Exactly one week after he was the subject of a controversial article, people may be wondering if Aziz Ansari will be at the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards. The story in question, published by the website Babe, focused on a woman who claimed she had an upsetting sexual encounter with the actor. The article called into question the subject of alleged coercion and consent and has sparked backlash in the days following. Ansari is nominated for best male actor in a comedy series for his role in Master of None.
UPDATE: It appears as though Ansari did not attend — when his nomination was read prior to when the first award of the night was given, he was not shown on camera like the actors who were in the room.
EARLIER: In the Babe story, a then-22-year-old photographer who spoke under the alias, "Grace," claims that after going home with Ansari, he allegedly repeatedly attempted to initiate sexual activity with her after she had allegedly told him, "Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.'"
Ansari responded to the claims in a statement per The Hollywood Reporter:
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.
It's definitely provoked a conversation that some say isn't had nearly as often as it should be. While the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, as well as the accusations brought forth about Hollywood icons in recent months, have brought much more attention to sexual assault and harassment, they largely leave out encounters like the one Grace details. While there are certainly some who have condemned the Babe piece, there have also been a string of op-eds and opinion pieces that have expanded on a larger conversation about what consent should be. Though there wasn’t necessarily violence allegedly involved in her encounter with Ansari, Grace still claims she was uncomfortable, and many feel that’s also not OK and proves that there needs to be further conversation around what sex should and should not be.
“There is no gray area of consent. There are just the things we choose to notice and things we chose not to. So Grace’s story, while unique, is entirely common. It’s just a reality of dating — but it doesn’t mean it should be," said Kirsten King in Teen Vogue.
Activists have also weighed in on the issue. “This is a great opportunity to have a national conversation about sexual respect and what it means to not just center your own needs and comfort in an interaction, but how to ask questions and go about sexual consent in a way that’s truly respectful of your partner,” Jess Davidson, the managing director of survivor advocacy organization End Rape on Campus, told Time magazine.
Ansari could easily continue to stay out of the spotlight if he chooses to. Though he was nominated for his acting, that was the only nod to Master of None at the SAG Awards. It remains unclear the next time we’ll see Ansari, whether that’s at a public event or if he chooses to further respond to Grace’s allegations. A third season of Master of None hasn’t ever been officially put into motion, as the actor told The Hollywood Reporter last year that he’s “content with doing nothing for right now.” Even if Ansari doesn’t show at the SAG Awards, the mood of the Time’s Up movement has already begun to linger through the night. Red carpet questions continue to focus on the importance of listening to women, and that, hopefully, will keep up through the remainder of awards season.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.