‘Grace’ and her Aziz Ansari Date from Hell Are So Gay

I met Anders at the Boiler Room in New York City in 1996, and the Swedish tourist made me an offer I could have refused but didn’t want to. He invited me to the apartment where he was staying, which was conveniently around the corner. It wasn’t long before our clothes came off and we were rolling around naked on a mattress on the floor.

The next morning as we were still basking in afterglow, he kissed me on the lips and made an “about last night…” observation: “I can tell you aren’t gay just for the sex,” he said.

I could have taken it as an inappropriate post-coital review of my sexual prowess, but I knew what he was getting at. He’d spent enough time with me, in and and out of our clothes, to know that I was the type of gay guy who was interested in more than instant gratification. The kissing, the cuddling, and the connecting clearly gave me away.

The sex was apparently good enough for him to come over to my place for a sequel two nights later. Once again, it was as much our non-physical connection as our physical one that kept me, um, up for most of the night. Come to think of it, he never revealed whether he was gay for the kissing, the cuddling, the connecting, or strictly the cock.

Not that we choose our sexual orientation, and not that sexual orientation is ever just about sex. But in a man’s man’s man’s world where men are generally ruled by their primal sexual instincts, I have a feeling none of Aziz Ansari’s female dates have ever accused him of being different. At least that’s what I gather from the confessions of “Grace,” a woman who shared all the excruciating details of her date with the recent Master of None Golden Globe winner in a narrative published on January 13 on the website Babe.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am thoroughly unfamiliar with Ansari’s work. Until his Golden Globe win for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Comedy or Musical one and a half weeks ago, I’d seen the two-time Emmy winner’s name here and there, but I didn’t really have a face to put with it. Therefore, I have no interest in preserving his reputation or his career. I’m not picking sides, as this isn’t a case of he said/she said. Ansari hasn’t disputed the story as recalled by “Grace.”

I won’t go into those details of the truth according to “Grace” (and supported by Ansari in a statement obtained by CNN) here. If you’ve read this far, you are probably already familiar with them. The apparently true confessions of “Grace” have received a mixed reaction from readers and in the press. Her supporters think it’s about time we have this discussion about how women can feel sexually violated without sexual harassment or sexual assault being factors.

Others, however, feel that “Grace” set out to anonymously wreck Ansari’s reputation and his career. I support the views of both sides. We definitely need to be having this conversation in these #MeToo/Time’s Up times, and “Grace” has every right to feel violated. But did she have to take her case to the court of public opinion in such a shady way?

I’ve been on the “Grace” side of this bad date/bad sex situation countless times (though not with Swedish Anders), and likely so has anyone who isn’t gay just for the sex. Hook-up apps have created monsters, and they sometimes behave just as Ansari did on his date with “Grace.”

Since the people who have made me feel like “Grace” have mostly been gay, I would say it is a general male problem, not just a straight male one. I recently met someone who told me about a Grindr date who locked him in the apartment and threatened to kill him when he objected to the surprise introduction of a third party into the proceedings. I wish #MeToo and Time’s Up would focus more on the fact that women aren’t the only ones who suffer under the norms of rape culture, but that’s something for a different discussion. My problem with this one is how “Grace” went about starting it.

First, she did so anonymously. That puts her in a different league than the women and men who have been brave enough to put both their stories and their names out there. If Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Anthony Rapp, and other famous women and men hadn’t publicly shared their stories along with their identities, we probably wouldn’t be in the midst of this revolutionary movement.

Second, her timing to go public six days after Ansari’s January 7 Golden Globes win with a story about a date that happened in September of last year (shortly before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October, opening the #MeToo floodgates), while understandable, seems calculated to inflict maximum damage to Ansari, because… Third, she was apparently as/more interested in punishing Ansari as/than in starting a conversation. They’d already discussed the matter privately. He apologized. Why did she have to then go and publicly humiliate him while keeping her identity hidden? It’s hard not to read a degree of payback into it.

Would it have been so difficult to start the conversation anonymously while protecting his identity as well? It may not have been as clickable (which, as we all know, was the ultimate goal), but it still would have brought overdue attention to the subject without publicly shaming a man who had already sincerely apologized for his poor behavior.

I won’t use any of my platforms to suggest as others, including actor Liam Neeson, have that #MeToo is in danger of becoming a witch hunt. I don’t buy that. I think people are smart enough to know who deserves to have their status threatened and who doesn’t. The breadth of responses to the Ansari story supports me.

But I do think it’s important for us to continue to listen to women who share their stories without rushing to damn the men who constitute the accused.

We all need to be a part of this discussion, because it doesn’t just affect women. I don’t think the people who are criticizing the methods of “Grace” are opposed to having this discussion. The discussion isn’t the problem. It’s how it got started.

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