Thanks to a revealing Facebook post by former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, kink, specifically BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) is in the spotlight.
The CBC fired Ghomeshi, 47, on Sunday after it received information the network said “precludes” it from retaining the popular host of its “Q” radio show.
Ghomeshi’s post was meant to preempt the publication of an investigation by the Toronto Star, which shared the allegations of three women who maintain they were sexually assaulted by Ghomeshi, and one who alleges he sexually harassed her at work.
Kink figures heavily into this story. Ghomeshi maintains the CBC fired him because it wanted to distance itself from elements of his private, consensual sex life the network found unsavory.
“I’ve been fired from the CBC because of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend and a freelance writer,” Ghomeshi wrote in the same post in which he informed his fans he was suing the CBC for $50 million for wrongful termination. “Sexual preferences are a human right.”
But members of the kink community, such as Andrea Zanin, have been reluctant to back Ghomeshi. Some voiced concerns the former host is using kink and the public’s general ignorance of the subject as a shield for criminal behavior. This is not necessarily a story about whether a Canadian broadcaster has the right to dismiss its most high-profile talent over the details of his sex life — which Howard Levitt of the Financial Post maintained it does. Rather, they said, this is a story about consent.
Zanin is a PhD candidate at York University, where she’s pursuing a degree in gender, feminist and women’s studies. She blogs at Sex Geek and bills herself a “pervert.” On Monday, Ms. Magazine republished her blog post on Ghomeshi and the allegations against him. Zanin deftly picks apart the idea Ghomeshi was targeted by the CBC or by the women who talked to the Star for being kinky:
The anonymous women who wanted to get involved with him at first aren’t complaining about how gross his supposed perversions are. They’re making allegations of regular old non-consensual violence. And part of the reason they are saying they won’t come forward in person is because they’re afraid their pre-date conversations about kink will be used as evidence that they consented to what he did. In other words, these women may have said “sure, some kink sounds like fun” and are concerned that their own stated interest will be held up as evidence of consent to violence. If I am reading this right, these women were either themselves interested in kink to some extent, or at least weren’t put off by Ghomeshi’s interest, since they each still went on a date with him. This is a very different story than “Ew gross he wanted to use handcuffs what a total sicko!”
University of Toronto law professor Brenda Cossman laid the case out quite simply in terms of sexual consent for the Globe and Mail, noting “there has to be ongoing consent” in the eyes of the Canadian court. One and done is not acceptable.
“Deeply troubled by the spectre of predatory a–hats donning The Leather of Consensual BDSM to cloak non-consensual/criminal acts,” tweeted Mollena Williams, a self-identified “fat fetish model” in New York.
I oppose the demonization of consensual kinksters. I despise abusers who cover for their crimes by claiming to be consensual kinksters.
— Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) October 27, 2014
Zanin, who maintained she is withholding judgment, highlighted an inconsistency in Ghomeshi’s post. In it, Ghomeshi describes his proclivities as a “mild version of Fifty Shades of Grey.” While “Fifty Shades” has been heralded by some as making BDSM mainstream, most within the community would argue the book is entry-level kink — a mild version of “Fifty Shades” would amount to “some dirty talk (probably with poor grammar) and necktie bondage,” Zanin wrote. This is in heavy contrast, she noted, with the women’s claims that Ghomeshi hit them with open hands or closed fists and choked them. Jillian Keenan, who has freelanced for The Washington Post and written publicly about her kink, voiced her concerns on Twitter Sunday night.
3. If Jian is guilty, which seems likely, then he made a gross mockery of the sincere job discrimination that sexual minorities can face. — Jillian Keenan (@JillianKeenan) October 27, 2014
Dan Savage, America’s preeminent sex columnist who advises on kink quite frequently, had this to say:
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 a–holes — straight, gay, and everything in between — have attempted to cover for their crimes by claiming that everything was consensual.
Savage went on to point out the usual reasons victims of sexual assault remain silent — fear of victim-blaming, or being shamed, or not believed, or not being taken seriously — are compounded further when kink is thrown into the mix in a society that is largely anti-kink, or simply ignorant about it.
The women who came forward to the Star all refused to reveal their identities out of fear of Internet harassment and retaliation, citing the treatment of Carla Ciccone, who wrote an XOJane post about an unidentified Canadian radio celebrity many believe is Ghomeshi.
Cossman noted Canadian laws don’t recognize carefully negotiated, ongoing consent to BDSM play — play conducted in the “right” way. If it leaves a mark, it constitutes bodily harm under Canadian law, effectively making all hard-core kinksters criminals.