More than a year after he was accused of sexual misconduct in an anonymous online account, comedian and actor Aziz Ansari opened up about the allegations for the first time during a stand-up performance in New York on Monday, Vulture reported.
Explaining why he took so long to address the controversy after an initial statement of apology last January, Ansari said he wanted to process the incident, decide what he would say and that it was “a terrifying thing to talk about”. He added, “There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way. But you know, after a year, how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward. It made me think about a lot, and I hope I’ve become a better person.”
In January 2018, a 22-year-old published a detailed account of her date with Ansari in news and pop culture website babe.net. She alleged that the actor had made repeated attempts to initiate sex with her though she felt she had made her discomfort evident. In his statement, Ansari acknowledged the two had engaged in sexual activity but he had believed at the time that it was “completely consensual” and was “surprised and concerned” when he heard she did not feel that way.
The article, which was published when the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment in Hollywood was at its peak, had strongly divided opinion. Apart from criticism of the article’s journalistic standards, questions were also raised about whether the incident should have been conflated with a movement against workplace sexual harassment. Others welcomed it as an opportunity to broaden the conversation about acceptable dating behaviour and re-examine what qualifies as consent.
At Monday’s New York performance, which is part of a series of “pop-ups shows” that Ansari is doing to test out material before an international tour later this year, the comedian said the incident had made a friend of his rethink all his dating experiences. “If that has made not just me but other guys think about this, and just be more thoughtful and aware and willing to go that extra mile, and make sure someone else is comfortable in that moment, that’s a good thing,” Ansari said, adding that it gave him a new perspective on life.
Ansari’s acting credits include Parks and Recreation (2009) and award-winning Netflix show Master of None (2015), which he co-created with Alan Yang.