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Louis C.K.’s victims suffer while he returns to comedy

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Over the course of the past week, feminist activists on the internet and in the real world expressed outrage and frustration about the latest #MeToo development: Louis C.K.’s return to the public stage. The comedian performed a surprise set at New York’s Comedy Cellar on Sunday night. It’s believed to be his first live performance since November 2017, when C.K. publicly corroborated allegations that he had masturbated in front of a number of women or touched himself during phone calls.

After all this came out, C.K. issued a public apology. In a statement, he said: “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.”

That “long time” apparently amounted to less than a year—even though some of the women C.K. violated have been living with the consequences of his conduct for much longer, as examined in a roundup piece for The Cut. Despite the lasting legacy of his actions, none of C.K.’s victims have been able to do an impromptu set and the Comedy Cellar, wryly noted The Cut’s Madeleine Aggler.

The initial reporting about Louis C.K.’s misconduct, which was published by The Times in November 2017, included allegations from five women. Chicago comedy duo Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov said that in 2002, C.K. invited them to hang out in his hotel room and have a drink. As soon as they sat down, C.K. reportedly asked if he could take out his penis, and then unclothed entirely and started masturbating. Comedian Rebecca Corry similarly said that when she and C.K. were on set together in 2005 for a television pilot, he asked her if they could go to her dressing room so he could masturbate in front of her. (She declined). 

There have been personal and professional consequences for these women. Corry had long found herself around people who defended C.K.’s behavior and said that when she finally came forward with her story, she received death threats. And, in the years since Goodman and Wolov were targeted, they felt they had to remove themselves from multiple projects in which David Becky, C.K.’s manager, was involved, thereby losing work.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Roxane Gay explored what justice might look like for a man like Louis C.K, and why his return to comedy was too soon. “I have to believe there is a path to redemption for people who have done wrong, but nine months of self-imposed exile in financial comfort is not a point along that path,” she wrote. “People love a comeback narrative, and all too often they yearn for this narrative at the expense of victims who are only beginning to reconcile with their suffering.”

In his public apology, C.K. acknowledged he hadn’t done enough to ensure the women he touched himself in front of had given their consent. “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.” He admitted he had wielded his power “irresponsibility” and said he could “hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt” he brought onto his victims. 

At C.K.’s August 26 comedy set, all the performers were men, according to reporting published by VultureC.K. was reportedly warmly received and made a joke about the phrase “clean as a whistle,” which ended in a riff about how rape whistles aren’t clean. “When he said, ‘rape whistle,’ people were laughing, and I was just sitting there like oh my f---,”one woman who attended the night told Vulture

“Everyone around me was laughing,” she said. “That was just depressing.”



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