Our Canadian media has exploded with a scandal centered around a very talented radio personality named Jian Ghomeshi. I’ve been a huge fan of Jian’s work for years, he’s an elegant interviewer, and his interviews are so very well-researched. I love his show, “Q” and I was both proud and delighted to be his actual Facebook friend. I was stunned on Sunday as I watched events unfold surrounding his sexual scandal and termination from the CBC. I’ll freely admit that I’d placed this celebrity on a pedestal, and I’ve been star-struck by Jian for years. As the rumours started to fly, I felt a strange broiling inside me.
Days later, Jian Ghomeshi’s star has crashed to the earth in a really disturbing hail of deeply fucked up stories of abuse. I’m realizing now that the allegations made me feel something I couldn’t identify at first. They left me feeling triggered, albeit in my own small way. All of the accusations swirling about brought up some experiences in my own past that suddenly made me feel sick, and confused and ashamed. I cannot imagine how triggering this scandal has been for other women out there, women I know and love (a few men too) who have been well and truly victimized at some point in their lives.
When I was in my early twenties, I “hung out” with a boy at school who really didn’t fit the mold for my usual type. Our entire relationship consisted of exactly two encounters – one where he came to visit me in my home town with some of his friends and we toured my favourite local spooky places. The other when I agreed to spend time at his place. He was a dark and tortured type, very ‘punk rock’, very different. I’ve always flirted with darkness and I found him incredibly attractive. He also seemed very gentle and sweet despite his rough appearance. I didn’t expect the relationship to go far, I just wanted a new experience. I cringe at this now.
On the date at his place, which was a roach-infested hovel that he shared with some other students I knew, all of which were home that night, we ate pizza, he drank a lot of beer, and we listened to his music. It was boring frankly,we had nothing to talk about. I was looking forward to the physical exploration of our very shallow attraction. We ended up having sex, which started out quite nicely thank you very much, and then mid-way through he reached up and started choking me. For real. I couldn’t pry his hands away, and I was afraid he’d leave marks, or worse. I punched him in the face. He stopped, and then I took a cab home.
I was completely freaked out by this experience. I counted myself as lucky that it wasn’t worse. I felt ashamed that I’d casually hooked up with someone, thereby putting myself in harm’s way. I felt enraged that he would try to physically harm me. I felt too embarrassed to tell anyone, absolutely sure that most people would meet my confession either with “well what did you expect?” or “you should call the cops”. I didn’t have sex with this guy expecting to be strangled. I didn’t want to call the cops.
Why didn’t I call the cops? First, I hadn’t been raped. I’d consented to the sex we were having. Second, I was pretty new to sexual exploration. I think I believed that choking was something certain people were into, and perhaps I’d missed something along the way in our communication. It seemed really odd to introduce such a sexual maneuver with no prior discussion, but there it was. I didn’t want to seem like I was overreacting to something that maybe I didn’t fully understand. Rather than totally overreact and create a huge mess, I just decided to not speak to this individual again.
This wasn’t the only time something like this happened.
Each sexual encounter we women have has the real potential for disaster. We do not have the freedom or safety to enjoy casual sex. That is a fact. Here’s a list of the following experiences I’ve had in my life without prior consent. I’m sharing this so that you can really grasp how common this shit is:
Slapping – face
Very rough hair pulling
Biting – hard enough to leave marks
Hitting, elsewhere on the body
Name calling and degrading language
Inappropriate sexual conversation with superiors in the work place
My usual practice is to make any dates that sour like this end as soon as SAFELY possible, because yes, you really fucking worry about things escalating. Then I never called again. I guess I just decided that dealing with physical aggression is the price one has to pay for sexual exploration. I KNOW I was very wrongly under the impression that this is what happens when someone is into BDSM and the other partner is not.
That, my friends, is the worst of the Jian Ghomeshi lies spewed in his Facebook statement of defense.
My extensive reading, speaking, and learning about human sexuality has taught me a lot more about the BDSM community since my early days of single living. The community of kink and BDSM is rich with caring, loving people who believe that boundaries are sacred and must be observed and upheld at all costs. Because they express their sexuality in such a unique way, the absolute safety of all parties involved is paramount to insuring a rewarding experience for all. That’s why there are safe words. That’s why there are forums and communities where people can share their kink and find consenting partners to play with, rand hopefully even build lasting loving relationships with.
IF ANYONE HITS YOU, PUNCHES YOU, CHOKES YOU, HOLDS YOU DOWN, TIES YOU UP, BITES YOU, OR ABUSES YOU IN ANY OTHER PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL WAY DURING SEX OR OTHERWISE WITHOUT YOUR EXPRESSED ONGOING, ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT THAT IS NOT ‘KINK’. IT IS NOT A SEXUAL PROCLIVITY ROOTED IN BDSM. IT IS NOT FIFTY SHADES OF ANYTHING BUT EVIL. IT IS ABUSE, PURE AND SIMPLE.
I never spoke out against any of my deeply misinformed or possibly deviant sexual partners because I just wanted to forget the whole mess and move on. I think many of us have been there. Can you imagine, even for one instant, if that sort of sexual experience had been with a huge celebrity? Imagine the shame and confusion you would feel, realizing that a brief moment of star-fucking infatuation led you to an experience where you were in real danger. How mad at yourself would you be? How deeply wrong is it that we should feel self blame even for an instant? Wrong as it is, it’s our reality.
If you’re reading this and you have been assaulted, I am deeply sorry that such a thing happened to you. You didn’t deserve it, no matter what. If you’re reading this and Jian Ghomeshi hurt you, please know that if you are brave enough (and you really need to be fucking brave to come forward) to share your experience, I promise not to judge you, scorn you or shame you. I was infatuated with this star, once upon a time. If he had asked me on a date, I would have been thrilled to go. I could have been you, very easily. So no, I will not criticize you or challenge you. I will sincerely congratulate you for being braver than I ever was.
Stay safe, love each other, and take care of yourselves as best as you can. It’s a deeply fucked up world out there.