E-mails began pouring into my "Savage Love" inbox yesterday afternoon pointing me toward a post on Jian Ghomeshi's Facebook page. Ghomeshi is the host and cofounder of Q, one of the biggest shows on the CBC Radio. In his Facebook post, Ghomeshi claimed that he was fired by the CBC—cut from the show he cofounded—after his private and consensual sexual conduct came to the attention of his employers. It's a long post, you can read it here, but this is the gist:

Forgive me if what follows may be shocking to some.

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I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom but I only participate in sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners.

About two years ago I started seeing a woman in her late 20s. Our relationship was affectionate, casual and passionate. We saw each other on and off over the period of a year and began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission. We discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex (forms of BDSM). We talked about using safe words and regularly checked in with each other about our comfort levels. She encouraged our role-play and often was the initiator. We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady's Giller-Prize winning book last year. I don’t wish to get into any more detail because it is truly not anyone's business what two consenting adults do.

The two broke up earlier this year; Ghomeshi says he ended the relationship. Shortly thereafter—according to Ghomeshi—his ex began harassing him. This harassment allegedly included "anonymously reaching out to [other women] that [he] had dated" and "reframing what had been an ongoing consensual relationship as something nefarious." Ghomeshi says his ex took her story to a journalist who disliked him in an effort defame and destroy him. After his bosses at the CBC found out what was going on—Ghomeshi says he told his bosses at the CBC what was going on—he showed his bosses evidence that everything he had done with his ex was consensual. Back to Ghomeshi's Facebook post:

CBC execs confirmed that the information provided showed that there was consent. In fact, they later said to me and my team that there is no question in their minds that there has always been consent. They said they’re not concerned about the legal side. But then they said that this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC. They said that I was being dismissed for "the risk of the perception that may come from a story that could come out." To recap, I am being fired in my prime from the show I love and built and threw myself into for years because of what I do in my private life.

Last night, shortly after Ghomeshi's Facebook post blew up, the Toronto Star published the other side of the story:

The three women interviewed by the Star allege that Ghomeshi physically attacked them on dates without consent. They allege he struck them with a closed fist or open hand; bit them; choked them until they almost passed out; covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing; and that they were verbally abused during and after sex. A fourth woman, who worked at CBC, said Ghomeshi told her at work: “I want to hate f—- you.”

...

Early last summer, the Star began looking into allegations by young women of sexual abuse by Ghomeshi over the past two years. The Star conducted detailed interviews with the women, talking to each woman several times. None of the women filed police complaints and none agreed to go on the record. The reasons given for not coming forward publicly include the fear that they would be sued or would be the object of Internet retaliation. (A woman who wrote an account of an encounter with a Canadian radio host believed to be Ghomeshi was subjected to vicious Internet attacks by online readers who said they were supporters of the host.)

Andrea Zanin, who blogs about sex, gender, kink, non-monogamy, has a long post up this morning about Ghomeshi. I suggest you read the whole thing. But I want to quickly second two of Zanin's points:

It says something about the success of the BDSM/kink/leather community’s public education work of the last decade-plus that Ghomeshi would take the gamble that the “it was consensual kink” argument would outweigh the “you’re a filthy pervert” reaction in the court of public opinion. In a sense, this is a major triumph for us pervs.... But [Ghomeshi’s] argument that what he does is a “mild version of Fifty Shades of Grey” does not match up with his apparent practice of engaging in very high-risk activities with women he’s just beginning to date. If what they’re saying is true, that discrepancy alone is enough to make me highly suspicious of his “I’m a poor innocent kinkster” argument....

Ghomeshi could be totally innocent. Four women could be making shit up, anonymously, because… well, I don’t know, but that itself might be an interesting question. For fun? What exactly would the motivation be for this supposed smear campaign, that four women would take part in it despite having evidence that when a previous woman made much milder accusations that don’t even explicitly name Ghomeshi, she was completely trashed on the Internet? Hmmm. This, too, doesn’t add up. Only the most hell-bent revenge-thirsty ex would take this on, knowing the likely consequences. Four women? Really?

Like I said… Ghomeshi could be totally innocent. I’m sure his many fans would like him to be. For now, I’m going to keep reading, with my critical thinking turned up high. I suggest we all do the same.

Most of the people I heard from yesterday are fans of Ghomeshi—fans who had only read his Facebook post. They believe/believed Ghomeshi to be innocent and want/wanted me to rush to the barricades to defend him. But I'm not convinced that Jian Ghomeshi is another Oliver Jovanovic. While I certainly know that kinksters can face prejudice, and while I know that some kinksters have lost jobs or custody of children after their private and consensual sexual activities were exposed, I also know that some violent and abusive assholes—straight, gay, and everything in between—have attempted to cover for their crimes by claiming that everything was consensual.

And...

The ability to produce e-mails or texts showing that a person consented to kinks A, B, and C does not prove that person consented to kinks D, E, and F; those same e-mails and texts also don't prove that a person who had previously consented to kinks A, B, and C didn't withdraw their consent during sex that included kinks A, B, and C.

People have a right to due process, people are innocent until proven guilty, etc., but charges like the ones made against Ghomeshi are unlikely to wind up being weighed by a jury. Very few kinksters who've been abused—subs who've had their boundaries violated—will go to the police because the same anti-kink bias that results in people being fired for consensual, mutually pleasurable BDSM sex also results in police and prosecutors not taking the complaints of violated/abused/raped subs seriously. Someone who did complain about a BDSM/kink encounter or relationship that violated their boundaries would likely be met with this response: "You consented to being tied up and spanked, right? Then you really can't complain about anything else that happened to you—including those things you didn't consent to and those things you withdrew your consent to during the encounter."

But a kinky dom falsely accused of abuse can also be treated unfairly by the authorities—just ask Oliver Jovanovic.

We will have to keep reading, like Zanin says, with open minds and operational bullshit detectors. But we are unlikely to ever read "Ghomeshi found guilty" or "Ghomeshi exonerated on all charges" in a newspaper headline because there isn't going to be a trial—except for the one currently underway in the court of public opinion. And 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.


UPDATE: I originally wrote that I wasn't familiar with Ghomeshi or Q until I read his Facebook post yesterday. But it turns out that I've actually been a guest on Qon numerous occasions. I've been on lots of radio shows, sometimes they blur together, and pot is legal here in Washington state. But that statement was inaccurate and it came across as an unnecessary, kink-phobic bit of distancing. ("Hey, I don't know the guy!") My apologies.

UPDATE 2: Brenda Cossman, writing in the Globe and Mail, points out that consenting to BDSM sex—at least in Canada—is legally irrelevant:

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On the one hand, this is the classic he said/she said of sexual assault. Consent is the dividing line between sex and sexual assault, and its presence or absence is often the linchpin of sexual assault prosecutions.... But, when it comes to BDSM—or at least its more intense versions—the law doesn’t actually care about consent. The Supreme Court has said that a person cannot consent to assault. While the cases have typically arisen in the context of bar room brawls or hockey violence, other courts have applied the same reasoning to the sexual context. So, if a sexual activity causes bodily harm, a person cannot consent to it.

This is pretty problematic from the perspective of the BDSM community. Carefully negotiated consent is rendered irrelevant, and effectively criminalizes all those who derive sexual pleasure from activities that involve physical pain, if it leaves a mark. But, it’s the law.

UPDATE 3: And Howard Levitt, writing in the Financial Post, says that employers actually can fire you for your private, consensual sexual practices.