Louis C.K. and others are able to harass and assault victims because they have teams of people protecting them.
[TW: Description of harassment and assault.]
The New York Times released their latest piece about sexual assault and harassment, this time Louis C.K. has been outed as a serial perpetrator of sexual harassment, and five women have come forward with their accounts of C.K. masturbating either in front of them or over the phone without their consent. There have long been whispers and rumors about C.K., but those allegations have stayed under the radar and away from accountability.
C.K.’s behavior and crimes aren’t surprising nor are they an anomaly. Harassment and sexual assault comes in many forms. When I was about 13-years-old a man sat down in front of me in a public bus on my way back home and stared at me while he masturbated. I had to run off the bus three stops before my destination. I didn’t really know what he was doing, I just knew it was fucked up and I felt horribly uncomfortable.
While this happens frequently in public, what doesn’t happen often enough is accountability and justice. The man who jerked off to me in the bus did so in broad daylight, around other adults who looked the other way. No one protects children, no one protects young girls, nobody truly cares and we don’t start caring more for the adult victims of assault either.
When we come forward with allegations of rape or assault, we risk losing our careers, we risk losing our friends, family and future opportunities. Our stories are consumed, people are temporarily horrified and then move on to consume the next horrifying piece of news.
On the flip side, the power of all stories now is the overwhelming numbers of exposes — it would be a horrible PR move for any company to not care right now, especially since the majority of the victims who have come forward are white women — the demographics of the victims does change public empathy. Oliver Stone has gone so far as to edit and replace scenes of a movie which were going to feature Kevin Spacey. C.K. has had to cancel the premiere of his already awkward and uncomfortable sounding film, I Love You, Daddy. According to the New York Times, one of the scenes from the film features a character who pretends to masturbate at length in front of other people, while other characters appear to dismiss rumors of sexual harassment and assault.
Beyond the carefully curated image that C.K. has created for himself, we need to talk about the people who protect these men. From every story published it is clear that they have entire teams protecting them, protecting their actions and working to disparage any victim who comes forward with allegations.
Harvey Weinstein went so far as to hire private firms who hired ex-Mossad agents to gain the trust and siphon information from Rose McGowan, reporters and other victims in order to funnel information back to Weinstein. Supposed “champion for women” and lawyer, Lisa Bloom, protected Weinstein until it started to hurt her career.
And what of Bill Cosby, R.Kelly, Bryan Singer and countless others who have a long history of assault or harassment? They have teams of people protecting them because they are willing to go above and beyond to protect the perpetrators of violence because patriarchy and misogyny are insidious constructs which poison all facets of society whether we realize it or not.
Society blames the victims and powerful men like C.K., Weinstein and others have used patriarchy and misogyny to do what they wanted to do because they could, because other people made it possible. Who protected the young men and boys from Kevin Spacey? No one. Who protected the women comedians from C.K. when rumors started to weave their way throughout comedy circles? No one.
Powerful men were able to do what they do because there are systems which protect them, there are networks which support them, there are people who stand by them just in case — we have to look at those who are complicit in their crimes and take them down too. The New York Times detailed how C.K.’s manager, David Becky was upset at women coming forward with allegations of harassment. Becky represents powerful comedians like Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, Amy Poehler and others. He owns a company, 3 Arts, which puts together deals for multiple different platforms. Becky is powerful and wields considerable influence — influence which can dissuade victims from coming forward.
We must dismantle the entire system which allows men like Louis C.K. to build their careers while they harass and assault victims. There will only be justice when we start to listen and empathize with those who come forward with their stories. We have very few reasons to come forward, it still isn’t safe because people make it unsafe — so make it safe and stop protecting rapists.