12 November 2017

In Defense of Louie CK, part 2

Part 1 here:  In Defense of Louie CK
In part 2, I try to pre-preemptively address some arguments that people may have against my first points (based on a few real-life conversations).  They are all connected, but each paragraph is a somewhat different point, which may not be directly relevant to the one before.



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Its understandable that he would apologize, despite having asked for consent, not having harmed anyone - for one thing, in this social atmosphere, any other response would just make things worse for him.  For another, it's Louie CK.  His characters all share a common personality because they are all more or less based on him, and apologizing for stuff, whether or not the situation calls for it or whether he is actually responsible, is just the sort of person he is.

What was the harm his "victims" actually suffered?

I've had two occasions where a guy masturbated while clearly looking at and fantasizing about me.  Once an acquaintance at his house, once a guy in a car while I waited at a bus stop.  Both made me uncomfortable.  In neither case did I request they stop, nor make any attempt to leave.  Why not?  Well, because it just wasn't that big a deal.  While they may have enjoyed looking and thinking about me, it really didn't involve me, any more than if someone were looking at me through binoculars while I'm on the beach and I don't even know its happening.  For me to deliberately publicly shame those people now, 20 years later, when I didn't even ask them not to at the time, would just be, well, just plain wrong.

Human beings are animals, and like all animals (not to mention most plants), we reproduce via sex.  This is just a fact of reality.  In us this biological necessity manifests in our consciousness as a sex drive, as desire for sexual stimulation.  In some people the exact details vary slightly, some people have desires that couldn't actually result in reproduction, and so technically they are "perversions" of a sort, but then again, candy is a perversion of the instinct for consuming calories for the sake of nutrition.  As long as nobody gets hurt, it really shouldn't matter.
We seem to have a sort of neurosis where we expect - or at least want to believe - that we are only sexual when we are at home alone with a pre-designated partner who we already know in advance feels the same way.  In all public situations, we are all supposed to be, or at least all supposed to agree to pretend that we are, all a-sexual neuters.
Its unclear how anyone could end up in the role of pre-designated partner if people are never allowed to say anything that could lead to that role transition; maybe we are only supposed to find partners via online dating apps and designated single's meet-up events, where it is safe to assume that the other people present are also potentially interested and you can request a date without it being harassment.

There are other cultures that also feel that there should not only be no sexual contact, but not even any sexual words, looks, or even thoughts, outside of officially sanctioned relationships.
They ensure this actually happens - while acknowledging the reality of human nature and desire - by creating very strict separate spheres for men and women, with virtually no overlap between them outside of family life.  On those occasions in which it is required that non-related women and men be in the same place at the same time, they ensure there will be no sexual thoughts or attraction by having the women covered from head to toe.
In the West we find that system distasteful, yet it accomplishes exactly what is made clearly the goal of many by the fact that Louie CK is being publicly shamed, clearly the goal given the new term added alongside "sexual assault" and "sexual harassment", of "sexual misconduct", a broad and poorly defined enough term to potentially encompass anything that society decides it doesn't like.

One of the cases being called "misconduct", he made a request of someone - one single request, one time, of someone over whom he had no particular power - and she said no.  So he didn't do anything.
And that was the end of it.  This is classified as misconduct.
Maybe it felt awkward to have to say no.
Well, if a co-worker wants to be a friend, and all you want to be is an acquaintance and co-worker, it may feel awkward and uncomfortable to have to decide whether to agree to a beer after work just to be polite and to come up with an excuse or just say no, and then maybe later decline an invitation to their backyard barbecue.  Sometimes people want different types or levels of relationship.  Sometimes people feel slight pressure to agree to things just to be nice, or polite.  But ultimately, it falls on the person accepting or declining to decide if it is worth it to them.  The fact that the question makes you uncomfortable does not make it wrong for the other person to have asked you.

Perhaps the people who he made the request of didn't want to have to visualize or otherwise think about the fact that this guy has a penis, and that he has sexual thoughts and desires.  One would hope that every adult of reasonably normal intelligence knows the difference between males and females and has even seen a naked adult, and is already aware of how sex works.  Maybe they didn't care to have it particularly in mind in the case of this specific individual in front of them... just like social conservatives don't want to have to think about what gay men do to each other by seeing them walk down the street holding hands.  Just like they don't want to have to think about what might be between a transsexual's legs by seeing one in the restroom that matches their chosen gender, making it obvious that something other than cis-normative is going on.  There are plenty of people who will acknowledge that maybe it isn't a sin, and maybe it isn't a choice, but they just want "those" people to stay in the closet where they belong, so we don't have to see it or think about it.
And in those cases social liberals are perfectly happy to say "grow up and get over it".  As well they should.
But if a woman doesn't want to know that a guy finds her attractive?  Then it is his responsibility to keep it a secret, because maybe it would make her uncomfortable to know.  If a guy has a weird masturbation in front of fully clothed and not-participating women?  Of course he couldn't politely ask if that's something they would be ok with, because the mere question itself - what exactly?  Offends their delicate feminine sensibilities?  Because it destroys the innocent virginal fantasy that all men are actually context-sensitive neuters, who couldn't possibly think of them in (among other things) sexual terms, because they aren't in a romantic relationship?

And we continue the misogynistic false assumption that respect and sexual attraction are inherently mutually exclusive.
"Sexualizing" is NOT "objectifying".  By definition, inanimate objects are not sexual.  Sex is literally the process by which life continues life, which means for something to be sexual automatically means it is alive.  In more human terms - nobody (well, I shouldn't say nobody, because there are a great many strange fetishes out there - lets qualify with an "almost") almost nobody wants to have sex with an object.  Extremely few people prefer to have sex with a partner who is fully unconscious.  For most of us, the fact of the other person's participation, awareness, and hopefully, pleasure, is part of what makes it good.  In fact, the exact opposite of that frequent claim is true - sexualizing someone is fundamentally humanizing.  Humans have few equals in our capacity for non-reproductive sex for purely pleasure and social purposes - with the exception of our evolutionary cousin the Bonobos, the level of it is an almost uniquely human trait.  In reality all people are sexual (even self-proclaimed a-sexual, because even if they have no desire, it is still how they were created and the only way they could procreate themselves).
Therefor to deny any person's sexuality as one part of them is to deny them humanity.  This is why I say that the conflation of sexualization with objectification is itself misogynistic.  It is generally only women for whom that conflation is made.  It implies that a woman could not possibly be respected and valued as a person and also be desired at the same time, by the same person.

It is a bizarre neurotic contradiction we hold, because at the same time that we act as though the very fact of a man being sexually attracted to a woman implies he can not also simultaneously respect and value her as an intelligent individual person, we expect those two things to both be present in every romantic relationship.  Those two should hopefully describe every married couple, every set of parents, every boyfriend and girlfriend.  Obviously it doesn't but its almost always the goal, and we certainly mostly all acknowledge it is possible.
And it doesn't always happen that a deep and meaningful connection via a long-lasting platonic friendship develops first...

So what does that leave?  It is not reasonable to say people have a right to not have to think about other people being sexual.  It is not reasonable to say people have a right to not be asked requests which they might say "no" to.  It is not reasonable to expect no one to ever do or say anything which might possibly make anyone uncomfortable.  It is not reasonable to demand that no one have some desire that most people don't have.

We have come a long way to finally hold one golden rule as the standard by which to judge the morality of a sex act (even if we still have a sexist exception or two) and that is the expectation of consent.
When consent was withheld, CK didn't do it anyway, he didn't insist or persist or try to convince.
Lets treat woman with enough respect to hold them as accountable for their own choices as any adult.
When consent was given, then there is no violation.
Over the phone he may or may not have done whatever he might of done, but he did it in private, where he couldn't be seen, and if the person on the other end of the phone felt uncomfortable, all she had to do was either ask him to stop or hang up the phone.
There were no victims.

Weinstein is accused of actually physically holding women down in order to have sex with them despite them not wanting to.  That is rape.  Assuming it is true, he deserves all the public shame he gets, and anything that may be handed down in trial.
But now that the media has something exciting to talk about - something much more juicy than Paradise Papers, the tax proposal, Trump and Russia, or even mass shootings - it isn't enough to seek out and shame rapists, how much more outrage and ratings can be generated by catching as many celebrities as possible, by casting the net wider by not just going after sexual assault, or even harassment, but add in "misconduct" too, which can be defined as liberally as necessary.
It devolves into a sexual witch hunt.  

For hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, it was female sexuality that was repressed, that was denied, that was punished.  Instead of removing the stigma, though, we just flipped it.  Instead of slut shaming, we now have an extremely broad definition of harassment and misconduct, broad enough to include things done with explicit verbal consent.
We aren't moving forward.  We are moving sideways.  
I feel like I'm the only one who sees that.  If I'm not, I hope more people speak up.


But wait, there's more!  Maybe some of your comments are the same as the ones I already got?
I respond to those too, here: http://www.randomthoughts.fyi/2017/11/in-defense-of-louie-ck-part-3.html

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