Today in “Trust No Man, No Matter How Much You Enjoy Their Music/Movies/TV/Art”, Win Butler of the band Arcade Fire has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault. On Saturday, Pitchfork published a lengthy exposé detailing allegations made by four people: three women and one gender-fluid person, who were all between the ages of 18 and 23 when their interactions with Win occurred (he was between 36 and 39). The now 42-year-old musician, who’s been married to bandmate Régine Chassagne since 2003, actually cooperated with Pitchfork and attempted to refute his accuser’s stories point by point. He also released a statement apologizing for any pain he caused, but insisted that everything was consensual. Win blames his bad behavior on mental health issues, abuse from his childhood, and a drinking problem he says he developed after wife Régine suffered a miscarriage (!!!!). Régine released her own statement, insisting that her husband “would never touch a woman without her consent and I am certain he never did.” So how did that convo go?: “Hey babe, you know how I cheated a bunch and now the chicks are saying it wasn’t consensual? Well, I blamed it on you having a miscarriage. Can you tell Pitchfork that I’m a good guy? Thaaanks.”
The four accusers used aliases for Pitchfork’s article. The three women were “devoted Arcade Fire fans,” who are accusing Win of “sexual interactions with Butler that they came to feel were inappropriate given the gaps in age, power dynamics, and context in which they occurred.” The fourth person, who uses they/them pronouns, claims Win sexually assaulted them twice in 2015: once in a car and another time when he allegedly showed up to their apartment despite text messages asking him not to come. Pitchfork says they viewed screenshots of texts and messages between Win and his accusers, and interviewed friends and family members who say they recall being told about the incidents. Here’s what happened when Pitchfork reached out to Win:
When reached for comment, Butler communicated with Pitchfork via the New York-based crisis public relations expert Risa Heller. In his first written statement to Pitchfork, which addressed the allegations made in this story, Butler acknowledged having sexual interactions with each of the four people, but maintained that they were consensual, and not initiated by him. Through Heller, Butler offered to put Pitchfork in contact with different women who had consensual sexual experiences with him in the past.
I’m sorry. This guy really thought he could prove his innocence by pointing to women he’d fucked consensually? As this tweet helpfully points out, it’s giving the #MeToo version of “How could I be racist? I have Black friends!”
Under the pseudonym “Lily,” the person accusing Win of sexual assault says they met at an Arcade Fire concert in Montreal in 2015. At the time, they were 21, and they weren’t a huge fan of the band. Lily says, that evening, the two traded contact information:
Butler’s account of the evening differs from Lily’s in one key respect: He says Lily “flirted with me all night” at the concert, and Lily says their interactions were friendly, not flirtatious. Butler displayed an interest in their art career, they say.
Dozens of text messages between the two over a period of about two weeks after the initial meeting underscore their differing outlooks on the nature of their connection. “Not that I’ve been making it particularly clear but if this is about sex for you I think you found me at the wrong time,” Lily wrote on January 17, 2015.
Soon after meeting, they went out for drinks, an occasion Butler described to Pitchfork as a date. Lily objects to that characterization, citing the fact that they had a long-term partner at the time and Butler was married to Chessagne. Butler claims they kissed consensually during that first outing; “That did not happen,” says Lily. According to Lily, they began spending time with Butler because they were open to becoming friends with him.
Lily says they met Win again for dinner in late February, and while he was driving them home, they say Win “stuck his hands into their pants without consent”:
When Lily expressed discomfort, they say, Butler eventually removed his hand and dropped them off at home.
Butler claims that he only put his hand on Lily’s inner thigh, and that Lily “looked me in the eyes and said ‘not in the car’ in a way that seemed flirtatious.” Responding to Butler’s account, Lily said it was possible that he touched them through their pants rather than putting his hand inside, but maintained that it was a “very aggressive” touching of their crotch, not their inner thigh, and that their response was not flirtatious. Their accounts of the meal itself also differ. Butler claims that they “flirted all meal” and again kissed consensually; Lily remembers the dinner as awkward and says that no such kiss took place.
They agree that there was a kiss after Butler dropped Lily off. Butler says it was a consensual kiss that made it “clear to me that the attraction was mutual.” “I did not ask for it. I did not reciprocate,” Lily says. “It was very short and uncomfortable because it was so bad.”
Lily says that, two days later, Win texted asking to come over to their apartment. Lily repeatedly told him not to, but Win allegedly ignored them and came over anyway. They say:
“I opened my door and he pinned me up against the wall and was aggressively grabbing my body and sticking his tongue down my throat,” Lily said. “It was an attempt to be sexy, and it was so not OK in the context.” However, Butler’s statement reads, “When [Lily] opened the door we started kissing immediately…I don’t remember who initiated it but it was definitely mutual.”
According to Lily, they asked Butler to leave and he refused. “Eventually he pulled me onto his lap on my couch. I don’t know if he was holding me by the waist or what, but I was physically constrained by him as he was putting his hand down my pants. At some point he tried to go down on me,” they said. They claim they told him again to leave. “The anger and the power in my voice surprised me,” they said. “I will never forget it.” Butler got up at that point, Lily claims, and began berating them for denying his advances.
Butler vehemently denies any non-consensual behavior. “We moved to [Lily’s] bed, but it felt like the mood was weird so I stopped and asked if [Lily] was OK,” his statement reads. “It seemed like maybe things were moving a little fast. [Lily] never asked me to leave, and I never berated [them]. I did express some genuine confusion as to how the mood had shifted so suddenly and become awkward. I said it was no big deal at all. I stopped and I left.”
Afterward, Lily thought they might have been in the wrong because Win acted like their behavior was weird. So, they texted him to apologize for rejecting his advances. But Lily tells Pitchfork:
“Looking back, it’s pretty easy to identify the manipulation at the core of that exchange. It’s also really clear that it worked. I continued to doubt the validity of my behaviors and my assertion of my ‘no’ and lack of consent for months after.”
Win responded to Lily’s apology by telling them it was OK. After that, they never spoke or saw each other again. But, after several months, Lily came to view the incidents as sexual assaults. Win told Pitchfork that, after their final texts, “I figured it wasn’t a match, and not a big deal.” He denies that he sexually assaulted them.
Win’s other accusers were young women who were big Arcade Fire fans. Their stories are all similar; they connected with Win online, and casual conversations soon “shifted in tone” when he began requesting and demanding increasingly sexual photos and videos. One accuser, then 18-year-old “Stella”, met up with Win at a bar a couple of times, and says Win sent her dick pics without her consent. She says it devastated her, and, at the time, she messaged a friend:
“Win butler asked me for nudes and tried to sext me. And I told him I was really uncomfortable with that,” Stella wrote. “I don’t really know what to do now. He keeps texting me. Over and over.” Pitchfork viewed the Facebook messages between Stella and her friend and spoke with the friend Stella was messaging, who confirmed the veracity of the exchange.
Another accuser, “Fiona,” met up with Win and had a sexual encounter with him:
Afterward, Fiona claims, she attempted suicide by swallowing a large quantity of extra-strength Tylenol. “I felt incredibly low,” she said. “The toll of having to keep everything secret, constantly pushing my needs aside in order to appease him, lack of boundaries, and the guilt of being the other woman was getting too hard to ignore.”
Win denies this. He says that when he and Fiona had their sexual encounter, he noticed that she had an Arcade Fire tattoo, which he thought “felt a little weird.” He says that, a year later, Fiona reached out to him a year later, saying she missed him and wanted to sext again. Fiona denies doing this, and Win has no proof of any of these conversations. Each of the women say that Win exploited their power dynamic and the fact that they worshipped his band. He says:
“I didn’t realize the significance of the age difference at the time,” his statement reads. “I can now see how it could be overwhelming thinking back to when I was 18, but at the time I didn’t appreciate that.”
Win also wrote a long, super-entitled statement in which he apologizes for fucking up, but denies any and all sexual misconduct or assault. He says “I can do better and I will do better.” He admits that he had “consensual relationship outside my marriage,” adding “our marriage has, in the past, been more unconventional than some.” Here’s the part where he blames this shit on his wife’s miscarriage:
I have long struggled with mental health issues and the ghosts of childhood abuse. In my 30s, I started drinking as I dealt with the heaviest depression of my life after our family experienced a miscarriage. None of this is intended to excuse my behavior, but I do want to give some context and share what was happening in my life around this time. I no longer recognized myself or the person I had become. Régine waited patiently watching me suffer and tried to help me as best as she could. I know it must have been so hard for her to watch the person she loved so lost.
Here’s Régine’s statement:
Win is my soulmate, my songwriting partner, my husband, the father of my beautiful boy. He has been my partner in life and in music for 20 years. And for all of the love in our lives, I have also watched him suffer through immense pain. I have stood by him because I know he is a good man who cares about this world, our band, his fans, friends, and our family. I’ve known Win since before we were “famous,” when we were just ordinary college students. I know what is in his heart, and I know he has never, and would never, touch a woman without her consent and I am certain he never did. He has lost his way and he has found his way back. I love him and love the life we have created together.
Back in May, Arcade Fire released their sixth album, “We.” Later that week, Win’s brother, Will Butler, announced he had left the band shortly after the album’s completion. Arcade Fire’s world tour kicks off tomorrow in Dublin, and is set to wrap up in early December. Hmmm… methinks the people will want some refunds.