See the original posting on Boing Boing
People make mistakes. They commit crimes. Sometimes they pull their erect dick out and start masturbating in front of female colleagues. Louis C.K. recently performed for the first time since confirming he did exactly that to a number of women over a period of years. Was his return to the stage, as they say in comedy, too soon? Outside of legal recourse, how do we deal with perpetrators of sexual misdeeds, abuse, harassment, and assault in the long haul?
As the news of his return broke, I could almost hear women across the country face-palming themselves over the fact that he appeared unannounced and unexpectedly in front of an unsuspecting audience who had not given their consent. Social media became a biopsy of the strange cultural crossroads the #MeToo stories have brought us to. But this time there was more of a split across gender lines. The backlash about Louis comeback were mostly female voices. The support for him, feeling hed already paid a fair price, were mostly male voices.
Comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted a message addressing the friction to his almost two million followers:
“The #MeToo movement is incredibly powerful and important and vital. One next step, among many steps, has to be figuring out a way for the men who are caught up in it to find redemption.
Its significant that the men who are caught up in it are the perpetrators of abuse, assault, and harassment. Women do not need to roll up their sleeves and get to work creating a framework for offenders to return to society. It is not up to us to give them a way back in. There is no one stopping the creative powerhouse that is Louis C.K. from trailblazing a pathway to redemption. He is not owed a situation to be created for him.
#MeToo is called a movement for a reason. Like all social change, it is messy and hard. Movements are historically led by those the injustice or oppression impacts most. Like many women in America, I can raise my hand to qualify as a member of the #MeToo movement multiple times.
Maybe it doesnt seem like that big of a deal, someone displaying their junk. Maybe it even seems funny certainly not hurtful like real sexual abuse. No ones touching you, after all. But when a man you know, trust, and respect pulls their erect dick out of their pants and starts masturbating in front of you out of nowhere, especially if that man is in a position of power, it can be life-changing. I didnt realize someone pulling their dick out could be so impactful until it happened to me.
Id just moved to New York and was staying with a loved and trusted relative in his Upper West Side apartment until I landed a job and a place of my own. One night he came in and stood over the air mattress I was staying on, and started masturbating. And talking about masturbating. I froze. It continued. I wondered what might happen next. Was it going to escalate? I got the impression that my discomfort was part of what he enjoyed. Thats not about sex. Thats about power.
I had nowhere to go and he knew it. Powerless. Vulnerable. Confused. I didnt know what to say or do. I was shocked. The next day he acted like nothing happened. So I packed up and began couch surfing until I found a job and apartment of my own. But there werent always couches to crash on. It wasnt easy to explain my predicament to friends and colleagues, and no one in my family believed me when I asked for help. I was homeless because someone pulled their dick out.
When I read the New York Times story that forced Louis C.K.s confession, I recognized the name of one of the women who came forward: Abby Schachner. I had seen her one-woman show a few years back and met her afterwards. She was brilliant, wicked smart and hilarious. I immediately wrote a glowing review of her show and told everyone I could to see it. I friended her on Facebook. I remember thinking she should have her own TV show. She was that good.
As the Louis C.K. story unraveled in the news and through Abbys Facebook posts, I learned that she chose to abandon her pursuit of a comedy career after her encounter with him, determining she wouldnt be taken seriously as a female comedian. I was enraged. While others were bemoaning the loss of Louis C.K. in their living rooms, I thought what a complete and utter loss it was for all of us that Abby Schachners career path was altered. Because someone pulled their dick out.
Louis C.K. wielded great power in the comedy business, and that is why it matters if, how, and when he comes back, but most importantly it matters if he demonstrates that he comprehends his impact on these women, the damage that he caused, and has taken steps to change not just slinked away for a few months. Its #TimesUp not #TimeOut. Louis C.K. exposing himself is not just a live version of a dick pic (another thing nobody wants). Its about control, and how it impacts the people he chooses to target. In his case, female colleagues.
Louis C.K.s unannounced performance echoed his misdeeds; forcing something on an unprepared public. Whats glaringly lacking in both situations is consent. He controls whats going on. His terms. No consideration of potential damage. Deal with it.
You can forgive someone for doing something without giving them to the opportunity to do it again. Thats what setting boundaries is. And in my opinion, Louis C.K. did not respect the boundary that existed in those moments with various women, and he blew right through the boundary society had imposed on him by barging into a comedy club and giving the audience no choice. But Michael Ian Blacks tweets were asking us to consider what that boundary really was.
My empathy isn’t for Louis. It’s for the recognition that we’re in a cultural moment in which some men who do terrible things have no pathway for redemption. That lack of a pathway creates a situation in which we are casting people out but not giving them a way back in.
Though finding a pathway for the redemption of some men is not our burden or responsibility, that doesnt mean I dont have some ideas. Its complex and tangled.
The seemingly unforgivable are sometimes redeemed and rehabilitated. Sometimes. It depends. Thats why there are parole boards, for instance. Time itself does not guarantee change. As a former addict, I understand mistakes, misdeeds, hiding it, lying about it, getting caught, having consequences, and then seeking resolution through making amends.
In AA there is something called a living amends. The idea is t