Ever since babe.net published the piece about Grace — a 23-year-old photographer who had a terrible sexual encounter with actor and comedian Aziz Ansari — the topic of what constitutes as sexual assault has been at the forefront of many people’s minds.

It’s an area that’s black-and-white for some; gray for others.

Here at The Lily, we published two essays — with different opinions — about the Aziz Ansari allegation. They amassed more than 150 comments on Facebook. Not everyone agreed with the pieces, but thoughtful discussion ensued.

Women thanked each other for raising important questions, patiently explaining their views and boldly sharing their own truths.

“So impressed and reassured by the civility and intellect in these comments, regardless of the side you’re on,” Kelli Pangle said. “That’s been hard to find on this subject,”

We know the topic of sexual misconduct can be divisive and frustrating. But it’s an important one. So we picked 18 comments from our two threads that express the range of opinions out there.

We’re thankful for the many voices on Facebook that continue to push us — and society — to be better.

"Almost all women have had an experience where they have 'let' someone be intimate with them without actually wanting it."

Posted by The Lily on Monday, January 15, 2018

‘This was sexual assault’

Nichole Kathleen Palmer: “The Babe piece never stated that she said ‘yes’ to oral sex, and as Rape Trauma Services explained in a presentation to my class last year, consent can only be given in the form of a verbal and enthusiastic, ‘YES!’ Not a ‘yes’ that feels guilted into performing any kind of sexual act. She did not consent. This was sexual assault.”

Brittany Cliffe: “She refused him multiple times, both verbally and physically showing her discomfort, and he continued to pursue her and physically touch her. He did not ask for consent (other than ‘Where should I f — k you?’), and she never gave consent to any of those actions. THAT’S ASSAULT. … Coercion is NOT consent.”

"The Babe story totally derails any future stories about Aziz Ansari that might come out," opinion writer Sonny Bunch argues.

Posted by The Lily on Tuesday, January 16, 2018

‘This isn’t assault’

Jocelynne Jason: “Being a feminist does not mean that women are right all the time. This woman is not right on so many levels. She is a danger to legitimate victims.”

Ren Gooch: “I’m a victim of actual assault. This isn’t assault, this is an awkward date. Not calling it out for what it is gives more fuel to the people trying to light a fire under #metoo and calling it a witch hunt.”

Erica Linebacker Hoffmeister: “I do think there’s a place for this experience in a DIFFERENT conversation. How women feel like we owe men something sexually, how elusive consent can feel, how strange it is we sometimes lose our confident voices in sexual situations, how complex sex is emotionally even when we go in with different expectations … all of those issues deserve a platform in the feminist discussion. I can relate. And it’s problematic and f — ked up. But this is an account of a gross, regrettable situation that could have turned out terrible. This particular account is not ASSAULT.

How can we find our voices as women, and become sexually positive and confident, and STOP sexual assault with accusations like these that minimize and trivialize the whole movement and bring us steps backward?”

‘It’s not that simple’

Sarah Elizabeth: “He repeatedly shoved his fingers in her mouth, despite her protests. He continued to initiate physical contact as she told him she was uncomfortable, he literally chased her around his apartment. He badgered her and gave zero weight to her repeated attempts to extricate herself. Can we not acknowledge that there is a spectrum of sexual misconduct — running from words and catcalls all the way to violence and rape — and that this likely falls somewhere on it?”

Lisa Courtney: “We don’t know her history outside of this little snippet. Did you know, for instance, that people who’ve been sexually assaulted or abused in other ways in the past, especially childhood, often have trouble speaking up and removing themselves from situations like this? It’s very common. I’ve personally experienced a different situation, but it was similar in that probably the average person would say, ‘Well, why didn’t you just leave?’ It’s not that simple. PTSD, c-PTSD, fight-or-flight mode triggers make things a lot more complicated than you might think.”

Anita Cake: “To me, a large degree of assault is about intent. Did Aziz intend to hurt this girl or was he genuinely not picking up on her nonverbal cues? Should he be punished for what he did or be allowed to learn from it? That’s where I’m stuck.”

Erin Durbin-Sherer: “I have to disagree that assault is a lot about intent. Impact > intent. I think a lot of the conversation around this has to do with the fact that many men don’t believe that they’ve crossed any boundaries and don’t consider how the power dynamics play into the situation. That’s not resulting in fewer traumatized women, though.”

Christina Marie Aragues: “We cannot judge this case, which includes one’s perception on subtle cues. How many times was I told I was flirting when I was just being courteous? How many times were my own actions perceived incorrectly? When she said she wanted to go home, he got her a ride. No sexual intercourse occurred. What more can one do?”

#MeToo

Megan Bruce: “If anyone thinks this type of scene is normal and just a bad date, they’re making a really great argument for why #metoo is so desperately necessary and how incredibly far we have to go.”

Lara Therrien Boulos:Hard pass. #metoo is about finally opening up the conversation to all forms of assault and coercion that women/female bodies face in life, including the most insidious and less ‘obviously recognizable’ ones. Grace telling her story adds to the narrative; it doesn’t derail it, and this article is victim-blaming at its worst.”

Nicole Dahl: “If we read this story and it was Taylor Swift making the same moves on a guy, people would be saying, ‘WHAT?! She is crazy/desperate/weird/gross.’ But because it’s a male cat-mousing a female, we’re like, ‘Meh, she should have clearly said “no.”’ ”

‘Men need to listen more’

Manda Champagne: “While women do need to overcome socialization to be unabashedly vocal about what they do and do not want, men also need to give up their intentional obliviousness and magical thinking: Read nonverbal cues and check in often. Do not continue to act unless she is 100 percent enthusiastic in word and deed.”

Hillary Herbert: “It doesn’t matter if she said ‘no’ or not. Read body language. Don’t badger someone into intimacy. It’s not hard. Stop blaming women for a man’s inability to use his own damn brain.”

Angela DiFiore: “Her being much younger than him and not a celebrity played a big factor here. Maybe she wanted him to like her. Maybe she was confused as to what was happening, as his public persona is much different than the pushy, aggressive man he became. No, he clearly didn’t rape her. It’s complicated, but she let him know several times she wasn’t digging the aggressive way he pursued her, physically. And not all women are as brave as they could or should be. It left her feeling icky and I get why. He perhaps assumed she would obviously want to ‘f — k’ him because of who he is. She didn’t. Celebrity = power.”

Maureen Laufenberg: “This situation is an opportunity to look at our culture’s sexual practices that are normalized while also being assaulting, coercive and rapey. This is why we talk about ‘rape culture.’ It’s totally possible that he, like many men, was doing what he was taught to do. Despite that, it’s incredibly wrong, and we should absolutely use this as a chance to educate about true consent.

It’s an opportunity, not a derailment. Let’s make some positive change out of it!”

Quinn Biscoff: “I think it opens up important discussions that men need to listen more and women need to talk more. A massive cultural change is hopefully taking place.”

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