Well, so much for enjoying Louis C.K.’s comedy anymore.
Last, week long-rumored accusations were put on the record when five women accused the comedian in a New York Times story of sexual harassment — he masturbated in front of women, or asked to do so, in professional settings. C.K. later (finally) admitted in a somewhat apologetic statement that the accusations were true.
When the most recent Louis C.K. stand-up special came out on Netflix earlier this year, I jumped ship after the first few minutes. It just didn’t make me laugh, and I decided I’d rather be watching some true crime docu-series.
But one of my most badass female friends, a motorcycle-riding unapologetic radical feminist with a killer sense of humor, couldn’t say enough good things about it. She assured me I would love it, so I gave it another shot.
She was right. Once I made it past the first few minutes, I was cackling in full-throated glee. When it was over, I wanted to watch it again. It was edgy. It was dark. Parts of it were also (dare I say it?) feminist.
My standout moment, the moment that made his behavior harder to stomach: “If there’s a dude in your (body), you get to kill him,” he says. “I think that’s pretty fundamental. You’re allowed to kill people if they’re in your house.”
His live audience cheered. And I laughed at home on my couch, thinking, that’s a bold sentiment on a woman’s bodily agency we don’t hear much from men, even men who say they’re feminists.
I texted my friend who had recommended the stand-up special the moment I saw the news alert on my phone, and we shared a moment of dismay.
“He seemed like a sympathizer,” she said. “I wish it weren’t true, too.”
One scene from C.K.’s FX situation comedy, “Louie,” has been replaying in my mind lately — even before C.K. became just one of the many men to be accused of sexual assault — as the MeToo hashtag proliferated, and more and more men were being held accountable for sexual harassment and assault that previously would have been considered some kind of “gray area.”
In the scene, Louie (the character) tries to kiss and drag a female friend into his bedroom as she repeatedly says “no,” and tries to get away from him. At one point, she says, “this would be rape if you weren’t so stupid.”
That scene was disturbing, but it also seemed to me like it was trying to be honest about male-female relationships — an honesty I had been searching for. I had often felt like the men who harassed me were not evil. Perhaps they were just simply dumb, and they were trying to reconcile what they wanted to do with what they should do. Perhaps they could learn. Perhaps we could teach them.
C.K.’s comedy summed that up for me. He seemed real — flawed, stupid, and at the same time trying to be a decent man, trying to sum sexual desires with a feminist ideology. Like so many of the men I've encountered in my life.
The Harvey Weinstein revelations have finally seemed to be the spark that caught the fire that’s burning predatory men’s careers to the ground. Compared to the allegations against Weinstein, Roy Moore, and a flood of others in recent weeks, C.K. seems almost tame. After all, his defenders point out, in at least one case, when he asked a woman if he could masturbate in front of her, he took no for an answer.
Women are simply asking for — and seemingly, maybe getting — a world in which our colleagues don’t feel like they can ask us to watch them masturbate. If that means Louis C.K. is catapulted into oblivion, doomed to be the butt of sexual harassment jokes, a respected artist who lost all respect, so be it.
If that means we can’t simply enjoy his work anymore — and, if this trend continues, the work of many others — so be it.
I'm still hoping there are some true sympathizers among us.
ALEE QUICK is digital editor of The Southern. Her columns include her own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. She can be reached at email@example.com or 618-351-5807. Follow her on Twitter: @the_quickness