I am a Jian Ghomeshi neutral. Although I have seen him on television, and have commented on his obvious intelligence and his ability to articulate, I have never identified myself as a fan. I had not listened to his show with any frequency, but I have always admired his taste in music and that was the extent of my Jian Ghomeshi knowledge. The first I heard about the Jian Ghomenshi controversy was on Sunday when his public post regarding his firing from CBC was making its way through the social media world.
The purpose of this blog is twofold. I am not here to support or condemn Jian Ghomeschi. My opinion of what is true, or is not true, is really of no matter. I am more interested in his use of social media to present his case, and his presentation of DBSM “rough sex” as a sexual preference that should not be the “dominion” of the pubic or his previous employer, the CBC.
I am a Therapist who specializes in working with people in crisis and high conflict. I think we are safe to say that Jian Ghomeshi is experiencing a current crisis, and has self-reportedly been in crisis for several months according to his public letter. I have always felt that crisis is an opportunity for growth and learning, and there is much to be examined and learned in these circumstances. What the lessons and growth for him are I am unsure, but we might as well dig in and learn a thing or two for ourselves if possible.
I want to begin by commenting on his open letter to the public which was posted at 3:11pm on Sunday October 26th. This letter was posted on his Facebook Page and quickly made its rounds through the social media world. This letter is fascinating to me on many levels, and worthy of reflection and comment. In my work with crisis and strategic communication I understand that containment is essential, and my first reaction to his letter was one of professional awe. It is one of the most strategic and well-crafted letters I have read in some time. I had not read anything about the situation prior to this letter, and readily admit that I have no inside knowledge at all. I know nothing of the allegations, or even the process other than what was shared, but what I do know is strategy, and that letter was a strategic masterpiece.
After reading the letter it was hard not to be outraged at the CBC, the “jilted” ex-girlfriends and the mysterious jealous writer who was colluding with the ex’s. In fact it was hard not to be mad at just about anybody else who had wronged Jian Ghomeschi along the way. He took the lead in that letter and made sure his version of the situation beat out any public stories or allegations, and that was a brilliant strategic move. He pulled on the reader’s sympathy, eloquently illustrating how he was a victim of the ex’s, the writer and especially the CBC whom he had served so well. Oddly enough after my first read of the letter I almost found myself wanting to fight for integrity, social justice, and sexual preferences everywhere. But wait a minute…before I was going to get behind this freedom march I needed to listen to my “strategy red alert” and read this letter again, and read in between the lines.
There is no doubt this is written by a highly intelligent man with an amazing team advising him. Upon second reading, I paid attention to the funny feeling in my stomach. What was this letter doing….explaining his side of the story, and defending his right to hurt people as long as they said it was ok? Really what was this BDSM “rough sex” all about? It was referenced as “strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others” in his letter. If we look at the words we may glean some more information. Frankly I was a bit confused by this acronym at first, but think I have it figured out now. The B is for “bondage’ which can apparently be either a criminal act or a form of consensual sexual activity. Hmmm, ok that one is a bit dicey. Domination is rather self-explanatory and I do not think it is illegal, although if it involves cohersion it may become so. Now we get into the meaty stuff. S is for “sadism”. This one is worth some further research. The Webster’s online dictionary describes sadism as “enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain; especially sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone.” This did not sound good! In fact this was pretty disturbing. The M is for “masochistic”. This was defined as “the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from one’s own pain or humiliation”. Now wait a minute! As a therapist I understand that sexuality is a continuum, but masochism is complicated and often has a history of boundary violations, abuse and a confusing desire to please other people.
So where does this leave us. Possibly with a lot more questions and conversations ahead. An employment lawyer might be better able to handle the potential harm these type of activities could have done to the CBC as a company, and the decision to fire Jian Ghomeschi. As a Therapist I will hold my judgments to the best of my ability and encourage others to pause and see the strategy before jumping on any bandwagons here, especially those that involve pain and humiliation. But here is the main point I want to make…see that there is a strategy at work here, and be careful about normalizing sexual behaviour that is linked to cruelty.