Nothing TV star Aziz Ansari did during that now-infamous one-night stand constituted sexual assault. It wasn’t even a proper one-night stand. Ansari and the young woman never engaged in carnal intercourse. But the woman accused Ansari of being a sexist brute nonetheless. Herein lies a cautionary tale for all.
Given the fictional name of “Grace,” the woman told the website Babe that Ansari had ignored her “non-verbal cues” that she wasn’t interested in going all the way. The casual observer might think that sitting naked on a man’s kitchen counter — as “Grace” had voluntarily done, along with exchanging oral sex — constituted a non-verbal cue that she was game.
Anyhow, the story has aroused great interest, partly because of the accused’s celebrity, partly because he was in some ways a victim. His name got smeared across seven continents, while her identity hid under a veil.
What gives the story legs is that Ansari didn’t dispute Grace’s version of what actually happened that night, only the interpretation of what happened. Among her complaints: He served white wine when in her heart she wanted red. He rushed the check at dinner in an apparent hurry to get them back to his pad. His foreplay was accelerated and some not to her taste.
But you don’t have to read too deeply to see that Grace was offering a modern version of “Adelaide’s Lament” (see “Guys and Dolls,” circa 1950). She was expecting more gallantry than the situation warranted.
After she told Ansari that she wanted to save the actual sex for the second date, it became clear there was not going to be a second date. He intended this to be a hookup — a physical coupling devoid of emotion or long-term commitment. She, despite having behaved in the hookup mode (as a lure?), wanted this to be the start of a beautiful relationship.
Denying him sex after getting buck naked and participating in advanced foreplay was perfectly within her rights. But if she wanted a lasting romance, she should have thanked Ansari for a delightful evening at the end of dinner and headed off. He might not have called again — or responded positively if she contacted him — but that’s the risk one takes in these circumstances.
Let this also serve as a warning for male celebrities who see all the young women coming on to them at parties as easy pickings. They might avoid diving into sex with women they barely know. And when she gives mixed cues that yes, she’s interested but no, she’s not, believe the “no.” It’s not entirely fair to put the ultimate interpretation on the man’s shoulders, but that’s the reality in contemporary sexual politics.
In any event, there’s nothing stopping them from being gentlemen and foregoing the hookup culture altogether. It’s a pretty grim scene.
As for the media, they should show more reticence toward letting accusers fire away anonymously. This goes beyond the wise tradition of not naming women who say they have been raped. (Many victims hold their privacy as a requirement for cooperating with the prosecution.)
But there are cases in which hiding identities gives license to make false charges. The most notorious example was a woman’s fake report of gang rape at the University of Virginia. It destroyed the reputations of innocent male students, sullied the school’s administration and shamed Rolling Stone, which published the scurrilous claims.
“Grace’s” story didn’t even involve rape. There was no good reason here to protect the identity of one and not the other. Ansari, meanwhile, is deprived of a “guilty or not guilty” moment. He’s left with an ugly “she said, he said” following him for the rest of his career.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.