Earlier this week, Sarah Silverman told Howard Stern that she used to let disgraced comedian Louis C.K. masturbate in front of her, in a statement that has drawn criticism from one of the women who accused C.K. of sexual misconduct last year.
“I’ve known Louis forever, I’m not making excuses for him, so please don’t take this that way,” Silverman told Stern. “We are peers. We are equals. When we were kids, and he asked if he could masturbate in front of me, sometimes I’d go, ‘Fuck yeah I want to see that!’”
“It’s not analogous to the other women that are talking about what he did to them,” she said. “He could offer me nothing. We were only just friends.”
Rebecca Corry, a comedian who told The New York Times that C.K. asked if he could masturbate in front of her in 2005 when they were appearing in a television pilot together, responded to Silverman’s statements on Twitter: “To be real clear, CK had ‘nothing to offer me’ as I too was his equal on the set the day he decided to sexually harrass [sic] me. He took away a day I worked years for and still has no remorse. He’s a predator who victimized women for decades and lied about it.”
When C.K. asked if he could masturbate in front of Corry, they were colleagues, and just the proposition was inappropriate, even though they were equals. Silverman’s statement to Stern made it sound like the only difference between her consensual encounter with C.K. and his harmful behavior toward other women was a power dynamic — but regardless of the relative positions of each party, asking a colleague to watch you masturbate is textbook sexual harassment under the hostile work environment definition.
Silverman later apologized to Corry. “You’re right — you were equals and he fucked with you and it’s not ok,” she tweeted.
Corry thanked Silverman for apologizing, saying, “I’m sorry your friend created this situation. We deserve to do our art without having to deal with this shit.”
In the Twitter exchange, Silverman also said “Ugh this is why I don’t like weighing in,” and that she can’t do press for her show without being asked about C.K. But this is not the first time she’s made headlines for commenting on her friend’s behavior.
Shortly after the allegations against C.K. were made public, Silverman addressed them on her Hulu show, I Love You, America, saying, “I am, at once, very angry for the women he wronged and the culture that enabled it, and also sad, because he’s my friend.” She made it clear in that monologue that she felt a responsibility to address the situation, and that she was still grappling with her feelings about it. Then, in an interview with GQ in May, she said she didn’t see any reason why people who were accused of sexual misconduct can’t continue to be artists, as long as they’ve changed.
In the conversation with Stern this week, Silverman suggested that C.K. didn’t understand the power dynamics as he became more famous and got into a position where he could impact the careers of women he propositioned.
“I’m not saying what he did was okay. I’m just saying at a certain point, when he became influential, not even famous, but influential in the world of comedy, it changes,” Silverman said. “He felt like he was the same person, but the dynamic was different and it was not okay.”