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Newsflash: Masturbating in Front of Someone Without Consent Is a Crime

We’re in the midst of an epidemic of wack attacks, or at least it seems. The slew of accusations against powerful meat-beaters who literally get off on making women watch them jerk it has reached critical mass. From movie mogul Harvey Weinstein to director James Toback to journalist Mark Halperin to director Brett Ratner to comedian Louis C.K., we are living in a masturbation nation, involuntarily. While most of us understand intuitively that forcing someone, or many someones, to watch you jerk off is illegal, it seems not everyone is clear. One surprising response to the reports is that, yes, what Louis C.K. and others did is gross and all, but it’s not a crime. Get a semen-filled load of this guy:

“I have a serious question re: Louis C.K. story,” the tweet from a man begins, since deleted, but captured by writer Jessica Valenti. “What did he do either as a criminal or actionable matter that merits this expose exactly aside from being unspeakably disgusting?”

I know, I know! It was taking his dick out, then making someone watch him stroke it until he got off. Doing so — in public or in private — is a crime called indecent exposure. The legal definition of indecent exposure is if a man or woman “exposes his or her genitals under circumstances in which he or she knows his or her conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm.” In most cases, it’s a misdemeanor, but it can be a felony, depending on how many times you pull this charmer’s move. If it involves physical contact with your forced audience, then your little dick display just became sexual assault.

States define and penalize the crime differently, and while a lot of the legalese is concerned with masturbation in public spaces — the serial subway masturbator, the guy who won’t stop jerking it in a public park in full view of hundreds of park goers — it also applies to a private space, whether you are invited in or not.

Further proof it’s illegal? Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the creation of a task force of veteran sex crimes prosecutors to investigate widespread assault allegations in the entertainment industry.

And yet, the persistent idea exists that exposing yourself to people and stroking it is the stuff of the small-time perv — an embarrassment, sure, but not illegal. The first comment on The New York Times expose of Louis C.K.’s sexual misconduct — a reader’s pick no less! — reads:

Gross, yes. Criminal, no. Having a fetish isn’t illegal. If he used his position in power to coerce women to watch him surely that is wrong but sounds like he gave women the opportunity to say no. Again, all of these statements are still accusations and he is already being tried in the public square.

First off, Louis “Chronic Masturbator” C.K. did not engage in a healthy, consensual fetish with women who loved watching someone sweat and grunt (I’m sure you exist). Further, C.K. has now admitted the accusations are in fact, true. But sure, let’s give him an award for being the politest aggressive masturbator around.

What’s more, some of this stuff took place in comedy clubs, which, for all intents and purposes, area workplace. His accusers largely described professional settings where the abuses took place, often involving him locking the door.

Worse, the problem is pervasive and goes far beyond dirty back rooms of comedy clubs and on casting couches. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s affection for making women watch him beat off, writer Eve Peyser asked Twitter followers about the first time a man jerked off in front of them without consent.

Hundreds of stories poured forth (Refinery 29 collected some here), most of which occurred on public transportation. Most disturbing is how extremely young many of the women were at time of their first experience:

https://twitter.com/dodaistewart/status/928721923869200385

Louis C.K., in his statement admitting the allegations were all true, still made double-legal-sleazebag sure to point out that he “never showed a woman his dick without asking first.” Nice try, but that’s not how two of the comedians who accused him of indecent exposure, Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov, saw it.

But the real takeaway here, aside from the public service announcement that you can’t just make anyone watch you touch your dick, is that we also have a very bad habit of still telling women to get over their harassment and assault. That it’s gross, but it’s not a crime, which is really subtext for, “sure that sucks, but get over it.”

Tell that to people who’ve been forced to watch hideous men charm their snakes.

Besides, even if it weren’t a crime to beat off in someone’s face, you’re still an asshole for suggesting it’s not that bad.

https://twitter.com/ira/status/928735180843466752

Yes, maybe you’re not a criminal, but you’re definitely a hypocrite, and certainly unspeakably disgusting.