Friday, June 19, 2015

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Work For: Jian Ghomeshi's Byronic Tendencies

Here's my latest for The Megaphone:

The July cover story in Toronto Life magazine is by writer Leah McLaren, who offers this insight into the kinky and allegedly criminal sexual hijinks of her friend, Jian Ghomeshi:
The fact that we believed the cuddly, wholesome version of Jian makes the crimes he’s accused of doubly galling. Though he never mentioned anything about bondage, domination or a fondness for choking his dinner dates to me, he did enjoy trying to shock me. He once dropped an offhand comment about sleeping with a mutual male friend who was ostensibly straight and had a girlfriend. “It’s no secret I’m bisexual,” he said. His equal-opportunity orientation was known among his close friends, but I always thought of it as more of a political stance than a burning desire. Jian slept with men whenever he felt like it, which was occasionally but not that often. His real preoccupation was women. There were so many I couldn’t keep up. He was unabashedly promiscuous, or at least purported to be. After one bad breakup, he confided in a friend that he’d had sex with dozens of women in two months. He felt “a little out of control,” he added, but it didn’t seem to stop him.
I happen to be reading Fiona MacCarthy's biography of Lord Byron, another famous fellow with pronounced promiscuity issues. Like Jian, George Gordon, Lord Byron was a charmer who made the chicks swoon; he, too, liked 'em young and preferred ‘em hoydenish (the quintessential model being Lady Caroline Lamb, who’s responsible for the “mad/bad/dangerous” quip.)

More to the point, he, too, was bisexual. In Byron's case, though, it was a secret, homosexuality in that Regency era being - shades of shari’a - a capital crime that was punishable by death. MacCarthy writes that Byron really preferred the lads but fear of being prosecuted and perhaps even strung up for his preference resulted in his overcompensation via his frantic promiscuity with the ladies, whom he was inclined to treat badly (although, unlike Jian's alleged misbehavior, Byron's was mostly a matter of emotional abuse).

Another interesting similarity: like Ghomeshi, Byron was an "outsider" (though born in London, his heritage was Scots, and his early schooling was in Aberdeen). Switch "Scottish" for "Iranian" and “English” for “Canadian” in this bit by McLaren, and she could well be describing the poet:
He was determined to have establishment credibility. He’s often spoken of feeling like an outsider because of his Iranian background, and I believe that being born on the fringes of the dominant Canadian culture fuelled his ambition.
Fringe fellows, the both of them; one who, famously, tried to disguise a club foot, the other who, also famously, was hobbled by anxiety and who hid behind a teddy bear.

Now, maybe, in Ghomeshi's case, he is someone who really does prefer chicks. And maybe his bad behavior with the ladies is not a manifestation of his desire to hide his true sexual preference for guys. One thing is certain, though. In the run up to his day in court, the former idol has loads of time on his hands and, as McLaren informs us, he fills up at least part of his day by reading. That being so, why not pick up a copy of MacCarthy's Byron biography as his beach (and Beach) read? I bet he'd find it fascinating - and perhaps even enlightening in a profound and personal way.


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