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Aziz Ansari responds to sexual misconduct allegations against him

The Master of None star has been accused of sexual misconduct while on a date in 2017.

Aziz Ansari in an episode of Master of None.
Aziz Ansari in an episode of Master of None.
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Comedian and Master of None star Aziz Ansari has responded to allegations of sexual misconduct made by a Brooklyn-based photographer that took place in September 2017. The woman’s story has continued the ongoing conversation within the #MeToo movement about behavior and consent.

A 23-year-old woman accused Ansari of sexual misconduct on a date in an article posted by the publication Babe. In the story, the woman, given the pseudonym “Grace,” describes going out with the actor after meeting him at a party last year. She chronicles an evening where Ansari pressured her for sex, repeatedly ignoring her verbal and nonverbal cues that he should slow down, until she eventually left his Manhattan apartment.

Ansari sent her a text message the next day, which Babe posted on Twitter, to which the woman responded explaining that she left the date feeling uneasy. “It may have seemed okay. But I didn’t feel good at all,” she wrote.

Ansari at the time responded with an apology, saying, “it would never be my intention to make you or anyone feel the way you described.”

After Babe published Grace’s story over the weekend, Ansari issued a statement saying that at the time of the incident and after her reaction he “took her words to heart.” The full statement is below:

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.

The allegations against Ansari have added to the ongoing discussion within the #MeToo movement about what constitutes consent.

The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan wrote that the allegations against Ansari are proof that women are “angry,” “temporarily powerful,” and potentially “dangerous,” essentially arguing that Ansari’s accuser should have just left — which she eventually did — and grow a thicker skin.

Melinda Taub, a comedian, author, and writer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, noted on Twitter that men should be able to pick up the signals like the ones Grace gave Ansari to back off.

“A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction,” wrote Jessica Valenti, a Guardian US columnist and feminist author, in a tweet. “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 hurtful.”

Ansari, who just won a Golden Globe for his work in Master of None, is a popular figure in modern and millennial culture, and much of his comedic routine touches on the ins and outs of dating. In fact, Ansari co-wrote a popular nonfiction book on the topic, Modern Romance: An Investigation.

One of his Netflix show’s first-season episodes, titled “Ladies and Gentleman,” delves into the issues women face in their daily interactions with men — one woman is followed home by a man she met at a bar, another posts something benign on social media and gets an X-rated comment from a stranger. In the show’s second season, Azari’s character finds out that a man he’s been working with on a television show, Chef Jeff, played by Bobby Cannavale, has a history of sexual harassment.

If someone who purports to be as attuned to gender dynamics as Ansari does is prone to the type of behavior alleged against him, it might say — among other things — that there is a lot more to the #MeToo discussion than often meets the eye. It’s a broader conversation about how our culture interacts.

Writer David Klion reflected on Twitter that most men have probably “at some point in their lives, to some degree behaved in ways they can recognize as uncomfortably close to that Ansari story. That’s a problem.”

The issue now is how to solve it.