- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2018

Even some feminists are voicing concerns about the precipitous turn the #MeToo movement has taken with an accusation against actor/screenwriter Aziz Ansari.

Legal analyst Ashleigh Banfield, host of HLN’s “Crime & Justice,” led the way with her denunciation of the babe.net report detailing the allegation of sexual assault. She called it a “bad date” that does not meet the legal threshold for rape.

“By your description, your sexual encounter was unpleasant,” Ms. Banfield said Monday on her show. “It did not send you to the police. It did not affect your workplace or your ability to get a job. So, I have to ask you, what exactly was your beef? That you had a bad date with Aziz Ansari?”

An anonymous woman identified as “Grace,” a 22-year-old Brooklyn-based photographer, accused Mr. Ansari, a popular comedian who stars in, produces and writes for the Netflix show “Master of None,” of sexual assault stemming from their encounter on Sept. 25.

After dinner, they went to his Manhattan apartment, where they eventually began kissing and undressing. Grace voiced hesitation when Mr. Ansari went to get a condom, saying “Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.” He complied, and they resumed kissing, then performed sex acts on each other.

Mr. Ansari made repeated attempts to have penetrative sex throughout the evening, which Grace rebuffed. She said they made her feel uncomfortable and that Mr. Ansari failed to pick up on that discomfort.

“I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested,” she told babe.net. “I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.”

What Grace described as the “worst night of my life” ended when she got up from the couch where they were sitting to call a car. Mr. Ansari followed her to the kitchen, gave her an “aggressive” kiss and said he would call the car for her.

Kimberlee Kaye, senior contributing editor at Legal Insurrection, said nothing in Grace’s account suggests an assault took place.

“Each time she verbalized her desire to avoid some form of sexual engagement, Mr. Ansari complied, making her accusations even more confusing,” Ms. Kaye said. “Unfortunately, far too many women (and some men) are confusing their remorse for crossing sexual boundaries with which they’re uncomfortable with sexual assault.”

Bari Weiss, staff editor for The New York Times opinion page, said the only thing Mr. Ansari is guilty of is “not being a mind reader.”

“I am a proud feminist, and this is what I thought while reading the article: If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you,” Ms. Weiss wrote Monday in her column.

In response to Ms. Banfield’s criticism, the author of the babe.net article, Katie Way, issued a scathing statement deriding the journalist’s appearance and age.

“Ashleigh, someone who I am certain nobody under the age of 45 has ever heard of, I hope the 500 retweets on the single news write-up made that burgundy-lipstick, bad-highlights, second-wave-feminist has-been really relevant for a little while,” Ms. Way said in the statement.

Ms. Banfield responded to the put-down Wednesday, accusing the feminist journalist of doing “the most hypocritical thing a woman who says she supports the women’s movement could ever do.”

“If you truly believe in the ‘Me Too’ movement, if you truly believe in women’s rights, if you truly believe in feminism, the last thing you should do is attack someone in an ad hominem way for her age — I’m 50 — and for my highlights,” Ms. Banfield said.

While feminists disagree about whether the accusation against Mr. Ansari has merit, social conservatives say it’s time to re-evaluate the libertine culture feminism has wrought in the wake of Hollywood’s sexual harassment and misconduct scandal centered on disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein.

Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at The Federalist, said the “Me Too” movement has been a misguided “attempt to come up with some kind of sexual morality after we have thrown off all objective sexual morality.”

“And it’s clearly not going so well,” Ms. Hemingway told Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum. “These are not good ways to govern our behavior.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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