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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?