This week several women came forward and accused radio host Jian Ghomeshi of sexual assault. But the Canadian star insists they were all consensual BDSM encounters. Does his defense have merit? We take a closer look at consent and kinky sex.
NCSF's Susan Wright joins Huff Post Live with Kitty Stryker (Consent Culture) and Margaret Corvid to talk about Consent in the World of BDSM.
One woman, actor Lucy DeCoutere, alleges she was slapped and choked without her consent.
Eight women from across Canada now accuse former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi of abusive behaviour ranging from allegations of beating and choking without consent, to workplace sexual harassment.
The allegations the Star is probing range from 2002 to the present.
One of the women, popular Canadian television actor Lucy DeCoutere, has agreed to be identified. DeCoutere, who plays Lucy on Trailer Park Boys , recalls an incident in 2003 when she alleges Ghomeshi, without warning or consent, choked her to the point she could not breathe and then slapped her hard three times on the side of her head.
“He did not ask if I was into it. It was never a question. It was shocking to me. The men I have spent time with are loving people,” said DeCoutere, who, when she is not acting on the television show, is a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force in New Brunswick.
Ghomeshi, 47, was fired Sunday from his job as host of Q , a flagship radio show of the publicly funded broadcaster. Ghomeshi has alleged in a lawsuit filed the next day that CBC made a “moral judgment” that his practice of a bondage-sadism sex life was wrong. He is suing the CBC for $55 million for defamation and breach of trust and the corporation has said it will “vigorously” defend itself against Ghomeshi’s lawsuit.
The Star has presented Ghomeshi, his lawyers and his public relations staff with the allegations in this story and they have yet to respond.
He met some of the women during his 2012 tour to promote 1982 , his best- selling memoir about a year in high school in Thornhill. Others he met at film festivals, at music or CBC events, or at the CBC workplace.
Two of the women who allege they were physically assaulted also say that before the alleged assaults in his home he introduced them to Big Ears Teddy, a stuffed bear, and he turned the bear around just before he slapped or choked them, saying that “Big Ears Teddy shouldn’t see this.”
One of the new women to come forward is a woman in her mid-20s who was a CBC producer in Montreal who dreamed of being on Q . He met her at one of his book signings. Ghomeshi allegedly took her to his hotel room, threw her against the wall and was very “forceful” with her. She said she performed oral sex “to get out of there.” The woman, who still works in the media but not at CBC, said she decided not to complain about his behaviour because she feared he was too powerful.
“I felt like Jian was CBC god,” she told the Star in an interview. She is the second CBC woman to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment by Ghomeshi. The CBC has announced they are investigating the first case, where Ghomeshi allegedly told a CBC staffer he wanted to “hate f---” her.
Generally, the stories the women have told the Star describe a man obsessed with his image and power, and someone who they say has little or no respect for barriers.
Over the course of the Star’s investigation, women who say they were victimized said they did not feel comfortable putting their name to the allegations. Some say they feared retaliation from Ghomeshi, online harassment and a negative impact on their careers.
DeCoutere said it was time for someone to speak publicly about the matter.
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. ...
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: ...
Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi has interviewed some of pop culture's biggest names, from Barbra Streisand, Joni Mitchell and Dan Rather to Lena Dunham and Zach Galifianakis, and that's just in the past few months.
His CBC Radio show, "Q with Jian Ghomeshi," is one of the most popular in the network's history, making him a bona fide celebrity in a country that takes pride in its public radio. It aired on more than 180 public radio stations in the United States, prompting the Washington Post to call it "the most popular new arts and culture radio show in America" in 2013.
Still, the 47-year-old was far from a household name in the United States when he posted a lengthy screed on his Facebook page Sunday accusing the CBC of firing him for his "private sex life." He said the dismissal came after he shared details of his sex life with his former employers to head off a smear campaign by "jilted" exes accusing him of nonconsensual kinky activity.
The combination of Canadian celebrity, an iconic Canadian institution and allegations from anonymous women produced what one columnist called "a Canadian sex scandal the likes of which we haven't seen in decades." The size of Ghomeshi's star and the seriousness of the allegations makes this bigger than your run of the mill celebrity sex scandal, with implications beyond Canada.
Two major issues reside at the heart of the scandal: a $55 million lawsuit against the CBC in which Ghomeshi alleges that he was fired for his sexual proclivities, and anonymous allegations reported by the Toronto Star from three women accusing Ghomeshi of sexual violence and nonconsensual BDSM activity. The CBC released a statement saying the decision was "not made without serious deliberation and careful consideration" and declined to comment further.
Ghomeshi denies the allegations and says any sexual activity between him and the women, kinky or not, was consensual.
"Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks. They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others," he said in his Facebook post. "But that is my private life. That is my personal life. And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life."
By bringing BDSM into the mix through his Facebook post, Ghomeshi ignited conversation in legal circles and the kink community over whether the "kinky defense" will prevail in his lawsuit and the court of public opinion.
The scandal is of particular interest to the kink community, who say it raises two common topics of concern in their world: discrimination over sexual activity, and the gray area between consensual activity and assault in BDSM.
Others worry about the potential for the "kinky defense" to be misappropriated and used as a shield for rape and assault.
"It hits on a lot of important aspects that BDSM faces," said Susan Wright, spokeswoman for National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group that promotes tolerance of sexual minorities. "Rarely do you have an instance where so many things come together. ...
This weekend, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation sparked a national sex conversation when it dismissed popular radio host Jian Ghomeshi. In a Facebook post, Ghomeshi claimed he was fired because his participation in consensual BDSM had come to light and corporation executives “said that this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC.” A few hours later, the Toronto Star published an article alleging that Ghomeshi was let go because he had a history of assaulting women—not for consensual kink. As Amanda Marcotte noted in Slate, “Accusations of dating violence, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, if true, are all good reasons for the CBC to terminate its relationship with Ghomeshi. … The only issue that matters … is whether or not there was consent.”
Even if you don’t believe Ghomeshi is a victim here, it’s worth recognizing that he articulated one of the biggest fears in the BDSM community: the possibility of being exposed and fired for our consensual (but stigmatized) sexual practices is a very real concern for many kinky people. In 2008, a Canadian man claimed that he was denied a chauffeur’s permit because of his involvement in BDSM. (In Canada, even unquestionably consensual BDSM falls into a legal gray area; its Supreme Court has ruled that adults cannot consent to bodily harm. Meanwhile, Canada fiercely protects the “right” of parents to inflict a non-consensual act of BDSM on their kids, but I won’t rant about that again.) In the United States, a U.N. weapons inspector was pressured to resign after a Washington Post article outed him as a participant in a BDSM organization. And in Britain, a woman was dismissed from her job after she wore a silver BDSM collar to work—an item, she claimed, that was a token of her beliefs and therefore comparable to religious jewelry.
These high-profile cases are a taste of what less-visible kinksters fear could happen to them. In the United States, it’s perfectly legal for an employer to dismiss an employee because he or she participates in private BDSM, even when the practice has no effect on their job performance. Many employment contracts have so-called “morality clauses,” which stipulate that an employee can be fired for participating in leisure time activities that are “immoral,” distasteful, or stigmatized. But even without morality clauses, kinksters worry.
“For a lot of us, it wouldn’t take a morality clause to lose a job for being kinky,” said a young academic who fears that if his sexual identity were exposed, he’d be excluded from tenure-track positions. “I definitely worry about sharing my kink with vanilla [i.e., non-kinky] significant others, because if a relationship ever ended badly, there would be nothing to stop someone from outing me.”
Dan Kozma, a D.C.-based attorney who specializes in employment discrimination law, told me that there are only four instances where employees are protected from unfair termination: if the employee is covered by a collective bargaining agreement, such as a union contract, which requires “just cause” for termination; if the employee has an individual contract of employment for a specific period of time; if an employee has refused an order to break the law; or if the employee falls into a category that is protected on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, or disability status. But none of those exceptions protects employees from being fired merely because a supervisor finds his or her consensual, private sexual behavior to be distasteful.
“If you’re terminated for kink in the United States, I don’t know of anything that will protect you,” said Kozma.
Susan Wright, the spokeswoman for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, said that union membership sometimes protects kinksters, polyamorous people, swingers, and other sexual minorities from losing their jobs. But in some industries, such as education and health care, even union membership can’t guarantee job security.
“If you’re a teacher, forget it,” said Wright. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a union. If you’re kinky, and someone exposes you, you’re out.” (Although there must be some kinky teachers who have been outed to sympathetic colleagues and kept their jobs, kinksters who work in education tend to be some of the most conscious about keeping their private lives hidden. One submissive male teacher told me that he and his wife are extra careful to ensure that any marks left on him by their sex play won’t be visible at work.)
Stigma and the associated fears of employment discrimination prevent most kinky people from publicly discussing this issue. But anecdotes from a NCSF survey that documented kinky people’s experiences, including those in the workplace, highlight the situations kinksters fear. ...
Rough sex that inflicts pain is a murky legal area that can still lead to assault convictions in Canada, say legal experts.
The legal boundaries around practices involving bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism, or BDSM, have become part of the public discussion since the CBC and radio star Jian Ghomeshi parted ways on Sunday.
The prominent radio show host has said he was fired because of his "sexual behaviour" and has written on social media that he engaged in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission, along with "rough sex (forms of BDSM)." The activities were consensual and he and his partner used "safe words" words to signal when to stop the activity, he said. Ghomeshi's lawyers filed a lawsuit against the CBC.
The Toronto Star reported that it approached Ghomeshi with allegations from three women who say he was physically violent to them without their consent during sexual encounters or in the run-up to such encounters and that Ghomeshi — through his lawyer — responded that he "does not engage in non-consensual role play or sex and any suggestion of the contrary is defamatory." The Star reported none of the women filed police complaints.
There are not a lot of clear answers when it comes to forms of BDSM and the law.
Alan Young, a law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto, says existing legal precedents may allow prosecutions for BDSM-style sex — regardless of whether consent was received — if the courts think bodily harm occurred.
A 1991 Supreme Court of Canada decision held that consent isn't a defence for a criminal act of assault where one of the perpetrators intends and causes bodily harm, he added. That decision was in the context of consensual street brawls, Young explained, and the boundary line for what's considered bodily harm is still being interpreted.
"There have been cases of convictions for what might be called rough sex, but everything will turn on the facts because you have to know the intent of the accused and the extent of the injuries," he said.
Brenda Cossman, a professor of law at the University of Toronto, said the law in Canada hasn't clearly dealt with BDSM practices such as "safe words," which are used in rough sex where the submissive partner has a code word to indicate they wish to practice to stop.
"It's a very, very murky area," she said.
In 1995, the Ontario Court of Appeal applied the Supreme Court of Canada decision to a case of sexual assault causing bodily harm and upheld a conviction, despite consent.
"It could apply in a BDSM case," she said.
"If there were ... permanent scars left, I would say that would be something the courts might consider to be bodily harm. ... No matter how much the person is consenting to it, the courts can still say, 'That's not something you're allowed to consent to.' "
But she said the possibility of fresh legal interpretations remain.
Ottawa lawyer Howard Krongold argued one of the leading cases on the limits of consent in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2011.
The appeal involved a man accused of engaging in consensual sexual activity with his spouse, some of which occurred while she was unconscious. By a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court held that her consent was not valid and upheld the accused's conviction.
Krongold said if he were advising a client, he would urge considerable caution on practices that might be seen to cause harm, in light of existing court decisions. ...
CBC's relationship with Jian Ghomeshi, host of the cultural affairs radio show Q, has ended, the network announced Sunday.
"The CBC is saddened to announce its relationship with Jian Ghomeshi has come to an end. This decision was not made without serious deliberation and careful consideration. Jian has made an immense contribution to the CBC and we wish him well," the network said in a statement.
CBC ended its relationship with Ghomeshi earlier on Sunday, said spokesman Chuck Thompson.
Late Sunday afternoon, Ghomeshi posted a lengthy message on his Facebook page in which he claimed that he was terminated by the broadcaster because of the risk of his "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."
In the Facebook post, Ghomeshi details a relationship with a former girlfriend that apparently included "forms of BDSM," saying that he ended the relationship at the beginning of this year.
“After this, in the early spring there began a campaign of harassment, vengeance and demonization against me that would lead to months of anxiety.”
Ghomeshi said he has “always been interested in a wide variety of activities in the bedroom” but only those that are “mutually agreed upon” and “consensual.”
Ghomeshi said he was open with CBC about the matter because he wanted his bosses to be aware of the situation, but has "never believed it was anyone's business" what he does in his private affairs.
"CBC has been part of the team of friends and lawyers assembled to deal with this for months," he wrote. "On Thursday I voluntarily showed evidence that everything I have done has been consensual. I did this in good faith and because I know, as I have always known, that I have nothing to hide. This when the CBC decided to fire me."
Ghomeshi added that CBC executives told him "that this type of sexual behaviour was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC."
He also writes in the post that the CBC received no formal complaints or allegations. ...
As more people embrace their inner kinkster, doctors need to know the details to provide quality health care. This… can be complicated.
by Heather Boerner
Recently, Claire Conrad, 36, found herself trussed up in stirrups—and not in a fun way. Conrad was at the ob-gyn to check to see if, as the Maryland resident likes to put it, “My cervix is trying to kill me.”
She’d had an abnormal pap smear, and was getting a colposcopy to make sure it wasn’t cancer. In the process, Conrad, who asked that her real name not be used, was coming out to her ob-gyn as kinky. It was plain as the purple and black caning marks on her legs.
Conrad, you see, is in an open marriage and enjoys a little submission and a little pain with her sex.
When her doctor blurted out, “Oh! You are bruised,” Conrad figured it could have been worse. Still, she left the appointment with the clear sense that the staff would be gossiping about her after she’d gone. If she ever had a caning session that broke the skin and became infected, she said she’d think twice about going back to her doctor.
“That’s a tough one,” she said. “If I had been injured, I don’t think I would be comfortable with talking to my doctor about it. Even if I did, I don’t know if I would be honest about what happened.”
Conrad’s not alone. Preliminary research finds that fewer than half of all kinksters are out to their healthcare providers about their kinks—and that’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, a notoriously kink-friendly place. Among those that are out, almost everyone anticipated being stigmatized, prompting them to hide aspects of their behavior that could impact their health. And while the medical field has gotten better about understanding sexual minorities, there’s still a distance to go before kinksters like Conrad feel comfortable in medical offices around the country.
“Up until now, it’s been a don’t-ask-don’t-tell kind of situation,” said Dr. Jess Waldura, lead investigator of The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA), which plans to conduct a nationwide survey in 2015. “We need to destigmatize kink so providers can think straight when we’re confronted by it.”
The New Don’t-Ask-Don’t Tell
In the past year, Dr. Mike Lesniak has noticed a trend: His urgent care clinic in rural Pennsylvania was the go-to place for kinksters to get their wounds treated. He figured that was because the clinic wasn’t set up to document injuries in a way that would be admissible in court. And because he wasn’t their primary care doctor, they wouldn’t have to worry about looking him in the eye next time they needed to have a sinus infection checked out.
The experience left Lesniak in a quandary. He wanted to make sure the wounds were consensual. And he’d want to make sure that, if they were, they were being made safely.
“Sometimes, they’d say, ‘Everything’s OK,’ and you could tell it was. Other times, the response would be, ‘Everything’s OK,’ but you would get the vibe that there’s no way that everything is OK,” he said. “I try to delve into what they are doing so that I can assure myself that they are acting safely. And if not, then I can help them adjust some things to be safer.”
Kinksters’ reticence makes sense. Before 2013, people interested in bondage and discipline or sado-masochism (BDSM)—that is, getting an erotic thrill from being tied up or tying someone else up, or hurting someone or being hurt by someone—were treated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the bible of psychiatric care, as a mental disorder that could then be used in court to remove children from kinkster parents, among other things. Today, the DSM defines BDSM as a kink that only becomes a disorder if it’s causing distress or dysfunction.
The problem, said Dr. Charles Moser, a San Francisco-based internal medicine physician and perhaps the leading researcher on kink in healthcare, is that it’s up to a doctor to determine if a kink is causing distress. If the doctor is biased, he may still classify it as a disorder that can lead to legal repercussions.
It’s a shame because, though because the majority of the 120 self-identified Bay Area kinksters Waldura recruited for the initial study said it’s important to be open with one’s providers about one’s kink, fewer than half actually were. And many said they had physical and mental health needs associated with their kinks.
Those needs varied depending on where respondents were in the kink universe. You’d expect submissives and masochists to sustain more injuries than dominants and sadists—but neither tend to bring their concerns to physicians, said Moser.
Moser had made a practice of treating the kinky. Sometimes this means talking about hepatitis A and B vaccines and risk for hepatitis C infection with someone participating in blood play, or talking about how to reduce risk of infection if someone is playing with needles. More often, thought, it’s high blood pressure, diabetes and other typical health needs that go unaddressed when kinksters delay care to avoid provider bias.
“I always say that people have more accidents on the way to and from the play party than at the party,” said Moser, author of Healthcare Without Shame.
Avoiding care can lead to the same kind of health disparities experienced by anyone who delays care: unchecked diabetes, for instance, or undiagnosed high blood pressure, which put people at higher risk for major health problems like kidney failure or heart attack.
And while other research indicates that kinksters may be more mentally healthy than their vanilla counterparts, the TASHRA participants said they experienced fears around talking to therapists about their kinks. ...