When the Harvey Weinstein story broke, I heard whispers about Louis CK that were vague in nature. That he was ‘one of them’. That he had done things to female comics. Tig Notaro, on of my favorite comics in the world, distanced herself from him, saying he needed to deal with the accusations. When I finally found out what they were, my stomach sank. Before I get into the actual allegations, let me tell you, five years ago, I would have thought, “Oh no. Not Louis CK. Please don’t let it be true.” He was one of my favorite comics. I laughed uproariously at his stories, even when they made me uncomfortable as well. Uncomfortable because they were too close to the truth. I quoted him all the time because I could always find the relevant Louis CK story. I’ve seen almost all his specials, and I thought he was hilarious. Yes, he was a sad sack, but he mined it for his comedy. Five years ago, I would have had a hard time accepting that he had done what he was accused of. I would have accepted it, of course, but it would have been a struggle.
This time, however, when I read about it, my immediate response was, “That sucks. He’s off the list.” I didn’t talk about it because I needed to process it, but I believed that he did exactly what he was accused of doing. Specifically, that he asked lesser-known female comics/actresses if he could undress and masturbate in front of them because it’s such a fucking pathetic thing to do. I saw a woman tweeting about it once the story broke, and a man wrote back that it’s terrible, but there has to be a line between abuse and harassment, and where’s that line? It was a bad time to ask that question, and it was directed at the wrong person, but the question itself is not terrible. It was asked by a huge Louis CK fan who was struggling with the stories and didn’t know what to do with them.
The question was genuine, and it’s not terrible, but it’s irrelevant in the court of common opinion. Or rather, in the court of MY opinion. Yes, it may not be objectively as *bad* as what Harvey Weinstein did, but I don’t give a shit. I’m tired of powerful men preying on vulnerable people (mostly women, but there are stories of men being abused, too. More and more so, sadly), and right now, I have a zero tolerance policy. If I hear of a celebrity/politician being a sexual predator, he is off the list. Conservatives are trying to ‘but what about’ with Roy Moore, and Ann Coulter, bless her heart, tweeted that JFK was 45 when he had an extra-marital affair with a 19-year-old. She addressed the tweet to ‘Hey Dems!’ like she had a gotcha moment. The response was swift and mocking, ranging from, “Well! I’m not voting for JFK, either, then” to my own, “She does know JFK is dead, right? Bless her heart.”
The thing, though, is that Dems aren’t defending Weinstein’s behavior. In general, Democrats are much harsher on predators within our midst than are Republicans. Some Republicans are frantically defending a thirty-five year old man’s right to prey on teenage girls as young as 14, which is disgusting, but not surprising. There are a bunch of politicos (white dudes. They’re mostly white dudes) who have expressed their credulity that sexually molesting a 14-year-old isn’t an automatic disqualifier. They say they can’t believe it, and they believe it’s because of this president. I want to tell them not to be so fucking naive. Men have gotten away with sexually assaulting teenage girls since the beginning of the time, and not only have they gotten away with it, it’s been excused, justified, or even approved of in some cases.
This is not about politics, however. It really isn’t. It’s about more of these cases coming out and weighing me down. I know it’s a good thing in the long run that they’re not being kept hidden any longer, but it’s difficult not to look at it all and say we’re fucked as a society. It’s so common place and so persistent, it’s hard not to think that most men would do something similar if they thought they could get away with it. I know it’s not true, but on the other hand, it kind of is. No, most men wouldn’t rape someone (though that increases drastically if you ask about behavior without calling it rape), molest them, or even harass them, but a ton of other creepy behavior that is exhausting to put up with on a daily basis? Yeah, probably many men. Follow someone on the street just because you like what she looks like? Check. Getting cat-called on the streets? Check. Receiving unsolicited dick picks? Check, check, and checkmate! Getting asked out on the streets? Yup. Having a friend paw you while he’s drunk and not being able to get way? Oh, yeah. Being ‘playfully’ restrained and not being understood why that is not a fun thing for the restrainee? Yeah. Trying to avoid being alone in the elevator with the lech at work who will never be fired because it’s government, and he’s pretty high up? Yup! Being shown a dick in a real life you didn’t ask to see? Yes! Being held down by a drunk friend and sloppily kissed while you wait for him to be done because you can’t dislodge him? Yessirree. Having the guy sitting next to you on the plane not leave you alone to the point of taking your book from your hands in order to make you talk to him? Yes!
These are all off the top of my head, and I’m sure I could think of dozens more. I’m sure some dudes are looking at the list and thinking, “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad.” By the way, never say that out loud if a woman tells you about some dude harassing her. Just don’t. Side note: I was talking to my brother about trying to expand my Twitter platform in order to promote myself. It sounds gross when I put it so bluntly, but so be it. Anyway, I was telling him the problem is that for any woman who has a modicum of online notoriety has to deal with terrible shit. I didn’t say shit, but I implied it. He said, “Yeah, that’s terrible, but you just have to be thick-skinned and deal with it.” I tried to impress on him horrible it is for women and how it’s not just a matter of toughening up. Women have been doxxed, stalked, etc. He said we’d have to find a way to hide your (my) real life address, then he kept on talking. It was frustrating because he truly didn’t get how much it gets to you to get death threats and rape threats on a daily basis. I had an experience with a troll who targeted me and some Twitter friends for a number of years. He would show up in my TL every two weeks to a month saying the most vile and grotesque things. Whenever he showed up, I’d feel ashamed and depressed and embarrassed if he roped other friends into the tweet loop.
My dudes. I get that it’s hard for you to understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this kind of attention on the daily. How the power imbalance can make a seemingly minor event seem major. Which brings me back to Louis CK. There are some men wondering why this is such a big deal. He didn’t touch the women! He *only* masturbated in front of them. Or asked if he could! So what? First of all, he only did it to women who had less power than he did so that they would suffer if they said no. Two female comics talked about being shunned after they told people what happened to them right after it happened. Secondly, you don’t just bust that out to people you’re working with. It’s not appropriate. Do I really need to say this? Apparently, I do. Thirdly, just don’t fucking do this!
It’s infuriating in part because Louis CK has built his onstage persona around how awkward and socially inept he is. When he was called out on his behavior by one of the women (in the moment), he turned red and said he had problems. Well, OK, yeah. You certainly do, Louis CK, but that doesn’t excuse what you’re doing. In fact, I’m always more pissed off at people who know what they’re doing is wrong, but still do it, anyway. That’s not to say I’m excusing ignorance, but it seems particularly repugnant to keep on behaving badly when you recognize it’s a problem.
It reminds me of how geeks tend to excuse their creepy friend because he’s socially awkward. “Oh, don’t worry about Jason. He’s just really bad with social cues.” No. Jason doesn’t make sexual comments to dudes or to women he’s not attracted to–just to women he wants to bone. People who don’t understand social cues miss them across the board–not just specifically to the person they find attractive. In addition, if that’s true, then it’s on them to learn to be better at goddamn social cues. I’m not good at social cues should be the beginning of the conversation, not the end. Also, your social awkwardness does not mean that other people should have to be uncomfortable/afraid around you.
It’s been discouraging to see this bad behavior across the board. It’s reached the point where I’m like, “Who isn’t on the (bad) list?” There are a few guys in my mind that I really don’t want to be on ‘the list’, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if any male celeb was on the list, honestly. Rationally, I know that the number of celebs who have been revealed as predators is but a drop in the bucket of all the celebs in the world, but that’s cold comfort. I also know that they’re but a drop in the bucket of all the celebs who do this kind of shit, which isn’t any comfort at all.
More to the point, there are millions of guys on the regular who do this shit. Maybe not the Harvey Weinstein bullshit because very few people have that level of power, but the other bullshit? Getting someone drunk and groping them? Yep. Exposing themselves inappropriately? Yes. It’s all-too-common, and almost every woman (and many men) has a dozen stories she can tell you about being sexually harassed. For the most part, many of us don’t even count half of the stuff because it seems minor in the grand scheme of things, and it happens so often, it’s not worth mentioning. I’ve mentioned this before, but I used to have a picture of my tattoo on my chest as my avi on Twitter. I removed it after having too many guys slide into my DMs and being gross about it. If you’re thinking, “Minna, you put it out there so you can’t blame them for–” Stop right there. That’s part of the problem. I wasn’t putting it out there for their consumption. I love my tattoo, and I’m proud of it. I can show it if I want to, and even if I was being sexual, that doesn’t mean dudes have the right to be gross about it. I’m very sex positive, but what’s even sexier is consent.
My current zero tolerance policy has been burnished over the past few months after reading countless stories of powerful men acting badly. One story, and they’re off the list. It’s time to put a stop to this bullshit, and that means cutting it off at the pass. We’ve allowed this to brew for too long, and now we’re steeped in it. Harvey Weinstein terrorized women for decades, and no one in power did a damn thing to stop him. There were winks and smiles in the industry over it, but no one actually did a damn thing until thirty years later.
It’s time to purge. I know some guys are freaking out and saying it’s hard to be a guy right now. Um, yeah, if you’re a fucking creeper! If you don’t know the difference between harassment and wooing, then you need to stay the fuck away from women. We’re tired. We’re overwhelmed. But, we’re also furious. We have had enough, and, yeah, if you’re ‘one of them’, then you’re right to be scared.