Louis C.K. Jerks Off in Front of Unsuspecting Women

You know, rumors about Louis C.K. have been flying around for years, and five women have come forward with allegations against the stand-up comic, published today in The New York Times. I’m going to be honest, this is going to be big, big news because of the size of C.K.’s celebrity, but so far this doesn’t exactly make him sound like another Harvey Weinstein to me. I might regret saying that tomorrow if worse allegations surface, but I can only comment on the material we have at hand. Pun intended. Because Louis likes to jerk off in front of people.

So let’s dig into these allegations and get our hands dirty. Pun also intended.

Ms. [Rebecca] Corry, a comedian, writer and actress, has long felt haunted by her run-in with Louis C.K. In 2005, she was working as a performer and producer on a television pilot — a big step in her career — when Louis C.K., a guest star, approached her as she was walking to the set. “He leaned close to my face and said, ‘Can I ask you something?’ I said, ‘Yes,’” Ms. Corry said in a written statement to The New York Times. “He asked if we could go to my dressing room so he could masturbate in front of me.” Stunned and angry, Ms. Corry said she declined, and pointed out that he had a daughter and a pregnant wife. “His face got red,” she recalled, “and he told me he had issues.”

Soooo…. Louis asked her if he could masturbate in front of her, she said no, he got mad about it but proceeded to not masturbate in front of her or retaliate against her. This doesn’t seem like a major issue to me, people proposition people for sex all the time. All this does is tell us Louis likes people to watch him masturbate.

Let’s hear from another woman, who wanted to stay anonymous, about an incident she described as having happened during production of The Chris Rock Show, on which Louis was a writer.

In the late ’90s, she was working in production at “The Chris Rock Show” when Louis C.K., a writer and producer there, repeatedly asked her to watch him masturbate, she said. She was in her early 20s and went along with his request, but later questioned his behavior.

“It was something that I knew was wrong,” said the woman, who described sitting in Louis C.K.’s office while he masturbated in his desk chair during a workday, other colleagues just outside the door. “I think the big piece of why I said yes was because of the culture,” she continued. “He abused his power.” A co-worker at “The Chris Rock Show,” who also wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that the woman told him about the experience soon after it happened.

Kind of hard to say how C.K. “abused his power.” Maybe he was her superior, I don’t know. He asked her to do something, she said yes. Did he threaten her implicitly or explicitly? It doesn’t exactly sound like it, but he may have. If so, then yes, that is a major problem.

Okay, so, things get a little more damning from there.

Ms. [Abby] Schachner, a writer, illustrator and performer, admired Louis C.K.’s work. They had met in the comedy scene; Ms. Schachner’s former boyfriend was a comedy writer who had worked with Louis C.K. In 2003, when she called Louis C.K. with an invitation to her show, he said he was at work in an office as a writer on the series “Cedric the Entertainer Presents,” she recalled.

Their conversation quickly moved from the personal — Louis C.K. had seen photos of her on her boyfriend’s desk, he said, and told her he thought she was cute — to “unprofessional and inappropriate,” Ms. Schachner said.

She said she heard the blinds coming down. Then he slowly started telling her his sexual fantasies, breathing heavily and talking softly. She realized he was masturbating, and was dumbfounded. The call went on for several minutes, even though, Ms. Schachner said, “I definitely wasn’t encouraging it.” But she didn’t know how to end it, either. “You want to believe it’s not happening,” she said. A friend, Stuart Harris, confirmed that Ms. Schachner had described the call to him in 2003.

Okay, so, just starting to jerk it on the phone with someone is not good behavior. And pretty weird. But again, I fail to see how Louis was in a position of power here, unless you count his cache as a popular stand-up among other stand-ups. It doesn’t sound like he was promising to advance her career or threatening her. It was a phone call, a good way to end it would be “Okay, I have to go, bye.” So this is veering into “Louis is a creep” territory, but not “Louis is as bad as Harvey Weinstein” territory.

I want to make it clear I’m not trying to excuse Louis C.K. for any sort of sexual misconduct here, it’s just what I’m reading so far doesn’t really seem to cross any major ethical lines for me. Like, would we be talking about this if Louis asked someone to have sex with him, she said no, and then he didn’t retaliate against her in any way? Or if he asked a co-worker to sleep with him, without coercion or quid pro quo, and she said yes and then they had sex? That doesn’t seem inappropriate, it seems like Louis’s weird kink of wanting women to watch him jerk off rather than f**k them makes this seem a lot more salacious than it is so far.

Well, there’s one last incident, and this one does seem to cross a line. Maybe. I can see room for equivocation, where Louis believed the women had given consent when they didn’t think he was serious and would have said no if they knew he was really asking them.

In 2002, a Chicago comedy duo, Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov, landed their big break: a chance to perform at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo. When Louis C.K. invited them to hang out in his hotel room for a nightcap after their late-night show, they did not think twice. The bars were closed and they wanted to celebrate. He was a comedian they admired. The women would be together. His intentions seemed collegial.

As soon as they sat down in his room, still wrapped in their winter jackets and hats, Louis C.K. asked if he could take out his penis, the women said.

They thought it was a joke and laughed it off. “And then he really did it,” Ms. Goodman said in an interview with The New York Times. “He proceeded to take all of his clothes off, and get completely naked, and started masturbating.”

Maybe part of the issue is I’m underestimating Louis’s apparent pull in the comedy scene. It does sound like Louis’s manager threatened the pair after they started telling everyone about what happened, and though he denies making any explicit threats, implicit threats work just as well.

Hoping that outrage would build against Louis C.K., and also to shame him, they began telling others about the incident the next day. But many people seemed to recoil, they said. “Guys were backing away from us,” Ms. Wolov said. Barely 24 hours after they left Louis C.K.’s hotel, “we could already feel the backlash.”

Soon after, they said they understood from their managers that Mr. [Dave] Becky, Louis C.K’s manager, wanted them to stop telling people about their encounter with Louis C.K. Lee Kernis, one of the women’s managers at the time, confirmed on Thursday that he had a conversation in which he told Mr. Becky that Louis C.K.’s behavior toward the women had been offensive. Mr. Kernis also said that Mr. Becky was upset that the women were talking openly about the incident.

So here’s the thing; five women have said Louis either masturbated in front of them or on the phone with them or asked to masturbate in front of them. But that’s not really the issue, provided Louis isn’t abusing his power in order to force women to watch him masturbate.

Louis does, at least now, have a lot of power in Hollywood because of his celebrity, and he had power in comedy circles in the 1990’s and early 2000’s because he was a respected comic. No one wanted to listen to Wolov and Goodman in 2002, at least, so he had some influence in those circles. But I’m not seeing any actual proof he abused that power, at least knowingly. It’s one thing to use your power to force someone to watch you masturbate; it’s a whole other thing if they appear to have consented to watch you masturbate.

And look, it does, on the surface, make sense that Louis wouldn’t want people talking about this even if he hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s a pretty weird fetish to want people to watch you jerk off, that’s embarrassing. Dino Stamatopoulos might cop to it, but it’s still embarrassing.

Louis C.K. is either a serial sexual harasser or a weird guy with a kink we can all have a chuckle about. The difference is whether or not he’s using his status and power to force women to do things against their will. There’s nothing illegal or really immoral about being a weirdo sexually, as long as you respect people’s boundaries. I’m completely sure that we’ll find out which one Louis C.K. is, probably by Monday morning, but I personally am not comfortable passing judgement on him just yet.

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