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Careful that outrage doesn’t turn to pity

I saw where comedian Bill Cosby has emerged back into the public eye again after keeping a low profile following his mistrial for sexual assault last summer.

You may recall I wrote a column almost three years ago where I expressed my disappointment in someone I considered one of my ‘heroes’. Not so much in what Cosby was, but how it hurt me for how much I had believed in him; or maybe found it hard to face the fact that what I had believed in was merely his image.

Now, amidst all the fallout from the #Me Too and #Time’s Up movements, comes another comedian who claimed to have stood up for women, but who has now also been tarnished by ‘reports’ of sexual assault.

I don’t know Aziz Ansari. I do know that after being photographed wearing a #Me Too lapel pin at a Hollywood awards telecast he was called out by a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct after the two went out on a date last fall. She said after dinner they went to his home and that’s where the sexual energy began to quickly escalate at a speed that made her uncomfortable. What followed, according to her account, was an evening of Ansari making advances that she tried to reject through both verbal and non-verbal cues.

But nothing happened.

The following day they both recalled the encounter and he apologized for his behavior. Now, a week ago, after seeing him proudly showing a feminist lapel pin on national TV, the woman pens an online missive on her version of their encounter, and now calls out the entire episode as ‘assault’.

A prominent TV host later chides the woman for reporting it in the media by calling what she, the host, viewed as “disgusting, but not actionable” behavior on the comedian’s part and calling the woman’s account a “messily written story about a bad date”.

Are we seeing just the precipice of another ruined career here?

Dating can sometimes be a daunting experience. In encounters with women, how does a man ensure he doesn’t step over a line? While men should never force themselves on women, in today’s social climate what we’re seeing and hearing seems to be leaving a lot of men wondering just how should they act? When do you balance the right thing to do with the appropriate way to behave?

“I used to be a comedian,” Cosby joked during his recent unannounced appearance; a remark that elicited a few laughs from his small, older, mostly sympathetic audience.

You see, these two comedians have let a lot of men down. Rape is not a dismissible matter because of time, circumstance, and in Cosby’s case, the statute of limitations. Thanks to these new movements and the revelations we’ve heard since October of last year, women who accused men of assaulting them have a voice and a sense of empowerment. While that voice screams that violence against women is wrong, I’m left wondering are there limits and boundaries, or should we paint them all with one broad brush?

I said in my earlier column, expressing my disappointment over Cosby’s circumstances, that I’m torn in trying to defend someone I laughed with, cried with, and held onto hope with. Maybe I could have done the same thing with Ansari.

In Cosby’s case I felt like I was wrong to support him. Now, I’m getting so numbed by the lightning pace that these accusations are flying, that sometimes I don’t know any more what I feel.

But what I won’t lose sight of is how to feel.

 

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.