Should Aziz Ansari’s Accuser Be Exposed?

 

Over at TheDirty.com, the accuser and source of the Aziz Ansari story published at Babe has been identified. In the headline to the piece the woman is named, and the writer explains “[she] does not deserve to be anonymous.”

For someone who writes their opinion online for a living, and has penned many articles about the #MeToo movement and sexual abuse and harassment over the years, I find myself at a loss. Should Ansari’s accuser be publicly named and should she experience the same firestorm she inflicted upon a guy she went on one bad date with?

Immediately after the story broke, I wrote here about how outrageous the story was at the time; which amounted to revenge porn after a bad date. Writing for The Federalist, my colleague and friend Mary Katharine Ham quoted Caitlin Flanagan, who called it “3000 words of revenge porn” in The Atlantic:

The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.

Ham and I discussed it at length on our podcast LadyBrains that week as well. 

But does all of this mean she deserves to be not only exposed, but also exposed to the hot white light of social media scrutiny that this kind of story generates? That’s where I’m torn.

The precedent is a frightening one for any woman who may be considering coming forward. In order to feel safe coming out against predatory men, many women feel it necessary to have the safety, for personal and professional reasons, to do so anonymously.

It’s a fine line to walk: on one hand, a man is entitled to face his accuser and attempt to clear his name, but on the other, women need to feel as though they can come forward without becoming known as a victim their entire lives.

Once upon a time, journalistic standards would have given men some of this opportunity. Journalists would have done their due diligence to verify stories and give men the opportunity to respond with a comment. That was then, and now we have stories like the Duke lacrosse case, Rolling Stone, and now Babe.

And what about Babe, anyway? Also writing at the Atlantic, Flanagan raked the small site over the coals. She writes,

Like many news and information websites created by young women, Babe publishes many stories on sexual assault. But unlike most other such outfits, it also runs stories about the pleasure of rape fantasies. Feminists have fought for years to keep the notion of rape fantasy as far as it could possibly get from actual reports of sexual assault. But those were feminists who gave a [expletive]. Babe gleefully, witlessly runs angry pieces about sexual assault as part of the same cotton-candy pink, swirling galaxy as the ones that describe the pleasures of fantasizing about rape. The site has devoted many pixels to explaining to readers how enjoyable and common these fantasies are.

It’s a tough question to answer; if Ansari’s accuser should have been exposed, and one I don’t have an answer to. Clearly, Babe was at fault for publishing her account, but given what we now know of them, it’s clear that their Ansari hitjob was far from the worst thing they’ve ever published. With journalism where it is; where anyone can publish anything, should it also be fair game for those who wish to expose those who peddle in revenge porn masked as a compelling accounting of sexual misconduct or assault?

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  1. Max Ledoux Admin
    Max Ledoux
    @Max

    Bethany Mandel: Should Aziz Ansari’s Accuser Be Exposed?

    Yes.

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Much like the pursuit of happiness, everybody has the right to pursue anonymity, but they do not have a right to anonymity itself.

    You can have no expectation of privacy concerning information you choose to publish.  That information is now public. That mean’s it’s no longer private.  That’s what the word publish means.

    If people are able to deduce your identity from the information you made public, they are free to publish that deduction, because it derives from public information.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bethany Mandel: The precedent is a frightening one for any woman who may be considering coming forward. In order to feel safe coming out against predatory men, many women feel it necessary to have the safety, for personal and professional reasons, to do so anonymously

    I think she should be exposed. It should be done so that people know that she is being exposed because she was prepared to destroy a person’s character. To me, that is completely unacceptable to behave with that intent. People also need to know that they will be exposed if they unjustly accuse a person or blatantly act to destroy a person’s reputation.

    • #3
  4. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    Bethany Mandel:But does all of this mean she deserves to be not only exposed, but also exposed to the hot white light of social media scrutiny that this kind of story generates? That’s where I’m torn.

    The precedent is a frightening one for any woman who may be considering coming forward. In order to feel safe coming out against predatory men, many women feel it necessary to have the safety, for personal and professional reasons, to do so anonymously.

    It’s a fine line to walk: on one hand, a man is entitled to face his accuser and attempt to clear his name, but on the other, women need to feel as though they can come forward without becoming known as a victim their entire lives.

    She deserves to be exposed to the same “hot white light of social media scrutiny” to which she exposed her victim.  Aziz Ansari, as big an idiot as he may be, was the victim of her petty revenge. for daring to disappoint her.

    The precedent is no different than the precedent has always been for women who falsely say that an incident that was consensual at the time has now morphed into some sort of crime.

    The right to face our accusers must be absolute.  It is the only way that justice can be done for both sides.

    • #4
  5. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Bethany Mandel: Should Aziz Ansari’s Accuser Be Exposed?

    More to the point, who should decide?

    She should not have posted her attack anonymously. However, Mr. Ansari knows who she is: I think it’s entirely up to him whether or not he chooses to release her name. She must have understood that he could do that when she wrote her comment.

    Anyone other than Mr. Ansari or the anonymous lady in question who releases her name is, in my opinion, behaving like a swine.

    • #5
  6. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    I haven’t made up my mind if she should or shouldn’t have been exposed. I do suspect this though: There wouldn’t have been as many honest and thoughtful examinations of her described outlook, attitude and actions if she had been identified.

    I love both pieces Caitlin Flanagan wrote.

    Since she was using the word “assault”, I suppose there’s an argument she should have been exposed. On the other hand, Aziz Ansari got to redeem himself by being seen being gentlemanly enough not to expose her.

    The secrecy about who she is does show it’s still considered more not in a woman’s than in a man’s interest (even though, as was the case in Jane Austin’s day, it’s also again now not in a man’s interest) to be looking sexually casual.

    • #6
  7. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    Bethany Mandel: For someone who writes their opinion online for a living, and has penned many articles about the #MeToo movement and sexual abuse and harassment over the years, I find myself at a loss

    Are there multiple women writing under “Bethany Mandel”?

    • #7
  8. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Goose, meet Gander.

    Abby Nierman does not deserve anonymity.

    It was appallingly wrong for this crappy website to publish this anonymous hit piece.   Mr Ansari looks to be a sexist jerk, but there are a lot of sexist jerks in the world and they have rights too.

    • #8
  9. Michael Brehm Coolidge
    Michael Brehm
    @MichaelBrehm

    Sure, why not? Let’s see what happpens…

    • #9
  10. TheSockMonkey Coolidge
    TheSockMonkey
    @TheSockMonkey

    I must relunctantly vote for exposure.

    Having grown tired of the daily perv updates, I don’t want to hear any more about it. And it would almost be better if she (and the rest of us) could just put all this behind us.

    Unfortunately, it would be a bad signal to other false accusers, if she suffered no consequences.

    • #10
  11. Morituri Te Inactive
    Morituri Te
    @MorituriTe

    I guess I would ask: What purpose does exposing her serve, other than revenge? Is the right response to the trashing of Aziz Ansari to trash his accuser?

    I think the article speaks for itself. It has been widely (and rightly) subjected to ridicule and criticism, as has the site where it appeared. Does it help our discourse to engage in cycles of personal attack and online bullying, even when that might be emotionally satisfying in the short term?

    Sometimes we need to model the behavior we want from others, as long as it doesn’t represent a de facto surrender of our values or principles.

    • #11
  12. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    The Sixth Amendment says, “the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”

    Aziz Ansari probably deserves to know the name of the accuser, but everyone doesn’t need to know everything.

    If Aziz Ansari wanted to file some type of defamation lawsuit against her or someone similar, I guess the name would have to come out, and perhaps whether the accuser was 18 years old or older or not.

    • #12
  13. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: For someone who writes their opinion online for a living, and has penned many articles about the #MeToo movement and sexual abuse and harassment over the years, I find myself at a loss

    Are there multiple women writing under “Bethany Mandel”?

    This — the use of their as a singular pronoun — used to be one of my numerous grammatical pet peeves. Then I read that this use is actually quite old, 18th century if I remember correctly, and so I have retired it.

    • #13
  14. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen
    @tommeyer

    My long-time take on this is that anonymity has obligations. If you’re going to attack someone personally, they should be able to confront you personally as well. Geese, ganders, sauce, and all that.

    That said, focusing our opprobrium on the folks at Babe sounds like the most productive thing. There’s little we can do to stop people from trying to make anonymous accusations; there’s a good deal we can do to stop enabling them.

    None of this excuses the inevitable threats the gal is likely to get online for all this.

    • #14
  15. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    She doesn’t deserve to be exposed. She deserved not to have her piece published. The anger or self-righteousness people are feeling towards her is really about anger at babe.com, who is the real villain here.

    • #15
  16. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):
    Aziz Ansari probably deserves to know the name of the accuser, but everyone doesn’t need to know everything.

    As far as that goes: I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that Ansari knows the identity of his accuser. If not, there’s a certain poetic justice in him never knowing: if a guy can’t keep track of the women with whom he’s had intimate physical contact and subsequently felt the need to apologize, maybe he really doesn’t deserve to know.

    • #16
  17. D.A. Venters Member
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):
    The Sixth Amendment says, “the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”

    It’s always amused me that the 6th Amendment uses the word “enjoy.”

    So far, I have resisted the urge to lean over and say to a client, “Hey, how about a smile?  The Constitution says you’re supposed to be enjoying this.”

    But I digress.

    • #17
  18. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Bethany Mandel: Should Ansari’s accuser be publicly named and should she experience the same firestorm she inflicted upon a guy she went on one bad date with?

    To answer your question in two parts:  Yes if it goes to court, no for the firestorm, but she’ll get one anyway.

    One news article I read did name her, but her account was one of a reluctant, yet consensual hook-up.  This story shouldn’t go anywhere, but it probably will . . .

    I can understand why a woman wouldn’t come forward after a rape and report it (for multiple reasons), but they have a moral obligation to do so to prevent other women from experiencing the same horror.  It wouldn’t surprise me that some time in the future, a new rape victim will sue an earlier rape victim by the same man for not reporting it.

     

    • #18
  19. CC Coolidge
    CC
    @CC

    Easy answer is no, she shouldn’t have been outed unless the injured party filed charges against her.

    Interesting her name has been out there for seven days and this post is the first I’ve seen on Twitter or in the news., though.

    • #19
  20. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    On the other hand, Aziz Ansari got to redeem himself by being seen being gentlemanly enough not to expose her.

    True, and a very good point.

    I’m torn, because there are good arguments both ways.

    I get the “what’s good for the goose” arguments, but there’s more to consider here. What effect will outing this woman’s identity have on women coming forward with legitimate complaints? There’s a reason so many women want to remain anonymous in these situations. Even when the woman is completely justified and right in telling what happened, she’s going to get attacked in response. Will the inevitable backlash against the no longer anonymous “Grace” discourage some other woman from exposing a scumbag who deserves it? I don’t know, but it’s worth considering.

    All that said, there’s a difference between coming forward and reporting something that’s actually criminal to the authorities and publishing an article that turns a bad date into revenge porn. Babe.net should be criticized for publishing it, but she was a willing participant. I’m not going to lose any sleep over what her exposure does to her.

    • #20
  21. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Re: comment: 20

    Same here.

    • #21
  22. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Ansari deserves to face his accuser. But he knows who the accuser is, so doesn’t require a publishing of her name in order to face her. He can also respond in the court of public opinion as she has done.

    Interestingly, I may have to agree with @cc on this.

    • #22
  23. Pete EE Member
    Pete EE
    @PeteEE

    Stina (View Comment):
    Ansari deserves to face his accuser. But he knows who the accuser is…

    …only if the accusation is true.

    • #23
  24. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    Ansari deserves to face his accuser. But he knows who the accuser is…

    …only if the accusation is true.

    If the allegation is false, he may still know who made it. Indeed, he’s said that he does know, because before she decided to go to Babe with this story, he says he texted her, apologizing for being a bad date.

    • #24
  25. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    My thinking on it is that, absent any credible accusation of legally questionable behavior (and I’ve heard none), this is merely gossip — it’s only “news” because one of the parties is famous. The woman has no right to privacy, but no one other than the other party in this encounter has any business revealing her name or airing what is, in truth, a private bit of dirty laundry between two consenting adults.

    And we don’t need to know her identity — either of their identities — for this to be a useful teaching moment.

     

    • #25
  26. TheSockMonkey Coolidge
    TheSockMonkey
    @TheSockMonkey

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    My thinking on it is that, absent any credible accusation of legally questionable behavior (and I’ve heard none), this is merely gossip — it’s only “news” because one of the parties is famous. The woman has no right to privacy, but no one other than the other party in this encounter has any business revealing her name or airing what is, in truth, a private bit of dirty laundry between two consenting adults.

    What about the part where she gave the whole story to the press?

     

    Nick H (View Comment):
    I get the “what’s good for the goose” arguments, but there’s more to consider here. What effect will outing this woman’s identity have on women coming forward with legitimate complaints? There’s a reason so many women want to remain anonymous in these situations. Even when the woman is completely justified and right in telling what happened, she’s going to get attacked in response. Will the inevitable backlash against the no longer anonymous “Grace” discourage some other woman from exposing a scumbag who deserves it? I don’t know, but it’s worth considering.

    You’re forgetting about the dozens (hundreds?) of women who’ve made more credible accusations in the past several months, and been lauded for their bravery. It was one of the biggest stories of last year. People still believed them, despite the high-profile rape hoaxes that came before them (the Duke lacrosse stripper, mattress girl, Lena Dunham, etc).

    • #26
  27. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Nick H (View Comment):
    …Will the inevitable backlash against the no longer anonymous “Grace” discourage some other woman from exposing a scumbag who deserves it? I don’t know, but it’s worth considering.

    You’re forgetting about the dozens (hundreds?) of women who’ve made more credible accusations in the past several months, and been lauded for their bravery. It was one of the biggest stories of last year. People still believed them, despite the high-profile rape hoaxes that came before them (the Duke lacrosse stripper, mattress girl, Lena Dunham, etc).

    A big story, yes. But dozens or even several hundred women don’t compare to the number of rapes (nevermind lesser incidents like gropings) that are reported each year, which is about 95,000 using 2002 statistics (statistics deliberately taken from a website skeptical of rape-victim advocacy groups’ claims of much higher numbers, which explains why it’s a 2002 figure), and it’s well established that the number of reported rapes is lower than the number which actually occur.

    One reason rapes are underreported? From the same website:

    There is a reason rape charges are usually handled with a degree of skepticism by the police
    The admittedly low numbers  reported to police do not accurately reflect the whole spectrum of rape. But they do provide aspects that many advocates would rather you ignore. An example of this is that law enforcement admits that of rapes reported to them approximately 10% usually are found to be “without merit.” (3). This doesn’t just mean that wasn’t rape, it often means it is an angry woman who is trying to get back at someone by claiming that he raped her…

    The charge of rape can be a very destructive tool in the hands of a vindictive person or someone who is trying to avoid repercussions for her actions.

    Because the police know this, they do treat charges with skepticism, and that does encourage underreporting. High-profile examples of well, basically anything create an availability bias in the normal human brain. There’s no real reason to suppose our brains treat high-profile stories about unwarranted accusations any different. The police have access to every type of story, whether low or high profile, so police are less prone to this availability bias. But I don’t know how likely it is for your average girl between 16 and 24 (peak age to be raped) to ignore availability bias in judging whether the police (or others) will believe her.

    Creating high-profile stories about unwarranted accusations could persuade fewer women to come forward. I’m not saying it must, only that hundreds of women coming forward isn’t proof that highlighting the false accusations doesn’t deter proportionally more real victims from reporting.

    • #27
  28. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Abby Nierman is a photographer who is trying to trade in on Aziz Ansari’s celebrity to hurt him and elevate herself as a victim, after a date where she, by her own words, drank alcohol, voluntarily got naked and did sexual behaviors that she later regretted, and then wrote a long article about.

    Abby Nierman is not a victim; Abby Nierman is a perpetrator.  If anyone is a victim, it is Aziz Ansari.

    Just as Fatal Attraction was a cautionary tale about adultry in 1987, Abby Nierman is a cautionary tale 31 years later, as Abby Nierman is the new Alex, the femme fetale played by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

    Abby Nierman has harmed Aziz Ansari by her account against him, and many people will look at Aziz Ansari differently now.  Hopefully the word will also go around for men to beware of photographer Abby Nierman as someone to avoid.

    • #28
  29. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    FightinInPhilly (View Comment):
    She doesn’t deserve to be exposed. She deserved not to have her piece published. The anger or self-righteousness people are feeling towards her is really about anger at babe.com, who is the real villain here.

    Babe is a co-villain at best. The originator of the personal exposure is certainly deserving of anger thrown her way. Don’t be publicly petty then runaway to hide, and people won’t treat you like you’re petty and cowardly. They wouldn’t have treated her in any way at all if she had simply controlled herself and kept a private matter private.

    The truth is that she exposed herself. Let’s not lose sight of that. Once you make something like this public there is no reasonable expectation to privacy for yourself. If you expect privacy, then you have to respect privacy.

    Let’s also not conflate this with actual abuse and women feeling comfortable coming forward with actual abuse. They’re not the same; treating them the same hurts real victims; real victims coming forward should not be in the form of think pieces – call the police.

    • #29
  30. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Stad (View Comment):
    I can understand why a woman wouldn’t come forward after a rape and report it (for multiple reasons), but they have a moral obligation to do so to prevent other women from experiencing the same horror.

    Agreed. And If they can’t or won’t come forward (again I understand why this might be) that doesn’t then justify discarding other standards in an effort to punish in a roundabout way.

    • #30

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