When news broke of Louis C.K.’s sexual mis-conduct, I was heartbroken. For years, including the years the incidents occurred, I respected him. My respect may have even reached the status of idolization. Louis broke an ethical contract I had built for him, and others, that I respected. He did things I would not. He did things I couldn’t possibly fathom doing. And he hurt people in the process.
In reading reactions to the story, I came across a small batch of defenses. Some were simply misogynistic. But one really simplified the story: Louis C.K. asked female adults if he could expose himself and masturbate. Two women, together in a hotel room, agreed and later regretted it. Another declined and Louis responded by degrading himself.
What happened was vastly different than rape allegations and sexual assault that others in Hollywood have been accused of, especially lately. And while it’s important to expose the powerful figures in the shadows, it’s important to contextualize what is happening. Louis has a fetish and brought that into the workplace.
There’s a reason the NY Times used the strategic words “sexual mis-conduct” rather than “sexual assault” or “rape.” It’s important that we, as a modern society, pay close attention to the details of what’s going on. Lumping a masturbating Louis C.K. together with sexual assaults by Harvey Weinstein is a disservice to the women involved. For the world watching, the women that have come forward are showing it’s now safe to do so.
And with this comes a responsibility. People are reading full lists of every famous man accused of sexual assault. By every degree. Whether true or not. This outing of sexual assaulters has shown monsters walk among us, its also a reminder that the monsters can be anyone. It is likely that some accusations are absolutely false, so context and understanding is critical. And to be clear, when several women come forward, with no connection to one another, telling a similar story, it proves a pattern (like the Louis situation).
But regardless of how you view what happened, it’s now clear what Louis himself thinks. He’s remorseful. And that reveals a bigger problem.
The stories are not new. They’ve been shared and told for years. Louis was aware and he ignored it. He dodged his immoral actions until victims came forward and collectively shared their details with a reporter. He had lots of opportunity to face this, but he only chose to do it when he couldn’t ignore it.
Therein lies my disgust. He showed his true intent and, in turn, who he really is. The vulnerability Louis shows on stage is part of the act. The man isn’t truely that vulnerable. He is, instead, the man who refuses pictures with his fans. Who demands things in his own terms. Who ignores the truth. Who idolizes Woody Allen, despite his past. Louis C.K. lied to his friends and his fans.
I, like many others, celebrated the work of Louis C.K. For comedy, there hasn’t been someone to his pedegree since George Carlin, a man Louis himself idolized. And as Louis rose with his status, he gained the ability to do it all “his way.” The success of his FX series gave him license to expand and explore. His gamble on self-funding his own standup special returned an enormous jackpot that no other has come close to achieving.
But, and let this be a lesson to others, that is all gone now, outshined by this story, and remembered as being done by, “that guy who jerked off.”