Does The Backlash Against Aziz Ansari’s Sexual Assault Allegation Mean A Turning Point For The #MeToo Movement?

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Joe Simonson Media Reporter
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Comedian, writer, and millennial sensation Aziz Ansari found himself in the middle of a salacious sexual misconduct allegation after a woman he went on a date with in 2017 recounted a lengthy summary of their night together that she concludes ended in assault.

“It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault,” the woman told Babe.net. “I was debating if this was an awkward sexual experience or sexual assault. And that’s why I confronted so many of my friends and listened to what they had to say, because I wanted validation that it was actually bad.”

Yet not everyone agreed with the woman’s conclusions. Although it’s almost undeniable that her description of Ansari’s behavior could be considered inappropriate — she claims he liked taking “his two fingers in a V-shape and putting them” in her mouth as foreplay — the jump to labeling the uncomfortable night as “assault” has many, even on the left, throwing red flags.

“The world in which [the Babe.net article] constituted an episode of sexual assault was so far from my own two experiences of near date rape … that I just couldn’t pick up the tune,” The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan wrote in “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari.”

Flanagan notes that their initial sexual interaction was, even by the author’s admission, completely consensual. As Ansari becomes more sexually adventurous, the woman writes about her growing discomfort and yet never explicitly tells him “no” or leaves his apartment.

Despite the fact that Ansari couldn’t reasonably know how uncomfortable he was making this woman, he has now been labeled as a sexual deviant. Flanagan writes:

Apparently there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab, and who have spent a lot of time picking out pretty outfits for dates they hoped would be nights to remember. They’re angry and temporarily powerful and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.

In response to these allegations, Ansari released a statement expressing how he was “surprised and concerned” to hear about the woman’s description of the night’s events and that he “took her words to heart and responded privately after taking time to process what she had said”  but also made clear that “by all indications [the sex] was completely consensual.”

Some might revel in the fact that a so-called “woke” progressive like Ansari would end up on the receiving end of a feminist movement gone awry, yet the incident does seem to be causing even some on the left to reconsider their blind devotion to the #metoo movement.

Daily Beast senior editor and feminist writer Erin Gloria Ryan expressed discomfort that “a detailed story of a weird hookup with a sexually inept celebrity” has become “newsworthy” and pointed out that “not everything shitty is illegal.”

Last week in New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan asked readers to “resist the excesses of #metoo,” comparing the rush to condemn men accused of a spectrum of behavior to McCarthyites.

There’s clearly a difference between a man like Harvey Weinstein who allegedly systematically assaulted and abused various women through his financial and social power versus an awkward nerd like Ansari. Refusing to recognize such differences won’t just lead to the ostracization of innocent men, but it makes it much harder for real victims to come forward.

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