The surprising admission by comedian Louis C.K. to allegations that he exposed himself to fellow female comedians and writers prompted the following post by Palm Beach Post Entertainment writer Leslie Streeter:
On Friday, comedian Louis C.K., the latest in a cavalcade of celebrities accused of sexual harassment and misconduct, confirmed the story of several writers he’d worked with and other comedians that he’d masturbated in front of them. And even though he’d always asked permission before doing so, he admits now that when someone works for you and their livelihood and possibly their future reputation depends on you, it’s not really a request. Twitter’s full of a lot of people who weren’t in those rooms, but are still full of opinions about how the female victims of his workplace grossness should have reacted.
And my response to them is to stop talking about things you don’t know about. I know about it. It happened to me.
I was an eager and naive 22-year-old taking the bus home from my first newspaper job, in Miami, a city I’d only lived in for a few months. I was Mary Tyler Moore. I was Rhoda. I was gonna make it after all. I was…sitting on the bus bench on a rainy day, under the enclosure, when a man maybe in his 20s sat next to me.
It was immediately clear there was something wrong, that he was too close, too not casual. I was a nice girl, so even though my Baltimore-bred Spidey Sense told me to get up, he hadn’t really done anything, right? What if my moving made him feel bad? He was of a different race than me. Were my fears racist? I prayed the bus will come faster, and glances over at him. He was staring at me touching himself.
Oh my God!
I let out a yelp and stood up quickly, trying to figure out where another bus stop might be because there weren’t a lot more buses coming and I would be stuck there, pre-cellphone, an hour away from home. And it was raining. So I started to walk to the bench outside of the enclosure and he looked at me — I will never forget this — with this hangdog look inviting pity… Pity!… For him.
And he said, “You’re so pretty. Can’t I just look at you while I do this?” I didn’t say no. I wanted to. I wanted to scream it. But I didn’t want to say anything, I didn’t want to acknowledge him. But this sick bastard took that as permission. I didn’t want to make him mad. He might have been violent, because if he was bold enough to do that in daylight in public, who knows what else he’d do? And I needed the bus. And I was alone here on this stop in this not-nice neighborhood with a man touching himself in front of me.
I know that there are people who would say that this was just a crazy person, a garden-variety creep. That this was just a friendly-neighborhood perv, without the raincoat, and I wasn’t in any danger. But safety isn’t always about being held at knife-point. It’s about someone deciding that they want something from you and that your physical and mental and emotional safety do not matter. It was my fault for being there. For being someone this guy thought was pretty. It was not my fault!
The same goes for those brave women who came forward to tell this story about Louis C.K., a beloved comedian who admits that even though he later called some of them to apologize years later, he knows that his favorable reputation in the business would inoculate him from repercussions. These aren’t even new accusations – they’ve been floating around for years and even I, an entertainment reporter in Florida, had heard them. People are now believing these stories because there are so many of them now, like an ugly avalanche. At least one of these women left comedy because of what was done to her. And all she, and others, did was come to work, and dare to be in the same space as someone who didn’t care about their physical, mental and emotional safety.
Who, for all of his money and influence, turns out to be just another pervert at the bus stop.