2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards nominee Aziz Ansari did not attend the ceremony on Sunday — a week after an anonymous woman accused him of sexual behavior that she classified as assault but he called consensual.
The actor didn’t receive applause when his name was listed among the outstanding actor in a comedy series nominees. The winner of the award, William H. Macy of Shameless, did however mention Ansari in his acceptance speech in paying tribute to the other nominees.
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A 23-year-old Brooklyn photographer recounted her allegations against the Master of None star to Babe.net under the pseudonym “Grace” in a story published Jan. 13. Her account has generated much controversy, sparking a public conversation regarding the nuances of the #MeToo movement.
Grace said that after meeting Ansari, 34, at an Emmy Awards afterparty in September 2017, they exchanged numbers and eventually went on a date, which she called “the worst of [her] life.” After a meal, she said they returned to his apartment, where she alleged that Ansari behaved coercively and that several sexual acts occurred though she was “physically giving off cues that [she] wasn’t interested.”
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Ansari issued the following statement in response to the story: “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,” he continued. “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,” he concluded. “It is necessary and long overdue.”
Grace’s account of the encounter has sparked significant backlash, with some dismissing the incident as a bad date that should have remained private. Earlier this week, HLN host Ashleigh Banfield blasted Ansari’s accuser, referring to the claims published in the story as “reckless” and chiseling “away at a movement that I, along with all of my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades.”
To donate to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which will provide subsidized legal support to women and men in all industries who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace, visit its GoFundMe page. Learn more about Time’s Up, an organization of women in entertainment combating sexual harassment and inequality, on its website.
Others, however, have applauded the piece for launching a debate over the pervasive power imbalances between men and women.
Dating and romance has long been a subject of much of Ansari’s standup routines. In 2015, the comedian wrote a book called Modern Romance: An Investigation, in which he explores dating in the digital world.
He also touched on the subject of sexual harassment during an episode of Master of None, in which Dev (Ansari) and his friend make a citizen’s arrest after catching a man masturbating on the subway. The episode was inspired by a bit in his 2015 Madison Square Garden standup show, in which he spoke of the daily harassment women endure by men. During the second season of the series, actor Bobby Cannavale portrayed a chef and colleague of Dev’s who turned out to be a serial sexual harasser.
The 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards was broadcast live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on both TNT and TBS.