Alt-Lit Icon Tao Lin Accused of Statutory Rape and Abuse [Updated]

Tao Lin, alt-lit mainstay, author of seven novels and contributor to Thought Catalog, Vice, The Stranger, and other publications has been accused of statutory rape and abuse by the person he dated when she was only 16 and he was 22.

He responded with an essay-length defense of their sexual relationship that didn’t refute any of the claims of abuse, which he posted to Facebook, edited several times, and eventually deleted. But Tao Lin was a fucking garbage creep long before his ex tweeted about it.

Lin’s ex girlfriend, E. R. (formerly Ellen) Kennedy, made the allegations last week on his personal Twitter account (E. R. is trans and now identifies as a man). Last night, when a popular tumblr posted screen shots of the Tweets with Kennedy’s permission, people beyond his small following took notice. More than 7,000 people have “liked” the post so far, and those numbers are only growing as the story gains traction.

“I’ve never had safe sex,” Kennedy began. “I’ve had consensual sex maybe twice.” He then unleashed a string of allegations that Tao Lin, lauded for his weird brilliance, is an abusive monster who surrounds himself with apologists.

Kennedy added that Tao threatened to end their relationship if he weighed over 125 lbs, that he told him at the time that if he didn’t wear dresses every day it must mean he doesn’t like him as much, that he forced Kennedy to drive him in his mother’s car to stores so they could shoplift things Tao could sell to pay his bills, that he forced Kennedy to write down his personal failures as a romantic partner every day, that he required Kennedy send him a certain number of emails and pictures every day, that he accused Kennedy of binge eating after consuming 300 calories in one sitting.

Kennedy also accused Tao Lin of stealing words from emails he sent him and publishing them as his own, of profiting off of his work and continuing to profit off him while he still scrambles to pick up the pieces, seven years later.

It didn’t take long for anger over Kennedy’s allegations spilled onto Lin’s Facebook page. In response, Lin acknowledged that, yes, he and Kennedy has sex in her parents’ bed when he was 22 and she was 16 (during the pair’s relationship, Lin lived with Kennedy’s family in northeastern Pennsylvania). And yes, their relationship “had problems,” none of which he denied. But at least he didn’t rape! There’s nothing illegal about emotionally abusing a kid!

The post begins with the words:

Yes, I had consensual sex with Ellen in her parents’ house in Pennsylvania in her parents’ bed, as she tweeted, when I was 22 and she was 16. No, that is not statutory rape, let alone rape.

One Facebook user took a screenshot of the edit history of Lin’s self-pitying novella. Before it was taken down entirely Lin changed the privacy settings so that it is no longer publicly available, he edited it more than 8 times. As of this morning, all of the other critical comments have been scrubbed from his public Facebook page.

Calling what Kennedy alleges to have happened between her and Lin “problems” is minimizing to the point of insult. In fact, other accounts of their relationship (like the one in this slobbering profile from n+1) describe a clearly abusive dynamic that left its victim (a child!) broken.

By no standard of well-being could the relationship be considered healthy. [Ellen Kennedy] was eager to please the young man but had trouble keeping her word. She would show up to their rendezvous later than she said she would. She would not do things with the young man that she had said they would do. She was bulimic and a cutter and depressed. She felt trapped, “surrounded by endless shit.”
The young man had a problem with expression. He expected the girl to recognize when she had displeased him without being prompted by any clear sign of displeasure. He did not appreciate the girl’s abject apologies for being inconsistent, or her professions of affection for him, or her promises to change herself for the better; if anything, they aggravated his distrust. He demanded total reciprocity between them, but his tone of voice was all too often unforgiving and despotic. He spied on her communications and her internet browsing history.
The girl looked up to the young man but could not please him except by, under his guidance, changing her life to match her words. And this, in spite of, or despite, his help, she couldn’t do. She resorted to lying to him about her efforts to eat better and be less depressed (and not lie to him) when he wasn’t around; on uncovering these lies, the young man grew that much more displeased, triggering a further cycle of contrition, dishonesty, and frustration.

Lin’s history of abuse is matched only by influential (mostly male) pockets of the literary world’s desire to fall all over themselves to praise and accommodate and apologize for him. Lin may have destroyed the life of a child forever through mental and physical abuse but hey at least litbros got a cool edgy book out of the deal. The life of a teenage girl is just collateral damage in the messy pursuit of brilliance.

Multiple sources who have interacted with Lin described him to Jezebel as “strange,” “creepy,” and “bizarre.” Nobody who had interacted with him seemed surprised that he’d treat a teenage girl the way Kennedy alleges he treated her.

According to a female staffer at a publication where Lin has frequently freelanced, she felt uncomfortable at work for months because “he felt influential and he was just such a creepy asshole. And everyone was like ‘he’s just weird and strange and brilliant.'” Despite the fact that Lin and the staffer never interacted directly, the staffer tells Jezebel that Lin developed a bizarre obsession with hating her writing, tweeting frequently about her and how bad a writer he thought she was. Around that time, she started noticing an uptick in similarly hateful and harassing anonymous comments on her stories from the same IP address. When she went to a coworker to complain about the months-long barrage, he said he wasn’t going to ask Tao Lin to leave her alone, and that the problem was “between you two.” The female writer, let me remind you, had never met Lin in person, nor spoken to him directly. Ironically, the title of one of his online-only pieces is called “How to Be Considerate on the Internet.”

It hasn’t been a good week for professionally sensitive men. In addition to the YouTube community’s ongoing and never-ending discoveries that many of their most popular male vloggers are also creeps who prey on their teenage fans, allegations surfaced within the alt-lit community that Pop Serial editor Stephen Tully Dierks spent a week subjecting a 19-year-old woman named Sophie Katz to coercive sex, rape, and emotional abuse.

Surely somewhere in this great blinking city of ours, there’s a child of wealth with a punchline drug problem who is adept at writing about getting like totally fucked up and then feeling weird about it who isn’t an abusive monster. Moments like this make me really miss Cat Marnell.

UPDATE: Tao is now threatening to sue E. R. Kennedy because he is upset that in previous tweets, Kennedy didn’t make enough of an effort to differentiate between rape rape and statutory rape.

Not a real rapist. Great title for a memoir.

UPDATE 2: Language in the headline and in the first paragraph have been changed at the request of Tao Lin’s lawyer, who contacted Jezebel to make sure that when we use the word “rape” in reference to Tao Lin, we add the modifier “statutory.”

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