Grace’s allegations against Ansari sparked significant controversy on the internet, with some commenters siding with Ansari and considering the encounter to be “just a bad date” while others judged Ansari’s behavior to be sexual assault. Major media outlets quickly responded to the controversy with think pieces exploring the story and its connection to the #MeToo movement.
The New York Times published an opinion piece from journalist Bari Weiss titled “Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader” where Weiss described the controversy as "arguably the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement." The article received over 2,900 comments with many readers criticizing Weiss’s perspective. As a follow up, the New York Times published several letters to the editor.
The Atlantic published “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari” where writer Caitlin Flanagan described the Babe.net article as “3,000 words of revenge porn” saying “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.” Flanagan’s polarizing opinions were quoted in many subsequent articles.
In Vox’s piece, “The Aziz Ansari story is ordinary. That’s why we have to talk about it.”, Anna North stated: “what [Grace] describes — a man repeatedly pushing sex without noticing (or without caring about) what she wants — is something many, many women have experienced in encounters with men. And while few men have committed the litany of misdeeds of which Weinstein has been accused, countless men have likely behaved as Grace says Ansari did — focusing on their own desires without recognizing what their partner wants. It is the sheer commonness of Grace’s experience that makes it so important to talk about.”
NPR’s “All Things Considered” featured an interview with Flanagan from the Atlantic and North from Vox, titling the episode: “The Fine Line Between A Bad Date And Sexual Assault: 2 Views On Aziz Ansari.”
On Huffpost, Emma Gray explored the gray areas of sex and consent in “On Aziz Ansari And Sex That Feels Violating Even When It’s Not Criminal”. Gray wrote: “The sexual encounter Grace described falls into what I see as a gray area of violating, noncriminal sex [...] This is a kind of sex that is not only worth talking about, but necessary to talk about. Behavior need not fall under the legal definition of sexual assault or rape to be wrong or violating or upsetting. And when nearly every woman I’ve spoken to about the Aziz Ansari story follows up our conversation with a similar story of her own, it’s worth thinking about why that is.”
In “The Aziz Ansari furore isn’t the end of #MeToo. It’s just the start,” the Guardian’s Sarah Solemani acknowledged that “cautionary tale of Aziz Ansari has split the room,” and advised that ”the Ansari fallout should be seen for what it is: collateral damage of a bigger, brighter historical movement, and not its final destination.” She went on to say that “Flanagan [writing for the Atlantic] could not relate to the new world [Grace] imagined for herself, or the community of young women who received her testimony with empathy. Instead she recalled an era where girls would physically fight off unwanted sexual advances, perversely reminiscing about an old kind of “strength” instead of yearning for a new kind of freedom.”