By Spencer Caron
Louis C.K. is my favorite comedian. He has been for years, and the latest sexual misconduct rumors which he has recently substantiated do not necessarily change my opinion of him as a comedian. Two things that the recent litany of sexul assault scandals have reiterated are as follows. First, many celebrities, mainly men, use their position of power and status to act in a morally reprehensible way. The behavior exhibited by men in power is nothing short of disgusting, for it combines unacceptable sexual behavior with a toxic power trip. Second, the mainstream media and social critics are largely incapable of responding to a great deal of sexual assault accusations with any real rationality.
Surely, every substantiated rumor should be taken seriously, but an appropriate response is necessary as well. In other words, Louis C.K. should be criticized in a way that is appropriate in light of his actions. To simplify the story for those who have not been following it, Louis C.K. has admitted to masturbating in front of five grown women on multiple occasions throughout his career. As far as we know, C.K. never touched the women, coerced the women, or prevented them from leaving the various hotel rooms. The most that can be said is that he implicitly assumed that younger, less successful comics would feel compelled to be complicit in the objectively troubling sexual act. In plain terms, his behavior is “creepier” than it is sexually aggressive.
Inevitably, there will be a group of persons—bloggers, social media figures, and regular fans—who will refuse to watch his old and new material, and demand that all other “decent” individuals refrain from associating with C.K. in any way. I would like to suggest that one should be able to separate the person from their actions. In the case of Louis C.K., I believe it can be said that he is a great comic and a good father, who also appears to have a problematic sexual fetish that he should rightly be criticized for. He is not, as some will say, a sexual monster who is so depraved that society need not award him a second chance.
C.K.’s reputation has surely taken a rightful hit. He has apologized publicly and should face appropriate legal consequences. Considering his disturbing acts allegedly never involved physical assault or outright coercion, I do not believe he should be “tried by the masses” and deemed someone whom society shall not tolerate in any capacity. I believe this for more than one reason, none of which include the fact that I am a fan of his material. First, refraining from outrage in cases such as his reserves the strong response for those cases that truly warrant it. In other words, it seems perverse to treat a sexually deviant comic like a serial rapist. This is similar to how treating one’s phone problems too seriously is offensive to persons with much larger problems. Second, demanding that Louis C.K. be banned from being heard in the public sphere again seems to run contrary to this nation’s rule of law. If a lay citizen were caught mastubating in front of five unenthusiastic women, he would certainly face social and legal consequences. However, I would argue that it would be immoral on the part of society to state that he does not deserve a chance to integrate back into normal life once he has paid the legal price. To say that C.K. deserves harsher treatment because of his status as an entertainer is to absurdly assert that fame somehow should ensure sexual normalcy.
I was saddened when I came across the article online, for I respected C.K’s ability to be self-critical and socially perceptive. In this instance, I see C.K. as a man who exhibited poor judgment and let an undesirable sexual proclivity get the best of him. Frankly, his behavior disgusts me, as it seems as if C.K. put his sexual proclivities ahead of others’ feelings and decency. If more information comes out regarding his past behavior, I will recalibrate my opinion. For now, my respect has been dented, but I hope to see him further apologize, face the appropriate consequences, and address his obvious blunder in a stand-up routine to come.