In the Saturday Night Live finale, Louis CK did an opening monologue that started a lot of tongues wagging. Of course, I didn’t see it at the time because, you know, it was on Saturday Night Live. So I watched it. The truly shocking thing about it is that the opening monologue is funny. Who thought such a thing even possible? Actual comedy on Saturday Night Live. I had seriously considered pitching a show to Animal Planet, “Finding Humor on SNL.” But there was a big problem with it: there is so much more evidence for Bigfoot than there is for comedy on the venerable late night show. It doubtless helps when they book an actual comedian. But people weren’t talking about that. They were talking about the pedophiles.
Louis CK’s monologue was actually entirely typical of his work. He started by talking about about his “mild racism.” And then he goes on to joke about the racist urges that exist in all of us. They bubble up into consciousness the same same way sexual urges do. And if you are like Louis CK, you recognize them for the irrational impulses that they are, and bat them away. It’s like a guy who sees a really pretty woman — he doesn’t start humping her leg. Well, most of the time he doesn’t. Louis CK didn’t talk about that directly; his routine was about unwanted thoughts, and that’s how he got to pedophiles.
There is something deeply disturbing about the bit he does on the town child molester. He presents it more or less the way we once did the town drunk. Also, I have a problem with the child molester he presents. For one thing, he’s kind of incompetent, thus indicating not really a threat. But most of all: it is man who is attracted teenage boys. Yes: that is wrong, but it is understandable in a society that fetishizes youth. Much harder to understand are those who are attacked to pre-pubescent children.
But the line where Louis CK got into trouble was something I quite agree with, although with caveats as I will explain in a moment. He said:
I’ve discussed this issue before, Free Will. It really comes down to this: I’m not morally superior to a pedophile because I don’t rape children. I’m not attracted to children so it simply isn’t a problem I face. I suspect that there actually are a lot more pedophiles than we are aware of who are simply able to make the calculation that sex with a child is not worth the price — to themselves or the child. So what we are left with are people’s whose urges are so great that they cannot contain them. These are tragic figures.
About a year ago, I started thinking seriously about a question that probably doesn’t occur to many people, “Why do people have sex?” I’ve done an informal poll, and everyone seems to agree that in a pure orgasm sense, masturbation is better than sex because you are completely in charge. So other than all the kissing and hugging that is very important, why sex? It speaks very much of my own distorted vision of the world that it took me the whole year to figure out that people find having sex more erotic than masturbation.
It must be the same thing with pedophiles. It must be that these pedophiles are just out of control. The thought or the actuality of the act is just too much for them. And like Manson’s family, they doubtless work their way up to it. I had an experience when I was eight or nine. I was at The Emporium — a department store very much like Macy’s. In those days, they had little record stores in them and I was alone in one of them. This older man came up to me with a record album, saying, “Look at this, kid.” The album was pressed up against his pants and his not quite erect penis was propped up on it. On seeing this, I immediately turned and walked away, saying, “That’s gross, man.”
I don’t know if he was a pedophile or not. I certainly didn’t see it that way at the time. It seemed instead more like a prank to disgust me. But I’ve long thought that the incident was part of a progression. Whether this guy went on to rape children, expose himself on street corners, or head the Santa Rosa Police Department, I cannot say. But I can say that of all the notable problems in my life, I feel very lucky to have never felt compelled toward anything outside one sigma of the sexual behavior mean. (In English, that means: I’m incredibly boring in terms of sexual interests.)
It is really great that Louis CK is talking about this kind of stuff — even if he does misrepresent and minimize it. As a society, we could do more for pedophiles — And the society at large! — than wait until they start preying on children.