Have you ever heard of the Streisand Effect? It’s named after the time movie star Barbara Streisand attempted to suppress photos of her Malibu home, leading to the unintended result of those photos becoming even more widely disseminated.
The same goes for why we’re talking about 2015 sexual harassment accusations in 2018. John Leigh, a showrunner for Anime Matsuri—the second largest anime convention in North America—is digging up his own accusations by attempting to silence a vlogger who talked about them. It’s a bad look at any time, but especially during the #MeToo era. It’s also an unusual choice considering this scandal was all but forgotten.
But, since John Leigh is still talking about it, we’re going to as well. According to several people speaking to the Houston Press and Comics Beat, Leigh used his position at Anime Matsuri to request nude photos and bring up sexual comments in professional conversation—in one case asking a convention volunteer about the last time she had an orgasm, and in another case asking a Lolita fashion model to simulate oral sex during a photoshoot (with conversation screenshots serving as receipts).
Some of the women who said they were harassed weren’t women at all, but teen girls. In one account, a self-described “sophomore in high school” says Leigh touched her inappropriately and sent sexual late-night texts to the point that she was no longer comfortable attending Anime Matsuri.
Leigh has not denied any of the accusations, instead making excuses for his behavior. In a personal blog post titled A Man in a Woman’s World, he appeared to seek sympathy by writing about his wife and children before adding “If you are offended by sexual innuendos, dirty talks or comments about boobs and orgasms, you should not be my friend.”
Later Leigh wrote a Facebook post stating, “I also understand an apology means little without positive action, so I have decided to take a course on Sexual Harassment to be more aware of this serious problem and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
And so people forgot, as they tend to do. A petition to boycott Anime Matsuri closed down. It might have ended there, if not for the cease and desist letter John Leigh’s lawyer sent to a Lolita fashion vlogger on January 4, 2018.
Tyler, the Lolita fashion vlogger behind Last Week Lolita News, who you probably haven’t heard of unless you’re into Lolita fandom yourself, got a scary note in response to her latest video, which admittedly isn’t too kind to Leigh. Referring to accounts that Leigh has harassed girls under 18 as well as women, she calls Leigh an “alleged pedophile.” “Pedophile” is a word with no legal definition, but in a post-Roy Moore society, preying on teens has earned increased notoriety.
“This isn’t about me,” Tyler says in the video that provoked the letter. “It’s about the victims.”
Among other demands, the cease and desist letter directs Tyler to “make a public apology on social media” to Anime Matsuri by January 8, 2018.
There are a couple of clues this letter is an attempt to silence a pesky naysayer. First of all, the letter targets Tyler, a niche vlogger, and not, for example, bigger fish who have made accusations against Leigh. Additionally, the cease and desist letter addresses slander (a type of defamation) but does not come from a defamation lawyer. Instead the letter comes from a solo practitioner business and family lawyer.
A cease and desist letter is a threat to sue, but it is not a guarantee that the sender has a case. That said, you should consult a lawyer if you receive one, no matter the reason.
Yes, Tyler is the one still vlogging about the alleged sexual harassment years later, but she’s got 4,000 Facebook fans compared to Anime Matsuri’s national audience and 36,000 2017 attendants. An organization this large using its might against a sole vlogger in an already niche community because she talked about a three-year-old story is what really makes this threat newsworthy.
Talking about harassment or abuse you receive is never easy… but to speak out against well-respected authority figures within a niche community comes with unique pressures and concerns.
Anime Feminist has never sought commercial opportunities with established companies in our space, specifically so we’d be able to offer support and a platform to those who need it at times like these. As a trained journalist who’s spent years working in anime fandom, Lauren has the knowledge and experience to confirm whether or not it’s possible for us to publish your story.
If publishable, we have the right contacts to confirm we’re treating the subject fairly and protecting you as much as we can. If not publishable, there may be other avenues of support we can offer. Either way, we will always start from the position that we believe you and want to help.
These stories need to be told, and in 2018 more people than ever are willing to listen. If you have a #MeToo story you’d like to share about someone in a position of authority or with a following of their own, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or message me on Twitter @ActuallyAmelia. I’m the only one with access to these channels, and will honour any requests for anonymity.
—Amelia Cook, Editor-in-Chief