As news broke on Friday that yet another famous, powerful and successful man has been revealed to be a serial sexual predator and repeat harasser of women, it’s superstar comedian Louis CK’s turn to make women – and men – shake their heads in astonishment and disgust. So far, five women have come forward to say he masturbated in front of them – claims the 50-year-old admitted to overnight. We know where this goes from here. Many more stories will now be told by women who were too scared, confused, intimidated or embarrassed to speak up against a man with great power.
The repetitive, familiar nature of these allegations should not make them any less shocking. We must remain appalled by this kind of behaviour. We cannot become numb to it by virtue of the fact there seem to be a lot of powerful men who sexually harass women in this way.
Here’s a question: What makes a man think it’s OK to masturbate in front of a woman at work?
Let’s imagine the roles reversed. Let’s imagine a famous woman – Oprah or Hillary Clinton or Barbra Streisand or Meryl Streep – coercing a young man into a room in their workplace and then masturbating in front of them. It’s surreal and preposterous to even consider because it would literally never happen. Because women don’t get off on the idea of being sexual with someone who is at best totally disinterested in them and at worst, utterly repulsed by them. Women don’t get off on using their power to try and sexually dominate people who don’t want to have sex with them.
So why do powerful men seem to revel in this twisted form of harassment? Why do they turn masturbation into a form of sexual abuse?
Listen: Jessie Stephens, Holly Wainwright and I unpack the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. (Post continues after audio…)
Harvey Weinstein – who must surely have his photo beside any definition of sexual predator – appears to have done it incessantly as part of the pattern of abusive behaviour towards women he carried out over decades. Had he not been exposed by the New York Times recently, one can only presume it’s a form of abuse he would have continued. Thankfully, we’ll never know.
What we do know is that, according to droves of people in his orbit, he systematically masturbated in front of women as a power trip that left them feeling debased and traumatised.
Television journalist Lauren Sivan alleges that one night, Harvey Weinstein attempted to kiss her at a restaurant, and she turned him down.
In response, she claims Weinstein told her to “stand there and shut up,” before pulling out his penis and starting to masturbate.
Sivan said she was “shocked” and “stood there dumbfounded.”