Jian Ghomeshi is a Canadian broadcaster unknown to a lot of Americans until last week, when sexual abuse allegations against him flooded the media. Not the best way to begin a crossover career. Three women accused Ghomeshi, the now former host of the Q radio show on CBS Radio One, of beating them up during sexual encounters. Another woman claims Ghomeshi sexually harassed her at work. All four ladies spoke to The Toronto Star about their experiences, resulting in a front-page exposé about his sex crimes, while Ghomeshi maintains that these charges are bogus because the women consented to his BDSM play. He blames it all on a smear campaign lead by his ex-girlfriend and one of the Star’s journalists. Regardless, Ghomeshi no longer works at CBS.
As a broadcaster and host, Ghomeshi has relationships with tons of other public figures, some of whom have weighed in on the sensitive matter. American musician Amanda Palmer plans to keep Ghomeshi on the bill as part of her November show in Toronto, writing on Facebook that the appearance might give him a good opportunity to talk about “how hard it is to live in public.” Palmer stands by her friend—no matter if he’s a propagator of sexual violence or not, but it’s not easy to tell whether her loyalty is commendable or disgusting.
Another friend of Ghomeshi—the Canadian musician Owen Pallett—had a much more nuanced reaction. Pallett doesn’t blame the victim. His Facebook testimony honors the moral murkiness of being friends with someone in that situation, and in writing it, he offers other men a guide for how to handle their relationships with those accused of sex crimes. (Obviously, it’s unfortunate that this is something our society could really use).
Here’s what Pallett had to say:
I was challenged by a friend to say something about the recent allegations against Jian Ghomeshi. Jian is my friend. I have appeared twice on Q. But there is no grey area here. Three women have been beaten by Jian Ghomeshi.
I have sat with Jian over drinks and discussed our respective anxiety disorders. We have been photographed hugging on camera.
Just ten days ago, I helped him find musicians for his father’s funeral. Three women have said that Jian beat them without their consent.
“We will never really know what happened.” Yes we do. Jian beat, at the very least, three women. Three women said so. “They were jilted exes.” Maybe so. They were beaten by Jian.
“They were freelance writers looking to get ahead.” Three women were beaten by Jian Ghomeshi. At no point here will I ever give my friend Jian’s version of the truth more creedence than the version of the truth offered up by three women. Anonymity does not mean these women do not exist.
“They were engaged in BDSM role-play.” This: this is something I need to talk about.
The beauty of BDSM relationships is that the power is always in the hands of the sub. BDSM and choke play is a subversion of male violence.
To hear that anybody has been abusing the BDSM power relationship for the purpose of engaging in non-consensual violence-against-women is horrifying.
That is not the point of BDSM. BDSM is in fact about the exact opposite thing. It is about repurposing acts of violence into creating a power dynamic of fucking EQUALITY.
As for the rest. I have seen my Facebook feed littered with comments about how “for years we’ve known Jian to be a shady character.”
I too have heard endless rumours that he’s been a bad date, and have heard stories of shadiness and strange behaviour.
I have heard about his ridiculous pick-up lines and have (to my shame) tittered about them with my friends. But I have never heard, until today, that Jian Ghomeshi beats women.
I am skeptical of arts reporting. I am skeptical of Canadian journalism. I am sensitive toward shaming of people who are so-called sexual deviants.
But let’s be clear. Whether the court decides that predatory men are punished or exonerated does not silence the voices of the victims. It does not make victims liars.
Whether our culture continues to celebrate the works of predatory men is another issue. It does not silence the voices of the victims.
Jian Ghomeshi is my friend, and Jian Ghomeshi beats women. How our friendship will continue remains to be seen.
To be continued…In the meantime, consider using these tips to ensure your sex life is always safe and fun for everyone involved.