In emails to BuzzFeed news and a Facebook post that appears to have since been deleted, the author Tao Lin responded to accusations that he committed statutory rape when he was in a relationship with a 16-year-old in 2005.
E.R. Kennedy, also known as Ellen Kennedy, posted a 20-tweet-long account of their relationship when Kennedy was 16 and Lin was 22.
In the tweets, Kennedy claims that Lin was physically and emotionally abusive. Kennedy used the hashtag #TaoLinIsARapist. Kennedy also says Lin plagiarized her work.
"Tao Lin literally copied and pasted my emails into his 'novel'. He took credit for my words, for my painful memories, for my story," Kennedy tweeted.
The tweets were collected and posted on Tumblr, where they went viral.
In an email exchange with BuzzFeed News on Wednesday, Lin acknowledged a relationship with Kennedy but said it wasn't statutory rape, citing Pennsylvania's age of consent.
"In the relationship, in 2006, I was, I know, a shitty person (but I only had consensual sex with someone who, in PA, was not a minor), which I documented in the novel Richard Yates," Lin said in an email.
Lin said that Kennedy read the novel Richard Yates — which Lin said details a fictionalized version of their relationship — and Kennedy approved of it being published.
"I, and my publisher, had made sure she was okay with it, and that it was fictionalized sufficiently," Lin said.
Users began questioning Lin about the allegations in the comments of a post on his Facebook and he responded with a statement in a post set to friends-only privacy settings:
Yes, I had consensual sex with Ellen in her parents' house in Pennsylvania in her parents' bed, as she tweeted, when I was 22 and she was 16. No, that is not statutory rape, let alone rape. So, no, I did not rape and steal from her. We were in a relationship that had problems. About using her emails for my book: I talked to her about it during and after the writing of "Richard Yates" (book she is referencing) from 2006-2008 and she read it something like a year before it was released in 2010. I made sure (and my publisher made sure I made sure) she was okay with what I was writing about, and I said I wouldn't write anything she didn't want me to write about. (She has also written about our experiences, and I have often felt very close to her in our views on life/fiction.) We continued communicating regularly from the time I met her in 2006 to 2014, though our romantic relationship (which I think I valued more than anything else at the time) ended sometime in 2007. I published her poetry book, we co-wrote things together, talked as friends in emails. A few months ago Muumuu House funded her trip to a poetry reading in Boston, and before that we emailed about the eBook edition of her book, for examples of things we email about. Sometimes she has "lashed out" against me, then afterwards apologized saying she didn't remember lashing out. I understand this behavior from someone who has experienced my shitty (but not, in terms of Ellen, illegal—shoplifting batteries is illegal, I know) behavior as a shitty person in a relationship. I try to be open about my negatives as a person, and examined these negatives for example in "Richard Yates" and in my other writing. Because Ellen (now, but not in the past) seems very affected by the fact that I wrote about our experience (and to be in need financially, and to suspect I am profiting off her, based on her tweets), I offered her (in an email today) all the royalties to RY, or to never mention it and ask Melville House to stop printing/selling it if that's possible at all, saying I care more about her, a person, than a book. I hoped not to involve everyone reading this in this, and to not reveal all this stuff to strangers in this context (partly because I think it's unproductive for everyone involved and the world generally), but since you asked, and reporters have emailed me about it, and it seems like it's going to be written about and create a massive shitstorm forever linking me with the term "rapist" probably in the minds of most people who skim any articles about this or have seen or heard about that Tumblr post, I felt it was appropriate to type this paragraph here.
Kennedy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. "I just needed to get some things of my chest leave the accusations to me this will be solved in due time," Kennedy tweeted on Thursday.
Melville House, the publisher of Richard Yates, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the allegations that Lin used Kennedy's writing without permission.