The media keeps referring to Ghomeshi’s abuse as ‘non-consensual’ like that’s a thing

Jian Ghomeshi surrendered to the police this morning and was later released on bail following a court appearance in Toronto. He is charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of “overcome resistance — choking.” Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, says he will be pleading not guilty. His bail was set at $100,000 and as part of his bail conditions he must stay in Ontario with his mother.

This is good news. Pessimist that I am, I was convinced he wouldn’t be charged. The police may well have felt pressured to charge Ghomeshi because of the highly public nature of his case and because, really, there’s no one left sticking up for the guy. Even those who initially jumped on the victim-blamey train (But women are such crazy, jealous, bitches! Always making things up to bring down innocent men in the hope they will be called crazy, jealous, bitches in the process!) or who tried to use the opportunity to rep for BDSM have abandoned the cause (in embarrassment, one would hope). But either way and for whatever reason the police did pursue the investigation (relatively quickly at that), I am glad.

But that initial story Ghomeshi tried to put out to the public — that he was just practicing good, old-fashioned, consensual, “rough sex” stuck with us — even after the portion of the public who didn’t see right through that crap from the get-go learned it was an outright lie.

Earlier this month, Jessica Smith Cross wrote, for the Metro: “Nine women and one man have accused Ghomeshi of crimes including sexual harassment to non-consensual sexual violence [emphasis added].”

Today, a report via the CBC reads: “The police department’s sex crimes unit began investigating Ghomeshi on Oct. 31 after three women filed complaints alleging he was physically violent without their consent.”

Just about every report on the story published last month specified that Ghomeshi punched women in the face and choked them “without their consent” or used that “non-consensual sexual violence” line. The initial report by the Star specifies that several women claimed “he was physically violent to them without their consent…” and/or that Ghomeshi “physically attacked them on dates without consent.”

Several of the women who came out with allegations against Ghomeshi felt it necessary to point out that they didn’t “ask to be hit” or that the violence wasn’t “a sex thing.”

There is no such thing as consensual sexual violence. There is no such thing as consensual abuse. There is no such thing as “he attacked me without my consent.” Even if we are unwilling to apply a kind of feminist or non-sociopathic type of logic to these conversations, the law confirms one cannot “consent” to assault.

So fuck this bullshit BDSM rhetoric. The extent to which it has manipulated the public conversation around sex and violence against women is repulsive. How we’ve managed to come to a place, as a society, where we think it’s totally normal and sexy to be choked in bed or that punching women during sex is just “kinky” is no real mystery. Between the violence boys and men are seeing in porn at an ever-younger age, the popularity of books like Fifty Shades of Grey, and the way in which BDSMers and libertarians alike have forced feminists to adopt an “anythinggoesnojudgement!” attitude towards sex, we’ve got a number of sources to blame.

A post I saw shared numerous times on social media early on as the Ghomeshi allegations were only just coming to light (and was the source of the “non-consensual sexual violence” reference above) seems to believe this is a triumph:

“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 in the Canadian context specifically, this strategy is not as risky as it might seem. We pride ourselves as being an open-minded society. The year 2005 brought us both same-sex marriage and a Supreme Court ruling that legalized swinging. These days, we’re seeing broad public support for sex workers’ rights even from political centrists, despite how the Conservative government seems determined to make a mess of them with Bill C-36. Harper notwithstanding, Canada’s pretty hip when it comes to alternative sexuality, and a young, popular and very media-savvy broadcaster knows this.”

What success! Not only has the notion that sexual violence or abuse can be “consensual” become an acceptable part of our lexicon, but much of the public actually literally believes that women’s rights equates to legalizing men’s right to buy women. It’s as though a kind of bizarro feminism has collided with Moulin Rouge to create an era of debauchery only conceivable to and desired by the extremely privileged and narcissistic.

It is gross and unacceptable that we’ve bought into the idea that violence and abuse can and should be incorporated into our sex lives for excitement, lest be we labelled “vanilla.” It is also gross and unacceptable that the media feels it necessary to specify that rape and abuse is “non-consensual.” If you can’t get off without abusing a woman, that is a problem, not something to be celebrated. That problem already has a name: misogyny. And it isn’t your right to force that onto the public anymore than it is your right to impose it on your sexual partners.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.