This revolting episode is being debated on social media and cable news. There is little to debate, from an ethics perspective. A young man, a celebrity, has been held up to the public for abuse and embarrassment without justification. The ethics villains are many and varied—there are some heroes too–,but prime among the miscreants is “Grace,” his date for an evening, who decided that it was appropriate to seek revenge in a public forum for an unpleasant private encounter that should have remained private.
Aziz Ansari became known for his performances on TV’s “Parks & Recreation” and “Master of None.” Katie Way, writer at the blog babe.net–Way and the blog are two of the Ethics Villains-— interviewed a female photographer identified only as “Grace.” She claimed a date with Ansari “turned into the worst night of my life,” and flush with #MeToo self-righteousness, told this story in part, through the website, to the world:
(It’s long, but you cannot understand the full unethical nature of what was done to Aziz without a substantial quote from the piece.)
After arriving at his apartment in Manhattan on Monday evening, they exchanged small talk and drank wine…Then Ansari walked her to Grand Banks, an Oyster bar onboard a historic wooden schooner on the Hudson River just a few blocks away…They discussed NYU, comedy and a new, secret project he was working on, but she says she did most of the talking…Grace says she sensed Ansari was eager for them to leave. …“Like, he got the check and then it was bada-boom, bada-bing, we’re out of there.”
They walked the two blocks back to his apartment building…When they walked back in, she complimented his marble countertops. According to Grace, Ansari turned the compliment into an invitation.
“He said something along the lines of, ‘How about you hop up and take a seat?’” 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 says Ansari began making a move on her that he repeated during their encounter. “The move he kept doing was taking his two fingers in a V-shape and putting them in my mouth, in my throat to wet his fingers, because the moment he’d stick his fingers in my throat he’d go straight for my vagina and try to finger me.” …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 dick five to seven times,” she said. “He really kept doing it after I moved it away.”
But the main thing was that he wouldn’t let her move away from him….“It was 30 minutes of me getting up and moving and him following and sticking his fingers down my throat again. It was really repetitive. It felt like a fucking game.” Throughout the course of her short time in the apartment, she says she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was. “Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points,” she said. “I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”…“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.”
Ansari wanted to have sex. She said she remembers him asking again and again, “Where do you want me to fuck you?” while she was still seated on the countertop. She says she found the question tough to answer because she says she didn’t want to fuck him at all. “I wasn’t really even thinking of that, I didn’t want to be engaged in that with him. But he kept asking, so I said, ‘Next time.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, you mean second date?’ and I go, ‘Oh, yeah, sure,’ and he goes, ‘Well, if I poured you another glass of wine now, would it count as our second date?’” … She excused herself to the bathroom soon after.
…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.
… “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.’”
…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.” Soon, he pulled her back up onto the couch. She would tell her friend via text later that night, “He [made out] with me again and says, ‘Doesn’t look like you hate me.’”
Halfway into the encounter, he led her from the couch to a different part of his apartment. He said he had to show her something. Then he brought her to a large mirror, bent her over and asked her again, “Where do you want me to fuck you? Do you want me to fuck you right here?” He rammed his penis against her ass while he said it, pantomiming intercourse.
“I just remember looking in the mirror and seeing him behind me. He was very much caught up in the moment and I obviously very much wasn’t,” Grace said. “After he bent me over is when I stood up and said no, I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this. And he said, ‘How about we just chill, but this time with our clothes on?’”
They got dressed, sat side by side on the couch they’d already “chilled” on, and he turned on an episode of Seinfeld….She said that’s when the reality of what was going on sank in. “It really hit me that I was violated. I felt really emotional all at once when we sat down there. That that whole experience was actually horrible.”
While the TV played in the background, he kissed her again, stuck his fingers down her throat again, and moved to undo her pants. She turned away. She remembers “feeling in a different mindset at that point.” “I remember saying, ‘You guys are all the same, you guys are all the fucking same.’” Ansari asked her what she meant. When she turned to answer, she says he met her with “gross, forceful kisses.”
After that last kiss, Grace stood up from the couch, moved back to the kitchen island where she left her phone, and said she would call herself a car. He hugged her and kissed her goodbye, another “aggressive” kiss. When she pulled away, Ansari finally relented and insisted he’d call her the car….
Earlier in the piece, we learn,
The night would end with Grace in an Uber home, in tears, messaging her friends about how Ansari behaved. Babe spoke to the first friends she told about it, and reviewed the messages on her phone. The day after the incident, she wrote a long text to Ansari, saying: “I just want to take this moment to make you aware of [your] behavior and how uneasy it made me.” To that message, Ansari responds: “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”
After this article was published and “went viral,” as they say, Ansari raleased a statement. He acknowledges “sexual activity” but says “by all indications [it] was completely consensual.”
What’s going on here?
What’s going on here is that a young woman is using the internet to take vicious, unjust and unethical revenge on a date who disappointed her and was overly sexually aggressive for her tastes and desires. Because he was a celebrity, and his humiliation would generate more clicks than if he were a random lawyer, truck driver or college student, she felt empowered to wound and perhaps destroy his career during the zenith of a cultural mania in which material distinctions have been jettisoned to demonstrate the power of women to destroy with a memory and a pointed finger.
To their credit, some women have been clear and vocal about what is wrong with “Grace’s” ambush.
“You had a bad date and your date got overly amorous. After protesting his moves, you did not get up and leave, you continued to engage in the sexual encounter. By your own clear description, this was not a rape nor a sexual assault….What you have done in my opinion is appalling…
“Here is where I am going to claim victim. You have chiseled away at a movement that I along with all of my sisters in the workplace have been dreaming of for decades. A movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I too have struggled through at times over the last 30 years in broadcasting…As you grow in your photography career, I hope you remember what you did to someone else’s career because of that bad date that was not sexual assault or sexual harassment by your description. I hope the next time you go on a bad date, you stand up and smooth out your dress and bloody well leave. The only sentence that a guy like that deserves is a bad case of blue balls, not a Hollywood blackball.”
Banfield is alluding to the Golden Rule, an ethical principle that the mob seeking out men to destroy based an unsubstantiated accounts or, as in this case, private encounters that basic decency and fairness demanded stay private either rejects or never accepted. In this case, nobody is saying that Ansari behaved correctly, appropriately, sensitively or well. He didn’t. But social relationships are not, cannot and must not be strict liability encounters. Rape, assault, sexual harassment and abuse are not acceptable in any circumstance and there should be consequences for these at the earliest possible time. For clumsiness, insensitivity, selfishness, and the failure to read social messages, the negative consequences should be failure, rebuke, reprimand, shunning and other similar responses in private.
Ethics Alarms has explored this area many times. Would you want your worst moments in personal interactions broadscast to teh world so that is the sole basis for their assessment of you as a person? Of course not. Who hasn’t misbehaved, made mistakes, or made an ass of himself on a date?I know I have. Just writing that caused a flashback that makes me want to ge in a hole. Lucky for me, the young woman involved didn’t set out to ruin my life.
There is nothing in the account that suggests that “Grace” was not free to leave at any time Nor was she forced to engage in sexual activity. The actor had no power or authority over her. He was not her boss, or superior. She was not underage (as with Roy Moore’s victim), nor was this a workplace. She was not dependent on his favor or good will. She does not describe him as threatening, and he is hardly physically imposing. In tort law, there is a principle called the duty to mitigate damages. If the victim of misconduct can limita harm, or prevent it entirely with reasonable effort, the law expects him or her to do it. The victim cannot make choices that he or she knows is running up the damages tab needlessly.
“Grace” had the power to end the bad date the way bad dates have ended for centuries: she could have left. Nothing and no one was stopping her. She shares responsibility and accountability for what happened.
Babe.com—it may be on the way to an Unethical Website distinction here—lumps Banfield’s arguments with the tweets of cretins who have said “She wanted it!” as “slutshaming.” I’m not slut-shaming. I’m asshole-shaming. Grace is a vicious, vindictive asshole….and we have a right to know her name so she can be accountable, in public, for what she has done to Aziz Ansari .
If you are a woman who is so emotionally frail that you cannot have agency — control your behavior when in the presence of an unarmed person who wants something that you don’t want — you should not be allowed out unsupervised. As in Victorian times, you should meet men in the family parlor, with supervision…
The apartment had a door.
There’s a word: “No.”
Another word: “Stop!”
If you don’t stand up for what you want on some occasion, there’s something you should do — and no, it isn’t putting another person on trial on social media. It’s deciding to turn the experience into a learning experience and figure out what you’ll do to stand up for your interests the next time around.