FILE PHOTO: Cast member Louis C.K. attends the "American Hustle" movie premiere in New York December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

Louis C.K. Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Comedian and actor Louis C.K. has been accused by multiple women of engaging in sexual misconduct, mainly involving him pleasuring himself in front of these women.

Five women spoke to the New York Times about Louis C.K.’s alleged misconduct. Comedians Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov recalled how they were visiting Louis C.K. in his hotel room in Aspen, CO in 2002 during the U.S. Arts Comedy Festival. They said that the famed comedian had asked if he could expose his genitalia. Goodman and Wolov initially thought he was kidding, but he ended up completely disrobing himself and proceeded to pleasure himself in front of them. When Louis C.K. was finished, he allegedly asked, “Which one is Dana and which one is Julia?”

“We were paralyzed,” Goodman told the Times.

Goodman and Wolov began spreading their story to others at the festival, only to approached by Louis C.K.’s manager, Dave Becky, who asked them not to tell anyone about what had happened. Becky told the Times that he didn’t threaten anyone.

“I don’t recall the exact specifics of the conversation, but know I never threatened anyone,” Becky told the Times in an email.

Another woman, Abby Schachner, claimed that in a 2003 phone call she could hear Louis C.K. masturbating on their call as he panted about his various sexual fantasies. Schachner said she “felt very ashamed” and that while Louis C.K. apologized to her years later, the incident deterred her from pursuing a career in comedy.

Rebecca Corry, an actress and comedian, is claiming that in 2005, Louis C.K. appeared as a guest star on a television pilot she was working on. Louis C.K. asked “if we could go to my dressing room so he could masturbate in front of me.” Corry angrily rejected Louis C.K.’s request, highlighting the fact that he already had a pregnant wife and a daughter. Louis C.K. responding by admitting “he had issues.”

Corry said that Louis C.K. apologized to her years later, but he apologized “for shoving her in a bathroom,” which Corry said never happened. Louis C.K. simply told her that he “used to misread people.”

Another woman, who remained anonymous, told the Times that Louis C.K., who she was working with on “The Chris Rock Show,” had asked her several times if he could pleasure himself in front of her, and she eventually acquiesced and watched Louis C.K. do so at his desk.

“The big piece of why I said yes was because of the culture,” the woman told the Times. “He abused his power.”

In light of the accusations, HBO announced in a statement that it was severing ties with Louis C.K.

“Louis C.K. will no longer be participating in the Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites for Autism Programs, which will be presented live on HBO on November 18,” said HBO. “In addition, HBO is removing Louis C.K.’s past projects from its On Demand services.” C.K.’s other HBO projects include the short-lived 2006 comedy series Lucky Louie, along with comedy specials One Night Stand, Shameless and Oh My God.”

The premiere of Louis C.K.’s upcoming movie “I Love You Daddy” has been canceled as well. The comedian declined to comment to the Times on the allegations.

Actor Adam Sandler said it was a "friendly gesture" that was "blown out of proportion" when the actor recently touched actress Claire Foy's knee on a talk show. Photo via a screenshot.

What We Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo

Since news broke in October of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged rampant sexual violence and assault, women have come out in force to tell their stories of being on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behavior.

As the Weinstein effect has taken down journalist Mark Halperin, former Amazon executive Roy Price, Oscar-nominated writer-director James Toback, and public intellectual Leon Wieseltier, social media has become the site of confessionals.

Nearly 2 million posts have appeared with the hashtag #MeToo in response to a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano asking those who had been “harassed or assaulted” to speak out.

The five-letter hashtag collapsed everything — from rape to crude humor to being stared at on a train — into a single, powerful catch-all category. Any stripe of sexual misdeed was recognized as part of a mass culture of violence by men against women.

Then an Australian journalist named Benjamin Law launched another campaign, #HowIWillChange, with men confessing their deeds and promising to change their ways.

“Facebook’s algorithm are not the way to combat the plague of abuse.” – Sivan Rahav Meir

Law wrote in a series of tweets that men need to recognize they “don’t need to be a perpetrator to be a bad guy.” Questioning allegations, Law wrote, is the equivalent of being a quiet bystander while watching an offense take place.

Men’s #HowIWillChange vows included promising to not interrupt a woman speaking or ask at a job interview how many female executives are with the company, and to shut down catcalls.

Perceived improprieties are now immediately taken up by Twitter. Recently, appearing on a British talk show, actor Adam Sandler touched English actress Claire Foy’s knee.

In the social media whirl that followed, some called Sandler’s act inappropriate and asked whether he would have touched the knee of a man in the same setting. (He had, in a recent interview with Dustin Hoffman). Sandler’s spokesperson said it was a “friendly gesture” that was “blown out of proportion.” A representative for Foy said the actress took no offense.

Sivan Rahav Meir, an Israeli journalist and popular Torah lecturer, characterized the social media approach to addressing sexual assault as dangerously unhealthy.

“Facebook’s algorithms are not the way to combat the plague of abuse sweeping through society, and they may possibly be harmful,” she wrote on her blog.

Rahav Meir cautioned that the indiscriminate outpouring of personal anecdotes may unintentionally normalize sexual assault, giving the mistaken impression that all women have been or will at some point be abused.

“The nonstop flood of heartbreaking stories with the accompanying violence is exaggerated and too intimate,” continued Rahav Meir. “There is a total mishmash of posts between the serious cases of abuse and those of mild harassment as if they are all equally offensive. However, the story of a woman who once had an unpleasant or unwelcome comment directed at her is not in any way connected to a woman who is the victim of a violent assault who requires professional therapy.”

While online indictments of nameless alleged perpetrators may raise awareness, they hold no guilty parties to account and contribute to a “sensationalis[t] and gossipy” exercise, she wrote.

Instead, Rahav Meir encouraged women to work the legal system to crush sexual violence.

Trading sober assessment, exacting definitions and legal action for frenzied narrative and confused terminology can have disturbing consequences. It’s a trend that has been playing out on America’s college campuses.

Shortly before the media were consumed with Weinstein and company, the country’s institutions of higher learning released campus security reports containing three years’ worth of data, as universities that participate in federal financial aid programs are required to do annually under a policy known as the Clery Act.

The reports lack clarity. “Consent,” a word that sits at the core of the conversation about sexual violence, especially on campuses, has no uniform definition in Clery Act reporting. An offense classified as “dating violence” must have occurred while the victim and alleged offender were in a relationship, yet there are no clear parameters for what constitutes a “relationship” — and college students often aren’t engaged in relationships in any traditional sense. “Stalking” is defined as causing “substantial emotional distress” on at least two occasions, but the report offers no specific measure of what that looks like.

Federal reporting that most people don’t look at may not have direct impact on this national conversation but may signal the rabbit hole we have headed down: victims left to navigate a confusing landscape, alleged offenders robbed of their legal right to know what they have been accused of and adjudicators who are unqualified to handle the psychological or legal elements of sexual offenses.

Campuses again offer a useful corollary when considering the numbers. The hundreds of thousands of posts in recent weeks suggest that every woman is the victim of a sexual offense and every man an offender.

As Law, the journalist, wrote, he had to “acknowledge that if all women I know has [sic] been sexually harassed, abused or assaulted, then I know perpetrators. Or am one.”

On campus, an oft-cited claim is that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during her time in a U.S. college. The statistic originated in a widely disputed 10-year-old survey, but its results have been replicated in surveys by individual universities and in a larger report published by The Washington Post.

Critics cite overly broad definitions and concerns with the reports’ methodologies when disputing the horrifying statistic.

A similar argument already has begun to take hold over #MeToo.

Washington Post writer Lisa Bonos asked those who might be shocked at the number of posts to “consider this: There are far more stories of #MeToos than the number of posts on Facebook.”

Women may be holding back because they don’t think their stories rise to the level of #MeToo, or they may not be ready to share them on such a public forum, Bonos posited. But many more stories are out there, she assured her readers.

Meanwhile, an anonymous writer at the free speech-promoting site Quillette offered a hypothetical breakdown in which he attempted to demonstrate that the internet “can cause an awareness campaign to go viral with millions of posts even if it is raising awareness of something that affects only a small percentage of the population.” In his experiment, 812,500 #MeToo posts were quickly generated if 5 percent of Milano’s 3.25 million Twitter followers participated, and then each of those followers in turn had five friends who posted.

“Of course, this analysis does not prove that abuse is rare; it only shows that the success of #MeToo does not prove the contrary,” according to the author, a software engineer.

Each day, women continue to reveal painful stories of personal and professional lives derailed by influential men who systematically violated them. We easily can be transfixed in disgust and communal shame. But for the national conversation to move forward and force away the lies and grime that have hid sexual assault, it cannot stay boxed into hashtags and tweets.

Rachel Frommer is a reporter with the Washington Free Beacon.

Me Too Versus Not Me

I’ve never been much for crowds. I remember once at a music festival pushing through a mass of people waiting to see Thom Yorke. As my friend and I tried to get closer to the stage, I felt my chest tighten as bodies closed around mine. After a brief but awkward explanation of my discomfort, we moved back out of the crowd, away from the center and toward the edge.

Some people like the energy of being part of something larger than them — being surrounded by bodies and voices into which they can disappear, becoming one of many. But I prefer the margins, where I can be both inside and outside of something.

The crowding that happens on social media is no exception.

In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, countless people have taken to social media with the hashtag #MeToo. In fact, my entire Facebook newsfeed has been dominated by the hashtag and by women’s stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted.

Some of the confessions have moved me to tears. Some have shocked me, and I recognize the bravery behind such admissions. But as a crowd of confessors began to converge, I also saw posts lamenting that some women who could say #MeToo are choosing not to — the implication being that refraining from doing so makes one an accomplice to all sorts of nefarious behaviors.

Well, I chose not to.

It felt intuitively wrong for me. Not for others, but for me. It goes back to being part of crowds and mass movements. In the midst of a crowd, I discover that I can’t see everything. My vantage point has changed. I become caught up in something that has the potential to turn back on itself and become counterproductive if not nurtured in the right way.

In fact, when I first saw the hashtag, I thought to myself: If I were going to create a hashtag, it would be #NotMe. Not me, I would say to potential abusers and harassers. Not me, I would say to everyone.

It’s not because I haven’t experienced what many of the #MeToo movement have experienced. I have. But I think I must have been saying all along, instead, on some level: Not me. I will not be your victim. I am no one’s victim.

I remember, nearly 20 years ago, standing near the wall of a nightclub, watching my friends dance. Even then, I preferred the safety of the perimeter to the chaos and energy of the center. A man walked by and slapped my rear end and made a crude comment that he thought I would appreciate. He hit me hard. And I was enraged. I turned around and pushed him with all of my strength without thinking about it. He was inebriated, and so he fell easily.

He was terrified. And I felt powerful. I was vindicated.

I share this not to criticize those who have shared their stories of victimhood or to suggest that they should have fought back, but to raise the question of what happens next.

What happens after #MeToo?

What happens after scores of women make themselves vulnerable as they prove how normal it is to be harassed or assaulted? What effect does highlighting the apparent pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault have if it becomes a movement that demands that every woman identify herself as a victim?

My fear is that we will begin to see ourselves as powerless. That we will begin to see ourselves as victims first, and women second. And that in doing so, we will turn on those women who resist the #MeToo crowd, who opt for a response of a different nature.

As for me, I’m not sure I owe anyone a confession of victimhood right now.

In most cases, fighting back physically is not an option, but we can all fight back in a way that feels right to us. For many, #MeToo is the beginning of fighting back. Words create worlds, and stories string those worlds together into a meaningful chain.

But not everyone needs to be part of every movement.

We need people willing to stay on the margins as much as we need people who are willing to be the crowd that moves things along, makes things happen and makes them happen better. Crowds can carry with them the possibility of change, but let’s not forget that one voice, from the margins, can also be powerful.

Monica Osborne is a writer and scholar of Jewish literature and culture. Her book, “The Midrashic Impulse and the Contemporary Literary Response to Trauma,” will be published later this year.


Jewish women share #MeToo stories

Twitter has been trending with the #MeToo hashtag in response to Harvey Weinstein being expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The hashtag began with actress Alyssa Milano tweeting on Sunday that if all women who experienced sexual assault, shared the hashtag, “we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Numerous women began issuing #MeToo tweets to share their stories of sexual harassment or assault, including many prominent Jewish women.

Here were some examples:

Danielle Berrin, a senior writer for the Journal, has written several times about inappropriate conduct she experienced while on-the-job: in 2008, when Berrin interviewed Hollywood director Brett Ratner, and in 2016, when she interviewed Israeli journalist Ari Shavit.

Weinstein has faced an outpouring of sexual harassment and rape allegations that stretch as far as the United Kingdom. His alleged behavior has been an “open secret” in Hollywood for years, and yet his behavior was generally kept under wraps, until The New York Times and The New Yorker broke the story.