Neil Gaiman Podcast Wrapup and Reflections

So I listened to the entire podcast and I thought I would post a little wrapup because I know not everybody wants to invest 3 hours in this and also the descriptions of sexual abuse in the podcast are graphic and would likely be extremely triggering to folks who might otherwise be interested in the story. So I’m going to draw a veil over the explicit details here. You can certainly find them on the podcast.

In 2022 in New Zealand, a young woman named Scarlett, a 21-year-old self-described “friend” of Amanda Palmer’s gets asked by Amanda to do a favor and hang out with her kid for a while at some event. It goes well, so Amanda asks Scarlett to work for her full-time as a nanny/domestic. Scarlett never signs a contract, and, not surprisingly if you’re familiar with Amanda Palmer, she never gets paid. But she does get room and board.

Okay, so on her first day at work, she drops the kid off at a playdate and then goes back to hang at Neil Gaiman’s house. He and Amanda are living separately and co-parenting, and this is Scarlett’s first time meeting Neil. She’s 21; he’s 61. He asks if she wants to take a bath, and she says yes. I guess there’s a scenic bathtub outside. He draws her a bath, she gets in, and he comes out naked and nonchalantly gets in the bath. Sexual contact ensues. She does not scream and run from the bath.

Scarlett goes to Amanda Palmer and says, “Neil made a pass at me,” though he did considerably more than that. Amanda replies “I’ll bet he did,” and shares that she has heard similar things from at least 14 other women.

This begins a sexual relationship that lasts a couple of months. Neil, apparently, is into rough sex involving the degradation and humiliation of his partners. This isn’t disputed, but more on this later.

After leaving her volunteer gig with the wealthy author and musician, Scarlett gets suicidal and in therapy realizes that she really wasn’t okay with a lot of the stuff Neil did to her sexually. (And yes, I’m using “to” rather than “with” deliberately). She goes to the police and shares all her WhatsApp messages with Neil.

In many of these, she references sex being amazing, and generally she keeps in touch with him. This sort of bolsters his contention that the sex was all consensual. After Scarlett’s friend has torn Amanda Palmer a new one for putting a vulnerable young woman in the path of a predator, Neil tells Scarlett he’s feeling suicidal because she’s going to accuse him of rape. She says no, no, no that’s crazy, you never raped me. She also asks him for money to help with her rent. (Remember, she never got any wages during the time she worked for the power couple.) He agrees to send her money but in return demands that she sign an NDA backdated to the time of their first meeting.

That’s most of episode 1 and 2. Episode 3 is mostly filler—background on Neil Gaiman that you can find pretty much anywhere. If you’re interested in Neil’s involvement with the Church of Scientology, here’s an article about that.

In episode 4, we meet K., an American woman who met Neil at a book signing when she was 18 and he was 41. They stayed in touch, he asked her and her friend to dinner one night a year later and then asked if they’d give him a threesome for his birthday. They said no, but then a while later (I can’t remember if K. was 19 or 20 at this point) Neil and K. did begin a sexual relationship. The sexual stuff was very similar but included even more info on Neil Gaiman not respecting boundaries and being indifferent to/enthusiastic about causing physical pain outside the boundaries of normal BDSM play. Again, she stayed with him for a while, and there is documentation that she didn’t immediately denounce him as a rapist and tell him to get out of her life.

Other women who Neil has had sexual relationships with chime in to say he’s cool and they dug the sex.

That’s the podcast. Here are my conclusions.

There’s simply no doubt in my mind that Neil Gaiman is a horrible person. He’s talented, and he’s done a great job of building this public persona as a thoughtful, gentle, caring dude. That is not who he is.

First of all, there’s a terrible power imbalance between a 61-year-old with wealth that’s unimaginable to most people, and a vulnerable 21-year-old on the verge of homelessness. And between a 41-year-old author and an 18-year-old fan. Neil is far from alone in wanting to exploit the power differential inherent in these kinds of relationships (looking at you, most men in Hollywood), but it’s still weird and gross.

As for the kink and consent stuff. Neil seems to operate on the theory that consent (by which he clearly means failure to run away) to any sexual contact equals consent to engage in pretty hardcore BDSM practices. No conversation beforehand about what might or might not be on the table, no safe words. In other words, his behavior is totally against widely-agreed-upon standards of consent for BDSM play. My understanding is that one key element of responsible BDSM play is that the person in the submissive role actually has power—they can stop the scene any time they want for any reason at all. Because it’s play. If both people aren’t fully informed and consenting and able to pull the plug, it’s not BDSM play—it’s abuse.

Furthermore, I think people need to understand that Scarlett and K are not unusual in keeping in touch with their abuser and not immediately confronting them and even downplaying the abuse. Evan Stark, author of a book called Coercive Control, is interviewed on the podcast. And he compares domestic abusers to con artists. This made a lot of sense to me. Just like con artists gaslight people into believing that they wanted to “invest” all their money, abusers gaslight their victims into believing that the situation is normal, and so they’ll go along to stay in denial about the horror of the situation. Anyone of any age can be manipulated, but vulnerable young people in a relationship with a powerful old person are, I would say, especially susceptible.

I understand that Neil Gaiman can’t be prosecuted. The issues of consent are far too thorny to trust a jury to sort out.

But I’m not on a jury. And the available information quite easily meets my standards of convicting this guy of being a piece of shit. He’s a creep and an asshole and an abuser.

What that means for your relationship with his art is for you to decide.