By Emma Simkin
CN: sexual assault, abuse,
masturbation, victim shaming
The disgraced comedian released a statement apologising to the five women he sexually assaulted, including two he masturbated over. It needs to be clear that C.K. didn’t offer an apology, he created an escape route. Having faced years worth of accusations, he had plenty of opportunities to show remorse, but C.K. spent years hiding from these allegations by using his manager Dave Becky to silence the survivors. As recent as two months ago, he was still denying allegations of sexual assault when Tig Notaro asked him to own up for sexual harassment. C.K.’s response was to call her a liar: “I don’t know why she said the things she’s said, I really don’t”, and outright deny any allegations of sexual assault, stating “They’re rumours, that’s all that is”. Allegations only stopped being called rumours once C.K. had been caught with his trousers round his ankles.
“C.K. didn’t offer an apology, he created an escape route”
If the current wave of solidarity hadn’t supported the survivors to come forward, he would have continued to keep quiet. He didn’t apologise when it would be detrimental to his career, but when it would benefit him. Other male celebrities have opted for different tactics to reduce the consequences their career will face. Some do a Harvey Weinstein and deny any abuse happened, but, given the current uproar, this response is pretty outdated. He could follow suit and continue to accuse the survivors of lying, but given the public outrage towards Weinstein and Spacey, denial would be a poor tactic. Louis C.K. has gone for a much more sophisticated approach – convincing people he’s the ‘good guy’. In amongst all the men shouting ‘Liar, liar, they’re all lying!’, he comes across as a decent man who owns up to the consequences of his actions. Whilst showing accountability saves survivors the pain of being called liars, it doesn’t make up for the years he silenced them. C.K.’s apology only emerges to benefits himself, and it seems to be working.
Not only is his apology too late to be considered genuine, it is an apology written to downplay what happened and distance himself from other assaulters. Each word is cleverly placed to subtly blame the survivors and hide the seriousness of his actions.
First, his apology doesn’t even own up to sexual harassment. He didn’t masturbate in front of women, he just asked to show women his dick. C.K. fails to grasp the very basics of consent when he explains ‘I never showed a woman my dick without asking first.’ as if that somehow makes him less culpable. Consent is in the answer, not the question. I can’t ask to take someone’s car, steal it without waiting for an answer, and think it wasn’t a violation of someone’s rights. If there’s no ‘yes’ answer, or the ‘yes’ is removed at any point, the interaction becomes assault. Either C.K. is incredibly ignorant or incredibly callous – either way, he is culpable.
“Each word is cleverly placed to subtly blame the survivors and hide the seriousness of his actions”
Second, C.K. barely gives his victims a nod. On the rare sentence he does, it is to deny inflicting any real psychological trauma – the women weren’t traumatised, they were just “feeling badly of themselves”. He leaves the rest of his statement for apologising to himself. It is an apology about his deep feelings of regret, but none of which is shown towards the women he assaulted. C.K. regrets getting caught, and damaging male’s careers – an entire paragraph is dedicated to men he has worked with. While he can only acknowledge that his victims might feel a bit bad, he gushes an apology for causing “anguish and hardship to the people at FX”. He includes a heartwarming apology for affecting the career of Dave Becky, the manager who actively silenced the women he assaulted. The survivors of his abuse are brushed to one side – this is an apology addressed to men for tarnishing their reputation. To any man who thinks C.K. gave a genuine apology, remember that the statement was written for you, not the women he assaulted.
“To any man who thinks C.K. gave a sincere apology, remember that his statement was written for you, not the women he assaulted.”
Third, he plays down the assault by suggesting the power he held over the women was “admiration”. It’s appalling for a sexual assaulter to suggest survivors respect them, but C.K. mentions their “admiration” three times. “The power I had over these women is that they admired me”, is the line C.K. uses to explain the situation. It’s clear that the power dynamics had nothing to do with positive attitudes towards C.K. It was financial, physical and social coercion: he could destroy their careers; alienate them; use force (after asking nicely, of course.) By claiming that the power dynamics were there because women admire him, he is deflecting the blame on his victims and their uncontrollable feelings of appreciation. He even has the audacity to throw in patronising sexism: “I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man”. Women do not need to look up to men, particularly not sexual assaulters.
On the comment sections of articles, angry men tap away on their keyboards: ‘Nothing is ever enough for you feminists. He apologised, what more do you want?’ For starts, we want genuine apologies. We want men to own up to assault prior to being accused, rather than apologising solely to create an escape route from allegations. We want men to apologise to victims, not to other men. More than that, we want not to be assaulted. We want to go running without being cat-called, dance in clubs without being touched, walk in the dark without checking over our shoulders. Women are abused, assaulted, degraded everyday, so yes, we do want more.