John Leigh, Co-Founder and Director of Anime Matsuri (one of the largest Anime Cons in the US), has been accused of repeatedly making unwelcome sexual comments and advances towards several women. The Houston Press has a detailed write up of the situation, but the highlights include asking at least one woman to send him naked photos, asking another model to simulate oral sex on a man at what she had been told was a normal photo shoot (and repeatedly pressuring her when she said no), and inappropriately touching another cosplayer by trying to lift up a part of her costume.
So yeah, it’s pretty bad.
Leigh’s initial response was, at best, what could be described as dismissive. In a blog entry which has since been password protected (but is readable here), Leigh said:
As a disclaimer I would like to point out that I joke a lot with my friends or people I consider close. If you are offended by sexual innuendos, dirty talks or comments about boobs and orgasms, you should not be my friend. Online or offline. This means no disrespect and I would suggest not engaging in conversation with me. I act this way with my friends regardless of gender, and as my friend, you should make it perfectly clear that you are uncomfortable with my conversation. I would respect you enough to stop joking.
Since pulling that from public view, someone with a modicum of P.R. instincts must have pulled him aside and given him a talking to, as he released the following response to the Houston Press:
I am extremely sorry that my attempts at humor have offended some people.
When I learned of concerns of some former business associates, I was at first was surprised and disappointed that people I considered friends held these beliefs. I became defensive and did not react well. Given a couple of days to reflect, I realized that my sense of humor may not be well-received and I had to take that to heart.
I have subsequently completed an online sexual harassment course that I believe will make me more aware and sensitive to how my actions are perceived by others and I will continue working on this. Additionally, I voluntarily submitted my resignation from the post as Kawaii Ambassador on Wednesday, June 24 after there was a call by some for me to do so.
This has been an eye-opening experience for me and my family. I feel terrible about this, and sincerely apologize to those I have offended. I hope my actions have demonstrated my sincerity in wanting to maintain my good name and that of Anime Matsuri.
It should be pointed out that this message came via Anime Matsuri’s Public Relations person Kelly Kimberly, and that the Sexual Harassment Course that Leigh claims he completed is only a two hour online class.
Personally, I don’t really buy what Leigh is selling here, as a long term pattern of behavior like this doesn’t really get resolved in two hours. This also really only speaks to some of his “humorous” comments (which, y’know, weren’t), and doesn’t really address some of the creepier things he’s been accused of (like the photoshoot and the inappropriate touching).
The sad thing is that I’m no longer shocked when stuff like this happens. Conventions are supposed to be a safe place for people, but it seems there will always be those willing to prey on the vulnerable out there — and it angers me.
It angers me a lot.