Amy Schumer has responded to the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against Aziz Ansari, who she notes is a friend.
“He’s been my friend and I really feel for the woman,” Schumer told Katie Couric on her podcast. “I identify with all the women in these situations. Even if it’s my friend, I don’t go, ‘Oh, but he’s a good guy.’ I think, ‘What would it feel like to have been her?’”
Schumer and Ansari have never formally worked together, but both are prominent standup comedians who ascended to the spotlight concurrently.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see Aziz’s career ruined or his life ruined or anything like that, but that’s where people’s minds go,” Schumer said. “They go, ‘Does he deserve this?’ And it’s really not about that. I think it’s about expressing and showing women that that behavior is not okay and that not only can you leave, but you need to leave.”
Ansari’s case – that of an anonymous woman who went on a date with him and described repeated instances of nonconsensual sexual behavior despite her attempts to not engage – significantly complicated the #MeToo movement, which had until then been primarily about explicit sexual harassment and assault. The Ansari story was described as everything from assault to just “bad sex” and propelled ongoing conversations about affirmative consent into the spotlight.
Earlier in the interview, Schumer pointed to backlash against the anonymous woman who spoke out against Ansari, often from other women. “If you don’t really lay your boundaries out, then you’re leaving it open for the women who come after you. And so I think a lot of women feel really bad that they’ve been complicit with things, but we didn’t know not to be.”
“If you have a doctor that makes you uncomfortable, or you get a massage, or you have a date with someone and they coerce you in a situation like the Aziz one, I don’t think there’s any sort of criminal charge, but I think that it’s good for everybody to learn that that behavior’s not acceptable,” Schumer said. “It’s not a crime, but it’s not cool. And it can still really mess with a woman.”
Schumer specifically called out Samantha Bee’s excellent piece about the current cultural moment, which points out that everything is not rape, but that just escaping rape is a low bar.
“There are so many other kinds of sexual misconduct,” said Schumer, touching on what made #MeToo spread the way it did. “We’ve all — every woman I know, every woman in this room — we’ve all had these experiences. And in this current climate, it brings these things up and you go ‘God, none of that was okay.’”
Schumer wrote about her own nonconsexual sexual encounter in her 2016 memoir, explicitly calling it rape in the Couric interview. Her good friend Jennifer Lawrence shared a story of sexual assault in fall of 2017 as the #MeToo movement began.
Both Couric and Schumer agreed that this is an ongoing conversation – across genders – and that everyone can learn and grow from it.
“We just can’t let things continue the way they’ve continued, because there are so many different levels of it,” Schumer added. “A lot of the men in my life are open to self-reflection and evolving and I am.”
The full interview can be found here, and the sexual misconduct discussion starts around 36 minutes in.