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.”
“I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe, what was I witnessing. Could not believe what I was witnessing. It was disgusting and kind of pathetic really to stand there and look at this man. But more than the disgusting act itself, which of course was gross, the demeaning part of it all, that just 20 minutes earlier he was having this great conversation with me and I felt so great and flattered by it. And then, [to have him say] ‘stand there and be quiet,’ just a few minutes later just negated any warm feelings I had and I realized ‘Oh, that is what this is all about.'”
She added, “He finished and I said, ‘Can I go now?’ And he said, ‘Yes let’s go, let’s both go.'”
Such an allegation would be shocking if it weren’t so common place. Model Angie Everhart alleges that while on a yacht, she awoke from a nap, to see Weinstein standing over her masturbating.
Canadian actress, Erika Rosenbaum said Harvey Weinstein coaxed her into the bathroom of his hotel room, grabbed her neck, and masturbated in front of her during a meeting they were having ostensibly to discuss her career. She told the New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor who was the first to break the Weinstein sexual harassment story:
“He held me by the back of the neck, and had me face the mirror, and said I just want to look at you,” Rosenbaum said. “And then he started masturbating, um, behind me. He was holding me by the back of the neck and looking right at my face.
“And, uh, I remember seeing my own face in the mirror, and I just could not believe that I was standing there,” she continued. “And I just could not believe that I had let this happen. And I felt incredibly guilty, And eventually, I don’t know if a minute went by, or five minutes went by, but I — I tell him that I cannot be here, and I walked to the door. I don’t think he finished what he was doing and I don’t remember him saying anything at all after that.
“And I remember how I felt afterwards, that now I was deeper into this secret, and that, and I didn’t know what would happen if I ever said anything, and I didn’t know what would happen if I didn’t call him back — if he would come after me in some way. I didn’t know what else I could do. It sounds so foolish now.”
There are more than a dozen other women who have shared a similar story.
Now it's Louis CK, the comedian who called himself a feminist and wields uncommon power in his industry.
“He leaned close to my face and said, ‘Can I ask you something?'” said comedian Rebecca Corry, who was working on a pilot with CK in 2005 told The New York Times. “He asked if we could go to my dressing room so he could masturbate in front of me.”
Friends star, Courtney Cox, who was a producer of the pilot, confirmed Corry's account and said she felt 'shock' and 'outrage'.
Two young female comedians had a story that was even worse. Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov had just had their first big break into the male dominated world of comedy with a slot back in 2002 at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo, where Louis CK was headlining. They told the New York Times that the comedian invited them back to his room for a drink and as soon as they got there, he asked if he could take out his penis. They hadn't even taken off their winter coats. At first, they just assumed he was joking.
“And then he really did it,” Goodman told the publication. “He proceeded to take all of his clothes off, and get completely naked, and started masturbating.”
What is wrong with these men? Why do they do this? It's not just famous men who do it. Men in parks, on public transport... it's unusual to find a woman older than a teenager who hasn't had the distressing, disgusting experience of having a strange man masturbate in front of them. Think about that for a moment. Other than porn, what man has ever had a woman masturbate in front of them in a way designed to humiliate, demean and disgust them?
Does it really give some men sexual pleasure to make women feel incredibly uncomfortable and violated? The answer is yes. It certainly feels like men do this out of hate not attraction.
After the Weinstein story broke, journalist Angelina Chapin interviewed sex therapist and clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex in L.A., Alexandra Katehakis, for The Cut, and asked what it was about this act that so appealed to predators.
"Exhibitionists purposefully look to shock their victims because they are angry," Katehakis says. "These are acts of revenge against women. These men are imposing the body part that is most threatening to a female and in doing so, they are acting out what is called 'sexualised hostility' against their prey.
"That look of fear or humiliation on women is arousing to them."
Interestingly, Katehakis also says that these men become "addicted to the shame". They hate themselves afterwards.
It's hard though, to imagine them feeling as bad as the women who are their victims. The women are the ones who deserve compassion and sympathy. And finally, it seems as though it's time.