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I keep reading about comedian Louis C.K.'s "misconduct" today, and am hoping you can help me understand. I'm not into what Louis seems to be—masturbating in front of an awkwardly recruited audience—but I fail to see what he's done that crosses the line into "wrong." He asked for consent in each witnessed story. In the situation where he didn't receive consent, he made awkward apologies. Maybe the time he's accused of masturbating during a phone discussion without consent shows some violation of the rules of polite society (and your willing participant rules) but the accuser is just guessing what he was up to. If his kink is unexpected (but consented) exhibition/fapping, what should he have done differently?

Louis Cums Kleen

You know what? I'm gonna let Louis C.K. walk you through what was wrong (no quotation marks needed) about what Louis C.K. did. This is from the statement he released earlier today:

I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not. These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn't a question. It's a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly. I have been remorseful of my actions. And I've tried to learn from them. And run from them.

Now I'm aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.

I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn't want to hear it. I didn't think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it. There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.

What Louis C.K. did was wrong. Again, LCK, no quotation marks are needed—not around the word "wrong," and not around the word "misconduct" either. Louis C.K. either didn't realize it was wrong at the time or he didn't care; he either realizes it was wrong now or the person(s) who helped draft this statement would like us to believe he does. As a fan of Louis C.K.'s work... I want to believe this statement is sincere. But I'm wary my admiration for his comedy might prompt to give him the benefit of the doubt—and in rereading his statement just now, it occurs to me that "predicament" is too weak a word for the position he put those women in. So much for the benefit of the doubt. And our sympathies right now belong entirely with the women Louis C.K. manipulated and abused, the women he traumatized, and the women whose careers his actions may have derailed.

As for what's wrong with "unexpected (but consented) exhibition/fapping," LCK, do you follow Kate Harding on Twitter? You should. And if you did, you would've gotten your answer about unexpected fapping earlier today...

Women are socialized to defer to men; we are all primates hardwired to defer to power. Sometimes we abuse our power over others knowingly and maliciously, sometimes we aren't considering our relative power and wind up abusing it thoughtlessly. But a man who asks a woman he has power over if he can pull out his cock and masturbate in front of her is not going to get meaningful consent.

And did you even read the story you cited?

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.

He asked, sure, but he didn't wait for a "yes." He leveraged his power and he leveraged the deference women are trained to show men against his victims. That "crosses the line" into wrong. Even if he had managed to get a "yes," it would've been consent given under duress, aka not consent at all.

As for your last question—what Louis C.K. should've done differently—I'm gonna go with "everything." He should've done everything differently.

P.S. Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do About It. I think you should get yourself a copy of Kate's book and read it, LCK. It'll open your eyes. At the very least you'll be less likely to put quotation marks around words that don't need 'em.

UPDATE: Just adding this thread to the post for all the guys writing in to ask what was really so awful about Louis C.K. behavior...

Melissa McEwan is the Editor-in-Chief of Shakesville. Follow her on Twitter @Shakestweetz.

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