Reflections on Louis C.K.’s Weird Sexual Misconduct

louis-ckBy: Grainne Rhuad

I know I can’t be the only post-feminist woman intrigued by the puzzling personality of Louis C.K.  After all he has been written about, focused on and commented on by almost exclusively women since he was accused and admitted to sexual misconduct earlier in the month.

He certainly misused his station and put a lot of women out of the business or, so the tales say, due to his weird sexual needs.  He put even more of his female friends in a weird position as they now must admit what they had heard about him was true.

In the case of Tig Notaro, she chose to address this both directly in interviews and indirectly by writing a script for her sitcom “One Mississippi” that mirrors the reports of Louis C.K.’s masturbatory behavior.  It should be noted the sitcom and episode were produced by C.K. himself so it’s not as if he didn’t know this was being bandied about.

Sarah Silverman addressed his behavior with a sense of bewilderment that I almost believed.  I say almost because she kinda has the deer in the headlights bewilderment running gag going in her style.  But she did address it on her show, “I Love You, America.” head on and with dignity and sadness.  It was one of the most appropriate head’s ups I have ever seen following a scandal of a friend.  Side note: No word from her as of this writing about Senator Al Franken who was on her same show a few weeks beforehand, cracking side jokes about appropriateness and sexual harassment.

Still I find myself feeling for Louis a little bit and I’m not sure why.  It could be because his comedy has been so real and direct, not shying away from the hard or tawdry bits of life.  I always admired the way his show “Louie” showed a truly fucked up part time dad who did things wrong and had to apologize, a lot.

Then there was the non-consensual sex episode, which in retrospect seems like a cry for help.  A “please, I’m trying but I fuck, up but please, like me still.” cry.

He has never made a secret in his writing that he has problems with women, he doesn’t always respect them and there is a bid of the Madonna/whore in a lot of the way he presents the women in his comedy.

I watched about a month ago, the Documentary “Too Funny to Fail” about the Dana Carvey show, which Louis C.K. was a writer on and was not at all surprised that he said in interview, he didn’t like Jimmy Fallon because all the ladies in the production were half in love with his good looks and talent.  Louis stated he threatened to leave if Fallon was hired because he didn’t want the competition with the ladies. That doesn’t sound like a man secure with his place in the dating scene.   Or his manhood.

Yet, there’s something boyish and soft about him that seems out of step with these massive fuck ups in his treatment of women, sexuality and dating.  He seems like someone who wants to get it right.  He did after all, ask for permission to masturbate in front of people.  Yes, his power differential and the sheer weirdness of the whole act negates that permission, but I wonder how he made sense in his mind, his actions in the moment?

I’m interested to see his latest project.  The film “I Love You Daddy.” Whose release was cancelled seems like it might answer some questions about how he views power and sexuality and women/girls and what makes women and girls different breeds.  I hope it finds its way to some streaming venue soon because I really want to know what he’s thinking.  I also finding incredibly interesting that with everything on precipice of blowing up on him, he chose to write, direct and act in a script about sexual conduct and morality.

Louis C.K. like all comedians has always been playing out his foibles for our laughter.  It’s the place of the clown, to fall so we don’t have to.  My overall hope is that all the people in the industry who are falling over themselves to apologize for not doing anything or not knowing or allowing in anyway misogynistic, misguided, abusive behavior to happen, my hope is that they stop.  Stop falling over themselves trying to distance their behavior from that of their friend(s) and wonder why it was okay in the first place.

And I mean really figure it out.

Because if it’s just that he’s bringing in money that’s definitely not okay.  It’s not okay to allow someone to be sick and not care for themselves because they are paying our bills.  That’s the kind of shit that killed Michael Jackson.

But, if it’s what I suspect, that because we all as a society are kinda fucked up and okay with a certain amount of wacked out sexuality, we need to start looking at more than just the Louis C.K.’s. We need to look at our own suppressed sexuality as a country and do something about it.

I suggest we begin with teaching not “sex-ed” in schools but the ethics of sexuality.  We need to be less concerned with the mechanics of sex, which, humans will figure it out, we always have.  But how to say yes and how to say no, and when.  When we start having those conversations we will be better at sex, and misconduct will be a thing of the past.  But we need to start talking about what good conduct is, and how to communicate it.

I guess what I feel is that Louis has brought the conversation to us.  He did so through his actions yes, and by his direct apology.  But now it’s on us.  It’s not just about him sadly whacking off anymore.  It’s about all of us and whether we want to be better humans.

2 Comments on “Reflections on Louis C.K.’s Weird Sexual Misconduct”

  1. Collectively, as women, we decide what’s morally okay. Since the beginning of film making, we’ve watched women walk down the moral low road and we were okay with it. We gossiped, criticized, whispered about how so-and-so made it to the top; but we didn’t condemn the men who corrupted them; only their own moments of weakness.

    When I was in my late teens and determined to take charge of my own study curriculum, my (male) guidance counselor told me, “you don’t need a college degree to make it in this world. All you have to do is work as a secretary, show off your legs and your future is secure.” In that male oriented world, it was an acceptable thing to say. Two or three years later, with women speaking out against male chauvinists, it was completely unacceptable. It was unacceptable to me without the supportive, political voices. I filed a formal complaint, changed counselors and continued with my study options as I had planned.

    I dispensed with work place harassment quickly as well. When a man came up behind me while I was eating in the lunch room, and grabbed my boobs, I rocked back with my elbow out and got him in the groin.

    What is happening now is that they are bringing inappropriate behavior within the film/celebrity industry to the forefront, no longer pointing at the women who accepted the good ole boy morality, but at those touchy-feely boys themselves. I think it’s good provided everyone is going to stick to their guns and say, “no, I am not going to sell my sexuality to climb up the ladder”, which is probably a bit much to ask. It’s a social habit that’s been around a long time. And I firmly believe in respectful relationships, especially in the workplace. I believe professionalism does not require we step outside our moral boundaries. What I do criticize is the vast number of people who have suddenly come forward with their finger points, like witch hunter’s catching the scent of blood, and who said nothing, did nothing, and apparently made no attempt to defend themselves for incidents that happened up to twenty years ago.

    Our power comes in what we do now, not in stating, “you know what? Same thing happened to me six or seven years ago. Let’s see how much public attention we’ll receive by joining the crowd.” It’s reached the point of ridiculous. When we began changing the workplace environment to an anti-sexist one, we didn’t do it by suddenly tearing apart the entire hierarchy of management and administration. We did it by saying “this stops now” and taking it from there. Sometime, we’re going to have to admit this because when it comes to celebrities, I doubt there’s very many who can say, “not guilty”.

  2. I too am critical to a certain extent the ones who made no attempts for years and then emboldened by others, come forward far too late to be of use. I say to a certain extent because some people are not supported and truly afraid and we should always defend the weaker amongst us.

    Women do have power to change the script and we always have but so do those men who stand by and know these abuses are going on and do nothing about it. Those who know better and do nothing should be accountable.

    But what I think we have in this particular case and in many other everyday cases is misguided people who really don’t know how their freedom and sexual expression affects others. We need education in that area. Yes there is a certain amount of freedom in some areas and for men in general, there is a “given” locker room talk and nobody thinks about it. I have seen good men say and do very uncomfortable things without knowing it makes people uncomfortable. I should also point out I have seen Women too who know their sexual power makes people uncomfortable use it and not care because they finally “can.” This too is not okay. It’s not okay to abuse just because your sex has traditionally been on the other side.

    Whenever we gain any strength ideally it should be used for good, not turning the tables on someone else. That’s really the problem, that humans haven’t gotten to the growth in morality phase yet. That we don’t care generally speaking for all.

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