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Can #MeToo movement do harm? Ansari story raises question

The #MeToo movement has been embraced by legions of women as a vital step toward countering widespread sexual abuse and misconduct. This week, more so than at any point in the movement's brief history, there's visceral discussion about its potential for causing harm.

The catalyst was the publication by Babe.net of an account by a woman identified only as "Grace" detailing her 2017 encounter with comedian Aziz Ansari. The article intimated that Ansari deserved inclusion in the ranks of abusive perpetrators, yet many readers — women and men — concluded the encounter amounted to an all-too-common instance of bad sex during a date gone awry.

Ansari has said he apologized immediately after the woman told him about her discomfort during an encounter he believed to be consensual.

"Too many women have joined #MeToo too quickly and unthinkingly," said Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist and author of the relationship books "Bad Boys" and "Bad Girls."

"Though they may have wanted to be in solidarity with other women, the stories of dates gone wrong or women scorned have detracted from women who have been raped or seriously sexually assaulted," she said.

A conservative analyst, Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women's Forum, said Ansari "believed that everything that occurred with his accuser was consensual and welcomed."

"His reputation is now in tatters," Lukas wrote in an email. "Is that really fair?"

Online and in person, many women are talking about experiences comparable to Grace's account — encounters with men who initially seemed wonderful, but turned pushy, if not criminally abusive, when things became sexual.

Sarah Hosseini, who writes about sex for Bustle, Romper, Scary Mommy and Ravishly, said the #MeToo movement might actually benefit from the Grace/Ansari controversy, and that the movement is big enough to encompass another layer in the discussion.

"There is some really murky and confusing sexual territory here that we haven't really talked about yet collectively as a society," she wrote, adding that the woman's account in Babe was "disgusting and cringe-worthy."

"What she experienced with Ansari is not OK. But do we have language yet for intimate encounters that teeter on the edge of absolute sexual assault/abuse?" she wondered. "I don't think we do. We've lived in a misogynistic world with misogynistic sex for so long. We thought this "bad sex" was normal. Until someone spoke up and said, this is NOT normal. This is not OK."

Michael Cunningham, a psychology professor at the University of Louisville, said the Grace/Ansari encounter reflected misunderstandings that may arise due to differences between conventional dating relationships and hook-ups.

"It appears that Grace wanted Ansari to treat her as a potential girlfriend to be courted over multiple dates, rather than a pickup from a party engaging in a mutually acceptable transaction," Cunningham wrote in an email. "When he did not rise to her expectations, she converted her understandable disappointment into a false #MeToo."

Liz Wolfe, managing editor of Young Voices, a D.C.-based organization that distributes op-eds by millennials, said the Ansari story gets at the core of what men and women are taught regarding dating, sex and romance. Men should pursue, women should play hard to get.

"So many women have wondered in a situation, 'Have I said "no" decisively enough?'" Wolfe said. "They can't quite figure out whether they want to go forward or leave. ... And from the male perspective, he can't quite figure out what the woman wants."

Wolfe has noticed a generational divide in their reactions. Older women tend to think Grace should have been more vocal and assertive, or simply left Ansari's apartment. Younger women feel that Ansari should have read Grace's body language and listened to her more closely, and he was at fault for pressuring her.

Among men, likewise, there are varying views.

Tahir Duckett of ReThink, a nonprofit seeking to deter boys and young men from committing sexual assault, says the #MeToo movement "is exactly where it needs to be" as it continues to embolden victims.

"This moment absolutely calls for a changed approach to dating and courtship," he said. "It means paying just as much attention to body language as we do to words, and stopping to check in if at any time you're anything less than 100 percent certain the other participant is as enthusiastic as you about what's going on."

However, Glenn Sacks, a commentator who writes often about men's issues, said the Ansari case buttresses his belief that #MeToo "is lumping the trivial mistakes or misdeeds of the many in with the genuinely awful actions of a handful."

Warren Farrell, an early member of the National Organization for Women who more recently has authored such books as "Why Men Are the Way they Are" and "The Boy Crisis," suggested that women should bear more of the responsibility for initiating sexual interest. And he recommended training in schools for each gender to view relationship issues from the other's perspective.

"When #MeToo focuses only on women complaining and not both sexes hearing each other, it reinforces the feeling of women as fragile snowflakes rather than empowered to speak, and empowered to listen," Farrell said. "Boys and men, like girls and women, also grew up confused about what was expected of them sexually in a culture that did not make speaking about sex easy for either sex."

Alexandra Allred, an author and self-defense instructor in Dallas, groaned when she read Grace's account of her evening with Ansari.

"It really does sound like it was a mutual thing, but she thought about it later and she didn't enjoy herself," Allred said. "But this is the story of millions of young women everywhere, where you just made a mistake. This does not belong to the #MeToo movement. She should have just kept this to herself."

As a supporter of the movement, Allred worries that this kind of story might generate a backlash and prompt skepticism when other women report abuses.

"This isn't show and tell," she said. "This is a movement to educate people and hopefully stop the violence."

British actor Peter Wyngarde dies in London hospital aged 90

Longtime British television and stage star Peter Wyngarde, best known for his role as the detective Jason King in the 1970s, has died. He was 90.

His manager Thomas Bowington said Thursday the actor died Monday in Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London after an illness that lasted several months.

"His mind was razor sharp until the end," Bowington told The Associated Press. "He entertained that whole hospital. He was funny until the end."

The stylish Wyngarde and the characters he portrayed have been cited by the creators of the "Austin Powers" films as one of the inspirations for the fictional 1960s spy with a flair for flashy outfits and a taste for carousing.

Wyngarde was best known for his sleuthing role in the popular "Department S" television series but played numerous other parts, appearing in shows and movies including "The Avengers, "The Saint," ''Flash Gordon" and others.

His manager said Wyngarde had not retired from performing and that plans for further stage work and personal appearances had been cut short by his death.

"He was a mentor on everything you can think of, from sports cars to how to make a good cup of tea and how to do a tie and shirt," Bowington said.

Wyngarde's father was a diplomat. The actor was born in France and educated in several countries before starting his career in Britain.

U2's 'Get Out of Your Own Way' Video Puts the KKK at the White House

U2 have released a new video for "Get Out of Your Own Way," a track from their recent 'Songs of Experience' album.

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Country stars from Vegas festival to perform Grammy tribute

Three performers at last year's Route 91 Harvest Festival where a gunman opened fire on fans will perform a tribute at this year's Grammy Awards to honor victims killed at live music events this past year.

Eric Church, Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne, who performed at the three-day country festival prior to the mass shooting last October, will collaborate on a special performance at the 60th annual Grammy Awards, airing live on CBS from New York on Jan. 28.

The shooting in Las Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. modern history. It came in a year when 22 people were killed in a bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, in May.

Church headlined the first night of the festival, which was the last night of his tour. A gunman perched in a window of a hotel-casino overlooking the outdoor festival opened fire on the crowd during the final night of the festival as Jason Aldean was performing, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.

"In all honesty, there's not a day that goes by since that day that I have not thought of it and thought of the people and the victims," Church told The Associated Press. "That being our last show of the year, I took it in differently than I have maybe taken in other shows. I savored it. I remember everything about it."

Church, who wrote a song called "Why Not Me" immediately after the shooting, said he knew some of the victims because they were members of his tightknit fan club and said he appreciates that the Grammy producers wanted to reserve time in the show to remember those music fans who had been lost.

"Mass shootings, they happen every year, unfortunately," Church said. "But this year was a little bit unique in that you had two happen at music events and one of those was the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. It's been a tragic year."

Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the Grammys, said the country artists will perform a classic Grammy-winning song, which hasn't been announced. "We considered a number of songs. We wanted something that is universal. We wanted something that spoke to the subject, which certainly this song does," he said. "When you listen to the lyric, this one certainly stood out."

Morris, a nominee for best country solo performance, performed the night before the shooting. She said she's heard directly from fans that the attacks have left them scared to go to shows, and said that it has affected artists as well.

"As an artist and a performer, I don't want to be afraid to walk out on a stage each night," Morris said. "I know that we've all been reckoning with that for the last several months."

Morris said it felt right to have performers from that festival lead the tribute. "It reinforces even more the strength of music and the community that we all share together, artists and fans alike."

Church said the attacks shattered the sense of safety and comfort that music can sometimes bring. He said that's been the hardest thing for him as an artist to deal with, but added that those attacks can't stop musicians or their fans.

"You don't let it kill the music and you don't let it destroy the moment," Church said.

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Online:

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Follow Kristin M. Hall at twitter.com/kmhall

John Mellencamp Buys $2.3 Million 'Live-Work Space' in Manhattan

It isn't a pink house and it certainly isn't in a small town, but John Mellencamp has added to his real estate portfolio by spending $2.3 million on a "stylishly renovated" space in Manhattan.

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UK media: Police probe 3rd Spacey sex assault allegation

Britain's media say police in London are investigating a third allegation of sexual assault against two-time Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey.

The Metropolitan Police force said Thursday it had received an allegation "that the man sexually assaulted a man (Victim 3) in 2005 in Westminster."

The force didn't identify Spacey as the alleged perpetrator, as authorities in Britain don't name suspects until they are charged. But it said the same man was accused of an assault in 2005 and one in 2008, both in the south London borough of Lambeth. The suspect in those cases has been widely named in British media as Spacey.

The 58-year old Spacey was artistic director of London's Old Vic Theatre, located in Lambeth, between 2004 and 2015.

USA Gymnastics says it will not fine McKayla Maroney if she speaks out against team doctor

USA Gymnastics said Tuesday evening it will not fine gymnast McKayla Maroney if she speaks publicly about the alleged abuse by former team doctor Larry Nassar.

Maroney, who signed a nondisclosure agreement for $1.25 million with USA Gymnastics in in December 2016 in exchange for her silence, is currently suing USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State University with the claim that the nondisclosure agreement she signed after claiming Nassar molested her was illegal. 

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Chrissy Teigen offers to pay McKayla Maroney's possible $100K fine to speak out about team doctor

USA Gymnastics said in a statement it has not and will not seek retribution if Maroney speaks about alleged abuse by Nassar during his four-day sentencing.

As of Wednesday morning, Maroney was not expected to speak at Nassar’s sentencing.

"USA Gymnastics has not sought and will not seek any money from McKayla Maroney for her brave statements made in describing her victimization and abuse by Larry Nassar, nor for any victim impact statements she wants to make to Larry Nassar at this hearing or at any subsequent hearings related to his sentencing,” the statement to USA TODAY read. “This has been her right and USA Gymnastics encourages McKayla and anyone who has been abused to speak out. USA Gymnastics remains focused on our highest priority — the safety, health and well-being of our athletes and creating a culture that empowers and supports them."

In response to reports Tuesday that USA Gymnastics could fine Maroney up to $100,000 if she spoke out against Nassar at his sentencing like nearly 100 other alleged victims, model Chrissy Teigen offered to pay the fine.

>> Read more trending news 

“The entire principle of this should be fought – an NDA to stay quiet about this serial monster with over 140 accusers, but I would be absolutely honored to pay this fine for you, McKayla,” Teigen wrote.

After Nassar pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct in November, his sentencing on seven sexual assault charges began Tuesday. 

The former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison on child pornography charges.

Listen to Dizzy Reed's New Single 'This Don't Look Like Vegas'

Guns N' Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed is readying the release of his upcoming solo album 'Rock 'N Roll Ain't Easy' with the arrival of the set's first single.

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45 Years Ago: Rolling Stones Stage Benefit Concert for Nicaragua Earthquake Victims

The Rolling Stones lifted their unofficial ban on doing benefit concerts on Jan. 18, 1973, when they performed to aid the earthquake victims of Nicaragua.

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Ann Wilson Reflects on Sex-Abuse Message of Heart's 'Barracuda'

Ann Wilson reflected on the continued need to deliver the message of Heart's 1977 song “Barracuda” while discussing current Hollywood sexual misconduct scandals.

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