Jian Ghomeshi and Our Culture of Sexual Violence

STF AdminAwareness, Healthy Sexuality, Rape Culture

By David Hilder & Strength To Fight Staff

Jian Ghomeshi, former host and co-creator of the CBC radio show Q, is more well-known today than when he was on the air. Despite his fourteen years of hard work in public broadcasting, a time he looks back on to describe himself as having “always tried to be a good soldier and do a good job for my country,” Ghomeshi’s image is looking less polished these days. Now, as his very public trial comes to a close today, it’s important to review what has actually taken place.

Jian Ghomeshi was fired from the CBC in October 2014. Within a month he had been arrested and charged with several counts of sexual assault. This month his trial has begun. Ghomeshi has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking. He will be facing a second trial for yet another sexual assault charge this summer, this time sitting across from a complainant who happens to be a former CBC employee.

During the trial it has come out that in the middle of kissing a woman, Ghomeshi allegedly underwent a “sudden switch,” grew angry, and violently pulled her by the hair. Then he punched her head three times. The woman testified, saying “I felt like I had walked into a pole or hit my head on the pavement. It was that strong. And I thought I was going to pass out.” He has also been accused of hurling verbal abuse at women and choking them to the point where they can’t breathe.

In a Facebook post from last year, Ghomeshi expressed his frustration that “my private sex life” was being exposed. He admitted to engaging in “adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission” and “rough sex (forms of BDSM).” Just to clarify, BDSM includes bondage, sadism and masochism. Nevertheless, Ghomeshi claims everything was “consensual.”

How can this kind of thing happen, especially from a CBC star who portrayed himself as a kind-hearted defender of women’s rights? One of his alleged victims believes “his persona was a deliberate cover for his predatory behaviour.” The reality is that today’s culture is double-sided in the same way. On the surface it praises female empowerment, but underneath it propagates the abuse of women.

Ghomeshi described his conduct in the bedroom as “a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey,” a book which has popularized BDSM. A culture of sexual violence is being normalized, and contributed to by different forms of media such as pornography. Over 88% of porn contains scenes of physical aggression. Over 37% includes hair pulling and almost 30% of it contains choking. So can we really be surprised when people imitate what they see in today’s pornography?

The more alarming thing is that it’s not just adults who are being influenced by images of sexual violence. By age 16, 90% of kids have watched porn online, and 80% of kids ages 15 to 17 have watched hard-core porn multiple times. The assumption among consumers of porn is that the women involved want the harsh treatment they’re receiving. That it gives them pleasure to be used, abused and then tossed aside. And it tells women that if they don’t like it, it’s their own fault.

The justifications for this type of behaviour are endless. Ghomeshi makes the blanket statement that “sexual preferences are a human right” and defends his right to have a “secret life” outside the purview of justice. But where something happens, has no bearing on whether it is right or wrong. And wrongs done in private will eventually be exposed. Whether it’s participating in the abuse of women in front of a screen or face to face, this culture of domination and sexual violence must end.