The identity of “Grace”—the 23-year-old woman whose bad date with P.C. comedian Aziz Ansari became the latest sexual harassment allegation of the #MeToo movement after she told all (or almost all) to babe.net writer Katie Way in mid-January—seems to have been finally revealed. It’s more evidence of the sad and destructive consequences that follow when the open culture of casual sex meets stringent gender norms encouraging women to wreak havoc on their male partners if the casual sex turns out, as it so often does, to be not so great—or, as is so often the case, if the men and women involved have completely different expectations about what that casual sex means, because they’ve never really gotten to know each other.
The intricate detective work required for tracking down the woman behind “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life” involved following Twitter hashtags to their source and uncovering since-deleted Facebook and Instagram accounts. It seems pretty convincing—but since I don’t know for sure that the young woman identified is really Grace (she hasn’t said so), I’m not going to name the name. This despite the fact that, if the social media data are accurate, the young woman in question spent several months after her evening with Ansari trying to find some sympathetic media willing to publicize what Atlantic writer Caitlin Flanagan has called a tale of “revenge porn” aimed at terminating Ansari’s comedic career. Grace, if she’s who the Internet detectives say she is, doesn’t deserve anonymity.
Yet, if the sleuths have done solid work, the revelation of Grace’s real identity—and the photographs of the “real” Grace that can be found all over the Internet with some exiguous information about her brief career as a professional photographer in Brooklyn—reveal the sad state of the expectations that young women of the early third millennium are led to have about their relationships with men, and how those expectations, fostered by feminist propaganda from the time they’re in grade school, tend to render them neither wife nor mother material. Pew Research Center projections based on figures from 2012, when one in five adults over age 25 had never married (a record high), predict that by the time those unmarrieds reach their mid-40s (the end of most women’s childbearing years), a full 25 percent of them won’t have found spouses, even for the most short-lived of conjugal unions. Grace’s story suggests why.
Let’s look at those Internet photos of Grace (if that’s what they are, of course). The one in widest circulation shows her at the Emmy Awards after-party in Los Angeles on Sept. 18, 2017, where she, according to Way’s story, “flirted” and “would catch eyes” with Ansari all evening, despite the fact that a none-too-interested Ansari had “brushed her off at first” and that she had actually come to the party as the date of a completely different guy. “You got to dance with the one that brought you” was clearly a song Grace had never heard. The photo shows her arm-in-arm with that ultimately spurned young man, identified as Ibanda Ruhumbika, the 20-something tuba player in Stephen Colbert’s Late Night band. Grace, attired in a floor-length evening gown with a hip-high leg slit and sporting fur-trimmed stilettos, isn’t unattractive. My husband looked at the photo and pronounced her “kind of cute.”
“Kind of cute” is probably what Ansari thought as well, watching the trading-up Grace thumbing her number into his phone just before she left the party (where Ruhumbika was at this point isn’t clear). What Grace didn’t seem to realize was that Southern California and the entertainment industry in particular are filled with girls who are kind of cute—and also with girls who are downright beautiful and who are just as willing as Grace was to throw themselves at rising celebrities like Ansari. (A Parks and Recreation veteran, on January 6 he won the Golden Globes award for best actor in a comedy series for his own creation, Netflix’s Master of None.)
Some of those who have read Way’s story—which is replete with T.M.I. details about Ansari’s poorly executed kisses and boorish sexual maneuvers on the “date” with Grace a week after the party—assumed that Ansari was simply inexperienced as a lover. It’s more likely that he simply didn’t care. There will always be more Graces, more kind-of-cute and even-better-than-kind-of-cute young women ditching their dates, following him around at social gatherings, and, above all, making themselves available.
The date—arranged after a week of “flirtatious banter over text” plus lots of “consulting” by Grace with her friends over what “outfit” to wear—consisted of Grace’s schlepping from Brooklyn to Ansari’s fancy TriBeCa apartment for wine, being rushed through dinner at an oyster bar two blocks away where “she did most of the talking,” and then being hustled back to the apartment for more wine and what Ansari clearly considered the main event—actually, the raison d’être—of the evening. Within minutes both of them were stark naked (so much for that “outfit” of hers!) and engaging in oral sex, which nowadays seems to be “first base” in many a carnal relationship. (In the old days, oral sex was more like fifth, sixth, or seventh base—or even, for many, out of the ballpark entirely.)
At this point it seemed to dawn on Grace that the famous celebrity comedian wasn’t interested in making her his girlfriend but had something more basic in mind, and she began to recoil mentally. But another hour or so followed of Ansari’s making moves that repelled her—“gross, forceful kisses” and such—before she finally shouted at him, “You guys are all the same, you guys are all the f—ing same,” and he called an Uber to take her home. She wept the entire way, and she wept some more to her roommate and her friends. Among other things, Ansari had let her down politically. His comedic shtick had incorporated “pressing societal issues like racism and sexual assault,” Way wrote in babe. “I was not expecting a bad night at all, much less a violating night and a painful one,” Grace had told her.
You could say that Grace was a spoiled brat who expected every date with a man to be a ride to the Ritz on a unicorn, and when she suffered disappointment in that respect, exacted humiliating public revenge. You could call her a gold-digger and imagine the relief the tuba-playing Ruhumbika must have felt when he realized he’d dodged that bullet. You could also call her an idiot for going to a man’s apartment to drink wine and then being surprised that he wanted sex—or that after some sex, he might want more sex.
But Grace is only twenty-three. The real problem is that we—our media, our universities—have filled her head and those of many other young women with the idea that all those negative traits are actually desirable. It’s desirable for a young women to feel so entitled that she need bring nothing to the table when embarking on a romance: not courtesy, not common sense, certainly not virtue, sexual or otherwise. And finally, in promoting a “sexual revolution” that has all but destroyed any Judeo-Christian notions about the sacrality of sex and its connection to lifelong commitment and child-bearing, we have told Grace and the other women of her generation that there is nothing wrong with becoming carnally entangled with a man you hardly know, and then becoming beside yourself with vengeful anger because the experience turned out not to be as pleasurable and emotionally fulfilling as the sexual revolutionists said it would be.
I hope that Grace will be able to hide out for a while and then re-emerge and start afresh a little wiser. Right now she’s made herself look like someone no sane man, much less a virtuous one, would want for a spouse. If she is like most women, that may, down the road, be tragic.
Charlotte Allen is a writer living in Washington, D.C.