, even though what she really wanted was for him to “rub her back, or play with her hair — something to calm her down.”
A large part of her complaint seems to be that Aziz Ansari is not the characters he plays on television. The article explores this at length, noting that Ansari “built his career on being cute and nice and parsing the signals women send to men and the male emotions that result,” someone who “branded himself as the witty, woke alternative to the stereotypical douchebag bro…the kind of guy who strikes out because he actually respects women.”
Grace mentioned the glaring gap between Ansari’s comedy persona and the behavior she experienced in his apartment as a reason why she didn’t get out earlier. “I didn’t leave because I think I was stunned and shocked,” she said. “This was not what I expected. I’d seen some of his shows and read excerpts from his book and I was not expecting a bad night at all, much less a violating night and a painful one.”
The real human Aziz Ansari was more clumsy than suave, more dork than adorkable, more horndog than heartthrob. But every time Grace did actually articulate she wanted something, he gave it to her. She said she didn’t want to have sex, and although he did ask again several times, he didn’t force her. When she said she wanted to go home, he called her an Uber.
Their text message exchange the next day shows their sharply different perceptions of how the evening went:
“It was fun meeting you last night,” Ansari sent on Tuesday evening. “Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me,” Grace responded. “You ignored clear non-verbal cues; you kept going with advances.” She explains why she is telling him how she felt: “I want to make sure you’re aware so maybe the next girl doesn’t have to cry on the ride home.”
“I’m so sad to hear this,” he responded. “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”
“Clear non-verbal cues”? Really. Really?
Grace told Ansari she didn’t want to have sexual intercourse. She was uncomfortable and wanted to slow things down, but then she kept kissing him and performing oral sex on him.
Here’s a crazy idea: if you want to slow things down physically with a guy, stop putting his d*** in your mouth.
Despite what liberal feminists claim, men and women are different. It doesn’t require a PhD in psychology to say that men are often visually stimulated and less interested in fine details of emotional nuance.
I once watched two female friends of mine debate for nearly an hour whether if a guy’s text message that he had sent with a smiley face emoji meant that he wasn’t that into her anymore because he just sent the regular smiley face emoji and not the one with the little hearts for eyes. For. Nearly. An. Hour.
Robin Williams would tell a joke about how God gave men a penis and a brain, “but only enough blood to run one at a time.” Is it really reasonable for Grace to expect Ansari to pick up on her “non-verbal cues” that she was feeling uncomfortable when what he saw was a naked woman giving him a blow job? Are we really expecting him to be able to focus and analyze her emotional state while his d*** is in her mouth?
The lesson here is a harsh but important one: casual sex is not without consequences.
Both Grace and Ansari have suffered major consequences because of their actions.
Grace feels ashamed and upset about how the date went. She was disappointed Ansari wasn’t more like the characters he plays on TV; the fantasy in her mind was brutally smashed by the reality that Ansari was just another dude who wanted to get laid, and didn’t rub her back or say sweet things.
Grace suffered because Ansari didn’t understand her feelings, but she also misunderstood him. The lovable characters he plays are so intrinsically tied into his persona and brand; this can’t have been the first time he met someone who expected him to be more like Dev Shah and Tom Haverford. And now his professional reputation has taken a huge hit.
Let’s be clear, Ansari is not blameless: he took home someone he barely knew and got intimate with her. He’s an adult who has been in the public spotlight for several years and should have known the potential risk if he wasn’t one hundred percent sure she was fine with everything that happened.
But is it really fair for Grace to now claim that this was not just “the worst experience with a man I’ve ever had,” but constituted “sexual assault”? Because that’s what she’s claiming now.
This entire story would most likely never have happened if they had waited just a few weeks, maybe even just one or two more dates. They knew next to nothing about each other, except they both owned the same camera and were attracted to each other.
What if they had waited longer to get intimate? Not that they were going to wait until marriage, but what if they had waited just a little bit longer, so that Grace could have gotten to know the real human Ansari and he could have gotten to understand her personality and way of communicating better?
Chances are, they would have either decided they weren’t into each other after all and gone their separate ways, or shared a far more positive experience when they did get sexual.
Women have been told that being sexually liberated is “empowering,” but there’s little empowerment in being scared to say what you want, or feeling disappointed when your needs aren’t met.
Grace sure doesn’t sound empowered. By her own words, she never describes Ansari as threatening or physically intimidating her, but she was definitely feeling uncomfortable, and yet still got naked and hooked up with him anyway.
It’s similar to the “Cat Person“ New Yorker fictional short story that went viral last month, in which a woman named Margot briefly dates an older man named Robert, who is witty and charming over text messages, but their dates are awkward and uncomfortable, and she finds him unattractive. She has sex with him anyway, and it’s — quelle surprise! — awkward and uncomfortable. Margot breaks it off with him. Her rejection hurts his feelings and he insults her, calling her a “whore.”
“Cat Person” drew praise from many women who lauded it as being “relatable.” Vox noted its “eerie accuracy in depicting what dating is like for a 20-year-old woman,” including “the desperate need to be considered polite and nice at all costs.” The Atlantic called it a reflection of “this #MeToo moment” in how it was “revealing the lengths women go to in order to manage men’s feelings, and the shaming they often suffer nonetheless.”
Maybe instead of worrying about being nice or shaking our fists at the patriarchy for shaming us into sexual situations we don’t want, we should take responsibility for the fact that sex can have emotional consequences.
If you want to have a one-night stand, then you should accept the reality that it most likely will not include any emotional connection. If that’s not what you want, then wait.
It’s been said by countless parents and after-school specials, but that doesn’t make it less true: anyone who rejects you for not having sex immediately isn’t worthy of having sex with you, period.
And until then, don’t put a guy’s d*** in your mouth and expect him to guess that means you aren’t into him.
UPDATE: Ansari released a statement late Sunday evening:
“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.” – Aziz Ansari
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.