Halifax really seems to hate the Slut Whisperer | The Coast Halifax

Halifax really seems to hate the Slut Whisperer

It doesn’t appear that Kirill will ever be here.

Halifax really seems to hate the Slut Whisperer
via Instagram
Kirill Bichutsky, the Slut Whisperer.

This city appears to have real talent for shutting down Kiril Bichutsky. The American photographer—better known online as Kirill Was Here and the Slut Whisperer—has made a name for himself travelling the world, visiting nightclubs and posting pictures on his website of the throngs of sometimes-drunk, usually-naked women who come out to see him.

His vocation and online persona are not without criticism. He’s been labelled misogynistic, racist, fat-phobic, an exploiter of women and a promoter of rape culture (among other things). Also, Halifax doesn't seem to want him anywhere near us.

In April, the Argyle Grill and Bar cancelled a scheduled appearance by Bichutsky after public outcry. Owner Chris Tzaneteas told CBC that his bar was “against anything this guy is for.”

Now, Bichutsky's upcoming three-date tour in Atlantic Canada this November is in jeopardy. A scheduled appearance November 7 at the Marquee on Gottingen Street appears to be scrapped. The Facebook page for the event is down, though neither Bichutsky nor the Marquee were able to confirm the event was officially cancelled.

Two other dates in Moncton and St. John’s on the “Banned in Canada” tour are apparently still on, but have generated controversy both online and in the press. Meanwhile, a scheduled appearance in Barrie, Ontario was cancelled yesterday after public complaints—one of which was lodged by Barrie native and Halifax student Aylan Couchie.

“What age are we living in? He makes money off of photographing these so called 'champagne facials' of (sometimes naked) but also inebriated women—and his followers are young men and women who think this sort of behaviour is OK." —Aylan Couchie

Halifax has seen a recent trend in public pressure cancelling appearances from controversial celebrities. Mayor Mike Savage was one of many who spoke out against Chris Brown performing here in 2013, and this summer a Casualties show at The Seahorse was cancelled over past sexual assault allegations.

Depending on your point of view, that’s all either a testament to this city’s intolerance for misogynistic entertainment, or a small group of buzzkills censoring other people’s fun. Either way, it’s something Bichutsky says he hasn’t encountered anywhere else.

After calling out a St. John’s outlet for not talking to him about this latest controversy, The Coast phoned Bichutsky, who was more than happy to chat about Halifax, his critics and why he believes this is all a big misunderstanding. The interview is printed here, edited for length and clarity.


The Coast: Why do you think the events here are causing this amount of protest? Is this something that happens a lot where you go?
Kirill Bichutsky: It actually happens, never; which is interesting to me. I think, from what I was informed, it's because the tension right now—there's a lot of tension in the community because I think something happened. I don't know too much obviously—something happened with, like the dentistry thing, right? So I think everything's a little tense right now. That's what I feel like, because I've never really experienced this before.

But some of these criticisms, they are generally things people have talked about, about you before.
I think it's been...look, I take anything anyone tweets at me with a grain of salt because I'm pretty sure we're all aware that social media is not a very good forum for conversation. It's like, it's the internet. Everyone talks shit on the internet. So I'm always taking it with a grain of salt. But the allegations that they really threw out this time, everything kind of caught me off guard, because I've had nothing but a great relationship with the people of Newfoundland from the first time I went there. I think the issues arises from after the event, and people got upset at what they saw and they decide to defend it on behalf of the people that attended.

Back in April, after the event was cancelled in Halifax, you posted a public letter and then tweeted; "So many fat girls from Nova Scotia are mad that I'm coming to your party, you're not going to get into the party anyway. Cats can't be your +1." Was that how you really felt?
No, no, I mean, here's the thing: you've got to realize who you're listening to. You wouldn't attack Louis C.K., or George Carlin, or any of these comedians because you know they're comedians on the stage performing. My stage has always been social media. I say dumb things. I say funny things. I say things that offend some people and make other people laugh. You make fun of everything, or you make fun of nothing. The same people that get offended by a fat joke will laugh at a Mexican joke I make. That's what I'm trying to point out. You can't be that kind of a hypocrite. I make fun of myself, I make fun of others. In no way do I hate fat people. I have fat people in my family. I'm fat, I think. Plenty of fat girls come party with me, and I'm nice to them. It's an exaggerated character.

Do you get the people who show up at your events to sign releases? How do you ensure they're of age, or they're giving consent?
It is not my job to check IDs, just like it isn't a bartender's, or yours as a patron if you're talking to a guy or a girl you're interested in. You're rarely going to go, "Hey, can I just check your ID?" You assume that a nightclub is doing their job and checking IDs. I think we can all agree on that.

Well, if you went home with someone who was underage you're still legally—
No, no...yes, but you know what I mean. So, when I find out, or they say "Hey Kirill, there were underage people at the club, that you took photos of," I instantly delete those photos and get rid of them. I don't want anything to do with them. I'm not trying to photograph underage people.

So does the bar, or anyone, get people walking in to sign something, some sort of disclaimer that your photo might appear on the internet?
Consent doesn't really apply, realistically. It's called a truth law, and it doesn't really apply. We all have camera phones, you're not asking consent from someone or signing paperwork when you take a photo of someone at any event. If you're at a baseball game and taking a photo and some guy's face is in it, you're not running up to him and saying "I need you to sign off on this before I post it on my Instagram."

Does that apply though, if the person is intoxicated beyond a degree that they could really give any form of informed consent?
I don't know the law side of it, but let me tell you this; the next day when they wake up, no one's complaining about it. So, that's their consent. Wouldn't you say so? I think consent is until you have a problem with it.

People have asked you to take photos down after they were taken?
Yes, and I remove them, because I understand people make drunk mistakes. We all make drunk mistakes. No one's ever complained—especially in Newfoundland—that they didn't want their photos online. When somebody does, I respect them because I'm trying to make a safe, fun environment for people. I don't want to get anyone in trouble, or hurt anyone. It does nothing for me to have somebody else be in tears or be upset while intoxicated, and I think it's weird to vilify me when we know the whole society, everyone, has taken drunk photos of their friends and have posted them on social media without their consent. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one that's doing this.

Halifax, in particular in the last few years, has had a strong awareness about sexual assault, especially involving drunk or underage women. I don't know if you're familiar with the Rehtaeh Parsons case?
I'm not, I'm sorry.

She was a local teenager who was photographed being raped, while drunk, then later committed suicide...
That's horrible!

...given the climate—and there were other things, like you mentioned the Dalhousie case—do you understand why a venue would...
I am not, I am not disagreeing. I understand the atmosphere and the horrible crime that happened. But I think you need to look at; what am I bringing to your city? Saying that it's OK to do what happened before? Which I'm not. I'm telling you to come out, have a good time and do whatever you want to do. I'm sorry, if that means you show your boobs; you don't show your boobs; you just get drunk and hang out with me; it's in no way an environment that allows anyone to be a predator to anyone else. Are we going to shut down Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Would you say that's promoting rape culture, where if you throw a bead at a girl she'll show you her boobs? No one's saying that's bad.

Do you treat these women as less than human, as sexual objects?
Why would I do that? Why would I photograph people I like, and enjoy being around and want to degrade them, when I'm capturing moments of these people having the time of their lives? It's what happens when people get drunk and have a good time. I think you're forgetting the primitive nature of fun. We've all been there, I'm sure you've been there, where you just went out and had a good time and did some dumb shit. I've done plenty of dumb shit while drunk, never once am I like, "Oh my god, I feel objectified." No, I'm just young, and dumb and did some stupid shit, and if I regret it in the morning I'll ask for it to not be on the internet.

Why go with "slut whisperer," then? If everyone's having a good time, why then denigrate these women that way?
Because I don't view "slut" as a bad word. I view "slut" as somebody that's fun. I think I'm a slut. I'm asking for it, obviously. I like the controversy a little bit because it gets people talking, provoking an emotion. There's nothing wrong with that word. Like, it's a word. It exists for a reason. I'm hanging out with them. We're all having a good time. I'm not demeaning them by saying I'm the slut whisperer. The "Dog Whisperer," he's not kicking dogs in the face or treating them like garbage. He's hanging out with them. Same thing with me. It's over-analysis. That's the most frustrating thing ever, because you're taking a joke account and a fun lifestyle and trying to spin it to help your effort. I think it's a little absurd, but that's just my opinion. I think there are a lot more travesties happening, and a lot more shit happening that are harmful to women and to society than a kid that runs around and hangs out with people and takes funny photos.

You do have a major social media presence, though. So why shrug off the criticisms like that? Why not take what you're doing seriously or respond to the criticisms seriously?
I would respond to the criticisms, but it would be nice if somebody from the group in Halifax called me up and had an honest conversation with me. Instead of going "We don't like this guy, get him out of our city," being like "What is he about? What is he trying to promote? Whoa, OK, he's actually just about having a good time. I didn't know that all the girls in the photos were happy and wanted to be photographed. We're about that. We're about women doing what they want to do. Hey Kirill, why don't we partner together on this night, and we provide a way to find a safe way for these women to get home after the night?" They could have done something where both our visions aligned, and instead they chose to turn me into a villain, and they're just looking dumb in the process. I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing if I was running around terrorizing neighbourhoods.

There are, obviously, issues of sexual violence in club culture, but I don't think it's that, or even the pseudo-pornographic nature of what you do...
Look, if taking a photo of a drunk, naked girl at a party that wants to be photographed and is happy with it the next day—I doubt that's really promoting in any way sexual violence towards women. This is a show. If a guy can't control his urges because he saw me take a photo of a naked girl, then I'm pretty sure I'm not really the problem here.

I think it's the way that in your social media presence you also seem to belittle the gender...
OK, first of all, I make jokes. See that's the thing, everyone reads into the things that apply to them. No one's reading into the Holocaust jokes, the Mexican jokes, the black jokes, the Jew jokes, the fat jokes. Their agenda is like, "We gotta look at what Kirill says about women." But they're not looking at all the other tweets that are balancing everything else out.

You have made other jokes, rape jokes...
Like what?

On social media.
I would like to know what joke that is.

I don't have any on hand with me.
I would highly doubt I have made a blatant rape joke.

But you defend your right to be able to?
I defend my right to be able to because that means if I can't make that joke, I can't make any other joke whatsoever. If I say that I can't offend somebody, then all those other people could say "Well, you can't offend us either, anymore." I think you would agree, being in the entertainment industry, the press, that that's a pretty slippery slope to say that.