The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari

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Allegations against the comedian are proof that women are angry, temporarily powerful-and very, very dangerous.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

When she saw Ansari at the party, she was excited by his celebrity-“Grace said it was surreal to be meeting up with Ansari, a successful comedian and major celebrity”-which the magazines would have told us was “shallow;” he brushed her off, but she kept after him, which they would have called “desperate;” doing so meant ignoring her actual date of the evening, which they would have called cruel. Agreeing to meet at his apartment-instead of expecting him to come to her place to pick her up-they would have called unwise, ditto drinking with him alone. Drinking, we were told, could lead to a girl’s getting “carried away” which was the way female sexual desire was always characterized in these things-as in, “she got carried away the night of the prom.” As for what happened sexually, the writers would have blamed her completely: what was she thinking, getting drunk with an older man she hardly knew, after revealing her eagerness to get close to him? The signal rule about dating, from its inception in the 1920s to right around the time of the Falklands war, was that if anything bad happened to a girl on a date, it was her fault.

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Those magazines didn’t prepare teenage girls for sports or STEM or huge careers; the kind of world-conquering, taking-numbers strength that is the common language of the most middle-of-the road cultural products aimed at today’s girls was totally absent. But in one essential way they reminded us that we were strong in a way that so many modern girls are weak. They told us over and over again that if a man tried to push you into anything you didn’t want, even just a kiss, you told him flat out you weren’t doing it. If he kept going, you got away from him. You were always to have “mad money” with you: cab fare in case he got “fresh” and then refused to drive you home. They told you to slap him if you had to; they told you to get out of the car and start wailing if you had to. They told you to do whatever it took to stop him from using your body in any way you didn’t want, and under no circumstances to go down without a fight. In so many ways, compared with today’s young women, we were weak; we were being prepared for being wives and mothers, not occupants of the C-Suite. But as far as getting away from a man who was trying to pressure us into for sex we didn’t want; we were strong.

Was Grace frozen, terrified, stuck? No. She tells us that she wanted something from Ansari and she was trying to figure out how to get it. She wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested. What she felt afterward-rejected yet another time, by yet another man-was regret. And what she and the writer who told her story created was 3,000 words of revenge porn. The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.