Um, Thank You For Breaking My Blog

highfiveI’d like to extend warm fuzzy thanks for everyone who’s taken the time to read, share, and respond to my Jian Ghomeshi vs. The CBC piece. More than 100,000 people read it on my overworked little blog in just 36 hours. I’m absolutely blown away by how much it’s resonated with you. I’m very proud I had a chance to help change the conversation on why women won’t come forward.

I’m also glad the BDSM community feels I’ve helped clear up a few misconceptions being wilfully created by Ghomeshi and his supporters. While I’m fairly vanilla myself, I’m happy to advocate for a grossly misunderstood lifestyle and kink. Especially since this conversation shouldn’t be about BDSM at all, but instead about the lack of consent he reportedly had, and that a lack of consent makes these allegations of flat-out assault.

To that end, I had the chance to be interviewed by Vancouver’s CKNW 980 radio yesterday, and we discussed both BDSM and consent in relation to this explosive scandal. You can listen to that here. It’s a 12-minute chat with host Simi Sara.

Meanwhile, I have a few more things on my chest on the victim/survivor aspect of all this, more mainstream revelation of what the BDSM ethos and community entails, and so on. Please bookmark me and check back now and again.

I also have nearly a decade of archives here that extend to everything from sex and sexual politics to mental health and pop culture commentary. I invite you to explore tags and subjects for any of the 3,000 or so pieces I’ve written in the last decade. Might I suggest the “Steff rants” category if you like a little righteousness in your day? Check my archives by year, or search by categories. Many posts have several categories attached for your convenience.

Then there’s my newsletter. That’s how I can tell you when my upcoming ebook of collected essays and updated opinions will be released. Join that here. Thanks again. You’re fucking awesome.

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jian-ghomeshi

Jian Versus the CBC

First you broke my site with traffic (Yay!) then I fixed it after breaking it worse myself. Welcome to my temporary theme. Lots of links are broken right now and I can’t fix it with the traffic madness, sorry! Stay tuned to use functioning links in coming days.I’m @snarkysteff, by the way.

It’s strange when a shooting can bring my country together and then, just four days later, a radio guy accused of serial aggravated abuse can rip us apart. Weird week, bro.

Last night, I had to brace myself so I didn’t explode in anger and unfriend everyone I felt was jumping to defend a guy who’s doing Scandal Management 101 to the tee.

The problem when you jump to defend the accused is it ends up making the accuser or victims feel like they’ve just been assaulted all over again. That’s easier to stomach when you can say “But HEY, they’re not coming forward, so they can’t be serious.” No, it’s you who can’t be serious. You can’t hear the accused’s spin-cycle and then make your decision then and there — but so many of you already have.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at this from all the angles.

The Background & a BDSM Primer

Jian Ghomeshi jumped into action Sunday the moment CBC fired him. It was within a couple hours that he had stated there’d be a $50 million suit to defend his good name, and then he posted a long “My dad is dead, my show was wrenched from my hands, and I’ve been a good soldier for the CBC” kinda sob story that masterfully framed the conversation.

(A “good soldier” the week one of our own is gunned down in cold blood? Motherfucker. Don’t even — And 100,000 likes in under 24 hours? I weep for objectivity.)

But here are the allegations he was jumping in front of, according to The Toronto Star:

The three women interviewed by the Star allege that Ghomeshi physically attacked them on dates without consent. They allege he struck them with a closed fist or open hand; bit them; choked them until they almost passed out; covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing; and that they were verbally abused during and after sex.”

Ghomeshi, though, wants you to think this is all about BDSM and how he’s forward-thinking but his bosses aren’t. He “framed” the discussion by claiming he has edgy sex preferences, and the big, boring government broadcaster isn’t hip to alternative sex lives.

Anyone involved in BDSM knows BDSM is not how the public perceives it. People joke about “safe words,” but in the BDSM community, the safe word is sacred. There is a widespread understanding amongst even hardcore BDSM fans that sadomasochism is all about trust and power — except that power is never held by the person with the whip in hand.

In the BDSM world, it’s the person being hit, choked, bound, or whatever else they fancy, that holds 100% of the control. It’s understood that if that safe word is even whispered, fun time is over. Period. No discussion, no whining, no pleading. Over.

Why is it so strict? Because folks in this lifestyle understand that these beatings, the choking, it can all go horribly awry and death is an accident away. That’s why you actually very rarely ever hear of deaths stemming from BDSM practice — there are rules and ethics in play. Always.

You Spin Me Right Round

Ghomeshi and co. (since his Facebook letter was almost certainly orchestrated by the country’s leading “reputation recovery” and “crisis management” PR firm, Navigator Ltd.), decided to frame this whole thing as an invasion of the bedroom and mutual consent.

After all, this is Canada, where “What Happens in Bedrooms Stays in Bedrooms.” This has been thus since 1969, the year itself a cute little joke. That’s when Trudeau declared the government had no business in the bedroom of consenting Canadians. As a result, gay rights took hold here long before they did in most countries, and we’re more sexually relaxed than our southern neighbours will ever be. We can consider ourselves a leader in the bedroom, and that’s awesome.

For that reason, Canadians take bedroom privacy very seriously, and rightly so. I’m a huge fan of sexual freedoms and the right to practice, and love, as you like — as long as it’s with consent and including folks over the age of 18.

So whether it’s Ghomeshi or the victim, this all comes back to consent. And consent is what the alleged victims in this case insist they either did not give, or they rescinded.

That takes us back to the point of BDSM and how Ghomeshi has framed all this.

Consent Can Be Rescinded

If you read the Star’s take on these events, it seems like Ghomeshi is trying to set groundwork for a legal defense, should this escalate to court. The defense he seems to be aiming for will likely include submitting evidence via texts, etc, that he told the women ahead of time he liked it rough. They might have even talked about blindfolding, spanking, and all kinds of other behaviour some say is “alternative” in tastes.

So even the would-be defense, then, would have you believe this amounts to consent.

But that’s the amateur’s take on the BDSM world and everyone should understand that expressing a mutual interest in sex before a date doesn’t mean it’s carte blanche for hours, days, or weeks later. Their exchanges should not be considered evidence of what might’ve happened much, much later.

The nature of the safe word is that it means EVERYTHING STOPS the moment it is said. It doesn’t matter if you’ve paid a million dollars to do what you planned to do next, the safe word is like a giant “void” stamp that makes the entire sexual roadmap null and void.

And anyone who truly embraces the BDSM community gets this. Do you know who doesn’t get this? People who want to use the alternative lifestyle to camouflage their desire to beat, rape, and commit other crimes against unwilling parties.

Because, sometimes, not having consent is its own fetish for those for whom sex is a pathological need.

A Denial Is Always True — WHAT?

Let’s drop the BDSM and alternative lifestyle arguments and get down to the rest of it.

So many folks were babbling on with this argument last night: “But if he really did it, there’s NO WAY he would write such a long thing saying that he didn’t do it!”

Yeah, and Clinton would never have said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” if he’d slept with Lewinsky. And Richard Nixon would never have said “I am not a crook” if he were guilty.

Are you serious with this? Really? Someone who’s committed a crime would be suddenly so scared of being caught that they wouldn’t tell a lie? I’d like to know what it is you’re smoking, because I want some too, if you please. Sounds fun to live in that land of rainbows and kittens.

If they have committed the crime, then they are absolutely inclined to lie about it. That’s Criminal Behaviour 101 and it makes Ghomeshi’s entire Facebook session a moot story.

But His Voice Is Like Chocolate And I Love Him

Of course, let’s not forget the fans. The people who think Ghomeshi is charming and spins a good yarn. But of course a storyteller couldn’t possibly be a serial abuser. That would never happen.

Just like such a lovely, quirky old guy like Jimmy Savile, the darling of the BBC, a knight of the British Empire, and a popular TV host for DECADES could never be guilty of sexual abuse either. His defenders said he was such a visible persona for so long there was no way he could hide his deviance.

In fact, Savile was so insulated inside the BBC that rumours swirled for decades and allegations of a cover-up even today are so far-reaching it’ll make your head spin. There are at present well over 200 witnesses in the Savile case and yet it was kept quiet for DECADES.

There’s a sticky wicket for those in charge: Do you stand by your star that has made an empire inside your broadcasting corporation, or do you distance yourself?

Before Ghomeshi, BBC was alone in this corporate-star-scandal experience. Perhaps they felt if they cut Savile off, they’d open themselves up to litigation from claimants. Who knows. But now he’s dead and the victims are emboldened by the day, and the ripples are still spreading.

CBC’s left looking across the pond at the Motherland and realizing this case could have cash and legal implications for the BBC for years. Do they want to stick their neck out and defend a guy who, by all appearances, has had a pretty solid case shaping up under the deft hands of one of Canada’s premiere investigative reporters?

CBC’s Walk-Walk-Walkin’ Right Out That Door

As a taxpayer, I think CBC has done the only thing it can do. It’s walked away, likely on strong advice from lawyers who have probably seen the evidence brought forward by acclaimed media/investigative journalist Jesse Brown.

So now the general public’s argument is, “Well, if the Star doesn’t have proof, they should shut up.”

Well, not having hard proof didn’t stop the Star from doing one hell of an investigative case on Mayor Rob Ford and his crack addiction. They went after him like a dog on a bone, and everything they wrote proved so true that the OPP were involved, and still are.

The Toronto Star has a long history of investigative reporting. They do it very, very, very well. In 2012, their massive local investigation led to widespread sackings and reform in the Toronto School Board.

Because this is what good journalists do, and I don’t give a shit what your thoughts on journalism are — there are a LOT of good journos out there who got involved in the industry because they were tired of powerful people getting away with stuff, little guys getting the shaft, and corporations writing new rulebooks as they go along.

There are idealists in journalism, and more than a few can be found at the Toronto Star — and other papers across the country.

And You Would Come Forward?

Next you have the crowd shouting “Well, the victims won’t come forward. If they’re really victims, then they would come forward. Cowards!”

Oh, and you would?

Let’s imagine this. You’re some young girl, about 25, with dreams of making it in journalism or music. You somehow run into Ghomeshi at an event. He wows you with his pretty smile. Next day, he finds you on Facebook and says how he found something you wrote, or heard a song you did, and would love to talk to you about it.

Somehow, you’re flustered and proud, and the exchange gets flirty as it progresses, you say a few things that position you as a fan of sexual escapades, favourable towards BDSM, and yes you’d love to have a crantini at 9.

But then everything goes sideways. Choking, beating, whatever it is. That happens.

In the morning, you wake abused. But you’re still a 25-year-old kid who hasn’t even gotten her career started yet. The guy you were with is a millionaire radio guy who’s the face of a national broadcasting corporation.

First you need to contend with a well-sculpted public persona. Then you need to lose credibility in the press as some nobody-nothing who’s got “everything to gain” (except a career, respect, trust, or friends) from making accusations. Then you need to deal with the cops investigating you, and finally, your mom, dad, and whole family being embarrassed that you’re not only sexually promiscuous, but you’ve explored BDSM and were apparently willing to do it with a guy you only met once.

And all of this is before it ever reaches a court. This is all in WEEK ONE of a drama that could conceivably drag on for years, all with you at the forefront as the evil bitch who’s wrecking the career of everyone’s favourite cultural radio dude.

But, hey, yeah, you, you’re tough enough to do all that. You’re big enough to take on the machine. You’d have no excuses. You’d “trust” that the authorities and the media were going to treat you fairly. YOU WOULD DO THIS.

Is that about right? You’re that big on making a stand that you could handle this — even if you were some naive fresh-outta-school girl dreaming of a new career?

When’s the last time you busted someone at work for stealing supplies? When’s the last time you called someone out for a racist comment? When’s the last time you put your reputation on the line to fight someone in a position of authority? When’s the last time you stood up to anyone about ANYTHING — not to mention in front of police, the media, and an entire country?

Oh, never? Then shut the fuck up about why these girls aren’t coming forward. They’ve more to lose than you ever will.

But How Do I Really Feel?

Every single person giving Ghomeshi the benefit of the doubt and then saying “Why doesn’t his accuser come forward? How dare they?” is kidding themselves that they’re simply “waiting for facts.” They’ve already picked their sides.

I’m opting to believe that a massive broadcaster who has stood by its star’s side through YEARS of industry insider gossip about what a creep its star is, but then finally severs the relationship after an investigative journalist pores over his life for MONTHS, probably had pretty good cause to walk away.

I’m gonna believe a newspaper who’s made their name around the world through high-quality, groundbreaking investigation in the last three years probably decided it was worth the risk of a $50,000,000 lawsuit to expose someone who’s claiming he’s Mr. Good Guy and that it’s all “jilted ex-lover” innuendo — if only for public safety.

I’m choosing to remember people like Phil Spector, who was legendary in the music industry but had a widespread reputation for violence and extreme behaviour, and who couldn’t be touched, until one day he killed someone.

Where I come from, being a pretty, well-spoken man doesn’t mean you can’t be an absolute monster behind closed doors.

If these accusations were levelled against Don Cherry instead, for instance, we’d have had a very different discussion this morning.

It might be “innocent until proven guilty,” but that gives no one the excuse of calling the accusers names, belittling them as having something they’re after, or accusing them of being greedy little whores who just want their fame and limelight.

Oh, and not for nothing, all this discussion is about a man who wanted to “debate” whether “rape culture” even exists. Or have we all forgotten that little explosion from March of this year?

All She Wrote

Talk to anyone well-established in the music promotion business, and they’ll tell you rumours of Ghomeshi’s behaviours have circulated for years, but no one has dared kill the goose who laid the public broadcasting golden egg.

I, for one, can’t wait for this investigation to proceed, and I’m pretty confident that there’s no road back for Ghomeshi after this story breaks wide, wide open.

And I’m wishing for all it’s worth that every woman who may have had this happen to her at his hands will come forward.

Can’t get enough? I did a radio interview on Vancouver’s CKNW (Tuesday, Oct. 28) about both BDSM and consent, and why those claims kind of don’t wash here. You can listen to that on this page at CKNW.

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I Got My Phone a Battery Case, Thank God

So I bought myself a Mota battery case for my phone as one of my many recent “birthday presents,” which were all things I’ve needed but I’ve put off for too long.

It conveniently arrived last Friday, the day before I went on a Victoria Tourism Instagram promo day with some other photographers, and I couldn’t be happier. I’d charged it up and didn’t know what to expect from performance.

Well, by the time we finished our little Goldstream Park tour at 12:50, all the Instagrammers were all panicky about who could charge their batteries first. A couple had little doohickeys they could attach for their own charging purposes, but it was a bit of a production.

Me? I just played on my phone. In fact, I never once charged my phone during the day and wound up still having 45% juice when I got home after our 13-hour extravaganza.

The battery pack’s a little heavy but there’s zero pain in the ass with operating it once it’s on (if you don’t use it to dock with any apps, that is — I live in a Bluetooth world). The battery charging’s a little hot to run, but if you choose your moments for recharging, you can do it when it’s in your pocket or something. The charging turns off when you reach 100% and you can push the button for another refill when it’s sinking down again, until the battery pack runs out, which has been quite a long time indeed, for me.

I was gonna just use the case on special event days, but the iPhone battery sucks so much that now I’m just gonna leave it on. After a week, the pain in the ass factor with my phone is far lower than it has been in, well, ever. Or since the 3G days.

Later, I’ll post the fun photos I took while enjoying a day in the Greater Victoria District with Tourism Victoria and their #VictoriaBoo! endeavours. They think this spooky old city is the perfect place to take a Halloween weekend. Guess what? I agree! There’s so much cool history nerd stuff going on, a weird occult and burlesque crowd to follow, lots of funky art and theatre. Victoria just has a lot of fun when it’s Halloween.

 

 

 

 

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My Birthday Status Update

I was suddenly touched (probably the wine) and felt like writing something meaningful as a Thank-You for birthday wishes on Facebook, when all of a sudden I exploded with words. I thought I should post it here because I really want everyone who hasn’t had this feeling of pride on a birthday to be able to experience it for themselves. If I inspire ANYONE to make any moves on life goals, I’ll be so proud. So here’s what I wrote:

***

People, birthdays are better when you know you’re accomplishing your goals. What haven’t you started? Isn’t THIS the year you want to say YOU DID IT?

I haven’t done anything “special” with people this weekend because I’ve seen a lot of folks of late, and have a lot of events coming up. Keeping to myself this 41st birthday of mine has been really nice. I know it’s the end of a lot of chapters in my life, and the start of many more.

My 40s, however short they’ve been, have been much better than my 30s. 3 weeks before I turned 30, I had what could’ve been a fatal accident. I just happened to be adjusting my stereo while turning left 1 block from home when someone ran a red light at 80km and T-boned the front of my car. Had I been “paying attention” and driving faster, I might have been killed. Thank god for distracted driving on my part.

ONE YEAR to that week, I had another very serious accident and spent the next two years rehabbing.

And that pretty much set the tone of my 30s, until I pulled the plug and moved to Victoria.

Here, I’ve been healing. I’ve been reconnecting with work. I’ve rediscovered photography (I did photojournalism in college, was darkroom staff there too, and managed photo labs, then walked away for a decade). I’ve published my first ebook, expanded my freelance life, doubled my income for a while (and then opted out to focus on my own writing), and more.

All of that took making choices, sacrificing, and focusing on the end goal rather than dwelling in the present. I have more choices to make, more focusing to do, but I want to enjoy my present more because Victoria has been good to me, I know I will always look upon this apartment as one of my best homes ever, despite BaconHater, and I know my time is not long left here in the Queen’s favourite Canadian city.

So, yeah. I’ve enjoyed keeping to myself today. I’ve had a lot to reflect on, a lot to be proud of, and a lot to choose to look forward to.

And that’s why I’d like to encourage some of you to stop thinking of all the reasons why you “can’t” do the shit you’ve got on your list, and start realizing the only person holding you back, really, is you.

I’m glad I got the fuck out of my own way.

THANK YOU EVERYONE for being a part of a special “me” day. Thanks for all your birthday wishes and anything good and kind you’ve done for me in the last year, or EVER.

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Oh, The Hypocrisy

It’s strange how hypocritical and blind people can become to their own actions.

It’s also weird how it’s things like the launch of a new social site that can spur them on to being their worst person.

This time, I speak of the recent embiggening of the fledging social network Ello.

The short of it is this: Social network launches, pledging to not treat people like sheep and that they’ll never fall into the marketers’ hands a la Twitter and Facebook. Now I’m skeptic and doubt all that is legit, but I don’t really care. I just want a place today that isn’t what the others are becoming. And if I’m in on the ground floor, maybe I can be a part of the force for good to keep it what it begins as.

Well, enter your naysayers.

You know, it’s fine to not like it. It’s fine to disagree with the premise. But to insult anyone who’s liking it? To slam them as trend-fuckers or whatever you want to call them, that’s just not cool.

What’s funny about this is I see some people I’m almost sure were bullied in school and now they’re the ones insulting other people, putting it down, deriding all the users as hip losers who have no soul or depth. (Albeit I’d like it to be a little less white, more diverse, but it’s early days, man.)

My jaw drops at the hypocrisy. It’s so toxic to have those attitudes. Go ahead, don’t like the site. Question its ethos, diss its design, but don’t be such an asshole that you’re painting everyone party to it with the same brush. Ironically, most of the people I know who insult hipsters are the ones who seem to try hardest to be in with the cool kids.

Fact is, I’m beyond tired of the petty fuckery that happens when people dismiss entire groups out of hand.

When I see people saying things like these, behaving like this, I’m not interested in knowing them. Period.

People have realize the things they say about others tend to speak most loudly about themselves.

I try to speak my mind and be blunt but I also try to be fair and not slam entire collectives. This hasn’t always been true. I was once far angrier, more petty, and more judgey. I’m glad I’ve turned the corner on that, for the most part, because it really makes me vomit in my mouth a bit when I want or hear others doing it.

And, yes, I’ve called even my best friends on comments like these at times, which can cause an awkward pause in the evening, but at least I’m being consistent across the board.

Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t be a bully. Have opinions that don’t require flat-out insulting others.

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A Quick Rant about Quick Travels

Three Norwegian guys are getting a lot of press today for breaking the world record for most countries visited in 24 hours. I railed against this in a tweet and was retweeted by a guy who’s visited all 198 countries by the age of 35, who is one of the three dudes who accomplished this.

So I sat and thought for a minute. Am I annoyed because of jealousy  that they have the opportunity to blow through all these countries? Well, sure, probably a little bit, but I think my angst is on a deeper level than that.

Beyond being able to say they’ve done this, what was really accomplished? Maybe a quick bowl of local food as landscape whizzed past? Like, anything? These guys are what can be called professional travellers — they’re not missing a lot because they’ve done these places, seen them before. But for the most part, a lot of speed travellers can’t say that.

Collecting Airports”

We’re a society that’s in it for the pictures, the proof, the acclaim. “Pics, or it didn’t happen” isn’t just a catchphrase, it’s a lifestyle ethos.

As a passionate hobby photographer, it’s ironic for me to rail against “pics, or it didn’t happen,” but I at least try to be in the place I’m at. I try to absorb what’s around me, look for a better shot. I talk to people, engage. I mean, I just spent 24 hours in a town that’s only 60km away from me and I feel like I didn’t get enough time to see it all, and there’s only 50,000 population.

I think this “record” is just one small example of things I see happening a lot. Fortunately, I see others doing travel really well too, and they inspire me daily.

Photo from Lonely Planet

Photo from Lonely Planet

Different Folks, Different Trips

Travel is still a luxury for most of us. It’d be easy for someone to mock me as some observer who doesn’t have a clue, because I technically haven’t been a traveller for years. Yeah, I’ve been to England on a family trip, and when I owned a car I probably saw more via road trips than most people will see in a lifetime. After all, my vehicles racked up more than 500,000 kilometres before I became a walking/cycling gal. But when I roadtripped, I saw everything from the big, popular places, to really cool weird little places. I’ve been from Mexico to Alaska and halfway across Canada, and everywhere in between, and I still feel like there are so many more roadtrips I could take in just those regions.

But I guess that’s why it riles me up when I see “speed travellers.” People who seem to go to a place, be there, leave. Boom. Done. TAPPED THAT. There’s a Facebook update, so that happened. It’s a wasted chance, it seems.

It’s different when it’s for work and family. Short, whirlwind trips sometimes make sense. I’m talking about the “collecting” of airports and visa stamps, rushing through places so you can say you spent a day at best in some town before rushing to the next. Even that seems almost luxurious against this 19 countries in 24 hours challenge.

Travel is about seeing the world. Being of the world. Seeing cultures, trying foods. It’s about experience, not just brief exposure. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I ever sign up for a “five countries in seven days” vacation. I’d sooner not leave home than have to race for such a short and unrewarding trip I’ll mostly remember taking photos on, not being places.

That said, I don’t want to shit on this young guy who’s seen every country in the world. Would I kill for that experience? I probably would. I just know that I’d have constant regrets about places I didn’t linger. I’d have a new list, “Places I need to go back and see properly.” I’m sure he’ll never regret doing what he’s done, but instead might regret not seizing moments or blowing off the next leg, all because of some predetermined schedule. I’ve been there, too.

Travel: The World As a School

I have no idea what my five years of travel will entail. Travelling is, and should be, a deeply personal journey. That’s part of the beauty of it. There will be a lot of places where I stay long, and others I breeze through. In my travel dreams, I see myself learning local recipes, exploring markets only the locals go to, taking cooking and language classes, making friends who are from the countries, not just expats.

In the end, the important thing is just to travel. It’s critical we all realize just how much more binds us to each other than pushes us apart, how interconnected our environment is, and how much we take for granted. Travel is a crash course in humanity.

Or it can be, if you stand still sometimes, and look behind the curtains in others.

Slow down. Breathe. Life isn’t a race, and those lists of places “to go back to” — well, I’m old enough now to know just ow often we don’t get those do-overs.

 

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