The Atlantic

Aziz Ansari and the Paradox of ‘No’

A viral story highlights the lingering difference between the language—and the practice—of consent.
Source: Kevork Djansezian / BAFTA LA / Getty / The Atlantic

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.

That was Aziz Ansari, responding to a story that was published about him over the weekend, a story that doubled for many readers as an allegation not of criminal sexual misconduct, but of misbehavior of a more subtle strain: aggression. Entitlement. Excessive persistence. His statement, accordingly—not an apology but not, either, a denial—occupies that strange and viscous space between defiance and regret. I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart.

The story was published, on the site , on Saturday; over the weekend, it quickly evolved from a story into a story about a story into a story about a story about a story. It was treated as . And as in a world in which a private sexual encounter can be converted, nearly instantly, into a piece of sharable media. The story was discussed in and in and in and on Glenn Beck’s radio show. It was discussed on social media, both as a relatable example of sex gone wrong, in the manner of a nonfictional “,” and as evidence that #MeToo has confused justice with vigilantism. The story was politicized and polemicized and, in the process, turned into a parable: an interaction between two people, presented as an embodiment of the questions that linger, still, around the rhetoric of sexual consent.

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