Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

Hard pass on Louis CK’s comeback: without doing the emotional labor, abusers don’t deserve the spotlight

Dear Louis CK,

I am very disappointed in you. First because you were a narcissistic creep who didn’t care that women never wanted to see your dick. Now because you’re a narcissistic creep who doesn’t care that women don’t want to see your comeback.

I’m particularly disappointed because you, unlike so many of your fellow sexual assaulters and harassers, admitted that you did it.

“These stories are true,” you said in a statement released the day after the report was published. “What I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

Yet on Sunday, you wielded your power irresponsibly, yet again. Barely nine months after you were caught, you made a surprise appearance at New York’s Comedy Cellar. You like that surprise attack don’t you? Before it was unexpected appearance of your dick, now it’s all of you, in a surprise comeback, just being a dick.

For years, the abuse of women was hidden in plain sight. But recently, the #MeToo/TimesUp movement has revealed the scope of sexual misconduct. Women have done our part. Now it’s time for men to step up. Abusers need to excavate the roots of those actions in the traumas that they survived as boys and young men.

Years ago, I was a trainer for GenerationFive, an organization with a 125-year plan to end the sexual abuse of children in five generations. Their transformative justice model didn’t focus on incarceration, but rather on transforming the institutions of society, the community response, and ultimately the behavior of offenders.

People have difficulty envisioning solutions to sexual violence because we are hopeless about sexual offenders changing. We have accepted toxic masculinity as “just who men are.” We see baby boys as incapable of violating anyone, but we don’t know what happens in the next few decades that makes it possible. For those who do the unthinkable, we just call them monsters. But in my work during that period, I saw many men dig out the roots of violent and abusive behavior, and I believe that it can be done.

The 12-step model posits that the best person to help with an addiction is someone else who overcame that same problem. Research shows that many people have also recovered from sex addiction and domestic violence, often using the same methods as substance use recovery. Louis, you admitted you had a problem, you just couldn’t be bothered to really take the time to solve it.

If people love a comeback, then let’s imagine one with integrity. Let me pitch an idea. Send one of these disgraced men to hardcore sex offender treatment for several years. Have him unearth his childhood traumas. Many sessions of sobbing where he reconnects with his empathy. Maybe a few of those scenes show up in flashbacks. Then send him to make amends to women he harmed.

Let’s call it “The Apology Tour” and make it as a reality TV series. A comic would be an ideal leading man. Louis CK, I had hopes that maybe you would be the one. But you obviously weren’t willing to do the emotional work. Because this guy’s comeback would include cameras following him around as he does restorative justice with all the women he cornered to watch him masturbate, including compensating them financially for economic opportunities lost, therapy costs, pain and suffering. And the show could have the logline: “And other comedians thought they lost money on tour. The big payback has never been so hilarious.” Can you see it? A comedian leading masses of men to laugh at their toxic masculinity?

In Hannah Gadsby’s brilliant show, Nanette, she calls out the use of comedy for healing and release of tension. With this in mind, I’d like to see a male comic who could get men laughing at all the right stuff for all the right reasons. He could evoke the kind of laughter and bonding experience that could help chip away at men’s fear of facing their underlying boyhood pain and healing it. Of owning up publicly and facing the consequences.

The lie about men is that there are good guys whose job it is to defeat the bad guys. The truth is that there are just guys. All men in patriarchal societies (even gay men) participate in misogyny to one degree or another. Maybe the biggest threat to patriarchy would be a truly reformed bad guy who had actually done enough emotional work to help men change. I don’t want to see Hollywood comebacks—I want actual redemption.

The biggest mistake we make is when we think the reformed misogynist is supposed to make speeches to big crowds, write Pulitzer prizewinning novels, or pontificate about misogyny in the media. This is our mistake. We need the reformed misogynists to begin to do the poorly compensated, unglamorous, daily grind of emotional labor on each other’s behalf. They need to fight the patriarchy by taking each other’s drunken despairing 2AM phone calls. They need to show their feminist commitment by taking the emotional labor burden off of girlfriends, wives, female friends, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. If we can lift the code of silence and the veil of shame and compulsory emotional isolation, men can start organizing themselves to do this much-needed healing work for each other. Maybe after a decade in these trenches, an abuser would be fit to take center stage again.

As Katie J. M. Baker asked in her New York Times Opinion piece, “what do we do with these men?” Can a predator truly reform himself? We don’t know yet. This is the first time such behavior has seen any real consequences. The story of the man’s public fall and redemption has not been told yet, because no public man has yet redeemed himself. This story can’t be told until men begin to step up and do the real work of internal transformation and then creates his next work of art from that experience. Obviously that man will NOT be Louis C.K. Maybe that man’s name is not known yet. I know it’s a tall order, but I refuse to give up on half the population.




6 comments on “Hard pass on Louis CK’s comeback: without doing the emotional labor, abusers don’t deserve the spotlight

  1. Burns the Fire
    August 28, 2018

    I’m with you– no giving up! Love your righteous anger, compassion and idea of the Apology Tour. Thank you.

  2. Jin Zhao
    August 30, 2018

    Not to defend his behavior, but how do we know he hasn’t gone through emotional struggle and transformation? Maybe wait to see if his comedy is any different because of this experience and then make the judgment? Does anyone deserve a second chance and a life, even if they’ve done wrong to others? What exactly do you expect him to do and report to you as he’s doing it?

    • msjadeli
      August 30, 2018

      Jin Zhao, maybe you didn’t hear he was cracking jokes about a rape whistle as part of his routine? This person is not repentant nor transformed.

      • Jin Zhao
        August 30, 2018

        Fair enough. I haven’t heard his new jokes. I agree that he needs to be called out if his new performance indicates that he hasn’t taken the harm he’s done to his victims seriously.

  3. msjadeli
    August 30, 2018

    Ms. de Leon, I appreciate your essay and also the link to the NYT essay. You’re right, it will take years of therapy/processing of the foundations of what has developed into these men (and some women) thinking it’s ok to sexually inappropriately abuse/exploit others for any reason. There has to first be an acknowledgement within the person that they actually did something wrong though, and as long as our society allows them to do it and keep coming back after they have done it, the message is that it’s ok. If one did as you propose, the benefits to society would be immeasurable!

  4. Brendan Birth
    December 23, 2018

    I apologize for missing this article until now.

    That being said, you raise some really important issues–the privilege of Louis CK to just step back into his career a few months after he admitted to his actions, what true repentance for sexual misconduct and assault looks like, and more.

    Speaking of repentance/redemption, I too wonder what it looks like with regards to sexual misconduct and assault. I haven’t been aware of any such cases of redemption, at least publicly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on August 28, 2018 by in Uncategorized.

Upcoming Appearances

No upcoming events

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,802 other subscribers

Aya wins first place Independent Publisher Awards for UPTOWN THIEF, THE BOSS, THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS

%d bloggers like this: