About the year 2000 (I would have been 19/20 years old), Warren and I started emailing one another. As a big fan of his comics work, I felt incredibly flattered that he'd take time out of what I presumed to be a busy schedule to chat one-one-one with me.
At some point, our discussions turned sexual, but not serious; I was still flattered. Eventually, our communications fizzled out. Until recently when I saw Jhayne and Katie come forward with their stories, I have generally enjoyed Ellis's online presence.
So why am I here? To be one of the many voices that are coming forward to show that he obviously has an established pattern. Warren has enjoyed the power that fame has brought, which has allowed him to maintain an ongoing flow of young women. While his actions may not have broken laws, the stories I've heard from these women (dozens, over the last two decades at least) have shown that he has damaged lives, reputations, and relationships, with only vague token apologies on rare occasions.
CW: descriptions of physical assault, mention of online bullying
I had little contact with Warren Ellis directly. My story presents the beginning of a clear pattern, the power and influence he could wield, the toxicity of his cult of personality, and the destruction left in his wake. This is not about quid pro quo. It is about manipulation, institutional rot, and my own naive complicity.
I was perfect for Warren’s scene. I was raised by a Narcissist, I am on the shallow end of the autism spectrum, and I was objectified, sexualized, and sexually abused in childhood. All of these factors erode a sense of self and warp normal understandings of proper boundaries, sexual or otherwise. These factors also make me, and those like me, the specific kind of vulnerable person Warren would target.
I was first introduced to the Warren Ellis Forum (WEF) at age 24. Warren found and replied to every single comment I made on the messageboard. The more vulnerable my post, the more attention/praise I recieved. It felt protective. I was a fan, and giddy with glee to have his attention. To find a whole community of comic geeks with whom I could relate was incredible to my nerdy self, and as someone who wanted to be part of the comics world, I was thrilled at the amazing opportunity to socialize with people working in the industry.
The WEF bar drinkups were legendary. Our hedonism was designed to be documented, fueled by a rivalry between NYC and LA. Developing and then digitizing photographs to be viewed on the forum as soon as possible was vital to the unwritten social contract, and we presented it all to him in tribute. Makeouts, licking, cleavage, and being drunkenly lecherous party people; it was all on display, and I fit right in. I instigated a performative three-way girl kiss one night, which was rewarded by being drawn into the background of Transmetropolitan. When one of our crew showed up to the bar early, chatted up a girl, left with her, bedded her, and then got BACK to the bar just in time for his girlfriend to arrive, he was considered an accomplished hero and we smirkingly admired the boldness of his infidelity. When I drunkenly told one of the comic book writers that I’d never had a real lapdance, he whisked us away from our WEF drink-up to a seedy stripclub and bought me some time in the champagne lounge. When that same fellow heard about my worsening and mysterious health, he offered to treat me to a full workup and physical by his personal doctor, giving me his credit card to do so. The bill was over $1000.
I was learning how the comics world worked, and those were my lessons.
Early on in my WEF experience, I started dating a fellow female forum member. She had red hair, a penchant for corsets, and a 24 hour live webcam feed, which she said was a kind of art project. She was also one of Warren's favorites. She had met him before, and even got her own cameo in Transmet. As soon as she and I were involved, the special attention I had been receiving from Warren on the messageboards ground to a halt.
Our new romance progressed quickly, and soon she and I moved in together with a fellow WEFer, let’s call him “Sam”. Disaster shortly followed. When we refused to pay Sam’s months-overdue utility bills, he called on a violent family member to handle things. We were naked and in bed when, without warning, our locked bedroom door was busted down by a furious man who screamed “GET OUT!” while he threw our belongings at us. When he dragged our mattress across the room in a rage, I was clinging to it, frozen in shock and trembling in terror, while my girlfriend called the police. All in all, pretty traumatic.
The next day, the top post of the Warren Ellis Forum was Warren himself calling out Sam's actions and barring him from the forum. The messageboard went wild, thirsty to avenge the WEF’s token lipstick lesbians.The owner of the comic book store at which Sam worked was reportedly so afraid of an angry mob arriving at his door, that he gave Sam a paid vacation day to stay home, and begged Warren to end the madness. Elsewhere on the forum someone started an apartment fund for us (long before the age of GoFundMe), and within days, we had around $1500 to help us relocate. When we arrived at the home of our generous temporary host (of WEF status) in Brooklyn, Warren even called (on the actual phone) to make sure we were ok.
Warren Ellis was powerful and made everything better. To be in Warren's good graces meant something profound. It felt like safety. To have that kind of community and connection was a support I’d never known.
When we moved into our new studio apartment (found thanks to our WEF connections) my girlfriend finally set up her 24 hour webcam again. Since we lived together now, I was part of the "art project" too. I was raised around art and nudity, so it didn’t seem too strange to me.
I knew Warren had watched the webcam before, but every act of intimacy between us was immediately followed by checking the computer to see if he had been watching. He was ever present in our lives; to what extent was vague and unspoken. Direct questioning was met with furious denials.
For the entirety of our relationship, my girlfriend wrote lovelorn/lustful missives to or about Warren on her website. Not only was she sexually describing me to him in a number of her public blog posts, but she did so using the exact same words and phrases that I now know he used on his women (addicted, hypnotizing, my muse, archaic magic, etc).
She would get jealous if I sat at the computer topless. She would turn on me suddenly and lash out publicly about private matters, distorting the truth and misrepresenting my health issues as drug addiction. At the time, I couldn’t understand why, or where her rage came from.
Prominent WEFers visited us from other cities like delegates of nerdom. When a young woman asked to use one of our computers to check in with Warren, the picture started to become more clear. There was something familiar in her frenzied energy from catching Warren’s eye; the immediacy of her need to contact him. My girlfriend recognized it, having been in that position herself, and said something to that effect. That is the moment when I first realized how things worked with Warren Ellis. He emotionally and sexually possessed women over the internet. My girlfriend was his, but had moved on to this woman as his next conquest (since confirmed by that young woman).
Now, I look back and wonder: Did my girlfriend date me to keep him from pursuing me? Did she see me as her competition? As a prop? Was I supposed to keep him interested in the webcam, or drive him from her heart? Regardless, I was never told the truth, rendering my ability to make informed consent impossible. That violation literally makes me feel ill when I think on it. I was so young and sweet.
My father's childhood friend took me out for drinks on my Christmas Eve birthday. He got me wasted, tried to make out with me, and put his hand down my shirt. When I returned home a crying wreck, my girlfriend nearly broke up with me for ruining Christmas with my drama. She blamed me for the situation, and told me I should know better, because that's how men are. When you turn to them in comfort, they take what they want.
I bought her a new corset for Christmas that year.
The day after our one year anniversary, my girlfriend attacked me with physical violence, leaving me with scratches across my face and a fat bottom lip. I fled to the tiny bathroom, and she followed. She cornered me, my back against the wall, and began taunting me, her face inches from my own, trying to goad me into hitting her back. I'd never been hit. I'd never been in a fight in my life. I was terrified.
I publicly shared what happened, but due to what I assume is a combination of sexism and adherence to social hierarchy, no one seemed to care. She was far more popular than I, to put it plainly, and the WEF community that had been so meaningful to me wasn’t interested in my claims. By not choosing sides, they chose her.
The WEF closed down a few months later. There were still social outings of the NYC WEF crowd, but seeing them (and her) made me feel shaken and worthless, so I stopped. I didn’t feel I could trust anyone. I was suddenly without any of the friends or connections that I had developed over the previous year and a half. She never admitted to nor apologized for what she did to me. Instead, she cyberbullied me; thought it funny to publicly post a nude image of me from the cam days, and spread rumors about me. She remained in the bosom of the comics scene while I floundered to stay afloat without a support system, watching my health crumble.
I left behind the world of comics for the most part after all that. I still have severe anxiety attacks when I come across her online. I still have difficulty reading/watching the works of people that were part of our WEF scene. I did not hold Warren himself to the same standard. I did not expect him to worry himself with our lowly mortal issues.
Three years later, when I lived with an ex-bouncer who picked me up by the neck and assaulted me, it didn’t occur to me that anyone would care that I was again attacked. I thought that there must be something about my voice that drove people to violence.
I lurked around the online world of Warren Ellis through the various online tribes over the years. I still felt fearful and small, but the original WEF people had mostly moved on. As scarred as it had left me, my experience with the forum was the most I’d ever had a sense of community, and my poor health was increasingly isolating. Warren had an uncanny ability to gather interesting people, and it hardly had anything to do with comics anymore. He made you want to be anointed with his approval, to be part of his inner circle.
Because of what I’d experienced in the WEF days, the pattern became very apparent to me in every subsequent community he created. The Self Portrait Image Thread? A way to spot the cool and attractive people. The Saturday Night Open Mic, when he'd invite anyone to write about whatever they liked? A way to find the connection, the way in. That woman he's currently promoting all over the place? Probably his latest chosen one. Reading his works, it was plain to see that new women were being inserted in his comics, again and again, as tribute.
Over the past two decades, Warren Ellis has repeatedly promoted my art projects. He’s referred to me as his “old friend”. When I sent him a selfie for his FotoFridays, he called me a “brazen hussy”, and it made me smile. I used his description of me as my website tagline for years. Knowing what I knew and suspecting what I suspected, I was still quite thankful for his help and support in the past. So much so, that I went to a book signing seven years ago, and got a photo taken with the man himself.
More recent times have brought a change of perspective and a reassessing of the past. Just a few months ago, I warned a mutual friend what I knew and what I suspected of Warren’s poor serial treatment of women. She questioned him about my claims, so he told her beautiful lies, because that’s what he does. And because he is the charming, cunning, and influential Warren Ellis, she wants to believe him. So did I.
The current avalanche of public accusation against Warren is as disturbing as it is revelatory. Until now, I had no idea how truly dark and manipulative he was, nor how voracious. That being said, to be told that Warren has been grooming women for sexual relationships under dubious pretense in nefarious ways is the opposite of shocking news. The Warren Ellis Forum was the 00’s nerdy internet version of the erudite 1970’s party at the Playboy Mansion. To be stunned that Warren Ellis has been taking part in predatory behavior is to be surprised that people were having cocaine fueled orgies in the infamous grotto. Anyone astonished to hear these allegations is bathing deeply in denial, and/or is inexorably attached to the coattails Warren so liberally drags behind him.
And that’s how he hides his tracks.
He knew one day he would be called on this. He tried very carefully to cover any serious tracks. He knew, throughout, that he was doing potential harm. Because I told him and he cried. He then proceeded to carry on being even worse.
CW: discussion of rape, discussion of assault, discussion of suicide, death, mention of weight loss
Hey, Bluebeard, I Got Yr “Personal Truths” Right Here
I was 22 when I arrived in Manhattan in 1998, fresh out of college, and moved into a former shooting gallery around the corner from the Tonic nightclub. Having nabbed an internship at the Village Voice, I dove headfirst into the downtown music scene and NYC comics world as both a performer and a freelance arts & culture writer. I learned firsthand, rather swiftly, that the Culture of Coolness could be brutal on young women, especially more naïve or trusting ones. Putting it bluntly: my life in NYC throughout my twenties was a nonstop exhilarating hustle and a goddamn abattoir in terms of the sexualized and gendered abuse I both observed around me, and directly endured.
I had fondness for Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis. In late 2000, I interviewed Warren for Publisher’s Weekly, via email, from my vermin-infested apartment. Warren took a shine to me. I already considered him to be Kind Of A Big Deal, and he certainly didn’t discourage that perception! We remained in contact for nearly 15 years. In the early days, watching from afar, he hyped me up, promoted my work, swapped funny and gross memes with me, provided a virtual shoulder to cry on, and we exchanged music/film/book recommendations. He even surprised me one birthday by turning me into a character in one of his comics. He didn’t ask permission to use my likeness, of course. Just did it. And I loved it. Felt so special. For my part, I brought a whole lotta open adoration and lively anecdotes from the underground to his table. I doted on him. There’s no doubt in my mind that Warren enjoyed feeling “large 'n' in charge” with me.
At the time, few were telling me they believed in my talent as either a musician or as a writer. Warren did, and I was living to prove him right. When I visualize him from that era, he’s hunkered down at the center of a Venn diagram consisting of snarky paternal mentor figure, benevolent wizard, PR boot camp sergeant, and flirty but "harmless” uncle. He made it easy for this young, hopeful dork to love and trust him. To this day, I’m grateful for Warren’s kindness during the early years of our acquaintance. Those were dark times, and his initial mentorship was a source of light and hope, if a bit grimy. But then, I’d always felt a bit grimy, myself.
In 2003, while one of my bands was touring Europe, we met up in person outside of a music venue in London. He bought me several stiff drinks at a nearby pub. We got soused and geeked out together over all sorts of fun stuff. Doctor Strange, for instance-- my favorite superhero at the time, closely followed by Swamp Thing. In person, some of Warren's behavior spooked me. At one point he went beet red, vibrating with rage as he spoke scathingly of his domestic partner. The force of it shocked me. But he quickly corrected course. Warren had a knack for knowing exactly how to draw me back out of my shell, making me feel seen and safe. My chronic stage fright was bad that night. He gave me such a tender pep talk right before I went out under the lights, I was moved to kiss him. It was chaste. I felt pure and simple love for him. Warren was my friend. I loved my friend.
In 2005, after a lifetime of untreated CPTSD with recursive layers of PTSD, and following nearly two solid years of abuse and exploitation by my boyfriend at the time, I was shattered when a close friend OD’d. She was, herself, a blatant casualty of the Culture of Coolness. After she died, I began to unravel, rapidly. This fact would have been very clear to Warren. I told him I wasn’t doing well. I didn’t feel sexy, let alone lovable. The boyfriend was being increasingly awful. I was, in fact, losing my shit. If memory serves, that’s around when my long-running correspondence with cyber “Stalin” starting to drift vaguely towards something more intimate, albeit in an undefined way.
Gotta rewind for a second: in 1996, I was a passenger in a near-fatal car accident that left me with severe permanent damage to my body, eardrum, and brain, along with a lot of chronic pain. I received a substantial settlement from multiple insurance companies, the bulk of which steadied my freelancer’s life for many years. Now, back to mid-2005: approximately a week after that settlement money ran out, my aforementioned boyfriend –who’d encouraged me to spend my financial cushion on and with him-- dumped me. I was heartbroken and wrangling with deep shame. I told Warren. It was the only time he ever phoned me internationally. An expensive call, back then! He spoke to me as one might speak to a scared animal or a little kid-- a steady murmur, telling me that he loved me, reassuring me, not for the first time, that he’d always there for me. “I’m not going anywhere.” He was in flirty uncle mode. I didn’t question whether or not that was appropriate. Felt lucky. Felt loved. I was aching for someone to tell me they wouldn’t give up on me. My emotional devotion, and my unhealthy reliance on his reassurance, deepened.
Later that same year, a cocaine-addled bandmate in one of my main music projects cranked up his amp so loud during a show, my previously-injured eardrum ruptured and leaked. When I angrily insisted that he turn it down, he berated me onstage. My head didn’t stop ringing for days. I was sick of his shit. I was sick of everyone’s shit. After years of enduring casual, culturally acceptable scorn everywhere I turned, the incident prompted me to quit the group. I considered retiring from music altogether. I couldn’t stop thinking about my vibrant friend who’d survived unfathomable abuse only to drown in a few inches of bathwater with a needle in her arm. I was in some kind of freefall.
Shortly after leaving the band, while on a phone call with a peer, the first concrete evidence I’d been shown of my ex’s compulsive lying and cheating came to light, and it dawned on me that he’d been deceiving me for the entirety of our courtship, relationship, and post-breakup “friendship”. I’d been duped. I’d been badly used. Flashbacks involving a half-dozen sexual assaults I’d previously waved off with but he’s my boyfriend and I love him pushed to the fore. Those led to concentric layers of older memories of sexualized violations dating back to early childhood. For one impossibly long, fractalized moment, standing in my kitchen in Brooklyn, frozen, staring at the knife rack with a flip-phone in my hand, I was reliving every last little horror, all at once, forever, reaping the whirlwind of 29 years full of lies, verbal abuse, violence, neglect, sexual coercion, rapes, exploitation, secrecy, grief, and gaslighting.
My psyche came apart like a Matryoshka doll. Full psychotic break. I attempted suicide but made it to the ER. A medical team doped me up, patched me up, and stuck me in a rubber room for observation. I was still in that room when my ex somehow found out what happened. He immediately started calling and emailing multiple people tell them I’d tried to kill myself, saying that he was very worried about me, but unable to help me directly. He was, of course, also sure to mention to these mutuals that anything I had to say about him shouldn’t be believed. You know, like, because of her obvious, like, mental problems? Proactive ass-covering. Grifters gonna grift. Some of my close friends told him to fuck off. Many others believed him.
When I came out of the hospital, I was medicated to the gills and in a near-constant state of dissociation from my own body. I weighed less than I had as a petite pubescent 13-year-old. It wasn’t hard for anyone to believe my ex about me being crazy. Hell, most people I knew had even less of a clue about consent than I did at the time. Besides, by then, it was undeniably true that I wasn’t mentally sound. A majority of my colleagues continued to be my abuser’s friend, to hire him, and to chum around with him in nightclubs and bars.
People treated me differently after the breakdown. Of course, that broke me down even further. It hadn’t taken much for the downtown music scene to write me off as damaged goods. For a few wildly out-of-control months from late 2005 through early 2006, I was out of my gourd on a cocktail of prescription benzos, booze, and a bad script of psychosis-triggering SSRIs. It was the only point in my life that I’ve experienced full-blown mania. A terrifying time. I felt abandoned by all but my besties. I considered myself very fortunate to count Warren Ellis among them.
And yet that’s precisely when the outright sex talk with Warren began. It’s still humiliating for me to admit that our most flirtatious and overtly sexual exchanges happened while I was in crisis, literally raw from a suicide attempt, barely functional, and tunneling through a mountain of self-hatred and shame. And he knew. Warren knew, and presumably derived pleasure from looking at my emaciated, dead-eyed nudes and selfies. As soon as a new doctor adjusted my bad brain meds a short time later and I started pulling my life back together, I stopped being sexy with him. Even then, the obvious power imbalance didn’t feel right. Afterward, I blamed myself, my mania, for letting the friendship tip in that direction. Because of all of his assurances before my breakdown, I trusted him to stick around, and I wanted to keep being a good friend to him, too. I was concerned that Warren might be feeling abandoned. (Hah.) I worried about his notoriously poor health. (Dammit, I still do.)
Throughout 2006, I continued reaching out by email to try to keep him in the loop, writing long letters that he only rarely and increasingly tersely responded to. It was an abrupt shift. I blamed myself for that, too. Once I got into a monogamous relationship a short time later, Warren just about entirely ghosted. In May of 2007, after months of being frozen out in spite of sending all kinds of missives describing my progress and telling him how much I missed him, I worked up the courage to ask what I'd done to deserve being dropped without a word after years of friendship.
He promptly and coldly replied that he was cutting me off because he knew I was going to die.
His exact words were “I’m sick of watching my darlings die.” That’s when I finally managed to get pissed off at him. Messy as I’d been, his assessment wasn’t only wrong, but cruel. Not to mention inaccurate. I’d hit a rough patch for understandable reasons but I’d been doing so much work to get well. I’d sent him regular letters documenting my progress. I’d never stopped reaching out for him. Warren was my friend. I loved my friend. Yet here was my mentor, my champion, informing me I was hopelessly sick and no longer worth his time or energy, mere months after phoning from England to say he’d always be there no matter what.
We had a big fight. I thought I was being so badass and brave, advocating for myself to convince this man that I was worthy of his time. It didn’t occur to me that he’d even consider throwing our years-long friendship away once I’d rescinded his dodgy-af supply of malfunctioning MPDG pr0n. It never crossed my mind that he might be purposefully fucking with my head for sport, or out of spite. Up until a month ago, I would have found either notion farfetched. Knowing what I know now… anything’s possible.
There’s no bottom floor in hell.
Obviously, I should have cut the guy off forever. Instead, I pounded on the door to Bluebeard's castle be let back in. Once I did, Warren (grudgingly) apologized for our “misunderstanding” and ushered me into a private server full of ambitious, brilliant people whose careers he would proceed to help build up over the course of the next decade by leveraging his own substantial influence. His attitude made it clear that I’d need to succeed at a very high level in order to ever impress him again and of course, I wanted that. From then on, I was living to prove him wrong.
We met up at the San Diego Comic Con in the summer of 2007. I insisted. I was still hurt by how he’d treated me in the aftermath of my breakdown. I needed to tell him to his face how much his actions had hurt me, and couldn’t he see how much stronger I was now, how ready for liftoff? It was the second and last time we ever hung out in person, seated alone in a cordoned-off section of the patio bar at his hotel. Once again, we got munted. Warren’s publishing house had (ludicrously) hired a bodyguard. Later, they sent over a group of gorgeous burlesque performers in full zombie costume to say hello. Warren seemed equal parts gleeful and mortified. “[They] got some girls for me!” It was surreal. After the living dead ladies left, Warren gossiped conspiratorially about another multi-talented young woman he’d met in person for the first time earlier that day: “I got the impression that she is very submissive.” That woman would eventually become one of his greatest mentoring successes.
Eventually, Warren managed, at long last, to apologize with passable sincerity for his mistreatment of me. Then, in a confessional tone, he told me “I was in love with you for a very long time.” If I wanted, he said, I could come up to his hotel room. I told him, truthfully, that were I not faithfully committed to my monogamous partnership at the time, I’d have considered it. My most visceral memory from that evening is that he hugged me very tightly, and long after I’d stopped hugging back and actively tried to pull away, he continued to hold me against him. His bodyguard was standing right there. Suddenly, I was keenly aware of how much larger Warren was than me. A too-long-hug must seem like no biggie to most people reading, but it set off klaxons. Being crushed against his torso with his huge arms heavy on my back, held against my will, however briefly, triggered another one of those turducken o’ trauma situations that I now recognize as what’s called an “emotional flashback”. An amygdala hijacking. Any physical attraction I’d ever felt for him evaporated. I left his company shaken and confused. I don’t recall ever mentioning any of the more distressing details from that night to anyone except the close friend who picked me up from W’s hotel and quietly drove me home while I sobbed in the passenger seat of their truck. Warren was quick to follow up in the ensuing days with a whole lot of “wow, we were really drunk” type comments, and I was more than happy to go along with that.
For many years to come, I’d make light of my various drunken escapades, laughing off even the outright criminal liberties others had taken with my body while I was inebriated or blacked out. Not sure why. Some kind of Gen X “cool girl” defense mechanism, maybe? I don’t do that anymore. I don’t drink anymore, either. Not in years.
Warren was my friend. I loved my friend. But the love I felt was no longer pure or simple. My attachment style was decidedly anxious. Simultaneously, I wanted more than ever to prove my artistic merit to him. I was determined to “keep up with the others”, accomplishment-wise. Up until around 2013, there was a consistent dynamic between Warren and me: I'd be involved in creating something (a magazine, a music video, an article, a blog post, an interview, a song, a selfie, whatever), often asking his advice about it, and then share the finished product with him in hopes of being praised. In turn, he often promoted my output across his then-massive, bustling cybermedia platforms. Better yet, he would tell me he was proud of me and that he loved me. Achieving notoriety was never half as much about accruing money or prestige for me as it was about proving myself worthy of the love and respect of specific people. I think I wanted that reassurance more than the fame Warren kept encouraging me to strive for. I knew that if I didn’t keep leveling up, striving for higher peaks, he was likely to neg me, which I dreaded. When I didn’t do exactly what he recommended, career-wise, I got either the silent treatment or some nasty name-calling. Much later, I found out that he often complained privately about how “mental” I was to others (without acknowledging his own abuses, obviously).
Our dynamic wasn’t dissimilar from what I’d experienced in childhood while being worked over by well-regarded but sadistic adults –instructors and doctors—with unchecked authority over me. Of course, I didn’t connect those dots until well after I went no-contact with him and put in the therapy hours. For a full decade, across multiple fields of play, I kept trying to accomplish all I could to finally be considered Good Enough by him, by others like him, and never quite getting there. My insecurity was far from all Warren’s doing, of course. But our push-n-pull dynamic amplified my uncertainty just as surely as regular injections of steroids will boost muscle production. Warren developed friendships with other young femmes, some of whom he had met through me. He would often triangulate us, disparaging them to me, and (we eventually realized), me to them. Sometimes, I felt like they were my competition. Other times, as though they were my sisters. Often, both at once. Total headfuck.
Some consistent truths from the era of 2005 through 2015: Nothing I did felt real. Nothing I was felt good. Thanks to the sketchy company I increasingly prioritized over healthier friendships in order to further my career, I was developing an uglier and less authentic identity by the minute. I was more bitter and shut down during that decade than I’ve ever been before or since.
None of my accomplishments felt like mine. I truly believed that any vocational success I had, I owed largely to Warren’s mentorship. Any failure I endured was amplified by his increasingly obvious contempt and distancing.
I couldn’t see it back then, but after the breakdown in 2005, I wasn’t really “me” anymore. I was a ghost wandering through someone else’s house in a near-constant state of hypervigilance. I’ve struggled with involuntary dissociation since I was a toddler. It got much worse after that crisis point. For a solid decade, as a result of a lifetime of amassed and ongoing sexualized abuse, I just about completely checked out of my own body. Warren’s behavior with me amplified that already well-established disconnect. Eventually, everything started falling apart all at once: Coilhouse Magazine & Blog, The Parlour Trick partnership I’d been working in for years, the hugely dysfunctional long-term relationship I’d stumbled into shortly after my nervous breakdown. In retrospect, I clearly see that I stayed in all of those toxic dynamics far longer than I would have, had I been remotely stable when they began. One of the hardest “if only”s of my life will always be if only I’d immediately committed to ongoing talk therapy after the suicide attempt in 2005. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Instead: numbing prescription drugs, avoidance of personal accountability, denial of suffering, heavy compartmentalization. There would be no deeper examination of either my mortal, or moral, woundings, for a decade. (Now who’s the living dead girl?)
Some folks reading this in their stuffy little caves are gonna roll their eyes at what I’m about to write. That’s fine. No fucks given on this day. Sincerely, unequivocally:
Rape culture broke me all the way down.
My deepest root trauma: intense and relentless absorption of long-sustained, culturally upheld hatred of the feminine. In the aftermath of everything crumbling, dismantling the baroque survival mechanisms my brain likely began developing before the age of three became its own full-time job. It took years for me to figure out who I even was underneath it all. I’ve had to take my entire life apart down to the studs in order to move forward and away from that constant waking nightmare. [Sidenote: I do realize that this essay is long-winded and meandering. Please forgive me. I need to at least try to convey how Every Dingdang Thing Is Connected. Can’t talk about the Warren stuff without contextualizing the rest.]
Everything bolstering that uncharacteristically glam public-facing identity has been demolished at this point. None of the “alt cult diva” crap feels real to this healthier person I’m slowly, stubbornly becoming. GOOD. Looking back, I can grieve for the clueless young woman that I was while simultaneously feeling huge relief about letting her go. Kill your darlings, ehn? Once again, I’m in freefall. Only this time, it’s in service of embracing the whirlwind with a far more full-fledged, broad-winged sense of personhood.
Back to the spring of 2013, I was convinced that I was evil, unsalvageable garbage who’d disappointed everyone who ever helped me in my career. Warren was increasingly quick to call me names. “Emotional cabbage”. “Silly cow”. “Daft”. “Crazy”. He made it clear to me that I was letting him down. In the private server where a bunch of us still hung out, some of the others began to devalue me as well. I worried they were beginning to take cues from Warren’s now-obvious scorn. I pushed back hard against comments I considered dehumanizing, or sexist, or queerphobic. I want to make it crystal clear that don’t hold anything against anybody from that time or place. I hope old comrades can muster compassion for me when they recall my threat displays, my knee-jerk reactivity, which must have seemed overwrought to them. That said, it was a lonely, scary time. Eventually, I told the group I no longer considered our virtual clubhouse to be a safe space, and I left. Warren was furious. Soon after, he shut down the server, and phased me entirely out of both his public and private life in favor of several other substantially younger proteges.
In July of 2013, when I returned to California from living abroad, everything I’d tried to build in the aftermath of my 2005 nervous breakdown was falling to pieces. I should have gone into therapy immediately, but that would’ve required me to believe I deserved healing, which I decidedly did not. I felt monstrous in the truest sense. I’d internalized that I was doomed, that I was damned. Once again, I started looking for love and reassurance in just about all the wrong places. In 2014, it began to come to light that several of the men I’d been working most closely with for years, both in various corners of my performance life, and in my capacity as co-runner of Coilhouse, had been covertly assaulting and raping people. I began to notice the cult-like hierarchies in many of the cliques I moved through, which usually featured a masculine person or people with untreated addiction problems holding court at the center. I observed how a lot of femmes, including me, were conditioned to prioritize the comfort and social standing of these “charismatic megafauna” over one another’s basic safety. I let myself begin to process the ways in which I’d been exploited and scapegoated not only by these abusive men, but by other community members, fellow femmes, who refused to hold the abusers they directly benefited from being close with accountable. So many of them cared more about protecting their own privileges and social standing than they did about doing the right thing. So many of them chose respectability politics over being genuinely respectful of others’ humanity. It was devastating and alienating.
Stumbling forward, I considered the ways in which we’re all complicit in a culture of systemic and relentless hatred of anything that doesn’t read as white, straight, and male. My grief and guilt and horror alchemized into an incandescent rage. I began reading up on abolitionist literature by queer and feminine Black folks. I started getting compulsively involved in grim, sometimes poorly executed white feminist iterations of the same. Every connection, every tool I’d acquired over the past several years, I used, harshly, in service of all manner of back alley call-ins and public-facing call-outs of alleged serial abusers in the communities I moved through.
“Fuck it. Burn it all down.” That was my M.O. I was tearing through all of my ill-begotten social capital in service of taking down bigger, meaner monsters. I was waging some kind of self-immolating asymmetrical warfare fueled by immense self-loathing and a conviction that I was an irredeemable failure of a human being. Eventually, this work led me to others who’d been almost identically misled and abused by Warren Ellis. People talk. Whisper networks, of course, aren’t enough to keep everyone safe from “missing stairs”, but the way I saw it, they were better than nothing. Thanks to conversations with Bluebeard’s other brides, I realized that Warren has been exploiting far more people than I’d ever imagined. His pattern of misconduct stretched back years before I’d ever met him. I was certain his increasing influence in Hollywood and subsequent escalation in both wealth and connectivity must be boosting his predation.
I severed all remaining ties and began openly, publicly giving others a heads up. I spoke to a lot of mutual friends about the stories I’d been hearing. Some of these friends were at least as financially secure in their fields as Warren was by this time, yet remained loyal to him, at least publicly. My distress was discounted as hyperbolic. Over and over again, I was ignored as an unreliable narrator. Quelle surprise! Even the most explicit allegations I brought up somehow bounced right off. He’s a sad, lonely, harmless old man. Don’t try to make it more than that. Okay, sis.
There was this sense, especially amid the VIPs I knew, of “if nothing he’s doing is illegal, it’s not worth getting involved”. Never mind the underage girl who allegedly sent him nudes on MySpace. Forget the contended grooming of teenage fans who he eventually drew into sexualized transactions. Once again, I was just some attention-starved hysteric. Same as I’d been as a child, pleading to be rescued from violation at the hands of reputable adults. Same as I’d been in New York City, struggling, and failing, to find the language to explain how much more damaging the psychological abuse, and general apathy of others concerning that abuse, has been than even the worst physical assaults I’ve endured. (If only the concept of “gaslighting” had been popularized sooner.)
Big, hard, hopeless, maddening Cassandra feels. My peers’ inability to absorb negative information about Warren didn’t feel specifically hostile. I knew it wasn’t personal, but wow, did it hurt. Thank goodness for those who did believe me! I kept hollering and arguing and despairing until I reached another breaking point in the aftermath of an especially brutal social justice campaign that publicly exposed a close former friend who’d turned out to be a serial rapist. I’d started suicidally ideating again. Thankfully, I pulled myself out of it and doubled down on my recent commitment to therapy, celibacy, and booze-sobriety.
That’s when I finally began to think that maybe, just maybe, I deserved to get well. With the help of a phenomenal MFT who specializes in the treatment of CPTSD and relational trauma, I started peeling back my many-layered dysfunction as an adoptee, as a survivor of multiple forms of assault, and as someone whose body and brain has weathered multiple violently severe near-death experiences. I began to see how formative trauma, for so long as it’s not directly confronted and dealt with, can end up creating a lifelong pattern of avoidance and dysfunction. I started understanding why I’d been falling in with narcissistic, sociopathic, or otherwise empathy-challenged people my entire life, and why I was so desperate to please them. Some of these people were more innocuous and well-intentioned than others. None of them were harmless any more than I've ever been harmless while in a reactively abusive mode. I began figuring out how to forgive myself. For everything. All of it. Not only for what had been done to me, but for how I’d behaved as a result.
For a long time now, I’ve openly identified as a recovering abuser. A big part of why I have no desire to damn anyone for all time is because it would mean damning myself, and I am so very, very done with damnation. In specific regards to ameliorating the Culture of Coolness, harm reduction’s all I care about. No glory for these exposed guts. I’m not writing a heckin 6.6K essay about my lifelong cumulative rape and abuse trauma for fun or attention. Garbled and long-winded as this screed might be, I’m writing it in service of clarity. Whatever happens next, has gotta happen in service, first and foremost, of protecting other similarly marginalized beings from further violation.
As for Warren, specifically, the man’s clearly been struggling with some sort of devastating emotional wound for most of his life. Because of his professional success and star power, he’s been able to avoid confronting his own root trauma in favor of developing some truly innovative, one could even say frontiersmanlike methods for feeding an ever-ballooning psychological dependency upon… [ gestures vaguely at Fart Daddy’s toilet throne, which now doth overflow with flaming turds].
What, even, are we, to him? Immortan Hoes? Matricide Girls? Some sorta living, breathing, crying, pleading doll collection? What comfort does Warren derive from keeping trophies in the form of hundreds, maybe thousands of jpegs and pngs and movs and mp4s, presumably filed away in his personal FapVault™? Understanding why dudes like Warren go full Jame Gumb is next to impossible for me. I’m just grateful that I don’t have to unpack it, curled up in a ball and hating myself, down in some pit the daylight never reaches. Not anymore.
The way I see it, collective commitment to harm reduction combined with self-love is the only way out of hell. That means I can’t indulge whatever desire I might have to see a perpetrator “ruined” or “destroyed” or whatever. I am nauseated, I am horrified, I am fucking enraged to learn the full scope of Warren’s dehumanizing abuses. But I refuse to deny his own basic humanity. I do hope my former friend can redeem himself. In the end, though, whether he commits to the deeper work of figuring out how to make genuine amends or not, I’m satisfied with knowing that our communal opposition has brought a halt to Warren actively exploiting and hurting others. That is, at least, by implementing his specialized hoovering technique.
My second-favorite Holzerism: “ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE”
Whatever happens next, either in Warren’s specific case, or in a broader cultural sense, there must be more drastic consequences for sexual misconduct of this sort. At every scale. That “apology” Warren posted last month ain’t it. The exploratory emails he’s been sending out privately, en masse, read more like disingenuous press releases than admissions of wrongdoing, let alone true remorse. Comparing notes with the others, I finally see how much of my own guilt and shame was intrinsic to the grooming process Warren honed over decades. My dude has been relying upon severe cognitive dissonance to keep this industrial-strength exploitation going all these years. I think we’ve managed to break his conveyor belt system real good. I’m proud of us.
For centuries, white supremacist misogyny, both internalized and externally endured, has been making it possible for men like Warren –not to mention far more prosecutable predators-- to thrive. We’ve been normalizing all of this nonsense for millennia. We continue, collectively, to make endless excuses for Very Important Vampirism. Already, the recent advent of the internet is breeding gobsmacking mutations of that ancient hierarchy. Let’s break it down: glittering-eyed, cunning “Internet Jesus”, squarely aping gonzo and bemoaning his own body’s frailty, injects himself directly into cyberspace to gorge, both virtually and tangibly, on a never-ending stream of enfleshed and pixelated young bodies. Does that shit not read like a dystopian scenario dreamt up by some far more sophisticated scifi writer? Cronenberg should make the movie. Better yet, Anna Biller!
Fame is a fuckin wasting disease of the soul.
As an activist buddy puts it, “Sex is power and power is sex for narcissists.” A paradox: in the bohemian circles I once moved through, it’s common for predatory addicts to become fluent in feminist humanist shorthand, duping everyone (even themselves!) into thinking they’re good and ethical people. Consistently, though, this specific class of predator is most concerned with securing dependable access to their next hit of dopamine. Everything they do is in service of stockpiling whatever flavor of narcissistic supply pumps their ‘nads. They may build and maintain a projection of paladin-level Lawful Good, but hidden behind their shields there are usually multiple recipients of their exploitation or misconduct, too scared and too vulnerable to speak up. Other grand poohbahs of the Culture of Coolness master a “hiding in plain sight” technique cribbed from the likes of Hemingway, Bukowski, and (Warren’s patron saint) Hunter S. Thompson. Whatever the style of engagement, any valor performed by these specific cult-of-personality types is disingenuous. Behind their screens of Good Deeds and their noblesse oblige, all of them are scrambling to feed some truly sad and dehumanizing dependencies.
On that note, I have no more time for the various well-off, professional white celebrity “Fuck You, Got Mine” feminists I used to run with. Not until they Do The Fucking Work as well. There can be no “subverting the dominant paradigm from within” while once is simultaneously accepting paychecks, invitations to fancy dinners, or PR boosts from Bluebeards. May I never be That Asshole again, wittingly or no. Fighting for the autonomy of more vulnerable demographics has to be my top priority. Not selectively. Not on a case-by-case basis. My own advocacy cannot be influenced by how fond I am of an alleged perpetrator, or by how powerful they are, or by whatever perks are afforded to me by remaining cozy with them. Hold me to that, please.
Post-Warren, I’ve been fortunate to be treated with unwavering respect by successive mentors—brilliant creatives who have been quietly Doing The Fucking Work for decades. Thanks to the long-term friendships I’ve developed with them, I now know it’s entirely possible for a prestigious, significantly older or more powerful person to hold and keep healthy boundaries in their relationships with younger, relatively unknown peers. Thanks to the examples they set, I no longer have doubts about how manipulative and compulsively sick Warren’s own behavior was with me.
Whether that behavior was criminal or not, I just want my former friend to Do The Fucking Work.
It’s taken several years of nonstop recovery work of my own to begin feeling like a whole person. I’m more stable and more fully integrated than I’ve ever been. Work in process, of course, and that work will never be done. Obviously, Warren is far from entirely to blame for my lifelong dysfunction. I won’t scapegoat him like I’ve been scapegoated. But the guy had more active, aware, hands-on control over my life and career trajectory than just about anyone else before or since. He undeniably abused his sway over me, and that dynamic damaged my sense of self-worth in ways that I’m still unpacking.
Being able to unpack my damage in solidarity with 100+ lovable humans who have suffered similarly, and far more gruesomely, in most cases, has been a revelation. I’m grateful we all made it this far. I mourn for those who died before Warren got #MeToo’d. It’s true, after all, that some of his darlings have died. I think of them often, both those whose names I remember, and the ones I never learned about. I continued to be haunted so gently and sweetly by the ghost of my beautiful friend who died in 2005, whose suffering had so much in common with my own. I call them my siblings. I wish they were all still here with us, processing and healing. They deserved better. We all deserve so much better.
My favorite Holzerism: “IT IS IN YOUR SELF-INTEREST TO FIND A WAY TO BE VERY TENDER”
I haven’t spoken much about Warren’s inarguably positive acts, and I need to. When I was interviewed for the documentary film Captured Ghosts ten years ago I said: “Warren doesn’t just map culture. He makes culture.” That’s still true, and not only in distressing ways. So many kind, loving people I still count among my dearest friends have been championed by Warren. A big reason I didn’t speak out more definitively before now was out of concern about hurting their livelihoods and their families, not to mention Warren’s own family. Another is that even now, as I spit out the last of this poison, swallowed long ago, part of me still feels like I owe Warren everything. But I know that’s not true. That’s the conditioning talking. That sense of dependency is a consistent tactic he’s used to corral and isolate countless people in the first place. It’s the cogdissiest!
I don’t think the generosity and brilliance of a Bluebeard should be erased from whatever legacy they retain. However, their legacy must be made honest.
TL;DR: Whether his patterns of behavior turn out to be legally damning or no, Warren Ellis has been hurting people for decades. It needs to stop. In order for all of us to heal, we must be brave, collectively, and talk unashamedly about what made that abuse possible for so long. Moving forward, we have to figure out what’s to be done to prevent harm like it from happening again, and I think we all have to undertake this work with as much compassion for ourselves, and for others, as we can possibly muster.
If I can Do The Fucking Work, Warren Ellis can Do The Fucking Work. If Warren Ellis can Do The Fucking Work, anybody can Do The Fucking Work. I trust that more than anything. I have to. The alternative’s too bleak. No gods, no masters, no heroes, and to hell with a bunch of nihilistic Culture of Coolness theatre. Let that performative celebrity edgelord nonsense topple and fall right along with white supremacy, kyriarchy, and kleptocracy. Humanity is clearly in some kind of demolition phase right now. It’s a necessary part of this entire planet’s healing process. TEMPUS FUGGIT! Once the teardown is over and the debris is cleared away, we can pour a foundation to support the building of a more sturdily kind society.
I hope I live to see that groundbreaking work, but I’m not counting on it! I have made a wholehearted commitment to being a better ancestor. That’s more than enough for me.
Confronting and unpacking this multitudinous shitshow has been terrifying for a whole lot of us. It’s also healing. Whoever you are, whenever you are, thanks for taking the time to witness us. I do hope you’ll be gentle with how you speak to and about us. But I’m not counting on it, let alone depending on it.
I’m less afraid than I’ve ever been. There’s nothing anyone can say to me or about me that’s half as cruel as what I’ve already said to and about myself.
Now, then! Let’s heal, please. All of us. Together.
July 4th, 2020
CW: mention of bullying
One day several years into our online friendship, Warren Ellis sent me that e-mail.
And I laughed.
Who falls for this shit? Not me, not a fucking chance.
Not my friends either, right?
They were all savvy, smart, driven creatives gathered on all kinds of early social media; tribe, friendster, nerve, myspace, livejournal, fandom and fanfic listservs, muds, mushes, mu*s and bbs.
Not my friend’s friends either, right?
The ones on twitter, facebook, tumblr and flickr had their own groups, didn’t they? Healthy boundaries, surely these people had some. Surely.
2004, a year before he sent me that e-mail, Warren Ellis wrote a primer on how to get internet-famous called DIY Mind Gangsterism and named himself Sinister Mind-Controlling Internet Jesus.
Again, I laughed.
But was it funny, really? Did that make it seem MORE like a joke? Innocuous? Ironic? …or worse, cool?
We’d collectively occupied the internet for more than a decade already, we had our own thing, didn’t we? As far as we were concerned, we built the goddamn internet. Who the fuck was Warren Ellis?
In the late 90s comic book author, screenwriter and curmudgeon, Warren Ellis seemed to be everywhere. He had a profile on every kind of social forum. In the sites he devised for himself built up around his cult of personality, Warren showcased and coaxed women and men from every platform available to build his brand.
Rarely monetarily compensated, people volunteered website creation and forum moderation in exchange for signal-boosting to his massive audiences, to network with other creatives.. or in many cases just to be held in his esteem and considered friend.
Moderators of his forums were women or femme-presenting primarily and given nicknames like Filthy Assistants, Attack Wombs or Holy Slut Army. It was funny. Right? Because that’s how he referred to women in his fiction. It was funny because all his friends laughed.
People drafted logos and artwork for the shlock hawked through Cafe Press shops that would pop up dedicated to the structured community. Even from the outside, it was quite an enterprise full of freely-given labor solely for his edification and profit.
Several iterations of newsletters, forums and projects called for his female readership to send him self portraits, music and stories for his perusal. Often he’d couch these requests as the result of other women’s desires; women he was promoting on his sites. Even more often he’d state outright I DON’T WANT PICTURES OF YOUR WIVES OR GIRLFRIENDS. He wanted only pictures of his readership, girls he might pluck from obscurity.
I thought it was ridiculous and obvious, this dirty old man schtick.
I laughed as I submitted selfies to threads or in e-mails, participated in open mic nights and fast fiction challenges for his benefit; generating content for his voracious internet fandom. My cache as a writer was and remains non-existent. I was a coder then and flattered to be considered part of the group.
I didn’t notice when he started following my writer-friends on LJ, my burlesque-and-fetish friends on Flickr, my Bay area & high school friends on tribe. It didn’t register with me when his friends actually started following the primer; opening forums, writing newsletters, beginning podcasts that they, too, sought greater culture currency.
Not for a minute did I consider him a threat; I knew and worked with fascinating people, why wouldn’t he want to follow them as well? What more could he want than an intelligent fanbase that talked back?
Warren made it clear everywhere he projected himself, he wanted people to talk to because he was lonely.
That’s how he introduced himself to me in the early aughts, as the sad troll in his writing cave. Failed-flirty-attempts and all, Warren gradually edged me into his friend groups, enjoyed my weird-shit hunting enough to repost and I liked playing a part informing his taste level.
There were open boards and sites where Warren held court like the WEF, artbomb, diepunyhumans, TheEngine, Whitechapel, and a number of invitation-only, private boards where keeping secrets was de rigueur and expected behavior.
He was famous, after all.
Warren Ellis was the writer of our favorite stories at the center of a spiraling universe of fellow artists, musicians and misfits. He lectured at universities, spoke with futurists, scripted games and cast a wider and wider net with the same talented people gravitating toward the center. As message boards and forums were periodically “accidentally wiped” to a clean slate, scrubbed entirely or shuttered, I was surprised by his focus and acceptance into an inner circle.
By 2007 among this curated in-crowd, many of the men were professionally linked to him. Most of the women ushered into the room were not, and among them Warren fostered venomous, misanthropic divisiveness.
None of us spoke to each other about how overtly pervy Warren actually was; it was simply a given. Take it or leave it. What none of us knew at the time was how many conquests, both attempted and successful, he’d managed to gather in one place at the same time.
The nerve, the absolute brass balls of this turd. To construct a Trophy Room where they would all talk amongst themselves, but never about him. Or if about him, then only to applaud, titillate or otherwise entertain the ringleader.
Hegemonic masculinity pervaded the group, where The Men Talked and the women were merely invited to participate provided they stuck to the rules: Be successful, be interesting or be gone.
A formula emerged; in describing personal turmoil, workplace harassment, relationship drama, cataloging in brutal detail sexual encounters and expressing continued appreciation for such a place to vent these things, Warren’s attention and friendship was assured.
Brinkmanship would erupt from time to time that lead to escalating shock-value posts and comments. All in the name of fun, certainly never meant to genuinely offend.
However, Warren would present images of female members as “stroke material” — sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes not. He was quick to mention when the sex-positive and/or sex workers among us were posting risqué material on our own sites and never once did he objectify one of the guys this way:
The self-moderating locker room just carried on, normalized the toxic element of objectification. It became the new unspoken requirement for continued membership: be sexually desirable (if not outright available to be seen as such) or be ridiculed. Or worst of all, ignored.
Perfecting his technique over the years, Warren excelled at another pick-up-artist con called negging. Any time someone would speak up confidently about their taste and values that challenged his own, Warren found a way to immediately fault and disregard that opinion as garbage for the whole group to read. More often than not, it was women’s opinions he cast low. The “crazy” descriptor was added to any among us that could not or would not comply.
When snared targets of his came up in conversation, Warren would denigrate and permit gossip about them with a flippant “she’ll follow anyone, ignore her” to throw people off his scent. He didn’t like to share:
Warren also grew speculative doubts about once-considered-friends' sanity into outright hostility when they appeared too-fragile and in need of support. Such gaslighting was commonplace. Even with the men. These friends were referred to as hopelessly broken, others deeply affected. Shrill without using the word shrill.
When the partition was drawn against them, everyone was expected to get in line. Warren’s manipulative isolation tactics were subtle and it occurred to me to write once that “when toxicity helps… suppose there’s a first time for everything.”
Cumulatively, this had a rippling effect and signaled to everyone that certain topics, people, projects were unmentionable. And if you dared speak up? you’d be shown the door. You played along or you were dealt out.
In 2009 I experienced what I refer to as my first, most successful depression. The worst break-up ever took me to new depths. But I knew to conceal and keep separate that vulnerability from our little group lest I turn into a wailing banshee and find myself painted with the exclusion brush. There was no space held to just be sad.
I recognized I had to be fine, otherwise there would be no room at the inn for me.
Commentary for my contributions continued via e-mail. Out of sight from the group Warren continued to make us seem equals, where no one would raise an eyebrow at such praise:
When arguments erupted, only a chosen few were allowed to stand their ground or assert boundaries. Bullying was normalized, acceptable and could happen any day. Potshots and mean snipes were almost expected. One exchange ended with pictures of roadkill to make a point. I never forgot the shock and the instant revulsion of such an act. No one in the group said a word opposing the graphic, bloody line-crossing.
I knew I had to laugh it off.
To remain in the group meant I could be privately offended but publicly unfazed.
And to be completely honest, for the most part I was! These people were not my sole friend-group, though I cherished the camaraderie and valued their opinions more than family at times.
What mattered in the room had little bearing on my real life. Warren could exert no control or influence over my career and certainly had no hand in helping it, either.
So I was asked, without being asked, to be cool with it. To take it all in stride, lest that ire-cannon Warren wielded be pointed at me.
It was all deflection and noise, triangulation by another name. Invented conflicts and imagined offenses were designed to draw focus away from seeing Warren’s immense harem even inside the room. It didn’t occur to me the group was also an enormous smokescreen until much, much later.
Several years of posts-in, sudden acknowledgement of an extra-marital relationship with someone else inside the group became impossible to ignore. We were all expected to keep the open-secret:
The safe place brazenly corrupted, tacit approval of something jarringly-off became another normalized manipulation. Encouraged by this tapped vein of shady business, the landscape shifted. Warren’s friends began to model their behavior on his. More than four of them tried to repeat his unsuccessful method of too-friendly, lustful interest in me.
The lines delivered about their chosen partners like “we’re basically just roommates” and “we haven’t touched in years” and “we have an understanding” seemed lifted from a handbook on how to step out of bounds. The lines about me “I craved you instantly” and “I want to call you mine” or even “you know I’ve loved you for years” were all designed to make me feel as though I were special in their singular world.
It had the opposite effect.
All those statements may have been true.
To me it seemed they were infected by Warren’s shameless, constant pursuit and any target would do, just to try it once. Even those considered friends.
Who were they fooling, aside from “roommates,” wives and partners, more than themselves?
In 2014 Warren and I met for drinks. By then I had seen and heard enough to know that I wanted a chaperone on board. I did not tell Warren about my friend coming along to the bar and we were late. He might've been drunk by the time we arrived. It came as ZERO shock when a young goth girl turned up in the same spot with her friends to meet and drink with Warren.
This sad, lonely man always had a back-up plan.
Afterward hearing we’d met, one of his exes reached out to ask me how it went and if I’d fucked him.
Reader, it is without shame I tell you as I told her, I did not go to the hotel with Warren Ellis.
The back-up plan girl did.
Years down the line, activity in the group began to dwindle but Warren’s newsletters continued at regular intervals. At one point something he wrote in one gave me cause to caution him:
It seemed even to me, his friend of over a decade, deliberately crude to ape shock-jock antics like this. The indelicate way he treated his audience, no matter their age, was unprofessional and my disgust had finally touched bottom. He did not respond to the reproach and I did not push. Not ever again.
What I eventually realized was the inner circle wasn’t a circle at all, but a well in which he dropped talent and wisdom to extract from at his leisure. Warren data-mined each of us for character development, story research and a continuous stream of private thoughts to pick through for his projects and private pleasures.
And when he finally (finally!) reached the bottom of that inspiration-well in 2016, he drifted away without regret or remorse, on to the next one.
To befriend outspoken feminists as a means to hunt their friends and partners is dishonest, misogynistic and spineless. It’s particularly cruel to elevate artists on a massive social media platform only to use them up, body and soul, to feed an insatiable ego.
Warren’s methods and manner were textbook pick-up-artist cons. “FMAC: find, meet, attract, close.” But he wasn’t satisfied with closing the deal, so he strung women along.
Addict-like, he seemed to need constant fuel and attention for his work to begin. Warren churned up content and interest through his many muses. Using them like batteries until they could no longer produce the required electricity needed to hold his interest, Warren would discard these people wholly and never admit any wrong-doing or damage-done.
And who would stop him? He had no boss in comics, no centralized HR person to slap him on the wrist, tell him to curb it or risk a paycheck. There was no accountability provided for his behavior in any setting.
He was a dog off-leash.
Warren shielded himself behind the good name of intelligent, creative, powerful people as a signal to others that he was not a predator, that he was one of the good guys. He often posted troll-busting heroics in the comments across all platforms he presided over to present the image of a protector of women.
But the deep dark truthful mirror, when held up across the years, shows a bottomless black hole of a man using his fame to fill the space where his empathic soul should be.
Siphoning wealth from a target audience is the way capitalism works, but choosing to exploit fandom for much more than personal gain is a gross abuse of power.
Warren Ellis author, comics writer, public speaker, screenwriter, producer, visiting Professor to York St John University, Doctor of the University of Essex, Patron to Humanists UK and guest tutor to the Shadow Channel masters program at the Sandberg Institute dangled the prospect of exposure and open doors to an industry still overwhelmingly unwelcoming to women in exchange for free labor and fap material. This is usery at best and petty theft by any other name.
Warren Ellis is the great pretender, adrift in a world of his own.
A lesser hypnotist than even Ross Jeffries, his targets broke free.
Leave him to his thoughts that his healing might begin in earnest.
CW: discussion of abuse, mention of assault, mention of torture
He got me too.
I wrote about it for myself the other night until 4am because I couldn't sleep. Here is a synopsis.
I was in grad school. This was around 2001 when my relationship started with Warren.
He never got to have sex with me, partly because my job post-graduating was working me to death at the time with 90 hour weeks, partly because I am asexual and have no libido.
He knew how vulnerable I was, how little support I had after managing to ditch my abusive parents, he took me under his wing. He was a mentor, and then a father figure. He helped me fucking pick my new legal name, and I trusted him with almost everything about my past. He was among the first to know the depths of what my parents did to me, which was severe enough to induce DID.
But he never taught me how to detect predators. And when he abandoned me without a word one day, he knew he was leaving me in a forest of wolves I had zero context for understanding were even dangerous to me. My dad tried to kill me and physically tortured me and visibly got off on it. Abusers, I learned eventually, don't have to do that to hurt you.
And that betrayal... I don't know why it hurts as much as it does. I learned better on my own but all the while I thought he left me alone because he thought I was sick and twisted like my dad and mom were, and I hated myself so much and decided I didn't deserve anything.
I got into abusive relationship after abusive relationship. I slowly, painfully, learned better over the course of years. I even got into an abusive mentor relationship at work with someone who was a lot like Warren.
Anyways... That was what Warren did to me.
He doesn't have to apologize to me, because there is no apology he could ever make that would undo the damage done.
My life is better now. No thanks to him.
I joined the Warren Ellis Forum when I discovered comics. Transmet was the first thing I read. I was in awe of Warren. The friendly local comics guru mentioned the WEF. I was very hesitant but as soon as I introduced myself (and there was a lot of encouragement of that) I was welcomed as just another comics nerd. And WEF was amazing. I felt so safe in that space. I was a goth-looking, 20 years old, not a model but the typical selfie girl (like many others), and I know now that I played to one of Warren’s niche interests.
Shortly after I introduced myself on the forum, Warren reached out to compliment me on some of my design. I was so flattered. He continued to compliment me and then added compliments on my appearance. It was pretty amazing to me, and so unexpected. I was starstruck, but he was so down to earth and kind. His wit, sensitivity, and caring words endeared him to me so fast, and this was Warren Ellis. Wow!
He continued to reach out. I was hesitant about ‘bothering’ him at first, but he quickly normalized the interactions, emailing with me regularly, asking how I was. We chatted via email constantly, and before long he had become my dear friend, my listener and mentor. Always there. Never pushy. Patient. Never one to judge. Talked me down when I was upset and gently reached out when I was down. He was, as he so often mentioned, right there. Always there for me. I was a loner and a recluse, my social interactions happening mainly online, and I became not only comfortable with the friendship, it became a cornerstone of my daily life.
In the beginning, he pointed out our age difference several times and made allusions to how “if only he was 10 years younger…” and how I would never like a dirty old man like himself. He was a confidant and trusted friend for me, and I always came back with reassurances and compliments when he’d put himself down. He asked for my help with some of his work stuff, which I readily gave. I was so happy he asked me, and so flattered that he would trust me with it. However, right from the beginning, discretion was built into the way we talked. I never spoke about how close we were with others.
We were in contact from 2000 until at least 2006, maybe 7? It’s hard to recall exact dates. The first years of constant attention with emails, and instant messages escalated to sharing pictures. Then calls. Voice clips. He kept saying I had perfect lips, focused on them in flattery, which over time became increasingly sexual. But I was shy. It took work to get me to do anything. And I was never very comfortable with explicit photos. But I was so alone and he understood me, and helped me get through a lot. He was my guide through the murkiness of my life, at a time when I was vulnerable.
I had embraced him as a close friend when he escalated from friendly flirtation to a sexual relationship (something backpedallable like dreaming about me and coming, expressed as a surprised, almost apologetic but “obviously not his fault” situation). I remember a visceral reaction. Like a clench in my gut. I was a little shocked, and overwhelmed, but I did not reject him. I idolized him, I trusted him, and I was attracted to his mind and talent. He again emphasized discretion. He claimed he was trapped in his relationship, neglected and lonely, and unable to leave because of his young daughter. He was very clear about securing my acknowledgement that he did not want to put me in an impossible situation. At the time, I thought it was because he cared so much about me. He said he loved me. That I was so special. Knowing now that I was far from alone in this, I look back and realise it always made me feel responsible for the dishonesty of the relationship. It never sat right with me, although I accepted his explanations.
After that, all communication was hypercharged. It was like a high intensity long distance falling in love. I hung on to every email. Obsessed about checking messages. He would post things I’d done and I’d feel so validated. I loved our exchanges but they would always move towards the sexual. And little by little attention would dwindle if they didn’t - I would write paragraphs and the replies would be single words, until I learned that the more I talked, the less I got in reply, and when I withdrew he would reel me back in. It became a kind of dance.
He always seemed to dodge sharing much information about himself. Conversations that I would try to have on other topics didn’t lead very far. His focus was on me, and describing what hypnotic hold I had on him, how smart I was, how special, ideally reaching for photos… and then on occasion he would drop all communications suddenly and with no explanation for weeks. Then resurface. I always blamed myself, or believed myself being too needy and pathetic asking if he’d not received my messages. It lasted years, on and off, with heavy online and occasional phone communication but we never met in person. I asked, repeatedly, but there was always some excuse. In retrospect, it is laughably obvious that something was up, but I never examined it. My trust was blind, because it was love, of course. So madly. I genuinely believed that things would change and we would be together.
Eventually the discrepancies in what he said about his relationship didn’t hold. Nevertheless, it took time to work up the strength to end things. If you’ve ever had to end what you think is one of the great loves of your life, you may understand. He had such an easy pull on me, and I didn’t have the strength. My moment where I finally detached was a conversation where he implied that he wished for the death of his wife. It cut through everything and I just backed away. Didn’t matter how wildly madly in love I was and how distraught I felt without him.
It is hard to explain the gutted, frantic feeling I had whenever he would disappear. How desperately anxious I felt when I was cut off suddenly, and rarely with any real explanation when things resumed. This was not normal behavior for me at the time. I was, in fact, a somewhat aloof person, and quite accustomed to online relationships. I was a fast communicator but my responses with Warren were beyond intense. I am starting to unravel how I became so habituated, so weirdly needy, but I see I need a lot more time to process that. To this day, I have reactions in arousal directly influenced by my time with him, though I’m not sure why. It included repetition of certain words and phrases, and imagery. Counting down to orgasm. In the stories of others, I see the same things described, with the same effect, which is helping me feel a little less weird about it.
I realised after far too long that life was passing me by. I was for some reason spending all my free time and attention on this person that, despite his wishes and vague promises to the contrary, was clearly not going to be my future. I went on a vacation, and when I got back I had a boyfriend. Warren was angry with me. Stopped talking for a while. I felt terrible. I tried to make amends. I desperately wanted to stay friends, as he was one of the most important people in my life. It didn’t work all that well. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to continue with any sexual exchange, communication dried up. I blamed myself for the loss as I had ended the ‘romantic’ relationship, thinking that his feelings must be hurt.
I keep second guessing myself about all this. My memories are not negative - I never felt anything but heartache and love towards him. I rationalized his behavior towards me. But how am I still vulnerable about this 15 years later? I stopped speaking to him years ago. Seeing the screenshots and the quotes from other women, it's the exact same things. The same words. The same photos. Several at the same times..! And it's causing the same psychological reactions, emotionally and physically. Wanting the voice and the words. But more than anything, I miss that best friend. That confidant. That great love of my life! (I know! How stupid…) He was everything to me for those years. He was the person I went to when I was excited, or bored, or confused, or lost, or needed to talk through the complicated crap of existence. And I honestly thought it was genuine. I distinctly remember that realization, that moment of “Ah… ok… so no sexy pics, no friendship time. Got it.” I still reached out once or twice over the years. I really thought it had all been real. I still thought the end of the friendship was my fault for rejecting him, that this had been a love lost...
Individually, my story is just an unfortunate and somewhat weird/pathetic love story that nobody knew about but me. But putting all these stories together shows the patterns. The scale is staggering. It’s clear to me now that it was a deception. This deeply personal experience (to me) was mass produced, and ingenuine. That hurts like you wouldn’t believe. And the stories from others include multiple moments of confrontation about this behavior, for over a decade, by people who are better at setting boundaries and less naive than I was. I never had that courage, because I thought it was really all my fault. It is something I lived with for so many years. In sharing this story, I want to add my layer to the pattern. So that anyone else, being sought for the same script, can recognize it for what it is: Practiced and deliberate manipulation. A highly effective script that has been played out with countless women for decades, under a veil of secrecy. If you recognize yourself in my story, we have support for you.
Believe the women who say he played us against each other, both personally and professionally. I know the shit he said about me, and that's why I haven't spoken to him in a decade. Every good idea Warren Ellis ever had germinated in the pain and mistreatment of a dozen women at a time. All of his best ideas belong to us. #metoo
CW: mention of underage sexualization
Warren was a small time god in the early days of the internet. As an awkward gothy teen girl who loved video games and comics, spaces like the forums he created were one of the few places I felt welcome. On top of that, in those days having that kind of open access to interact with a famous writer like him was practically unheard of.
I was just barely 16 when I reached out to tell him I loved his work. As a huge fan, it was beyond thrilling when he replied. We began chatting. A lot. When things got flirty and sexualized, I was young enough to think that meant I had the power in the situation. To my teenage brain I had a famous, grown-up man claiming to be at the mercy of what he called my "incredible eyes and perfect mouth".
No woman who interacted with him will be surprised to learn that he made specific, dirty photo requests, and thinking I had him under my spell, I obliged. Often. He called me his muse. He told me I was his "secret pleasure" and the "only thing that stopped his brain from going a hundred miles an hour". He said he was “at my mercy”. He played the role of a lonely writer trapped in an empty, loveless relationship who was entranced by my beauty and intelligence. I felt sorry for him, and I gave him a lot of attention to fill that void in his life. I thought he was taking care of me, so I took care of him.
There were times when we wouldn't talk much, and there were times we would talk every day, all day. He used to send me audio clips of his voice and tell me to listen to them at specific times before bed. That felt a bit odd to me, so I didn't do it, but I told him I did. He always said “good girl” in response. He wanted to control me so badly.
He asked for webcam photos, encouraging me to experiment with becoming a cam girl. He asked for photos of me in gloves, collars. He'd encourage me to tell him about my early sexual experiences, and then tell me he'd like to meet me in a hotel room to "make me cum more times than I thought possible". I was 19 or 20 at this point. I’d never experienced this kind of desire directed at me before, and it was intoxicating.
Over the years our interactions mellowed into more of a flirty friendship with periods of sexually charged interactions. Most of the time we'd talk about our lives. Well, no. I'd ask about his life, and he'd deflect and get me talking about mine instead.
We met several times in person, but we never went to a hotel, just to be clear. I wasn't attracted to him physically and I danced around his invites when they came. Still he introduced me to important people, talked me up, opened up opportunities for me. Despite all the filth that had been shared between us over the years, he was surprisingly respectful in person. Meek, even. Being as young as I was, I thought he struggled with desire for me, and was unsure how to be bold in person. I was so naive, and knew so little about life and love and sex. After speaking with others who were much more intimately involved with him, I've come to learn that the “desperate yet hesitant” behavior was a manipulation technique he used a lot.
Like so many other women, he put me into his writing. He swore certain characters were based on me (I have since learned he swore the same to others about the same characters). He made me feel special and safe. I felt seen, valued. I didn't have a lot of positive male influences in my life, and he felt like a supportive mentor who was behind me no matter what. I had avoided sexual encounters in person, and yet he still seemed to want me around.
By the time I was 23ish it felt like our friendship had turned a corner into a more reasonable, grown-up friendship of equals. He seemed to know everyone, have connections to everything. He wanted to open doors for me. His attention made me think I was smart and interesting- I must be in order to keep the interest of someone twice my age that I admired so much. His attention gave me self confidence when I was young and insecure.
There were times when I was struggling with depression, or starting a new relationship, and as I thought he was a friend I shared my feelings with him regularly. Sometimes that sharing turned into flirting and dirty pictures being requested. Sometimes it simply turned into conversation about his newest script and whatever art piece I was working on at the time. I was very insecure about my art and the path I was taking in my life. I worried I hadn't taken opportunities presented to me, or taken him up on favors he offered. He knew this. I've always had self-confidence issues. He knew that too.
One day he went silent and stopped responding to my emails entirely. His silence lasted for months. I begged him to tell me why, but all I received in return was silence. I worried something had happened to him so I began checking his social media. He was still posting, still tweeting, still running his newsletters and forums. It was clear he was ignoring me pointedly. I felt awful, not being able to figure out what I did or said that hurt my friend so deeply that he wouldn't even speak to me. Then one day, he responded to an old email of mine with a few canned sentences of greeting. I jumped at the chance to find out why he was so angry with me. At which point he simply informed me that he "couldn't stand how I'd become a shell of the girl I used to be". He told me he wouldn't "stand by and watch me slowly die" while I "wasted opportunities and threw away my life". Then he stopped speaking to me.
Those words BURNED INTO ME. It's been years since we last spoke, but I have never been able to shake the fear that what he said was true. He knew my insecurities. He knew that failure to meet expectations was a huge button of mine, and he pressed it. He pressed it with aplomb and walked away.
This "relationship" took place over the course of a decade. And despite the sexualized nature of our relationship, I considered him a very dear and trusted friend. I can see now that it wasn't friendship at all, but a very long grift. I was being groomed starting from the moment I emailed him at 16 years old. Perhaps I got too old, or perhaps I pulled away from his requests for dirty pictures and hotel-meetups one too many times as I got older and wiser. Whatever the reason, he suddenly had no more use for my art, my "perfect mouth", or my friendship.
After speaking with many others, I have discovered that he used almost the same exact words to "break up" with them as well. It was all a predatory behavior cycle that he seems to go through with young women over and over again. But even knowing that, it's been painful to learn that what I thought was a caring friendship with a trusted adult was in fact just a slow, calculated hunt for prey.
Early on in my experience of the WEF, after having a few playful interactions with WE on the WEF, Warren invited me to chat on the webcam. Almost immediately he reached into some weird hose he was wearing for underwear and whipped out his penis. “Show us yer tits!” My reaction to that was: let’s awkwardly back away from this experience and maybe I can get away with pretending this never happened. But it did happen, and I’m tired of pretending it doesn’t matter.
Warren never tried it with me in that way again, but because the other relationships that I had cultivated inside the ecosystem of the WEF of that time, my existence was tolerated and the bare minimum of clout that you needed in order to survive that environment was doled out to me.
When my life circumstances started to shift and I could no longer put in enough hours to be useful to him or the community, I was publicly cut from WE’s LiveJournal friends list, which was enough to slam shut every door I was even vaguely in the vicinity of, leaving me knowing for a fact that I was cut off permanently from any future in any industry he had clout and a voice in.
CW: mention of suicide, mention of mental illness, mention of death
Warren found me via Livejournal/MySpace in late 2003/early 2004, arriving in my inbox with a fistful of compliments about my writing, my photography, and my perseverance. My situation at the time was bleak, though I approached it all with as much humor as I could muster. I was on a cane, having been crippled by a drunk driver a couple of years before, could barely walk, was struggling financially, and freshly devastated with a recent escape from a much older man (when I was 22, he was 40), who I had met when I was 17 and struggling to fend for myself. He’d been abusive, controlling, and isolating. When I finally managed to extricate myself, I knew almost no one in the city I lived in and lacked all but the most basic support structures.
What was evident in my journal was that I was struggling. Wounded, young, and inexperienced, I was unable to get my feet under me, unable to find stability. I had just started dating a sweet and gentle man, J, who I didn’t talk about much. J turned me onto comic books, loaned me Transmetropolitan. He showed me how to sign up for Warren’s newsletter, something to cheer me up on darker days, he said. I was still flirting with homelessness, couch surfing without a clear way out, but things were looking up.
I’m not sure how Warren found me, exactly, but he first approached me by flattering something I’d said online. I was astonished to have caught his eye. It set me aflutter. I’d never had anyone of note see me before, let alone tell me they respected something I did. It was evident he enjoyed my shock and awe and leaned into it, and my reply back slowly spun into a habit of long email exchanges about art, music, tech, and science—futurist thoughts, my opinions on bizarre news articles, album recommendations, our shared love of ferrets. He insisted that I tell him about my struggles, too. I was shy, though. I wouldn’t give him my phone number when he asked for it. I would vanish sometimes, feeling uncertain why he wanted to talk to me when I wasn’t even clever enough to get a Real Job. “Just checking in,” he’d write, if I went too long without writing to him. Eventually it felt warm and welcoming. I felt valued. He felt safe.
In retrospect, he was looking for receptive girls who lived in Vancouver, where I was at the time, because the Global Frequency was slated to shoot in Vancouver in 2005 and he wanted a soft landing. Girls who would run errands for him, meet him at his hotel, spend the night. At the time, though, he presented a very different face. Friendly, kind, a guide through the rough patches of life.
When my boyfriend hanged himself, only three months into our slowly budding relationship, the tone of the conversations with Warren shifted. I was drowning in grief, though trying not to let it flood too deeply into my small online presence. It was then Warren began devoting serious time to me. It’s also when he talked about some of my early modeling shots. Awful, awkward pictures someone had convinced me to pose for as a way to make grocery money. I wore a thrifted red corset that someone told me went well with my purple hair, some long gloves the photographer gave me to wear, and stockings I bought on sale at a drugstore. I thought the photos weren’t very good, but Warren liked them so much he asked if there were more. From my perspective now, as an actual adult, the exact age he was when he reached out to me, the ungraceful girl in those photos is achingly young. The gulf of experience between me-then and me-now feels almost insurmountable.
From photos, we moved to video chats, though they weren’t sexy to start with. It landed hard when he started a new narrative, that of the lonely, old, and unattractive writer finding himself irresistibly drawn to a bright young thing. He began admitting (with mock-shame) that he was starting to love me, that he was addicted to me, that this all was such a surprise and he must resist his intense and torturous desires. “If only I were ten years younger.” “This has never happened before, I’m lost without your letters.” His love-bombing, sudden constant attention, all positive and supportive, began to feel like one of the few things I could rely upon, a stone I could stand upon while I rebuilt my life. “Let me be the calm in your storms,” he wrote. I would write to him via my LiveJournal and he would respond privately with praise.
I didn’t end up meeting him when he finally arrived for the Global Frequency pilot, but only because some friends stuffed me in the back of a car and bodily kidnapped me to a campsite in the British Columbia wilderness. They told me they were worried about how intense things had gotten with Warren, but I blew them off. He cared for me. We cared for each other! I was upset they denied me the chance to meet with my best friend, especially as we had started to have Feelings-With-A-Capital-Letter for each other! My friends were my age, equally inexperienced. They didn’t yet have the words for what was making them uneasy. Grooming wasn’t in the common vernacular.
When I returned to my computer, falling over myself to apologize for not having been available in person, he accepted my regrets and insisted that I never talk about our blossoming relationship to anyone else again, He had a reputation to protect, a career. What would happen to his life if people found out he was falling in love with a girl so much younger? It would be a scandal. He asked for my phone number again. Then for photos that were more sexy than before. He could not sleep, he said, for thinking of my lips. He strongly implied he wanted to know what the rest of me looked like. I was not, nor am I now, someone who’s Naked On The Internet. I’m barely naked in person. But I still complied with a bit more skin, fingers in my mouth, as he’d taught me he liked. It was the sauciest I’d ever been.
The escalation continued as his attention continued. He went from an exciting acquaintance to a friend, to my best friend, to my boyfriend. After a few false starts, I only rarely doubted the accelerated attention. I would run home to chat with him online. It was thrilling to see him promote a new band that I had turned him onto. Or have him privately message me with something especially fun before he shared it with the world. He put me in his work: story after story, comic after comic. My words, our words. We wrote to and for each other, constantly. He was endlessly supportive of my creative output. He loved when I started a 365 day Flickr self-portrait project to try and level up what I could do with a camera. (Sometimes he even asked for and would receive specific shots or outtakes). I started writing more and more in public, sometimes at his request, eventually becoming almost prolific. When I flagged, he would dangle a carrot of potential exposure. If I could only be good enough to show his friends, he could help lift me from precarity and connect me to real work, creative work, opportunities where I would thrive. Because that’s what you do for the person you love, right? You lift them up. You keep them from harm. But it was also a lie.
Every time I was uncertain, he would either push harder or vanish, ghost as punishment, then return as if nothing had happened. Every time he returned, he acted as if he had never left. He would also expect me to comply with his escalation, terrified that he would withhold his affection again. He implied that he only vanished when I had done something wrong. I was a clever girl, it was up to me to figure out my mistake and correct it.
Often my mistake was as simple as I talked to another man or I spent the afternoon with my friends, instead of him. Sometimes I never figured out what it was. His control over my time and attention grew.
This pattern spanned years.
The changes of tone and request were slow, but steady. He devoted countless hours into getting what he wanted from me. Twelve-hour conversations were common, jumping between text, audio, and video. He would send a photo, demand one in return. I’d be kept up all night. It was exhausting, but of course I could keep his hours. What an 8 hour time zone difference against love?
He used the same lines on me that he used on everyone else. I was a “succubus”. He was “lost looking at my mouth” or “the ghost of my lips”. He couldn’t “tear himself away from my eyes”. I was “the best kind of trouble”, “delicious”, “brilliantly sly”, “captivating”, and “devastating”. I was so unusual, so brilliant, it was “distracting”. I was his “undoing”. As well as becoming more sexual, his requests grew more and more specific. It’s been chilling, seeing how he’s put his 10,000 hours in, using the same lines and pictures pop up over and over.
I kept our relationship quiet, as he asked, though we would chat over email, messenger, and my webcam even when I had friends over. (My webcam was often left on for hours at a time, even when I wasn’t there, so people from the internet could check in and see my ferret). He was always sweet if someone admitted they were a fan and would joke with us as we sat in my bedroom, hanging out.
I don’t think he’d be so open now. I look back and can see many near-misses, where I almost stumbled onto the truth. What if I had joined one of his popular forums and started becoming active there? What if I had talked about the wrong thing to another one of his secret girls?
He steered me away from talking to everyone else who interacted with him online. When I took in a local sex worker he introduced me to, he hammered on about how it was a horrible mistake, even though he had been kind to her when she visited previously and we’d all talked using my webcam. When I countered that she had hit a rough patch and needed a place to stay, he insisted she was going to take advantage of me. She wasn’t to be trusted, he said. At minimum, I’d be robbed. When I asked her about their interactions, she said he didn't reply to her messages anymore. She was hurt, but only a little. She admitted that he’d gone from being friendly to asking intrusive questions about her work. Maybe for research, she offered, but she didn’t miss his attention as much after that.
His messages came with less intense frequency by the time I had saved up enough to surprise him with a visit. What better gift, I thought, than finally getting to meet? He had grown quieter, claimed work was keeping him busy, but he’d told me where he was due to appear. Toronto! An easier flight than England.
And surprised he was. His shock was palpable, but not as delighted as I had expected. Because he was famous, he emphasized, we had to stay quiet, we had to be discreet. It’s not that I shouldn’t have come, but he was terribly busy with work. He’d text me later, when I was to join him, when we could be alone. It wasn’t safe, otherwise. I could see what he meant;here was a small gaggle of people around him at all times, many of them women (girls, I think now with the perspective of distance), many of them shy. I made friendly overtures, but couldn’t read the room. After his talk I left with some of his retinue and we went for dinner. He texted me back near constantly, all excuses as to why I had to wait. I didn’t mind, I’d waited a couple of years already. What was a few more hours? Especially here, in a city I loved, with new mutual friends.
In truth, he was surprised because he hadn’t been reading my emails, only sending back some of his stash of photos as replies. He hadn’t picked up the clues I had tossed in, trying to tantalize him with the upcoming surprise. He had been too busy scheduling other members of his harem to meet, those closer to Toronto, and deciding who would come to his hotel room and in what order. I was a last-second addition—unavoidable extra math.
When he finally sent for me, I spent the night, ignorant that his room was a revolving door of similar girls, summoned one by one. Three, at least, all in a row. I now have reason to believe that he does the same on every trip. Sees who’s in the area, calls us in, and conscientiously schedules us with exquisite care to minimize any chances that we might see each other in a hotel hall or privately speak.
Eventually I did find out there were other women. Girls, actually. (The stark realization that his daughter is now older than I was then...) He denied everything, acted wounded that I would doubt his devotion. Rather than admitting any duplicity, he threw them under the bus. Depending on how publicly he interacted with them, they were anything from crazed, embarrassing fans, throwing themselves at him (to his perpetual chagrin), to wayward girls he thought of as awkward nieces, who couldn’t manage without his parental guidance. I wasn’t to reach out to them because it would break their heart to find he was dating me and not them. (Newsflash: He was “dating” all of us.) Others were “damaged” or “crazy” or “just jealous”. Some of his put-downs were more specific, like that Katie was “too skinny” or another girl was “a bloody exasperation” that he didn’t want to block from his online spaces because he thought she would try to self-harm. All of his answers were calculated to spread doubt, push me away from his other relationships, and push me away from his forums. He would also claim that when I doubted him, it was a danger to his health. “I need an aspirin,” he’d say, and then vanish.
Then I found out about his partner. He claimed that was the only lie. How could I blame him? I had captivated him. He said he hid her because she’s mentally ill. We barely sleep in the same bed, he claimed. “Only a few hours a night. She sleeps separately, in a sleeping bag.” He spun a story of a lonely caregiver, trapped by circumstance. He told me he belonged to me, we were in love. He’d only had an affair once before, long ago, back in the 80s. But I was shaken. (Nevermind that I was born in the 80s).
The female lead in his first novel, published in 2007, is named Trixie Holmes. My last name; some of our conversations lifted wholesale. (I didn’t know then that all his female characters are direct lifts. I’ve only recently met Trixie.) When friends bought it, they reached out to me. “Oh my god, did you have sex with Warren Ellis?!” Though I had been flattered about the comics, discovering I was a named character in the book was uncomfortable and weird. The timing didn’t help. I had been asking about other women. He had started ghosting me more frequently. Yet there I was, front and center in his very first novel. Was it an apology? A further love letter? He wouldn’t tell me. And the book was deeply explicit. He hadn’t asked if he could publicly publish pieces of our relationship, our experiences, our conversations, or my name. It was then I realized that he never asked, not once.
I started pushing back harder. He dropped me completely. This wasn’t one of the mistakes that he’d come back from. The shock was real. My heart was broken. I was furious, I was distraught, and everything in between. I believed he was my lover, my partner. Were years of my life a lie?
So, against all of his wishes, I reached out to the others, anyone I suspected he was stringing along. (I wanted to also reach out to his partner, spill my guilt and sorrow and warn her, but couldn’t figure out how). Four of them confirmed with me that they were enmeshed in his web. I know, now, that the number at the time was closer to 10. Even as I continued my search, he brushed me off as a jealous fan. I hit wall after wall. One of the few times he replied to me was to threaten Katie's career if I didn’t stop talking.
This was long before #metoo. This was long before webtools made it easy to disseminate information and gather people and corroborate. It didn’t go well. In one swoop, I lost my best friend, my partner, and nearly my entire community, as well as my employment. My entire life was shattered. Some parts of it have never recovered.
As we discover his methods, it’s obvious he sifts through the hundreds of new people who likely contact him every day. Testing, checking, filtering for precarity, for vulnerability, the exposed. When I was in the thick of it, our conversations often felt part of a relationship between peers, but even when we were closest, it was still glaringly obvious that I was a nobody-in-particular struggling to pay rent and he was and is a figure with power, prestige, money, and buckets of influence. I certainly couldn’t name-drop Patrick Stewart. No one’s going to make a documentary about me. How many careers has he launched? How often has he changed someone’s life completely by simply pointing his public attention towards them?
But enough about him. My concern lives with those he hurt. Those in the past, (some who died before they could share with us here), those in the present, who remain in his sights, and those in the future that he still may find. Even after his PR apology post, he’s continued to send empty and salacious messages out to his current collection of “special” girls.
I don’t want him to be able to use or abuse anyone else. To know, as I do now, that his use of others has only grown with time, it’s too much to carry in silence. Unmasking him to warn others to stay away, to be aware of the danger, to not stray into harm’s way.
We are his worst nightmare, all of us talking, all of us admitting, in public, how he hurt us and weaponized our care, weaponized our shame. He called many of us his “Holy Slut Army”, but if we’re an army, it’s to expose the truth.
We are together, without him, stronger for standing arm in arm, rejecting his attempts to keep us apart. There are so many of us, but together we can keep our numbers from growing.
Warren Ellis had been my friend and supporter since 2004. He shared one of my very early self-portraits on his platform and soon after we started speaking online. I had red hair at the time and was pale and often gothy in my photos. I was amazed that Warren Ellis, writer of Transmetropolitan, my favourite comic, was speaking with me. I was a prolific self-portrait photographer during this time and Warren would feature me weekly on his website. Once we started speaking, it very quickly became sexual. Warren expressed to me he was in a loveless and non-physical relationship that he stayed in for his daughter’s sake. I pitied him and wanted to be the woman he needed. Warren’s needs were always my first concern. I was made to believe it was imperative that our relationship be kept secret, so I did. I was 21. The amount of photos and messages exchanged would be immense, but I no longer have any earlier than 2011.
We first met in person in 2005 at a con in Toronto. I was introduced in public as his Filthy Assistant. I stayed over in his hotel room where we had sexual relations. Later that night I actually ended up in the ER as I was having very serious stomach pains. Warren did not accompany me to the ER. Warren had two other women coming to his hotel after I would leave, I was not aware of this and didn’t learn this truth until reading these women’s stories for this website, despite being in communication with both of these women at certain points over the years. I was also not aware that Warren was insulting me in conversation with these other women, as he would insult them to me, I can only presume it’s so we wouldn’t speak with each other.
I was married and divorced during my friendship with Warren, we continued to sext and exchange photos during this time. I saw him at other cons and went out of my way to have physical, sexual encounters with him.
Over the years, Warren would go through periods, sometimes lasting up to six months, where he would send me a photo every single day that I would wake up to. These emails had no subject, and no body text. Sometimes they were normal selfies of him at the pub, but most often they were shirtless selfies of him in bed. I knew the desired response was a photo in return. After a while, I stopped sending photos in response to these emails and as a result, our relationship petered out. I often turned to Warren when I felt I needed validation and attention, despite his responses to my photos and messages getting shorter and shorter as the years went by. I liked being wanted by Warren Ellis. I loved Warren Ellis, and he often reciprocated this feeling, telling me he would always love me.
By 2015, our relationship was basically just a friendship. He was there for support when I asked for him, and I sent messages of support to him as well. I still felt as though I wanted to impress him and please him and this feeling never really went away--I believed this was because I loved him.
In 2018, we barely spoke, but I saw him in person at a comic convention. I went to his hotel room, because I felt I needed some sort of closure regarding how I still felt about him. I had never succeeded at getting him out of my head; the need to please him was still strong. He hugged me for a long time, telling me he would always be there for me. And then he kissed me, and I let him. I felt incredibly ashamed that I let him do this. I didn’t tell my boyfriend (a man Warren has been friends with for years) and I instantly pretended as though it hadn’t happened.
While sitting talking with Warren at the hotel bar later that night, I confronted him about his reputation of being a dirty old man who uses and discards young women. He seemed genuinely shocked and saddened by this. He seemed truly sorry that this was how people saw him and he was sorry that women felt that way about him. I believed him and trusted that it was behaviour he practiced in the past.
In 2019 Warren agreed to write the introduction for a book my publishing company was putting out, a book about finding your people on the internet. Warren was instrumental in introducing me to so many incredible people on the internet, I thought he would be the perfect person for this job. I then found a Facebook post by my old friend Jhayne describing her dismay at my decision to include Warren. She outlined his patterns of behaviour and explained the hurt he had caused her and others. I was concerned and messaged her to talk. I told her about my conversation with Warren at Thought Bubble, how he told me he had changed. She told me a young woman had come to her only the month before with stories of Warren. I felt so ashamed. I had believed Warren over the women who had been hurt by him, simply because their experiences didn’t match my own. I knew that my publishing company needed to stay a safe place for women so Warren needed to be removed from the book. I text him to let him know. I was incredibly sad, convinced I was about to lose my good friend of almost twenty years. He replied immediately saying the safety of women comes first and he understood. He also asked if this was going to come back on him at all. I told him I would just tell people his schedule didn’t allow him to write the introduction. I wanted to protect him. After this he was very kind to me for a couple days, I assume until he realised I wasn’t going to be an issue, and then he stopped responding to me again.
And then I woke up on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, and saw a a young woman tweeting about how Cameron Stewart had tried to date her when she was 16 and he was 32. Cameron was my friend, and the rest of us had always laughed about his propensity for both dating and drawing younger women. I realised I couldn’t say I protect women and posit myself as someone committed to changing the culture around the abuse of power in comics and beyond, if I kept dismissing these open secrets. I couldn’t continue to be friends with someone, who despite being a force for good in my life, and in the lives of so many other people I knew, had a pattern of behaviour that actively damaged vulnerable women. I had met seven women up to that point, who had all had eerily similar experiences with Warren, and I decided I didn’t want there to be any more. So I posted a tweet thread about how older men in comics abused their power. I never claimed I was abused or that they did anything illegal, I just wanted vulnerable people to be able to protect themselves.
Soon after I posted, Warren sent me the first of several texts, “K? K, please don’t kill me.” I felt sick. I started crying, wondering if I’d done the wrong thing. He sent more texts, asking, “Is this what you wanted?” The texts were blatantly manipulative and they made me so incredibly sad. This was not the friend I knew, this was not the man who championed women and uplifted them. That was a man attempting to manipulate me into shutting up (and it worked, I deleted my original tweets). He sent more texts. He called me. I had a massive panic attack and blocked him. He emailed my partner, telling him, “You need to make her stop.” He found other ways to contact me. He accused me of exacting revenge. Begging me to stop. But I couldn’t stop anything, I wasn’t doing anything. This is all happening because of what he did. I had never felt hurt by Warren until he sent me those messages, which signalled the beginning of me unraveling fifteen years of manipulation and lies.
In the two weeks immediately following my post on Twitter about Warren, I’ve had the chance to listen to over 60 people directly tell me about their experiences with him. They shared emails, photos, and screenshots. It made me realise that nothing about my experience with Warren was unique. I have to do a lot of work to reconcile the reality I thought I understood for the past fifteen years, with the actual truth of the situation. The only thing I know to be true is that Warren had great taste. The people I have met in the last couple weeks are all incredibly intelligent, empathetic, thoughtful, caring, and kind. They’ve all contributed to a place I have felt safe to unpack my complicated feelings about this type of behaviour. I am forever grateful to be seen and held by this group of powerful people and to have done such great work with them.
I’m dismayed that Warren believes saying, “I will continue to apologise to you,” is the same thing as actually apologising. Apologising is far less important to me, and many other people I’ve spoken to, than actions. I wish him to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the damage his behaviour has caused over the last twenty years. I wish him to deeply reflect and question the motivations for his actions. I wish him to ask how he can make amends and what it will look like for him to move forward from this. I wish him to be open to doing the hard work.
CW: mention of weight loss
Warren found me on LiveJournal in 2004. He would occasionally talk to me there, then Myspace. The real grooming began 2006-2009 when I gave him my direct email address. I live in a small town, I love comics and I loved modeling. I gained self-esteem like I had never known with my worldly “best pal” Warren.
I lost a significant amount of weight around August 2005 and in 2006 I pursued alt-modeling gigs around the country with confidence I never had before. In my travels, I met other models who also gave themselves Warren-inspired names.
W.E. loved my modeling photos, obviously, and I connected the reinforcement behavior that to have a friend to support me, I had to feed him with my pics. Having few friends, not much experience with men in general along with low self-esteem and in my early 20s still living with my parents— it seemed fair that this was the price.
I told him everything going on in my life, usually another disappointing boyfriend after another, my art, modeling weirdness and what should my codependent naivety do in THIS situation? Warren would steer the conversation to sexting but it was too intense and sexting was and is weird for me. Plus, this was my idol and my brain felt like it would pop— What if I said or did the wrong thing? I stepped around it over and over.
He initiated for years, but seemed okay with sexy modeling photos and intimate phone photos. I was so shy about that kind of intimacy that I couldn’t even bring myself to watch a video of him when we were comparing accents. I think that bothered him.
Eventually, I contacted a comic artist who had worked with Warren and gushed about his art in the book to him. When he replied, we talked about weight lifting routines and motivation and it was a NORMAL cool convo (albeit informal because boundaries are obviously not my strong suit). When I told Warren about talking to another creator in the industry, he was not as happy. He basically ended it by saying “ALIENNNZZZ” to a pic I sent to rekindle the spark and then I was dead to him.
I asked other women who had friendships with him, but it became territorial fast. I was informed what he and I had wasn’t real bc whomever I was talking to felt he really belonged to them. I gave up. After years of explaining who Warren Ellis was to anyone who read his work, it is refreshing to know I was not alone. I hope more women will become aware of men like him and his tactics to end these incidences before they become personal.
CW: mention of mental illness, mention of suicide
I met Warren on LiveJournal back in early 2005 when I was 23 years old. He either discovered me in his comment section or through a gothic_babes community I posted photos to. I was very pale with dyed red hair back then and wore dark lipstick—a favorite combo of his, I later learned. I was involved in the fetish club scene and not long after meeting him, got a job working as a graphic designer in the adult industry.
He initially approached me just as a friend. I was so thrilled! Transmetropolitan was my favorite comic series, and I couldn’t believe this brilliant writer thought that I, a nobody, was interesting enough to talk to. Not only that, but he seemed to be surrounded by a cloud of beautiful, talented women who were smart, creative, and far cooler than I ever hoped to be. I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be special. I longed to gain the status of a muse, or to become one of his “filthy assistants”.
My boyfriend was similarly thrilled that I was in contact with Warren, who was also his favorite writer. He had me make animated LJ icons that celebrated this new friendship, and he later got the Global Frequency symbol tattooed on his arm. He was encouraging, to say the least.
I’ve long since lost the records of our interactions, but I remember Warren telling me often that he was lonely. This was during an era online where oversharing was the norm, and I poured my heart out in my posts. He would tell me how heartbreaking it was to see me so sad, and his kindness charmed me. Sometimes he sent photos, an open shirt or sitting on the edge of a bed.
In those days, Warren would put out open calls for content—banners for his website, or photos containing specific content or text as a prompt. I always responded. I thought if I could make something that impressed him, I could hold his attention longer. I wanted to rise the ranks of his coterie. I wanted to feel seen. He ended up posting some of my pieces on his website and it felt amazing that someone I admired would validate my work that way. It made me feel worthwhile.
Our interactions were not overtly sexual in any way, though I certainly tried to flirt to hold his attention. I was naive and at an age where my sexuality was a shiny new toy I didn’t quite yet know how to wield. I suspect now that it was glaringly obvious, and that he could tell which lines to toe so I wouldn’t be scared off.
This all took place at a point in my life where I was especially fragile. I was suffering from long-term abuse and being treated for mental illnesses that I didn’t actually suffer from. I was on a cocktail of psychiatric medications that made me worse, not better, leading to inpatient stays in a behavioral health center. In mid-2005, I attempted suicide and spent three days in an ICU. I don’t know if Warren specifically sought out the damage in people, but it always seemed to me that he found beauty in it and enjoyed writing tragically broken female characters.
Things continued on and in mid-2006, Warren booked a comic book convention in my city. It was an unusual move, and the booking caused a great deal of excitement amongst both planners and attendees. He and I spoke about meeting there and I was excited to finally see him in person. I hoped to sit at his table the way I’d seen other girls do.
I ended up attending the convention with the aforementioned boyfriend, who I’d recently started seeing again after a breakup. Warren approached me to say hi, but I don’t think he expected me to have accompaniment. I was so awkward and starstruck that I froze up. I mumbled a few words but struggled to make eye contact. I felt like I blew it.
Later that evening, Warren had a speaking event at the convention. It was a chance for him to hold court and tell stories, and my boyfriend and I eagerly attended. About halfway through the talk though, my boyfriend suddenly wanted to leave. I wanted to stay so I could talk to Warren afterward. It was a big deal to me. He’d flown across the ocean, and I couldn’t just leave. My boyfriend and I slipped outside to argue. I made sure we were next to the open doors of the hall though, so Warren could see that if we left, it wasn’t my fault. And we did leave. I lost my chance and I was crushed.
Warren stopped emailing me after that. I thought I must have offended him by not staying. I reached out a couple times, but my messages went unanswered. It was pretty devastating to me. I had wrapped up so much of my self-worth in thinking that a brilliant man I admired had found me special, and now that I clearly wasn’t favored anymore, I felt like a disappointment.
Despite our lack of direct communication, I hung around in his orbit for a long time after. Warren liked to collect creatives and other people he generally found interesting into private forums. I was invited to be a member of one, and he presided as the figurehead over the group. We remained on this site together for nearly a decade. He spoke to me there at first, but eventually that contact began to wane and he began ignoring me altogether. I don’t know exactly when the change happened, but I know that I spent the majority of my time there feeling like a ghost in his presence. He only broke this unspoken rule once to my recollection, and it was to say that he hated the ex-boyfriend who’d attended the con with me.
He would occasionally make small gestures outside the group to acknowledge my presence, such as liking videos I posted on Vine. It was the smallest vestige of care, yet it was enough to keep me wistful and missing the relationship I thought we’d had.
But even those breadcrumbs stopped dropping after a while, and I felt abandoned and sad. I saw him still interacting with mutual friends. I became friends with women who I would eventually find out he was in contact with. Every time he was in the periphery, it gave me pause to wonder what I did to be discarded. I considered driving to see him when he went on book tours in my area. I thought maybe I could get closure or even win his attention back.
I never went though, and I’m glad for it. When the floodgates opened and his targets started connecting with one another, things suddenly became clear. Warren had established patterns of behavior and I was merely caught up in the churn of his compulsions. I wasn’t special, nor had I failed. I was just someone who had ticked off all the right checkboxes for a while.
For me, one of the most harmful pieces of all this has been realizing how much of my life Warren touched. He was behind some of the most meaningful and long-lasting friendships in my life. And now, many of those friendships are being tested as these hidden back channel relationships are being revealed. He brought us all together, and when pulled, he was also the thread that caused us to unravel. His manipulations may have been self-serving in nature, but the repercussions were broad. Because as it turns out, people aren’t playthings, they have entire worlds that can be shattered by one person acting selfishly and in bad faith.
While I rejected his many attempts at a physically intimate relationship he still spent years grooming me. Things culminated in a hotel room with him being very inappropriate and me declining.
I believe this is why he based a character on me. Maybe it was some further attempt to manipulate me. Maybe it was a way to “win me over”.
While he didn’t physically assault me or anything of that nature, the years of grooming are actually far more disturbing on some level.
I’m so sad and horrified to see what he’s done and to how many.
CW: mention of rape, mention of death
I was 19, a sophomore in college, and stumbled onto Warren’s LiveJournal while updating my own. He was 38. I submitted a self portrait to the Saturday night open mic, and he replied. I was astounded that he noticed me, a nobody, and I continued commenting on his posts, delighted by every response. I remember hesitating in the beginning, I kept thinking “this man is twice my age, why is he interested in me?” and then justifying it by telling myself it was because I was so smart and mature.
After a day or two, he found my email address and initiated contact through email, praising photos he had seen of me in a Lolita dress with gloves and fishnets a friend of mine had posted. Not long after, he bought me a webcam, sent it to my college P.O. box, and asked for my phone number. He initiated a relationship that he insisted be kept secret. I thought he was genuinely emotionally invested in me as a legitimate partner, and I trusted that he knew best.
I remember the first time he called my cell phone. I remember the first time he made me cum over the phone for him. He called me his succubus, his goddess, and said that he “violently worshipped” me. He would particularly praise me or increase attention if I wore gloves, a corset, and a collar. The communication was almost overwhelmingly constant in the beginning, and I did not know of any other women in my situation.
He began abruptly stopping communication at intervals, claiming work kept him busy or he had computer trouble. I was a teenager who thought I was in a Serious Adult Relationship, and I didn’t want to upset him when I felt neglected or manipulated, because I didn’t want to seem childish. He made promises in the beginning of eventually meeting in person, but always had an excuse not to meet if he wound up on my part of the planet. He told me he was hypnotized by me, that I belonged to him, that he was mine - and I believed him.
It definitely wasn’t a healthy relationship. Our specific pattern was that I would send photographs and emails that he claimed hypnotized him and forced him to lose control, and then he would be aggressive and demanding while fantasizing about hurting and raping me. Then he would tell me that I made it happen, and it was my fault for making him lose control. He would me make me tell him exactly that, after playing out rape fantasies. He claimed no agency and genuinely had me believing that I was in control, an instigator, and that he was just giving me what I needed. He said that often - “you need this.”
I wanted a real relationship so badly, and he’d always give just enough affection that I thought he truly cared about me. I wish I had known at 19 that he had already established a pattern, and that I shouldn’t confuse attention with affection. I was young, I had only had two serious relationships before him, with a boy my age and a boy who was two years older, I didn’t understand what an adult relationship was supposed to look and feel like, and at times he seemed like he truly cared about me. When he would slow down communication, after months of frenzied contact, I felt like a desperate addict. I thought I was in love, and I was eager to earn his love and approval along with his sexual attention.
It’s depressing to realize how much smaller of a part of his life I was than I assumed. In the moment, blinded by my feelings, I thought that being in his top 8 on MySpace, or him commenting on my livejournal posts, or posting content of mine occasionally on his website, meant that he was genuinely invested in me.
I hate thinking about how much he shaped my sexuality, considering he met me at such a young age. I had been with two partners sexually before meeting Warren, and both were romantic and monogamous. I take selfies the way I do because of him, I struggle to connect emotionally when being physical, I doubted my self-worth for years. He gave me just enough affection to think we could have a “real” relationship someday, while encouraging specific role play and dress up. I also wasted a lot of time I could have spent studying or interacting with peers my own age. He was the sun my world revolved around. I held out so long waiting to hear him say he loved me, waiting to meet him in person, waiting for anything more than being used up and told it was my idea.
Sometimes, I would be strong enough to recognize I deserved a real, tangible relationship, and I would call things off. He said he understood, and that he would always be my friend. Part of being my friend meant he would ask for “proof of life,” meaning pictures of my face.
It’s both comforting and infuriating to realize that he put so much effort into stringing me along. Years of email, phone calls, video chats, Snapchat... and whenever I tried to break off communication, he’d pop back in with the “proof of life” request and quote my LiveJournal, convince me he was genuinely interested and concerned, and then steer the conversation back to hypnosis and sex. He was the longest “relationship” of my life. It took all of my willpower to sever myself from him and stop obsessing.
If I was not involved with him, the requests for new photos would come about once a month, testing the waters. If I was vulnerable, from breakups or family health emergencies, he would pounce. I’d get roped back in. It was a cycle that lasted 10 years before I felt he had betrayed my trust unforgivably. My partner died of cancer, and he slithered in fawning all over me. As soon as he got what he wanted, he ghosted. I felt used and betrayed, and promised myself to never speak with him again. I ceased all communication, without announcement, and he never sought me out again.
Warren was such a huge part of my life, for so long, but I didn’t feel like I could explain to anyone how I felt exploited since he never did anything technically illegal. I also felt that pressure to be a secret, and wanted to respect his privacy... now I see he was just covering his tracks so he could hurt several of us at once. The revelations are painful, but also bring a sense of closure I never got to experience before now. I hate how insecure and dependent I was, and I hate that I let one man be the basis for my self worth. I thought I wasn’t enough because I wasn’t up to his standards, that the failing was mine, now I see he is a bottomless pit.
I told him often that he held my mind in his hands, that he was a significant influence - and after learning of the staggering number of women who have also been manipulated, coerced with half truths and faint praise, filled with insecurity and doubt, and left hanging, I realize I was just one stitch in a pattern to him. He took advantage of my trust, admiration, and naïveté. It is surreal, vindicating, and overwhelming to finally have the darkest, most secret parts of life out in the open. Even more overwhelming that it’s a secret so many of us shared, assuming we would never be believed, let alone understood.
I have never received an apology.
CW: mention of illness, mention of rape
Warren Ellis first messaged me on Friendster around April 2004. I was 27. He already followed me on LiveJournal. We spoke daily through 2007 over email and met twice in person. I was an admin of his forum The Engine from 2005 to 2007. Its end coincided with his withdrawal of attention from me. After his sudden and unexplained rejection, we spoke perhaps four more times through 2009.
At first, I was thrilled and humbled that a personal hero whose work had been incredibly influential would take note of me. But I learned that to be an interesting person in my hero’s eyes, I must be a sexual creature. There was no mistaking it for a mentorship or equal relationship; the sexual content he demanded overwhelmed the wisdom he shared.
Sex was ultimately what he wanted, as virtually all conversations veered there eventually. Once, I mentioned a medical appointment for some worrisome ovarian cysts. As an ovarian cancer survivor, check-ups were always terrifying ordeals. His next response was a sexually explicit order. The tone change felt like whiplash, but a positive response felt like a duty. I recall being frequently exhausted by the obligation to respond positively.
Why young women?
Our emails show that Warren provided emotional support during my tempestuous engagement and its subsequent end, and I do appreciate that he gave me comfort during a tumultuous time. However, in retrospect I find it uncomfortable rather than admirable: a married man with an internationally lauded career who playacts fascination with a 20-something woman’s tumultuous love life is probably not doing so out of the goodness of his heart. Who has the time for the soap opera drama of a 27-year-old other than people in that same tumult? When I look at the endless emails detailing my dramas (My crush’s housemate’s girlfriend read his email! I hope my boyfriend proposes!) it exhausts me, and I am the person most inclined to indulge my dramas. There is nothing inherently interesting about it to a 36-year-old man.
What I got
What did I get out of it?
First, I was given a moderator position on the Engine. I think I was reasonably good at it, but I don’t pretend that the honor wasn’t bestowed as a favor (or perhaps to keep me quiet). It probably wasn’t my diplomatic experience or my technical prowess (I had neither).
Second, I occasionally got comic scripts in my inbox to read before the issues were out.
Third, I got the feeling of being special and worthy — but (spoiler alert) we all know that that doesn’t come from outside affirmation, right?
The final and very best thing that came from this relationship was being embedded in the Engine, where I met vibrant people who loved comics like I did. I had found friends, encouragement, and appreciation, but unfortunately participation in this society was conditional upon serving its leader and nexus. He demanded adoration and attention from us all; it was part of his cultivated online personality. But for young women, remaining part of the group was often contingent upon our responses to additional sexual coercion.
Bluebeard’s other wives
I never thought I was the only one. It made sense that the other beautiful women splashed across his website and featured in his podcasts and volunteering to maintain his forums were in online or meatspace relationships with him, too. He was careful not to confirm my speculations:
A clearer pattern emerged when he spoke negatively of “shy” women. He painted anxiety as a negative, mockable condition and slapped the diagnosis on women who hadn’t dropped everything to wait on him. I no longer believe they were anxious. I believe (and have confirmed with one of them) that they simply didn’t take his bait, and he recast them as having “the social skills of an eel” or “paralyzed with shyness most of the time” to undermine their agency and encourage those of us who were more gullible to disbelieve these women.
Additionally, I have always felt uncomfortable at the careful scheduling that brought me to his hotel room at Toronto Comic-Con in 2005. He texted about continual delays, making me feel like a game piece. Naively, it took me weeks to realize that I wasn’t the only one in that room that night. I have since connected with two other women who also visited that room. Those of us who were there were not informed of the assembly line nature of his evening. To unethically withhold that information means that full and informed consent was impossible.
The emotional fallout
Warren Ellis never had any control over any part of my professional life, my career, or my income. I realize now how extremely fortunate I was in this.
But to this day, I still suffer emotional fallout from Warren’s attention and abandonment. It made the descent into invisible middle age much harder. I internalized the Warren-given impression that all I'd had to offer was now-faded beauty, which was insufficient to retain a place in this man’s world, and that I must truly be a mediocre forgettable beast to deserve such a sudden removal from his orbit. It was hard. It hurt.
I believe Warren Ellis perpetuated a dangerous belief that women have no value beyond youth and beauty. When you're young and clever you KNOW you're special; we are all raised to believe that. Warren told us what we secretly hoped and believed: that we were lovely, precious, and worthy. So to lose it all and realize with a jolt that no, everything you thought people liked about you was only skin-deep is to feel unpersonned. That is why so many girls and women believed him; we had no reason not to believe we did matter. And for the women whose careers were tied into his recommendations — I just can't imagine what they went through.
Additionally, I lost all my online support for a long time. Feeling rejected post-Engine, I did not feel comfortable re-entering comic-related forums. LiveJournal was not a safe space because Warren was a follower: both his ability to see my activity, and his disappearance from activity on my journal, made me feel I no longer had a writing home.
In 2014, still reeling with the effect of losing my online communities and internalizing Warren’s abandonment as a judgment on my worth, I penned an Engine retrospective. On the surface it’s a reasonable look at the Engine years. The good that came from it always felt at odds with how much hurt I took in its wake, and this autopsy was part of my therapeutic exploration. But I’m sorry that I wrote a fawning piece. At the time I was trying to convince myself that it had all been worth it. Sometimes it is, sometimes not. I’ve realized that I can’t bury the bad under the good forever.
It wasn’t until Katie stood up and named Warren’s behaviors that I saw a chance to heal the hurt I carried. In hearing other women’s stories, I’ve recognized my own wounds and have been able to give names to pain I thought I alone felt.
It doesn’t have to be rape to be wrong
Wisdom and age look back on these as red flags and yes, I agree; it is simple now to say “I should have known then.” I learned my lesson. And now I speak up so other young women have more tools at their disposal to recognize red flags in their own lives. I also speak up now to identify the systems and patterns that propped up this misbehavior.
I am not sure some men fully understand the way that women are subject to a raw deal: participation in society, being treated like a real person, is so often contingent on performative sexuality.
How do we fix this?
It’s hard to know what to do to dismantle sick systems. Ellis’s public harem presented a blueprint for others’ behavior. “Get big enough,” it invited, “and you too will deserve your own sparkling audience of sexy young women.” This behavior provided a model and smokescreen for destructive patterns built atop the idea of women as currency. We cannot allow that to continue.
Here’s my suggestion: ask where the others are. If you see a man who builds an army of young and beautiful female-identifying people around him, ask why. If sexuality is lauded above other virtues, ask why. Skills, charisma, wisdom, and worth are found in all ages, genders, and levels, so where are they? If people are aging out of his army, what does that tell you about how he perceives their value? How do you fight the insidious social programming on display?
My first brush with Warren was sometime in the mid-2000s, LiveJournal-era. He posted one of my cam selfies on his webpage, praising it as "art." I can only assume he found me via my vanity website at the time. I was in my tender young 20s and terribly flattered. This PRESTIGIOUS PERSON, etc. etc., noticing me? I wasn’t a fan of his, had not read any of his work – I’ve never run in his circles nor did I have anything for him to promote or help me with - but I knew who he was.
At some point he contacted me directly and the tone of his emails quickly became adoring and flirtatious; many smoky, fantasy type emails; many unsolicited photos of him in bed, him shirtless, him serving sultry looks. I knew of his reputation of “dirty uncle Warren” long beforehand, so I wasn't surprised, but I was at a loss as to how to handle it, because it was also all interwoven with this really comforting warmth and kindness he would offer me; he felt like a genuine friend, a safe, reliable place. At one point he even surprise-ordered me a thing I had asked help with acquiring (the plea was addressed to my online friends/followers; I did not ask him directly). So I forgave any inappropriateness. After some time I even wondered if he was someone worth "seeing where things went” with, despite knowing it was an open secret that he collected young, beautiful, creative types. He was that good at making me feel cherished and safe and special - more special than any other girl he spoke to, surely, right? He certainly led me to believe so and I was quite vulnerable to his attention and care.
He quickly learned that I wasn't interested in nor did I respond to more aggressive tactics. Consequently, I feel like he was gentle with me and tested my boundaries subtly over time. He fed my need for safety, for kindness and warmth. I needed that warmth and safety so much. It must have been obvious, because in retrospect, it’s obvious he played on that. I feel dumb and naïve about it now, knowing he deliberately preyed on my vulnerability. I'm angry and hurt, still, that he took advantage of that. I trusted him. I allowed myself to trust him and feel cared for by him, despite the red flags. And that's what's always upset me the most. He acted like my friend. He made me feel safe and treasured and wanted, behaved inappropriately, and then dropped me without a word, repeatedly. It was emotionally exhausting.
He was cyclical with me, off and on over the years. He would grow bored (I assumed) and ghost, unfollowing me from all of his accounts, but then we'd "meet up" online again at some point – usually after I reached out, feeling tender and missing him, or just missing someone who felt stable and offered love - and he'd shower me with his warm attention again.
I remember feeling really hurt and confused the first time he dropped me, especially after how warm and flirtatious our communications had been. Like, what did I do?? We hadn't had an argument, we never did. Our communication might trail off a little, and then he'd just banish me. That’s how it felt, as though I was banished. I got used to it over the years, I acclimated and braced myself, but even when I knew it was just.. part of the Warren routine, it was never a good feeling.
The last I was in contact with him was 2016-2018, shortly after I experienced several traumatic life events. He gave advice, offered emotional support, and regularly attempted to entice me with gentle sexual innuendo. I have long since lost any old messages and emails from him (I never saved the photos) due to crashed hard drives and new PCs, but I am attaching several I’ve selected from our last communications. My hope is that perhaps another person will recognize themselves in them and understand that it was part of a pattern.
In 2005, I was in my 20s and had no idea who Warren Ellis was, when a mutual acquaintance introduced my online output to him. I was an artist, blogger, and budding photographer, experimenting with costumed self-portraiture. My hair was dyed red at the time, and I was Very Online. Our first “contact” was him sharing a photo I took of myself on his popular blog.
There was a lot of back-and-forth emailing, oftentimes spanning entire days. Link exchanges, discussions of current events, bite-sized quips and commentary – all the hallmarks of a developing friendship, I thought. Warren Ellis’ consistent, constant contact placed him in the position of a de-facto best friend and confidant; no one talked to me as much as him, and I had many people around me, online and in person.
He made himself a sort of daily touchstone, and I began to rely on him for emotional support – mutual, I believed at the time. I told him secrets. He told me he sometimes wished his live-in, non-sexual partner were dead – jokingly, I’d assumed. He badmouthed some of the women he also promoted on his blog sometimes, which I found odd, but didn’t analyse too deeply. In our conversations, he presented “a pitiable aging writer trapped in a forced partnership,” who was beginning to develop a crush, and who, above all, treasured my presence in his life; I was his daily confidant and he needed me at least as much as I needed him. This made me want to support him. I liked being his secret.
He was sly in the way things escalated, positioning himself as both conspirator and someone weak, unwell, lonely, and powerless against me. Someone who obsessed over me in spite of himself. He began to occasionally send me webcam or phone self-portraits. Open shirt, hands near mouth. The tone of our exchanges became a little charged; he flirted, I was flattered, and so I flirted back. I noticed that he responded more if I attached photos of myself to my emails. This was how he trained me.
Though I never asked, he began to promote my various projects on his blog and social media. I became a public friend, a known associate of Warren Ellis – no longer a secret. He paraded me in front of his readers, and this was another way he trained me. It cemented the idea of his permanence in my life, it proved our bond was “real”. I let my guard down completely. As the serious relationship I’d been in was ending and I was a heartbroken wreck, communications with Warren took a turn from flirting to sexual. I still thought it was all lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek; after all, this was never really going to go anywhere, I thought. My dear friend and I, with whom I shared so much already, were just blowing off a little steam between laughs and heart-to-hearts.
He flattered me a lot. He told me he loved me, how special I was to him, how he cherished me, how incredible of a human being I am, how hypnotic I am, how much power I had over him, and how he always thought about me. He said these things regularly, and when he did not, I wanted to hear them, in spite of myself, and wondered why. When I dated casually, he’d ask about those relationships and tell me I was too good for them. When my life became especially chaotic, like during business trips, he made sure to say things like, “Check in and let me know how you are”, “You know I’ll always be here for you, sweetheart”.
The escalated amount of effort he made during times of crisis was consistent, and effective at making him seem like he was the only one really there for me. I was too busy to notice that it was also during these times that he consistently steered conversations into a more sexual direction.
He called a few times, and attempted video calls, which I found awkward because, more than anything, I still somehow believed this man was my precious friend. So, when we tried video chatting, I stayed in friend mode. I’d been so happy to see him and speak “face-to-face”, only to be disappointed to discover he didn’t want more video calls after that. I’d failed to deliver.
My life began to move at a breakneck pace, and I worked a lot. My hair was no longer red. He still wrote, and we were warm and cordial, but the messages began to slow down, and I missed him. Before I knew it, I began to spend more time on his forums, because it allowed for extra contact, some proximity. While we’d met at ComicCon, and other comics-related events, we only had one one-on-one meeting. By this point, I was in another relationship, and the meeting was just a lot of drinking and talking and a very long hug. I still thought of him as my dear friend, perhaps more than ever, and relished this rare opportunity to be together in the same space.
At this time, I thought we would always be friends. My new relationship became more serious, and the communication with Warren Ellis became slower still. I was a little hurt. At times he’d disappear, and I’d send him photos to get his attention. It worked, then he’d disappear again. Even so, we moved in intersecting social circles, we shot the shit in forums, and everyone still knew of our friendship. After nearly four years, Warren Ellis had become an inextricable part of my life.
I never thought he would cease all communications. It happened soon after a personal tragedy struck; when I needed him most. I was already in a fog of grief, trying to survive what turned out to be the most difficult year of my life, and now my one constant through so many years ghosted me. It was incomprehensible, how this man who treasured me could be so cruel, and abandon me so completely. I would have been devastated, had I not already reached the bottom of the grief well when a second tragedy struck that same year.
This sudden disappearance left me with a lot of uncertainty and badly bruised self-esteem. I blamed myself and wondered what I’d done wrong. Later, I learned he’d been simultaneously stringing several other “special girls” along, so I put the entire affair out of my mind and moved on.
I came to the private chat thinking W.E. was a regular ol’ womaniser and kind of a jerk. My experience was relatively mild in comparison to others here – but it follows his pattern. Seeing all those familiar selfies and messages was such a gut-punch; all those private tokens of affection repackaged and repeated time and time again, exposing his “intimacy” as pressure for reciprocity, and his “attention” as control tactic. Did I have agency? Agency is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. How much agency do I have when making choices within a framework of fallacies set up by someone else? Then again, some of us weren’t even given a choice.
A few of us probably filled other roles in his life as well, some of the time – and why would he not use that, too? We were readily available, groomed and willing people, ready to stroke his ego, listen, and offer advice and some semblance of human connection, as well as serve as smokescreens, and receive his magnanimity to make him feel like “Internet Jesus”.
That said, it seems to me that, even allowing for a degree of opportunism in his choice of targets, the stories here really crystallise just how many of us were in a vulnerable place at the time, especially when he was the one who initiated the conversation. Not everyone. But many. Most of us, in fact. It’s established he doesn’t follow every step of the pattern every time. Several of us (myself included) were introduced to him by other people, for example. But nothing can change the fact that all our stories fit his pattern – the only differences lie in how far he managed to get.
CW: mention of mental illness
I was 30 when I became a fan of Warren Ellis’ work and started following him online. When I found he posted open calls to people to post to threads, (like the selfie threads and the show your art threads), I liked that. I liked being invited, even if the invite was public to share and he was offering it to everybody. So many people were taking part, it felt safe to join. It came across like he wanted to give back to his fans by offering a platform, and it looked like many of the people who engaged with those threads found them useful. And he seemed kind and wise and thoughtful. So many people seemed to adore him!
The openness of the invitation made me feel like I was initiating contact, even though he would have had hundreds of responses to each call, and was picking and choosing who to reply to. I was so surprised when he responded to me.
As we emailed back and forth, I sent him photos and links to interesting articles, and I told him about my personal trauma, mental health issues, and about being neuroatypical. All of these topics fit the type of things he asked people to share in the open threads and to contact him about, so it felt like a natural extension of those. He talked to me about my interests and told me my work was fascinating, and called me his friend. He talked about his own loneliness and his difficulties and I felt he was confiding in me.
I was insecure and fragile, for a variety of reasons, and I loved feeling like I was special. I was fine with things escalating, which it did very quickly. He insisted both that no one else desired him and that I was somehow uniquely irresistible. We never met in person, but I was more than happy to engage in electronically mediated sexual exchanges with him, involving text, voice and video. None of that part was a problem. (I now know he was doing this exact same thing with multiple other people at the same time, while presenting it as if these exchanges were only with me.) When I found out about his girlfriend, he claimed she had serious mental health issues and that he was in a companionate relationship where he took care of her.
After a period of frequent contact, he started abruptly disappearing. He’d go silent for weeks, and then spend hours emailing back and forth with me when he’d return, usually acting as if nothing unusual had happened. Sometimes, though rarely, he offered a weak explanation about having email problems or only just getting some old message weeks later. (He's the only person to ever claim they had those types of issues with my email, yet I believed him and sent myself test emails sometimes to see if things were working. Yeesh.)
It felt like he was treating me like I was easily discardable. It seemed so easy for him to just forget about me, and his excuses about being busy didn’t help because I could see him actively online chatting in his forum, or chatting in the comments to his livejournal posts. I never knew how long it would be until I’d hear from him again, and so often it seemed like he might not return.
When I told him about how he was making me feel, he would ignore me, going silent again, or act like I was the problem. And he was convincing. I would believe that I had somehow misunderstood or had done the wrong thing, because there he was giving me his attention again, making jokes and asking me about science news, and telling me I'm beautiful and how much he wanted me.
He called me goddess. He called me a succubus. He told me I was pure sex. He sent me many photos, presenting them as if my praise had emboldened him and made him confident enough to make them just for me. Sometimes delivering them over the course of a conversation as real-time responses, though now I know that completely identical photos were sent to tens (if not more) of other people at the same time, offered in a similar fashion. He was pretending our connection was special. The photos probably weren’t in response to what I said, but possibly someone else entirely! They were sent en masse to all the people he was involved with, none of whom I knew about.
He lied to me that there were no other people. It wasn’t even a lie of omission. Given our very sexual relationship, I was very surprised by his constant (often public) declarations of how unattractive he is and how no one wants him. I expressed that surprise multiple times, pointing out all the incredible people flirting with him in numerous online spaces, and he dismissed them as just friends or as people who didn’t mean it. He insisted that it was rare and uncommon for someone to want him and for him to feel such a strong desire in return. He told me no one had made him feel the way I did for a very long time.
On occasion, I did free labour for him, in the form of research in my professional field of expertise. I was so eager to be useful to him that I was happy to be asked, I activated my professional networks and made sure to get him the best data I could, but he didn’t even respond until I repeatedly asked. Then he blew me off. He just felt totally entitled to my time, I guess. (And reader, honestly, I now say wholeheartedly: farts to that.)
The last time I called him out over lying to me and hurting me, he told me he was ending our relationship for my mental health, as if I wasn’t stable enough to be involved with him. I tried to stay friends for a couple months afterwards, but that was it.
Ending it was the best thing he ever did for me. I’d tried to walk away several times, and always found myself going back when I'd be in a low place.
For years, he still would appear periodically, fairly passively, in my social media, following me briefly or liking one or two things, and then disappearing when I didn’t react. Just testing the waters?
I’m okay now. Things got better for me. I want to share this story because it would have helped me enormously at the time to see that there was a pattern and that this wasn’t just me. If I could talk to that past version of myself, I’d tell her about emotional abuse and how genuinely damaging it is, and how to recognise it.
I would tell her that his emphasis on discretion, and my resulting silence, even after things ended, was itself harmful to me. That it denied me connection with others who would understand because they had gone through something similar, and it denied me the opportunity to as fully and easily process and understand what had happened.
I would tell her that it is a tactic of many abusers to make a strong emotional connection early. Warren encourages you to tell him personal things, especially if they are difficult, and responds in a way that makes you feel understood. Whenever he can, he works an element of his understanding into being unique, instead of your struggles being normal human stuff that many others can understand and talk to you about if you find the right people. He encourages a feeling of scarcity, as if no one else could really understand your problem. But that feeling of scarcity is false. I’ve been talking with so many other people who were involved with Warren, since people started speaking out, and so many of us have experienced trauma and can relate to each other’s pasts with kindness and compassion. I’ve read so very much thoughtful and kind advice and supportive feedback and reassurance. We are all here for each other unravelling this stuff together. If you’ve had a similar experience with Warren (or with anyone else) and are currently feeling lost and alone, please know that you aren’t. He isn’t the only one you can talk to, even if it feels that way right now.
I would tell that past version of me that it is a normal part of this sort of emotional abuse to feel sorry for your abuser. That’s an element of the abusive tactics themselves. Your tendency towards being kind and empathetic is being exploited. We all make mistakes in relationships, but a single incident of bad behaviour is something we can apologize for, recognize, and stop doing. The tactics Warren employs are repeated both within and across relationships. Whatever his reason for doing it, it’s not accidental, and it fits right in with formal descriptions of emotional abuse and controlling behaviours. It can be hard to resist the impulse to consider his intentions and try to assign innocent ones, but I have found it most helpful to resist that trap and focus on the fact that he has done real harm, regardless of what he meant to do.
Warren’s reach is enormous. There are so many of us, and we were kept a secret. Whisper networks have not kept us safe. It’s hard to know all the people he is involved with. This response is a way to reach people and let them know what is happening to them so they can be spared some pain, because these relationships undeniably cause harm to so many of us, and not telling our truths will guarantee his continued ability to cause harm. If we didn’t speak out, we’d be hurting these other people indirectly.
To those who feel the price of celebrated works is to allow creators to behave this way unchecked, I wish to remind you that this view ignores all the genius work we don’t get to see because these people in positions of power and privilege prevent them. We are denied a wealth of work from people who are abused and mistreated and shut out (whether directly or indirectly) by people who misuse their power.
Warren has had the opportunity to learn. Back when I was involved with him, I tried many times to explain why what he was doing was hurting me. I’ve heard now from many others who did the same. I’ve read public statements from other targets, explaining how he hurt them. Warren still has that opportunity to learn even now. He could get therapy. He could choose to stop hurting people and work on understanding what drove him to do any of this.
CW: mention of weight loss, mention of choking
In 2006, I joined The Engine after having read Nextwave, and loving the unique humor that the books had. I was 30 years old at the time, and I often get along splendidly with adults that love subversive comics.
I'm also an exhibitionist, and had at that point, been documenting my weight loss and experimenting with self photography since 2003. And the photo thread on The Engine was fun to dabble in.
I didn't post anything explicit, because I wasn't shooting explicit content at that time, but cleavage and a glimmer in the eye was all Warren needed to comment on my first photo, "Very sly." I was flabbergasted that I had so quickly been paid attention by none other than Ellis himself.
One of the mods said, "Oh look, it's another Katie." I had no idea who Katie was, and after asking was sent a link to The Weekly Katie West post thread. I loved her style, and so beautiful! I thought she must be his partner for such a spotlight to be shone on her.
As things happen on the internet, I lost interest in The Engine, but not before Warren had started following me on Facebook and Flickr, my two other haunts at that time.
He would offer little, innocent quips on photos, back and forth, publicly.
When I was struggling with something, he would offer a kind word.
All of this being normal and expected interaction.
This fun, light acquaintanceship went on for SEVEN years.
In the winter of 2012, I was having marital problems. Heavy enough for me to seek therapy and begin a course of medication.
On January 3rd, 2013, I commented on an Instagram post. Warren had posted one of his half shaded face photos in dramatic lighting. I commented, "Inappropriate Comment Redacted."
Less than 60 seconds later, he was in my DM's, and began asking me what I'd want to do to him. Telling me how much he loved my mouth, and how I made it hard for him to think. That I was such a succubus, and that he's always seen me as a dominatrix.
The attention was like a lightning rod to my brain. This was THE FIRST time I had DIRECTLY and PRIVATELY flirted with ANYONE on the internet, and I was stunned that this man I respected gave me the time of day, when he had beautiful women like Katie, ten years my junior to occupy his time.
He never told me I was "special", but he used things like:
"You're a superstar and you don't know it", "Destructive Tease", "You know what you're doing to me, don't you?" etc.
I'm a vocalist, and have made 7 albums with my husband under the moniker Eyedoublecross. Warren then began promoting my work on his website, and added tracks of mine to his Spektremodule podcast.
I never asked for this promotion, and he often lauded me for "not asking for anything", because that "made me real".
In fact, I once shipped him some energy drink concentrate to his home in Southend. He gave me his home address.
When I would send videos, talking to him, he would send back audio clips of deep growls. And telling me that he imagines my voice could send him deeper into his brain than he'd ever been. I made him "weak and powerless".
So, of course, I began doing the research on hypnosis, and spent hours writing scripts just for him. Recording them, or simply Skyping with him, and watching him masturbate while I chanted to him. It became our form of sex. I scrounged for ways to entice him, by buying latex, choking myself, and doing the costumes that I knew he would love.
Without hyperbole, I can say that from January 2013-September 2013, we were in constant communication. I was head over heels. I felt heard while I was working in a job where I had ZERO friends and was bullied horribly, and my marital problems were worsening because ALL my thoughts and heart belonged to him.
During the summer of 2013, a photographer in New York City, J, told me that she would like to shoot me, and offered to fly to my home in Kentucky. I was VERY nervous in the best ways, assuming that my 37 year old body would look hideous under her lens.
Naturally, I told my best friend Warren about all this, sending him examples of her exemplary work, and he soothed my fears by telling me that I would be great, and that everything would be fine.
The night I picked J up at the airport, we went to a show at a local bar, and over drinks, she asked about some mutual online friends, and I asked her if she had ever read Warren Ellis' work. She opened up to me and I didn't even realize that tears were sliding over my face until she hugged me. She told me about a carbon copy experience to mine, down to the obsession with full lips, gloves, corsets, etc.
The blow came not from there being someone else in his life, as much as I had SPECIFICALLY told him about her, over the course of a MONTH. He didn't even bother to acknowledge her EXISTENCE. This beautiful, talented woman didn't even rate the acknowledgement of "Oh yeah, I know her" or "I've seen her work before", etc.
I'm sober now, but that night I proceeded to get so drunk she and my husband had to carry me into my house. I was shell shocked. Nothing felt real. At 7 the next morning, I let him have it. I told him that he had hurt me and I couldn't continue to talk to him.
That self imposed exile lasted a while. Almost 18 months, or until I was alone, scared and needed a familiar ear, again due to marital trouble. I emailed him one night, attaching a photo to get his attention, and even though it was 2am, I was immediately welcomed back into the fold.
He told me about his own marital problems, and we commiserated.
I continued to be a morning check-in spot with him.
I was sent pics of his face when he wanted to play with me.
I noticed the pulling away again, but the initial damage had been done.
We remained sanitized friends with a secret, but in the past few years, I've had more women approach me about him, and ask if I knew how to get over the emotional pain an Ellis encounter causes.
I was a grown woman, with a love for displaying my sexuality, but I'm still a human being with feelings.
The reason I decided to speak out now is to keep other women, particularly young vulnerable women, from the emotional meat grinder that he behaves as.
He can't help, comfort, or hurt me anymore.
I gave him my love and he gave me secrecy and lies.
I can't begin to imagine the damage this could do to someone 16-17 years old, still forming their own opinions of sexuality, to have someone get bored and discard them when they get married, or partnered in real life.
He never really cut me off, but he absolutely cut out my heart.
It's GOT to stop.
I had just come out of a long-term relationship in 2007 that had been both mentally and financially controlling; my ex-partner's friends were the only ones I had and they had been turned against me, I was cut-off. I spent my time on the internet, connecting with the online friends that remained to me and the few communities I'd found on LiveJournal, later The Engine and finally Whitechapel - all stomping grounds for Warren Ellis.
It's important to note that I was a nobody, just a goth/alternative nerd girl who enjoyed Ellis' work. I lurked almost everywhere as I felt I had little to add, but enjoyed feeling part of a greater weft of nerds, misfits, creatives and so on. With the end of the relationship I mentioned previously, I became less shy in the hopes of feeling less lonely - I would post art, discuss writing and talk about the possibility of doing alt modeling - it was in this phase that Warren noticed me and we began talking over emails. I was flattered, of course, this influential and seemingly erudite older man. I wanted nothing from him, career-wise, I didn't want to be in comics or anything else he was involved in. However, he was an icon in his field, influential in that he could launch people's careers if he chose... if that isn't an expression of power, I don't know what is.
We talked and I told him about my life, my recent situation and that it felt good in having found a community of like-minded people I could be involved in. I was young, single and lonely. He thought I was smart and beautiful, witty and worthy of attention - on one occasion he told me that most men must be intimidated by me because I was so beautiful and razor-smart, a devastating combination. He claimed that he was in a loveless relationship, but stayed because of his obligation to care for his young daughter. I foolishly believed what he told me.
He flirted, I flirted back. We chatted about life and other topics, sparred verbally with one another. Pictures were exchanged, nothing explicit. Compliments would focus on my lips, my eyes and my cleavage; requests were made for corsets, stockings... I obliged. These were things I already had being goth/alternative and testing out modeling in that space, it was easy and seemed harmless at the time. Conversations became more explicit over email and text messages, declarations of desire and lust, with him eventually insisting that all communication of that nature be done over the phone. Over time he started to use odd vocal queues, that I thought nothing of at the time, like counting down and then a command of some nature... I was lucky that it didn't seem to have an effect on me, I played along as I thought it made him happy. I now know it was of a far more sinister, controlling nature. He tested boundaries of what I would and wouldn't accept or frequently.
Things went on for some time, almost constant contact and chatter every day, then it became that he would disappear for weeks... only to appear back with an email with a picture of himself with "Busy with work", expecting to pick up like no time had passed in deafening silence. But it was the Great Warren Ellis, who thought I was smart and beautiful and worthy... so I obliged.
One day, he just stopped replying to me. I'm unsure what the trigger was exactly. I had started to get my life back on track, reconnect with friends, excel in my career. I would ask him how he was, if he was okay, as I genuinely cared for his well being; his heath is notoriously, famously, terrible. I was devastated and confused as to why he had stopped talking to me, I didn't think I'd done anything wrong... I didn't have a word for it at the time, but we do now: Ghosting.
This man, whom I somehow came to care about, no longer cared I existed. No longer cared about anything shared between us. It has haunted me for years. I buried it deep, deleted all records of us having communicated that I hadn't lost already and blamed myself for everything. I was convinced I was alone in this, an isolated incident, with a man busy with his career and caring for a young child. I chalked it up to my own youthful folly... Now I know he was doing this to multiple women, simultaneously, across the span of 20+ years. I am confused, hurt and angry - he has manipulated countless women into various stages of compliance, used us up and spat us out.
To those who think this is some kind of revenge, it is not. This is a warning to other women: Learn from our experiences. Never let someone emotionally extort power from you in the way Warren did to us.
I first got to know Warren through Whitechapel, the forum associated with the Freak Angels comic. We lightly emailed and occasionally commented on LJ and Flickr, all of which made me feel special. He would sometimes hint at wanting pictures, and I would send him the same sorts of things I sent my friends, rather than anything provocative, mainly because I don't trust the internet. Part of what I'm feeling is betrayal for having been made to feel so special, and to realize none of us were.
I don't feel abused, although I see that abuse happened to others. I think the flirty relationship I had with him wasn't abusive because he had no power over me, as our fields didn't overlap, and abuse requires an imbalance of power. He would occasionally promote events I was throwing via his newsletter, but most of the ways we work are mutually exclusive. I think because of these things our acquaintanceship was fairly on the up and up, but I can certainly see the entry points to the behavior most here experienced. He used me for legitimacy and I used him for credibility.
We have met in person, and he referred to it in his newsletter, which both felt strange and like a tiny honor. I see now that it's a pattern of establishing the false appearance of safety to others, whether intentionally or not, and am upset the safety and integrity I work hard to cultivate in my own life were used as a shield for him in harming others.
I'm not interested in canceling Warren, or by proxy the people he works with. I'm interested in living in a society where this sort of behavior is inexcusable, and in which we offer love and support to all those involved.
A long-time Transmetropolitan fan, I met Warren at a small comic con when I was 19. I talked to him after his Q&A and we took a picture together where he held me uncomfortably close. Soon after that I joined Whitechapel. Upon my introduction he told everyone I smelled lovely... That was typical of him. He always came off as a little slimy towards pretty young women on the forum, especially on the selfie threads.
After a while he flirtily slid into e-mail inbox, telling me how "painfully sexy" I was. I was not "somebody", not a creative, just a young, selfie-posting alternative girl who admired his work. Warren seemed to easily smell how insecure and broken I was. He would compliment my looks but it felt a little wrong, a mixture of "my hero talks to me!" and ew, this old sleazy man telling me I'm hot... Then at a later point in our communications I questioned how he treated someone in the forum, and he got irritable and never spoke to me again. Back then it felt like a clear punishment from someone I had worshipped for years.
I've been telling people for years how wrong his reign in Whitechapel felt... How he kept what many referred to as a "harem" of young, beautiful alternative women, many of them creatives themselves. I was one of the "lucky" ones he was always (a little too) nice to on the forum, but I also noticed he was mean and snarky towards all the men and paid little-to-no attention to women past the age of 30. Everyone had to put up with his ways or be booted from what quickly became a social and professional hotspot for many of us. And this from the man who now claims to not have known he had power! Later I've found out that so many of those young women, creatives and just fans, were targeted by him in the same way. The abuse of power, the mindgames and control are sickening and wrong, and as a pattern it's downright creepy. Warren Ellis may not need to be cancelled, but he sure needs to be stopped.
CW: weight loss
My story with Warren begins in 2009.
I was in the process of leaving my abusive partner after 10 years. I was very isolated at this time, with no close friends of my own. To say the least, I was extremely vulnerable and a complete mess. I started taking nude self portraits as a way to see myself in such a vulnerable state, and understand the abuse I was experiencing. I was also desperately trying to escape. I eventually did escape, though my now ex-husband found the images online and freaked out. That was my cue to cut off all communication for good. It was a grueling six months. I was drinking heavily, and I started smoking cigarettes again. My family was very concerned. I lost thirty pounds and was barely eating.
This is the exact time Warren found me on Flickr. He could smell my trauma through the screen. He chose to contact me when he saw a specific photo in which I was wearing diamond-white silk opera gloves. I knew his work and owned several of his comics and graphic novels, so it felt exhilarating to be noticed by someone of his caliber. At the time, I felt like a nobody. When he suggested I join his Whitechapel board, I did so immediately. When the flirting began, we quickly moved to his personal email account. When he requested photos, I obliged. I was deeply distraught from my divorce and was happy to have a “friend” supporting me. It felt good to talk to him during this horrible time in my life. I thought that he genuinely cared.
He liked to play the submissive, telling me how hypnotic my eyes are, how my lips made him feel helpless. He was under my spell, and I had total control over him. The correspondence was mostly one-sided. I was responsible for writing elaborate fantasies and taking photos. He sent me a few dick pics and generic unbuttoned shirt selfies. Our relationship was mostly through email, with the occasional personalized voice memos. I kept our relationship a secret, but I’m not sure why. He never came out and said, “keep this a secret,” but I got the vibe. He suggested we meet in his hotel room next time he was in the US, which I passed off as fantasy.
Our back and forth continued until 2013, with some major gaps in communication. I lost interest toward the end, but one day when he asked for some specific photos, I still took the time and effort to shoot highly personalized stuff for him in my studio, gloves included. A few days after I sent them, he dropped me. It was strange because he felt the need to email me and articulate it, something along the lines of, “I am removing people from my life that don’t benefit me anymore.” It was like a punch in the gut. Why did he feel the need to end it so abruptly, using such cruel language? I deleted all of my correspondence with him to purge him from my life.
Around this time, my art career started to take off a bit. I was showing my work in galleries and navigating the art world. When I think about his timing, I realize that I wasn’t vulnerable anymore, but becoming more confident and successful. With what I now know, this likely had something to do with him “dropping” me.
A few months later, I met a woman online, T, and decided to fly from NYC to Kentucky to photograph her. (Full disclosure: I met many models/subjects through the Whitechapel forum and I am grateful for that community.) During our first in-person conversation, she revealed that she also had an intimate correspondence with Warren.
In the screencap below, you can see a follow-up email between T and I about her struggles with ending her relationship with Warren:
I wasn’t surprised that he was talking with others, but was shocked to hear the EXACT same things he had said to me. It was surreal. She mentioned my work to him and he pretended like he didn’t know who I was. It was humiliating; another slap in the face.
I am sharing my story here to warn others who may be going through an especially vulnerable time in their lives. This pattern of predatory behavior is unacceptable. If we can expose the pattern, more people become informed about these dangers and can constructively help others.
CW: mention of mental illness
W.E. found me on LiveJournal and Twitter in 2009. I fit the pattern of what he seems to have targeted: recovering from previous trauma, his physical type; and creative, but an unknown. If I would post anything relating to my previous trauma, he’d be there to try to “help me process it.” I now know he was just interested in this as a way to understand the best ways to manipulate me. He proceeded to groom me, sharing sexual fantasies. He told me I was a “surreal beauty” and “trouble” and “the first woman to make him ‘want’ to be sexual again. He also told me very early on that he hadn’t had sex with anyone in many years. This turned out to be a lie.
He told me his partner was “crazy” and it was his burden to support her, which he took seriously because while he despised her, he loved their daughter. He told me to be discreet. I was certain he was speaking to lots of other women, and he told me they were all like “nieces” to him and platonic. I have since learned from many of his “nieces” that was a lie.
It perplexed me, It didn’t bother me if he was with other women. I was in an open relationship, and I did not request monogamy from him at any point. He would email me MANY times a day, every day. It was hours of me writing to him, and “hypnotizing” him at his request. He would constantly ask for more photos. If they weren’t sexual enough, suddenly he’d disappear for a week, and blame “computer problems” or say a family member was ill. He would Skype with me, and things were explicitly sexual on both sides.
We eventually met up in person. We had sexual contact a handful of times. He told me he loved me, that he belonged to me, and that he would always be in love with me. When I got a writing gig (with no help from him) he suddenly unfollowed me. He claimed that he couldn’t be seen to associate with me online, because it was too risky.
He didn’t want anyone to figure out we were intimate. I found that odd, since that was nothing that I ever mentioned publicly on line, but in retrospect I believe he was just more interested in the next girl, and he had gotten all he wanted from me.
I was hurt that the constant emails from him seemed to dry up the moment I was finally doing well on my own. He’d always professed to both love me and be my lifelong friend. It was odd that when I was getting to a healthy place in my life, he didn’t seem to be happy for me. In retrospect, I imagine that therapy made me less easy to manipulate, so he lost interest.
When I would question him about these things, he would suddenly be “ill.” He’d need to take his “aspirin” because my questions were stressing him out and portrayed his health as very fragile. It horrified me that I could be contributing to his supposed ill health, and so I would drop it.
I eventually became serious in a monogamous relationship offline. He did still pop up occasionally to ask for “proof of life” which was what he always called photos. I told him I was no longer able to be sexual with him, as my actual relationship was important to me. But that I would always love him, and be his friend. He wrote me a very brief, terse message wishing me luck. This was 2014.
He would still occasionally pop up, especially when I would post about being stressed, emotional, or working thru issues. He’d subtly “feel me out” to see if I was still open to sexual exchange. I believe he kept me around as a sort of “shield.” As one of the many women he had pretended to care about, but since he was no longer actively sexual with me, he felt I was “safe” to interact with publicly. I believe this was part of his plan - to constantly have women around to make him look like a “good guy.” New women he was soliciting would feel safer when they saw just how many female friends he had “collected.”
I had no intention of ever mentioning any of this, until I was able to see so many similar manipulative patterns occurring with so many very young, vulnerable women. Not only that, it genuinely seems as though he has only gotten more controlling, less up front, and more willing to participate in emotional manipulation in the years following our sexual relationship.
It is my hope that by coming forward, young vulnerable women will have a broad picture of these patterns and be able to make more informed choices.
I am not accusing him of doing anything illegal and I want nothing from him.
My own story reads like so many others here, which repeatedly reinforces how I was not special; I was not a friend, nor was Warren my friend. I was an expertly groomed, manipulated, and maintained plaything.
Warren found me on Flickr in 2010 (I was in my early 30s) and we were on again-off again right up until Katie and Mer broke the spell with their tweets in June of 2020. He was very complimentary about my photography and shared my photos online or in his newsletter from time to time. As a lifelong comic book and fiction reader, I of course knew who he was and was hugely flattered and thrilled by the supportive attention. It all seems like a blur now, but we gradually started corresponding via email. I remember thinking, "Why me?" But he was a kind, warm, witty, intelligent and fascinating person. I could scarcely believe we were cultivating a friendship.
Sometime after we’d started to become friends online I began a 365-day self-portrait project on Flickr for the purposes of addressing lifelong self-esteem issues, fear of being in front of a camera or even looking in the mirror. This is when his attention intensified. And I responded in kind, sending him outtakes, flirting with him via the project that was supposed to be about supporting myself. A project that grew more suggestive and sexual as his interest in me and his attentions increased.
It was only by reading other people’s stories that I could see how skilled he was at his craft and how he only got better over the years. I could see how, though at the time it felt like I was in control, he was leading me exactly as he had led so many others. He made it seem like he was trying so hard to resist the impossible temptation of me and his own growing desire, how he was going against his own better judgement. But it was all part of a pattern that I couldn’t begin to imagine existed at the time. I had no reason to even consider that he interacted with anyone else like he did with me. I was groomed so deftly I didn't suspect that anything was amiss in our "friendship" for years. It felt like he had ventured out into unknown territory right along with me. And I remember thinking it must be fine because he was friends with other people I knew, with people I admired, and if they liked him, if they spent time with him, he must be okay.
I remember how special I felt when he said it was long overdue that he moved me from his public email address.
How special I felt that I heard from him every day, often many times a day. How much I looked forward to it and eventually hungered for it. And how much it hurt when it stopped for periods of time, the absence I suddenly felt in my life that I couldn’t tell anyone about.
The nature of our communication gradually escalated. It started as playful, very enjoyable flirtation and progressively escalated to include sharing photos (which started out tame, but eventually became very explicit), sexually explicit voice memos, and then sexually explicit videos. After a couple years he moved our communication to DMs and privately shared IG stories using a personal IG account. He deleted that account after this story broke, so I lost the record of our exchanges there.
The sorts of things I sent him I'd never sent to anyone before. This was exciting at first, but eventually became a source of secret shame. It's amazing to me now that I didn't notice what was happening, that I didn't question it as things turned from flirty to suggestive and then overtly, specifically sexual. I was too thrilled by the attention, by how intensely attentive and drawn to me he seemed. I never found him physically attractive. (In fact, over the years of our relationship, my already minimal attraction to men had all but completely ended.) But his sharp, intelligent, creative, and witty mind, yes. Terrifically attracted. And being desired by that mind and feeling like this was a special private interaction drove me wild.
Our relationship consisted of an exchange of messages of the aforementioned sorts. It always built up to sexting in one way or another. He repeatedly tried to advance things to phone calls or Skype, but would phrase it as something he was tempted to do, but probably shouldn't. "I suspect it would be a bad idea if I....", and variations thereof. I always playfully told him no, he probably shouldn't. If he'd pushed harder, I might eventually have acquiesced. But saying no would quiet his suggestions for a while OR he'd ghost me for a while.
I was never clear on whether or not Warren had a live-in partner. Sometimes it seemed like it and other times, not. He never offered. I never asked. At most he would mention that there were other people in the house or complain that he wasn’t alone. However he frequently mentioned going to bed alone and waking up alone.
As an otherwise ethically non-monogamous person I feel incredibly shitty about this. Now I know that his story would change with the circumstances within which he was working.
There were periods of time over those 10 years when he would suddenly sever contact. I was made to feel so special from the very first, and then so irresistibly attractive, like I had some special hold on him that he couldn't resist, even though he was trying, trying and gradually but steadily failing. He was undone by me. He was haunted by me. He was addicted to me. Sometimes his sudden dismissals came because of that reason - that he was trying to quit me. Other times work just got too busy. There’d be a series of apologies and then he’d vanish. Comparing timelines, it’s clear he vanished because someone else (or others) now had his attention.
Like others, I learned that the more forthcoming I was, the less I'd hear from him. At first it was devastating. I tried to lure him back and didn’t hear from him for most of a year. But he always came back eventually, behaving like he’d never left, all of which just reinforced everything, made me feel even more special, more irresistible. And eventually I didn't care if he was coming or going, because I knew he'd always show up again, sooner or later.
I learned he'd always be there if I initiated contact after a break, but it was almost always him who reached out first. He would reach out like he was checking in or saying he missed me and it always started tamely. He’d reach out to see if I was still responsive to his overtures. Over the years I began to hope that each time he reached out it would somehow remain tame. That this time he wouldn't shift from asking me how I was to sending me sexually explicit photos or videos of himself that I didn't want to see. But he always made it seem like he couldn't help himself. I was just that delicious or distracting, etc. that eventually it always turned sexual.
The last time was just as the pandemic was getting serious in the US. He reached out "to check on me" and that very quickly escalated to dick pics and photos and videos of him pinching his nipples and fondling himself. The funny thing about these check-ins over the years - and now feels like a red flag shouting “THIS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND” - is that he’d ask how I was or what I was doing, I’d respond and ask him the same, and not only did he generally have little or nothing to say about how I was doing, he’d completely ignore that I’d ask after him. It just progressed to play. He was asking after me to check for receptivity, nothing more.
I don't know this for sure, but I suspect I frustrated him in later years, because, although I still enjoyed receiving his attention, I grew increasingly repulsed by the photos, audio, and videos of him being overtly sexual and wouldn't look at them right away when I received a notification on my phone. If I responded promptly he'd very quickly respond with something more, clearly wanting a rapid back and forth to completion, and I couldn't stomach that anymore. How was that also not a fiery red flag?! I should've known something was so very wrong that I was repulsed by what he sent me, yet eventually I would reciprocate. I was compelled and I didn’t want to lose the relationship. I wanted to know he still desired me, still found me irresistible, and I felt special that I still had this special secret friend.
I wonder how many of us received the exact same open-shirted or lying in bed selfies. How many photos of his mouth or his mouth along with a pinky or index finger. Or the shirtless, flushed and fondling himself in his overstuffed closet (or office or whatever that room in his house that was). None of this was appealing to me. None of this turned me on. And the longer it went on, the more those things repelled me. It was his desire for me that turned me on. It was how he made me feel, how he made me think he felt about me, how he made me feel about myself.
The last part is especially fucked up for me. It has been a long, convoluted journey for me to recognize that I'm genderqueer. And I spent SO much time over the years performing as a woman for him. I was uncomfortable with my gender presentation and his “irresistible” attraction to me made me feel better about my assigned gender; it distracted me from how out of sorts I felt in my body. Now it all feels like wasted time on so many levels.
A couple years ago I lost a beloved pet to a sudden, acute illness. Warren consoled me. That makes me furious now. I was so broken and so vulnerable and he used that. I remember he sent some sort of would-be provocative selfie and I responded about what had happened. I fucking apologized from inside my grief for not being up for being sexy. And he acted hurt that I assumed that's all he wanted from me. But of course it still did become sexual eventually.
When Katie and Mer came forward publicly it literally felt like a spell had been broken. Actually, at first I was in complete denial, but I’ll get to that in a moment. After I accepted the truth for what it was - after secret fears that this wasn’t actually okay, that I was being used, were suddenly validated - I felt like I’d been punched in the chest. I was reeling and heartbroken. The latter because Mer has been a friend of mine for years. She and Warren were friends when Warren befriended me, so over the years I felt great shame that I had this secret, illicit relationship with someone (I thought) she held in high esteem. I had no idea she'd eventually severed ties with him because of his behavior.
I thought I was completely alone. I thought Warren was my friend, he made me feel intensely special, and I never breathed a word about it to anyone. It felt special and personal, unique to the two of us because we had a special chemistry, and I didn’t think anyone would believe me even if it had occurred to me to say something.
It's such a difficult, painful shift to go from feeling unique and special to knowing you were one of so many people who were expertly groomed, manipulated, and used as he saw fit. I was part of his collection. In reading the stories shared here and in private I recognize so many patterns of behavior, so many common attractors for him - things we already shared in common with each other or things he singled out as aspects of ourselves that he found especially attractive. I’ve learned that so many things he said to me were the exact same things he said to other people over the years. Words that felt so special and personal which I now see were well honed lines.
How he couldn’t look away from me, how he felt bad for staring, but wanted to be made to look at me, how hypnotic I was, how hypnotic my eyes were, how bewitching I was, how I made it hard for him to think or think clearly, how he lost control at the sight of me or the sight of specific parts of me, how I made him want me, how he couldn’t stop looking at my eyes (“oh god your eyes”) or my mouth (“oh god your lips” or “anything involving your lips” or “jesus christ your lips”), but also wanted to be made to look, how he couldn't handle me, but wanted to be made to handle me, how I got inside his head and made him lost, the way he went on and on about my gloves.
My gloves, which have felt like a very personal part of me since long before Warren found me, The way he homed in on my gloves and singled them out as something about me that he couldn’t resist… I have since learned that wearing gloves is something he singled out with other people too. Now it’s just one more thing that made me feel special that actually wasn’t special at all. I love my gloves, but right now they’re saturated with the stink of his fraudulent behavior.
One last, but important thing: When the news first broke about Warren's behavior I was so shocked that I dissociated from it. I completely believed the people coming forward, but I also told myself that what I had experienced was somehow different. Warren was my friend.
It was an irrational response born of years of secrecy and shame. Maybe I was trying to deny that it wasn't just as bad as I'd secretly suspected over the years, it was actually even worse because there were others. So many others.
After Warren released a statement via his newsletter, full of denial and gaslighting, I went to IG and discovered that his personal account was gone. It occurred to me that maybe he'd preemptively blocked me. This made me feel panicky. So... I emailed him. I told him I'd seen the news, that I wasn’t involved with it, but noticed his account was gone, and wondered if he'd deleted it or blocked me. I told him it was a shitty situation for everyone involved and that, if this was finally the end for us, I thanked him for his company over the years and wished him well. I fucking thanked him.
Warren responded almost immediately.
I responded with a photo (not of myself, for once) and a promise not to forget his email address.
That was the end.
I feel deep shame about this now. I feel like I betrayed Katie and Mer in that moment and everyone else who’s subsequently come forward, publicly and privately. I have since learned that there’s actually a name for my behavior — reaching out to Warren like that. It’s a trauma response called fawning.
The entire exchange now nauseates me and his response to me makes no sense. He tried to be more present and be a better friend than...he was with everyone else in his collection? It only added to my confusion in the disorienting and panicked moment of discovering I wasn’t alone in my experiences, that I wasn’t special. Now I can look back and see that he was only “present” when he felt like taking me out of the toy box and playing with me. And that he has the broadest personal definition of what being a friend means, including taking advantage of and endlessly manipulating people, using them for whatever their prime designated purpose was at any given time, lying to them, casting them aside until they were interesting and/or useful again, and on and on...
I’m sharing my story here because it is not special. Because I was one of many. Because I was found and shaped and used and I do not want anyone else to be treated like this, to trust someone, to consider them a friend and supporter, to feel like you’re exceptional, when actually you’re a doll, one of many, kept in a chamber, fed on deception, and performing on command. And because I want to offer the same shelter, support, and *cough* genuine friendship that has been offered to me to others who have been subject to Warren’s epic misbehavior. Because we are stronger together.
Warren first messaged me in reply to a line about touching his beard. It was a short message, but flirty. I was 25, single, and flattered, so I flirted back. I couldn't believe that Warren Ellis, one of my favorite writers, wanted to tell me that I was pretty. I was starstruck. It started on one online venue but eventually moved to others. We sent private messages back and forth occasionally for a few months. It never crossed any overt boundaries. It was a lot of "I look forward to your Instagram photos every day" and comments like that which felt sweet (at the time). At some point, we moved to an app where messages weren’t saved so I can’t look back on those conversations, but the general tone was still flirty. I sent him a piece of my writing that I hadn't shared with anyone. He responded that all of the drinks were on him when we eventually met. It felt good and sweet.
I was so taken in by the Warren Ellis of it all. I couldn’t believe that this incredible writer thought I was interesting. My friends who were also fans of Warren would gush over him paying attention to me. While looking through some old messages, I found a chat I had with a friend about how I deleted him from an app because it started to feel weird - so much time had passed at that point. Even after that, Warren was liking other photos I posted within seconds, and when he didn't like them I was upset and wondered why. I would put makeup on to take a photo and pretend to send it to multiple people, but just send it to him. He had conditioned me to want and expect his affection.
Until hearing others' stories, I felt like mine wasn't valid enough because I took an active role in whatever this relationship was. Looking back on the messages now, it's clear Warren was testing my boundaries. He wanted to see how far he could push me. At some point, our contact slowed until he had an event near where I lived. He reached out and asked if I would come. I felt weird about seeing him since we still hadn’t met in person so I made up some excuse and didn't go. A mutual friend in the comics industry once told me that Warren would periodically ask about me, over a stretch of years. I still don’t know how I feel about that.
After reading Katie’s tweets, I originally spent the day telling myself that my experience wasn’t enough to bother adding my voice to the chorus. These other women dealt with so much more than me, years of emotional and mental abuse--He hurt so many people. I didn’t think my story mattered, but I’m so glad I connected with this incredible group. I didn’t even realize how much his interactions with me crossed a line until I looked back on some of his earliest messages: “Now let’s decide on your outfit. No, I’m kidding. Hello.”
After reading so many upsetting situations detailed over the last week, I can't stop wondering--if the timing had been different, if I hadn't met my husband when I did, would my experience with Warren have gone further? Would I have been caught up in the mental and emotional abuse that many of these other women experienced? This thought continues to haunt me. It shows me how easy it is for a man in power to influence others.
I'm only just coming to terms with the realization that this relationship was as unhealthy and manipulative as I'd sometimes wondered over the years, but never spoke to anyone about to help figure out. I wonder if there are other elements of abuse I haven't yet recognized as such, but right now I'm still reeling from this admission to myself and the sudden awareness that it wasn't just me. Thank you for listening. 🖤
I don’t know how I ended up here. I’m a nobody, unimportant, not connected to the industry in any way. I was 25 years old.
Warren and I connected initially on Tumblr, and then on Snapchat.
I was a fan. I didn’t think I was young or naive enough to be groomed or manipulated, but Warren exploited my love of his writing to entice me to send nudes and sexual messages over the course of months
In the beginning, we discussed where we lived and other details about our lives and his work. Eventually the conversations and our (I don’t know what to call it) escalated to relationship talk. He said he wanted to write a character for me.
He kept asking for more and more photos and videos. He asked for me to submit to him, call him sir, Mister. He called me “little girl”. He focused on my lips a lot. He had me send posed photos of self punishment. And I sent them because he was Warren Ellis and I thought he cared about me and I was proving myself to him.
This continued to escalate until I became so uncomfortable with his requests that I eventually blocked him.
I didn’t recognize the depth of his manipulation until it was too late. I feel very fortunate to have had the physical safety of distance, but the mental effects are long-lasting. I’m still shaken, I’m still hurt.
My solace is in the knowledge that he couldn’t take anything from me when I ended it.
I‘m lucky I didn’t need him.
CW: mention of suicide, mention of self-harm
Warren found me on Tumblr when I was a burgeoning grad student working on my Master's thesis in comics studies. I believe I was around 24.
He manipulated me into thinking I needed his expertise to make my thesis worth a damn, and that I had to pay for that through nude photos, videos, phone calls, and Skype calls. This went on for roughly 2-3 months before he cut me off.
He convinced me to enter into a submissive/Dominant relationship with him during that time. Encouraged me to punish myself when I didn’t do exactly as told. I was suicidal at the time. I was in a truly precarious and vulnerable spot.
He’s not the first to abuse me, but he was the first to emotionally manipulate me without ever actually touching me. Which somehow made me feel like it wasn’t valid or that I had somehow consented to this behavior.
As many folks in this group have mentioned he had a service costume that was requested time and time again. For me it was ball gag, corset, opera length satin gloves, thigh highs or fishnets, and a dark lip. When my roots started to show he would ask me to re-dye my hair (I'm naturally blonde, have been dying my hair a deep burgundy red for about 10 years now).
In the years since my interactions with W.E., I've entered into the wonderful world of burlesque. My experiences with W.E. (as well as a few other men in my teens and early 20's) inspired an act about rape culture. I keep the gloves on the whole act. It's been cathartic.
I feel like I was seen as a vulnerable person, eager to please a dominant older man. I thought I was in control of things, and felt empowered by my interactions with Warren. He was kind to me. Hindsight on this is very confusing. Knowing this was a habitual thing for him has changed my point of view.
He began interacting with me when I was 21 during a time in my life that I was clearly vulnerable. He attempted to make it sexual and continued to pursue that regardless of the fact that I never reciprocated those desires.
What I thought was a friendship turned out to be falsified on his part, in order to get what he wanted from me. His status made him very intimidating, as I was still in the early stages of my career in the comics industry.
I want the comics industry to know how close to home this reached.
I do not want anyone else to have to experience this kind of discomfort and hurt.
CW: description of non-consensual hypnosis
I was approached by Warren via social media after I had “liked” a post he had made. In fact, he was the very first person I ever followed on social media. He spoke to me kindly and made me feel special. I was very vulnerable at this time. We began speaking daily and I was floored that someone I admired so much took an interest in me. Things went sexual almost immediately, and we had virtual sex daily.
This went on for months.
I knew that he was in a non-monogamous relationship. It was never stated, but I assumed I was his only secondary sexual partner due to the time he spent speaking to me daily. What I didn’t know was that he was targeting me along with other women at the same time.
During this time he would communicate daily with hypnosis and triggers to incite hypnosis. Repetitive words, imagery, and voice messages. It affected me greatly, in my daily routine and with my family and friendships. Later, he would ignore me for days to weeks at a time, then pop back like nothing had happened. I have now learned that this was happening to the other women involved as well.
I have severed the relationship/friendship with Warren because my mind needed to be reset. Once I wasn’t speaking to him daily anymore, I started to realize how dependent I had become on his hypnosis and on speaking to him in general. I became mindless to everything but his attention.
I want him to do better by women. I have seen the kindness and good he has within himself. I wish no harm for him. I believe he does have space in his heart for remorse. I wish for him to receive therapy and help so that he never does this to another woman, and he stops this pattern of manipulation. I wish for others to see how negatively this behavior affects those that are targeted, and not repeat it.
Years Withheld #1
I definitely want to acknowledge how spreading misinformation, specifically outright lying about my mental acuity to others, and constantly triangulating me with others, had an especially detrimental effect on my life.
Years Withheld #2
He contacted me when I was 19. It got sexual, I wish it hadn't, I felt pursued and pressured.
I don’t want this to happen to anyone again.
Years Withheld #3
Understanding what happened to me is something I tried to do when Warren discarded me. Since the sheer proliferation of his deceptions and abuses has been uncovered, it has forced me to relive an extremely painful part of my life. I keep asking myself what I want from this and the answer is simply that I want Warren to know what he did and how it affected both myself and so many others. The thing I want the most, and which I certainly do not live in hope of, is that he might try to uncover some empathy within himself for a proper, personal apology.
That I cared deeply for Warren is not in doubt. That he ever cared about me despite saying he did, is. That he directly harmed my wellbeing while building his personal porn collection is not. No other person has ever caused me to feel such deep grief with their actions, and for no other reason than to collect us women as a set of butterflies to pin to cards.
I must state, for the record, that I was extremely vulnerable at this time, and that he was totally aware of this. He would message me and tell me he couldn't stop thinking about me, that I was always on his mind. He frequently used words like "obsession" and "need" to describe how he felt about me. It was so so exciting to be adored, to be told I was beautiful. To find out, at this terrible time in my life, (as has been the case with so many of us), that I was desirable. My lips and eyes were "perfect" and he fetishised them to a degree that actually disturbed me. I felt very conflicted about the intense desire he felt for my face. On the one hand, oh so very flattered that I was such a "goddess" and on the other hand, revolted, as I was a human being with an aversion to the heights of pedestals. Like many of the other girls, he also referred to me as a "succubus" which I suppose is another way to remove a person's humanity and turn them into a sexual fetish. But then I was also "angel" and "sweetheart" which made me feel like I must be special to him. He said many very romantic things to me, which I honestly don't really want to share. I don't want to cry while I type them out. What you must know, is that I really did think I meant something, so the pain of finding out that many of us were "angels" and "sweethearts" and that the lies had been so copious was really heartbreaking.
I've found since reading through other experiences, that he repeated certain words. I'm sure there was a good reason for this. The word “need” for example. I loathed that. I actually panicked when he first used it with me. I didn't want to need anyone. Needing is a cage. You will be unsurprised to hear, that he did indeed get me in that cage by pretending he was in it himself, coaxing me in, then turning round to clang the door shut, locking it behind him. Once I was inside, he sauntered away, key in his pocket, back out to find another girl to collect and cage.
I asked him if there were others like me. He said no. I could see that he spoke online with a lot of young women. We all looked very similar. Pale skin, dark or red hair, lipstick. I was suspicious from the outset, but if someone 'love bombing' you tells you you have nothing to worry about, you believe them. I was placated and told that we belonged to each other. He absolutely knew that I was monogamous and refused any form of polyamory and only spoke about his partner when I found out and asked him myself. Her existence was certainly a lie of omission. He said that she was mentally unstable and needed him to look after her and that they hadn't had sex for years. I genuinely have absolutely no idea if that was ever true.
Warren made me keep it a secret. It was a secret because he supposedly kept his private life private. Because obviously, he is famous. Please do check this against his public apology where he denies thinking of himself as famous or powerful. I did not find the secrecy sexy, I found it unbearable, as though I had been muzzled. Obviously, now we know why it was being kept a secret. There were so many of us to hide.
Gradually, his interest in me waned. He visited my cage less often. He knew to give me just enough crumbs to keep me loving him, so that when I got them I was ecstatic to find I was still desired after all. My self-worth plummeted to nothing. I was made to feel like a doll in a box that he took out when he fancied it. I was dressed as he wanted me to be. His fetishes are all so specific that I have since discovered that many of us ended up looking the same. Collars or chokers, stockings, dark lipstick, gloves. He made me feel like a thing: an opposable, disposable toy. I hated it and slowly became a shell. I found out that he kept photos of me, which means that he still owns imagery of all of us. I in no way consent to his keeping those images of my body or my face. It disgusts me to know that he has us all filed away, keeping our bodies as though he still has control over us.
When he discarded me, my entire world shattered. The heartbreak was awful of course, but it was so much more than that. It was the realisation that years of my life had been built upon a lie. He threw everything I gave him - my time, my youth, my love, my wellbeing, my Herculean efforts to make him happy - into the gutter and moved onto the next girl without a word. Or rather, he turned to the next girl who was already there and had always been. I also couldn't believe that I had wasted myself on someone who had used and abused me. I still wanted to believe that he wasn't as cruel as he is.
It is my opinion that my discard was his way of removing me from any of his spaces so that he could move onto the next girl with no guilt, while also pretending he had absolutely no responsibility for what he had done and what that might do to me. Out of sight, out of mind. And what did I do, once I was out of your sight and mind, Warren? When you were repeating your pattern of behaviour with another girl? I was suicidal because of what you did to me. I felt worthless because I had certainly been treated as such.
Many of the women have commented that Warren turns himself into the backbone of your life. You are purposely conditioned to need him to be there for you, so when he discards you, you see your future obliterate, and your sense of self, which has been so tied to trying to keep him happy, is destroyed. I actually do not suffer from any mental illnesses. For him to chip away at me until fractures began to appear in me, indicates his seriously intentionally shitty behaviour.
He has never apologised to me. Since his public "apology," he has attempted to send bland emails out to a few of the other women. He did not include me in these copy pastes. Perhaps he is of the opinion that he did not treat me badly or exploit my vulnerability. Or maybe there are too many of us to count. I have also not attempted to harm him or call him out in public in any way, so I presume he is only apologising to people who he thinks need keeping quiet as part of damage limitation. At this stage, the only thing that I want is a proper, personal apology: a conversation, where I explain to him what he did, he listens and tries to make amends. His public apology states that he wants to "take total responsibility." He has in no way attempted to follow through on it with me at the time of writing. There is a way forward, Warren, but it involves you actually taking responsibility rather than just saying that you do.
Let me be absolutely clear to everyone reading this: Warren knew what he was doing by manipulating us. He was using extremely specific techniques that he used many times, knowing that it would hurt us. His apology says that he is aware that we "have a responsibility to one another, every day." I have never known anyone to behave more irresponsibly with the wellbeing of other people he was supposed to care for.
People wonder what exactly he has done wrong in the sense that we are not claiming he has done anything illegal. What he did was highly immoral and unethical. Vulnerability does not rely on age and harming fragile people with full knowledge of what you are doing is abuse. He was absolutely well aware that I found it difficult to trust him and so he made sure, slowly, to break my walls down. Outright lies told to gain sexual intimacy is an abuse of trust. Certainly, part of the reason I gave him my trust was because of his power within the industry and because of the high profile friendships he had with many feminist women. I now see that these women were a shield.
His recent comments in The Guardian state that he didn't tell any of us about each other because "what I have always tried to do is make sure other people feel protected." The reasoning here is that he didn't inform us that he was having sexual relationships with other people simultaneously...to protect the other person? Us? I am absolutely at a loss. Warren didn't tell us about each other because he knew full well we would leave him before he was finished with us, or if he were up front about it from the beginning, never agree to be involved with him at all. Some people might have decided to become involved with him. I would not. I will state again that I asked him about other people and he lied and said I was the only one. He did this to keep me, pure and simple. Also, what if one of us had decided to make a fuss about it and scared off the other girls? In The Guardian he also states that "I've never tried to hide my relationship status" (reader, imagine me doing a spit-take), "I am in an open relationship with my partner." For the record, he never referred to her as "an open relationship" with me, because that would indeed have resulted in my loss. Polyamorous relationships were always very clearly off the table with me.
A note to Warren:
What you did has left me with enduring problems years later.
I did not consent to any form of polyamory, whether this included your partner or any of the other women in your stable. You repeatedly told me there was only me.
I did not consent to your keeping any imagery of me, which you apparently have done so with all of us over the years.
Hearing that you did the same thing to so many people brought all the trauma back and magnified it. I am horrified at the unquantifiable pain you have caused so many. All I wanted was for you to never do this again to anyone else. I pray that you won't. I will repeat this again because I really want you to know: there is a way forward. It involves you actually taking responsibility rather than just saying that you do.
This chart is a visual representation of the number of people Warren targeted per year that we are aware of.