Former host of The Soup Joel McHale is speaking out about the allegations against Aziz Ansari, stating that what some are calling sexual assault could be interpreted as a consensual sexual experience.
"It was probably just a really bad date," McHale told TMZ. "The problem is that people will read just the name and then just the accusation, and they don’t find out anything more than that. But it sounds like it was consensual."
On 13th January Babe.net published a 23-year-old photographer's account of a date she had with the Master of None comedian. In the article, "Grace" (not her real name) explained that, during their encounter, Ansari allegedly made multiple attempts to initiate sexual activity. She alleged that he ignored the verbal and "clear non-verbal cues" that she was not interested.
"I believe that I was taken advantage of by Aziz," Grace stated in the Babe.net piece. "I was not listened to and ignored. It was by far the worst experience with a man I've ever had."
In a statement sent to Refinery29, Ansari denied any allegations of sexual misconduct.
"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 Babe.net piece has sparked a great deal of conversation about consent, especially given its place within the #MeToo movement. In a time where many women (and men) are coming forward about their own experiences with sexual misconduct, and are applauded for doing so, some people don't know where Grace's story about Ansari falls. While McHale read the allegations and saw a consensual encounter, others have pointed out that in order for sexual activity to be truly consensual, it must be enthusiastic. Samantha Bee stated her own opinion on the matter on her show Full Frontal:
"It doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to ruin your life to be worth speaking out about," Bee said in regards to the Ansari piece. "Any kind of sexual harassment or coercion is unacceptable... [Women] know the difference between a rapist, a workplace harasser, and an Aziz Ansari. That doesn’t mean we have to be happy about any of them."
The varying opinions on this particular article suggest that we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the issue of consent.
Refinery29 has reached out to reps for McHale and Ansari and will update this post should we receive a statement.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.