In her Atlantic article, “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari,” Caitlin Flanagan aptly described the recent sexual assault accusation against Ansari as “3,000 words of revenge porn.” Having been through a false accusation, I know that the humiliation and embarrassment is just the beginning. It’s quickly followed by shock, disbelief, terror, overwhelming grief, depression, and anger. Flanagan also notes, in passing, the fact that Ansari is a brown man being accused by someone widely presumed to be a white woman. These aspects of humiliation and race are rarely talked about.
While Ansari describes himself as “not religious,” discussing his departure from the Muslim religion and mocking his own sexuality in his comedy and his Netflix show Master of None, he is of South Asian and Muslim descent. When you are a brown man with a Muslim name, it doesn’t matter how white you act or how often you say that you’re an atheist, the stereotypes still follow you.
In the public sphere and in popular culture, the sexuality of brown, Muslim men is generally stereotyped as being possessive, jealous, old-fashioned, selfish, insatiable, and fetishizing of white women.
Having intimate descriptions of your sex life published on the internet is so shaming, it’s hard to even talk about the accusation in private with friends and family let alone defend yourself in public. This humiliation has significant consequence, especially so for brown, Muslim men given the stereotypes listed above. Though everyone knows that the first piece of legal advice given by a lawyer is to say nothing to anyone, this silence is interpreted as some sort of admission of guilt. The embarrassment compounds when employment is lost, as is often the case with sexual allegations, and can result in extreme isolation. The accused may become meek and shy or be caught up in exasperation and anger. You want to stay indoors for days, afraid to endure the judgmental looks from others, real or imagined, living in a state of hyper-vigilance every time you have to leave your home.
If the case goes to trial and you testify in your defence, further humiliation awaits. I was asked what kind of porn I watched and forced to describe my sexual fantasies in front of a courtroom audience. Intimate questions that would never be permitted if asked of a complainant must be answered truthfully under the watchful gaze of a judge or jury who may interpret any sign of discomfort as a guilty attitude.
The encounter described between Aziz Ansari and the anonymous “Grace” seems to have been a bad date. I’ve been on worse dates, where I was the one in her position and being pressured to have sex with a woman. But heterosexual men often have their experiences of being pressured into having sex or being sexual harassed/assaulted mocked and scorned. In fact, a judge found my claim of being pressured to have sex so preposterous, he described my experience as “a great illusion or delusion of Mr. Ururyar but also a joke. A fabrication, credible, never.”
Insistence and persistence by women seeking sex is virtually never seen as sexual assault, harassment or misconduct. Men are told that they should be so lucky to get such attention from a woman. Even when it is clearly a case of sexual assault by a woman against a man, it is more often laughed about than taken seriously.
I hope that both Aziz Ansari and “Grace” get the justice they deserve, but in a time when the rights and responsibilities of individuals is superseded by their group-identity, true justice is unlikely. There is a “hierarchy of oppression” of groups that dictates which individual will be automatically believed and which will be presumed guilty. In theory, when the case involves a man of colour and a white woman, the “hierarchy of oppression” places them on equal footing. But, lately, millennial feminists have found it convenient to ignore the racial aspect and focus on the gender as being of more significance.
When second wave feminists (who put much more emphasis on individual responsibility) have dared to intervene against the extremism of their younger heirs, they are lambasted as being old, out of touch, outdated, unnecessary, and irrelevant. This is what happened to Ashleigh Banfield of HLN when she said the article about Aziz Ansari would damage the #metoo movement and regress the credibility of all actual victims of rape.
When celebrated feminist author Margaret Atwood recently compared the #metoo movement to mob justice akin to the Salem witchcraft trials, the French Revolution, and the Red Guard period in China she was denounced as a “Bad Feminist.” Like the young Red Guard would accuse older members of their own families who had fought for the original communist revolution in 1949, the new feminists seek to purify their older generation. Any woman who disagrees and defends Ansari or others who have been falsely accused is labelled an agent of the patriarchy.
They say that Ansari ‘failed to listen’ to the ‘non-verbal cues’ of his sexual partner, ‘violated her boundaries,’ and neglected to ensure that she was ‘enthusiastically consenting throughout the encounter.’ They did not bother to wait to hear from him. They presumed his guilt, because they tout a “rape culture” in which all men are conditioned to be aggressive and all women are conditioned to accept the invasive behaviour as normal. Their theory expects the kind of behaviour that Ansari is alleged to have displayed and therefore he must have displayed it. They disguise their prejudice in PhDs in Sociology and Political Science or by holding positions as investigative journalists. They are not social scientists, because science requires rigorous research and testing of falsifiable theories. They are not investigative journalists, because investigation requires a pursuit of the truth rather than what is ideologically convenient. They are ideologues and sophists.
The op-ed that detailed the events clearly implied it was sexual assault/misconduct. These are criminal accusations that do not appear to be supported by the complainant’s own testimony. Ansari has claimed that he thought the sexual activity was, by all indications, consensual. But even if the accusations are false, they may not be intentionally false. If ‘Grace’ truly believes that normal sex requires mind reading, then she is speaking ‘her truth’, even if it is detached from what is realistic.
Given the widespread pushback in his case, Aziz Ansari may recover his career and he will probably not face a criminal charge or a civil suit. Even those who support his accuser have been divided on whether or not what he did was criminal. But a lack of a criminal charge or conviction does not fully restore him. Based on my own experience, I expect that he will have to cope with the humiliation and anger of being (falsely) accused for years. Even if he defeats depression and is able to recover his reputation and career, his life will never be what it once was.