The top headline at the CBC news program As It Happens right now:
This woman's story is similar to the stories three other women told the Toronto Star, it's hard to listen to, and it's damning: Ghomeshi assaulted her on two occasions, the woman alleges, once in his car and once at his apartment. Both alleged assaults took place roughly ten years ago. The first alleged assault took place in Ghomeshi's car after an impromptu date; he was dropping the woman off when he grabbed her hair "very hard" and pulled her head back. ("It really took me off guard. I don't know precisely, exactly what he was saying. But I am thinking it was something along the lines of, 'Do you like this?' I don't know what I said.") The second alleged assault took place at Jian's house after another impromptu date; this time she alleges he grabbed her hair, pulled her down to floor, and repeatedly struck her in the side of the head with a closed fist. Like the other women who've spoken to the press about being assaulted by Ghomeshi, this woman wishes to remain anonymous.
While that interview was airing on As It Happens—pretty much at the exact same time it was airing—I was interviewing a woman who claims she dated Jian Ghomeshi two years ago. This woman contacted me after reading my first Slog post about Ghomeshi on Monday. In that post I wrote...
[With] four (or five) women telling similar and deeply troubling stories, with Ghomeshi getting at best qualified support from kinky bloggers like Zanin, and with none of his other BDSM sex partners stepping forward to defend Ghomeshi (at least so far), it's hard to see how he comes out on top. Because with the info we have right now this doesn't look like consensual kink. It looks like abuse.
Ghomeshi claimed in his Facebook post on Sunday that while his sexual practices might shock some—he's into roleplay, dominance, submission, and "mild forms of Fifty Shades of Grey"—they were all "mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners." Ghomeshi claimed the Toronto Star story was a hit piece, a smear campaign, a vendetta cooked up by an angry ex and a "freelance writer who was known not to be a fan." But if Ghomeshi only engaged in safe, sane, and consensual BDSM with his partners, if he was a conscientious and consensual kinkster, wouldn't his other exes and other play partners come forward to defend him?
The woman who contacted me said that she was one of Ghomeshi's consensual BDSM play partners and she wanted to defend him.
"I'm 27 years old and don't want to be identified at all but I do want people to know how thorough our consent talks were," she wrote. "I am very worried about him and would like my story to be among the rest to give people a clearer picture. I'm not sure how to go about this."
I asked her for proof of their relationship and she forwarded text messages and e-mails; she also sent a photo of her with Ghomeshi. I asked her for the names and phone numbers of friends she confided in while she was seeing Ghomeshi. She sent names and numbers, and I was able to confirm details of her story with her friends. (I asked Ghomeshi to confirm the relationship and haven't heard back.) We spoke today by phone. Here's my interview with her:
When did you and Jian first meet?
In October of 2102. I was 25 and he was 45. We met at his book signing. He read from his book, I waited in line, and we started talking, and exchanged numbers. We talked for a few months via Skype and texting, phone calls.
Were you attracted to him?
I was attracted to him before I met him. We had tweeted at each other a few times but he didn’t remember that. He didn’t recognize me.
Who was the initiator—of the flirtation, when you met at the signing?
It was mutual. While I was in line I said to my friend, “I’m going to ask him to sign my uterus with his sperm.” I said that to my friend. She said, “Don’t say that to him, that’s too much.” It’s embarrassing. My best friend was there with me. She was only [at the reading] because I wanted to be there. And when we got in line she could see that we were making extreme sex eyeballs at each other. She offered to stand back—as a joke. We weren’t about to jump the table or anything, but we were both drooling over each other.
When did it become sexual?
It was always flirty—that’s kind of how we started off, at that reading. Flirting. If I looked back at the messages I could tell you when it first became explicitly sexual, but I’d guess it was about two weeks in. We would exchange messages all day, we would talk on the phone a few times a week, we would Skype. So it was pretty intense right away. Constantly talking, like you do when you’re younger and kind of like, “Oh my God, I just met someone so great and I want to talk to them all the time.”
It was crazy—he is so busy, it seemed crazy that he was spending all of his time talking to me.
It first started getting sexual when he sent a message after I had sent him a particular picture. He sent a message saying it got his dick hard, and I didn’t respond right away, because I was at work and not getting my messages. And before I even saw his message he sent a message apologizing for the message about his dick. Then I responded, “That was my intention! I was trying to make your dick hard when I sent my photo!” But he was really nervous. So right away, before we even actually did anything, he was being, you know, worried about my feelings and my comfort.
When did you first have sex?
About six weeks after we met. Seven weeks after we met.
When did he broach the subject of BDSM?
He brought it up way, way in advance. We talked about it on the phone, weeks in advance of that first time we had sex. He said, “This is what I’m into, these are the things I like to do, it gets like this, are you comfortable with that?”
Was BDSM something you were interested in?
Was it something you had engaged in previously with other partners?
Yes, with multiple partners. Starting when I was 18ish, starting with baby steps, but I’m into it. I like it. At the point of being with him I had already been choked, I had been tied up, smacked, crawled around on the floor. So I definitely wanted it. I was even more attracted to him after he brought it up. So I was like, “I like all those things, but I’m also a switch.” And he was like, “I’m not a switch at all,” and that was fine with me. He had a different style around BDSM but it wasn’t something I hadn’t experienced before.
How was his style different?
When things were on, when it was BDSM time, it was pretty intense.
No, intense in a way that I enjoyed. I like to be a little bit scared.
But here’s something that happened that I thought about when I read what was being said about Jian: There was one time in the morning when we were having sex and I felt like it was a bit too much for me and I grimaced. I stiffened up just a little. And he stopped right away. He just stopped. Stopped what he was doing, stopped the sex, and he was like, “If you don’t like something I’m doing, you have to tell me.” And I was like, “It’s not a big deal.” But he made a big deal of it. He told me, “You have to tell me if I’m doing something that you don’t like. Just tell me.” It was a big deal to him.
When he was trying to tell me to tell him, I said, you’re feeling so subby, hard to get the words out of your mouth, and he was like, “You need to figure out a way that you can always tell me if you’re feeling uncomfortable, because that’s really, really important to me.”
Can you describe the conversations you had with Jian about consent?
We would send lots of messages to each other, sexual messages, all the time. One time he said something like, “I want to destroy you,” and I said, “I’m not comfortable with that word,” and he said, “Okay, I won’t say stuff like that if it doesn’t turn you on.”
So my experience with Jian was that he wanted it to be fun for both people. Because that one time where it looked like I was uncomfortable in the moment, that time when he said “destroy,” and it was very important to him that that not happen—he didn’t want to do or say things that I didn’t like too. I always go back to how he stopped the sex that morning. I didn’t stop it. He stopped it because of the look on my face.
Did he ever do or attempt to do things that hadn’t been specifically negotiated? Did you guys have formal conversations about consent that touched on each and every particular thing he wanted to do?
Not everything was specifically negotiated in that form, but because we would call and text all day, all of the things we did had been talked about. When we started talking about BDSM we had some consent conversations that were like, “I like this, I like that, this is okay, that is not.”
And then once we started up, once we started talking dirty to each other about it, he might text something like, “I want to choke you and spank you and slap you,” and I would be like, “And I want you to do all those things to me! Oh, my god, do all those things to me!”
So sometimes you had formal conversation establishing a mutual interest in certain BDSM activities, but other times consent was established through dirty talk and flirty texts?
The three women interviewed by the Toronto Star describe him hitting them and choking them without their consent and without warning. Did you experience anything similar?
In my relationship with him, if I was coming over, we were meeting up in a hotel room, and we wouldn’t have seen each other for a few weeks, and we both wanted to start it right then. Slapping or BDSM type stuff never happened out in the world, not in cabs or elevators. The plan was I was coming to a hotel, we were going to have sex, then we would go have dinner. So he would grab me right when I came in, and he would start, and we would start up our regular sexy banter. But that was what I wanted.
He was never aggressive or violent outside of sex and the sex play that you enjoyed and consented to?
Do you fear coming forward?
I was thinking that I would put my name out there but I keep going back and forth. The truth is, my mom and dad know I slept with him. They knew about it when it was happening. And now they’ve read all these articles and they’re worried for me now. I called them both and we didn’t talk about it directly but I told them I’m really fine, things are great, there’s no need to ever talk about this with me.
Have you heard from friends who knew about your relationship?
A couple of them have called—or they’ve texted. Not so much friends, just acquaintances who heard about it. It’s been very upsetting. I got text messages from people I barely know asking, “Hey, were you raped?” Is that a fucking text message you send to someone? Do you send that to anyone ever? At first I didn’t know what they were texting me about. I hadn’t heard the news or seen Jian’s piece about what was happening.
Did he ever slap or punch you?
Slap, yes, but no punching at all. It was consensual. There would be marks, a little bit, but they would be gone in less than an hour. No bruising or anything.
Was he ever verbally abusive?
No. He called me “slut” but never outside of the sex scene stuff. He would’ve stopped if I didn’t like it, like he stopped saying that “destroy you” thing. And he never called me a slut outside of a sexual context. He might say you’re “my toy,” and he called me “cock slave.” But it was nothing I didn’t like, and it was only ever in that context. And honestly, for me, even if it had been outside the context, I probably would’ve been fine with it. “I’m coming in from the airport at 7:30 this morning, cock slut.” That would’ve been fine with me. That’s not what I find to be verbal abuse, although others may find it that.
When did your relationship end? Who ended it?
It was never really going to be a “thing,” so it faded in and out. I last had sex with him in March. We’re like basically friends with benefits. It got less intense—we started out talking every day for a while, but that stopped maybe in January of 2013. It started in October of 2012. We kept in contact, but it got less intense.
Was he seeing other women during that time?
I didn’t know it, but I would’ve assumed it. I was seeing other people.
The woman with whom I spoke is having a difficult time squaring the Jian Ghomeshi she knows with the Jian Ghomeshi she's read about this week.
But I think I can square the two Ghomeshis.
The woman with whom I spoke doesn't live in Toronto. She and Ghomeshi flirted via text and Skype for weeks before finally meeting up to have sex. And in that time—over those long weeks of flirting—a mutual interest in BDSM was established (file under "lucky coincidence") and she consented to the things Ghomeshi was floating in their texts and chats. The woman who was interviewed on As It Happens, on the other hand, lives in Toronto. Ghomeshi flirted with this woman in person. And instead of telling her what he was into—instead of talking with her about BDSM—Ghomeshi chose to show her what he was into: He grabbed her hair in the car and asked, "Do you like this?" When she hung out with him again, when she came back to his apartment with him, Ghomeshi concluded—erroneously and self-servingly—that the answer to the question he asked her in the car was yes. Yes, she liked it. Yes, she liked it rough.
I'm not suggesting that this was all a big misunderstanding. I'm not suggesting that Ghomeshi innocently misread the signals of the woman who was interviewed on As It Happens or the women who spoke to the Toronto Star. But the only explanation that reconciles the stories of the now four women who claim they were assaulted by Jian Ghomeshi with the story of the one woman I spoke to today is this: Ghomeshi isn't a safe, sane, and consensual kinkster. He's a reckless, abusive, and dangerous one who has traumatized some women and lucked out with others.
From the Toronto Star:
Over the past few months the Star has approached Ghomeshi with allegations from three young women, all about 20 years his junior, who say he was physically violent to them without their consent during sexual encounters or in the lead-up to sexual encounters.
My theory is that Ghomeshi's MO has been to initiate rough sex—become violent in the lead-up to a sexual encounter—and that he either believes or intends to argue that this was how he got a woman's consent. If he became violent and they didn't respond negatively or didn't leave or if they returned, he saw that as consent. If they reacted negatively, if they were unhappy, he stopped.
The problem with that? Or one of the many problems with that? Only an idiot or a sociopath would interpret actions that could be read one way or another—she came back because she likes this kind of roughness, she came back because she's starstruck and is willing to overlook or hopes to deflect this kind of roughness—as consent to the kind of extreme shit Ghomeshi apparently enjoys. Only an idiot or a sociopath would interpret someone's vague and non-verbal consent to some mild roughness ("I pulled her hair and two weeks later she came back to my apartment...") as consent to being punched repeatedly in the head with a closed fist. As Andrea Zanin wrote on Monday...
Face-punching and choking to the point of unconsciousness are absolutely some people’s kinks. But even among seasoned BDSM players, these acts are widely understood to be things you must do only with the most carefully negotiated consent, with a goodly amount of education and practice, and with the knowledge that they are highly risky. Beginner BDSM this is not. As a BDSM educator, I have been teaching how to do safe body punching for over a decade, and I don’t go near the face except symbolically (fake or very light impact for psychological effect). It’s just too easy to do major damage.
So this isn't about some poor persecuted pervert, to borrow Zanin's phrase, but about either an abuser hiding behind the BDSM scene's culture of consent (and a celebrity leveraging his fame and power) or a sociopath who believes that initiating violent sex is the same thing as asking for consent to violent sex.
Kate Harding wrote this at Dame Magazine:
I do not know for sure whether Ghomeshi is an abuser or the victim of an elaborate revenge campaign. But here's what I do know for sure: He is asking us to believe that multiple former sex partners have chosen to accuse him of sexual violence—not the fun kind—in solidarity with one particularly bitter ex. It's not just that one woman is so angry about being rejected by him that she falsely accused him of criminal behavior. It's that she rounded up a bunch of other women, who all agreed they would lie to reporters in an effort to smear an innocent man. He has done nothing wrong, nothing non-consensual, yet all of these women hated him enough to conspire to get him fired and publicly humiliate him. They "colluded" to establish a false "pattern of [nonconsensual, potentially life-threatening] behavior." Because one of them was rilly, rilly mad. Can we take a moment to think about how incredibly unlikely that is?
It strikes me as highly unlikely.
I also think it's highly unlikely that the woman I spoke to today lied to me. We spoke at length, and she gave me everything I asked for that could help to verify her story. I believe she actually had a good experience with Jian Ghomeshi. But she wanted what Ghomeshi was offering. (And she may not be alone; there may be other women out there who have nothing but nice things to say about Ghomeshi as a sex partner.) But given what we're finding out about Ghomeshi's apparent MO—initiating rough sex, gauging a woman's response, calling that "asking for consent"—the fact that she had a good experience with Ghomeshi may have to be chalked up to distance (all that sexting in the run-up) and coincidence (they had similar kinks).
At the end of the story on today's As It Happen the anchor announces that a fifth woman has come forward with a similar story ("an act of aggression by Jian Ghomeshi"). That interview airs tomorrow morning on The Current.
UPDATE: Another woman—the first to agree to be identified—has come forward. She told the Star...
She first met Ghomeshi at a barbecue at a Banff television festival in 2003. They chatted and, in time, she visited Toronto and they had dinner at a restaurant on the Danforth. She recalls him telling her how famous he was and “how lucky you are to be with me.” They went back to his house in Riverdale. DeCoutere said they began making out and then she alleges he pushed her against the wall, choked her with his hands around her neck and then slapped her three times. “That was something I had never experienced before,” DeCoutere said. She left his house shortly after that in a taxi. “It did not escalate; it stopped,” she said.
Choke and slap first, call it off if she's not into it—that would appear to fit Ghomeshi's deeply fucked-up MO.
UPDATE 2: As I continue to read more about Ghomeshi... I now think my interpretation—my attempt to reconcile the experience of the woman I interviewed with the allegations of the eight women who now report being assaulted by the radio host—was entirely too charitable.