Canadian indie-rock musician Owen Pallett did something very, very rare today. In the wake of Jian Ghomeshi’s firing after a high-profile series of allegations from women claiming he assaulted them, Pallett acknowledged his friendship with the radio host.
But he also acknowledged the seeming veracity of the accusations against his friend. How often do you get that kind of nuance when celebrities are accused of domestic or sexual violence, that refusal to insist, “he’s not that kind of guy”?
In a post on Facebook, Pallett summed up the contradictions he personally saw in the situation:
Jian is my friend. I have appeared twice on Q. But there is no grey area here. Three women have been beaten by Jian Ghomeshi. I have sat with Jian over drinks and discussed our respective anxiety disorders. We have been photographed hugging on camera. Just ten days ago, I helped him find musicians for his father’s funeral. Three women have said that Jian beat them without their consent. “We will never really know what happened.” Yes we do. Jian beat, at the very least, three women. Three women said so. “They were jilted exes.” Maybe so. They were beaten by Jian.
Pallett went on to explain why the excuse being circulated — that the relationships were consensual BDSM — is not enough to erase the troublesome words.
To hear that anybody has been abusing the BDSM power relationship for the purpose of engaging in non-consensual violence-against-women is horrifying. That is not the point of BDSM. BDSM is in fact about the exact opposite thing. It is about repurposing acts of violence into creating a power dynamic of fucking EQUALITY.
It’s unfortunate that Pallett’s piece sounds like such a lone bolt of sanity, but it is. When celebrities are accused of assault, “We prioritize maintaining our own comfortable, familiar image of a person we’ve never met, and probably never will, over treating someone’s testimony that a crime occurred with the seriousness it deserves,” Kate Harding wrote this morning in a long piece at Dame Magazine about the many celebrity accusations that the public has tried to explain away. “It seems that every time a male celebrity is accused of rape or sexual assault, people eagerly latch onto any bonkers theory that might explain away the allegations, while ignoring the simplest explanation: They’re probably true.”
Perhaps Pallett’s m.o. here — acknowledging his friendship without casting doubt on real-seeming accusations — is a better model for the inevitable, the next time this kind of thing happens, than the sort of blanket, illogical denial that so often accompanies these all-too-common stories.