[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
Win Butler, frontman of Arcade Fire, is being accused by multiple people of sexual misconduct — all of which took place while he has been with his wife and bandmate, Régine Chassagne.
Now, a rock star going out on on his wife may be disappointing, but it isn’t the most shocking celebrity news of all time, even for such a family unit as Arcade Fire. These allegations, however, go beyond just extramarital affairs. This is misconduct described by four people as behavior that descends all the way from unbalanced power dynamics to sexual assault.
The allegations were published by music mag Pitchfork over the weekend, in an exposé that features the stories of three women who say they had sexual relationships with Win at some point in the time period from 2016 to 2020. While the relationships began with consent, they have since come to view them as problematic due to various factors, including extreme age gaps (the women were between 18 and 23 — when Win was 36 to 39) — let alone the fact he’s been married to his band’s other singer since 2003. A fourth person, however, who identifies as gender fluid and uses they/them pronouns, says Win sexually assaulted them on two occasions. Pitchfork vetted these stories by speaking to friends and family members of the accusers who were aware of the stories at the time, as well as looking at full-on receipts, in the form of text messages and DMs.
In the face of that evidence, Win has already responded through a crisis PR manager. He has denied the assault but confirmed many aspects of the stories, including that he chose sexual interactions from people other than his wife multiple times. However, while he admitted to sexual relationships, he said in all cases they were consensual AND claims he did not initiate any of them. See the stories, his response to each one, AND Régine’s statement (below)…
Twice Her Age
Note: All the accusers have chosen to remain anonymous. Pitchfork has given each one a pseudonym for clarity.
Stella met Win in 2016 when she was 18 years old. She posted photos of him and Régine from that year’s annual POP vs. Jock charity event. Win recalls:
“This woman caught my eye and smiled at me when I was milling around at a charity basketball event that we had done, and she tagged me on Instagram.”
He DMed her, according to screenshots of messages she shared, writing to this young fan:
“Hey this is win. I was looking through photos of pop vs jock and remembered that you seemed super familiar for some reason, and I saw your amazing costume from the reflektor tour. So great! Anyway all the best.”
Innocuous enough. But it didn’t end there. According to Stella’s shared messages, the guitarist invited her to come have a drink at the bar he and his wife own, which she did. Then he gave her his phone number — and if that alone weren’t a big enough red flag, he wrote along with it:
“I am a very private person and would appreciate it very much if you didn’t talk to your friends about me! Hope everything is great :)”
Oof. Let’s not forget, this man is married and twice her age.
Soon he began, according to what she shared, sending her sexually explicit messages, which she says were unbidden. In one message back to him, she says:
“Sorry I really hate sexting”
So right then and there she’s communicating that she’s uncomfortable. Apparently he either didn’t understand or didn’t care. Because the messages allegedly continued — and included photos of his genitalia. For further proof, Stella showed dated Facebook messages she sent to a friend in October 2016 in which she wrote:
“Win butler asked me for nudes and tried to sext me. And I told him I was really uncomfortable with that. I don’t really know what to do now. He keeps texting me. Over and over.”
There was no discussion of her age, but Win told the magazine he knew about the age difference:
“I googled her and knew that she was 18.”
Win also claims the sexting began even before that first drink — and says she came onto him:
“Later, we met up for a drink and she got quite drunk and was asking me forcefully if there was somewhere we could sleep together. I didn’t feel right about it and put her in a cab and made sure she made it home safe.”
Stella confirms she was drunk and doesn’t remember everything — but is sure she wouldn’t have come onto him like that, saying it’s “just not who I am.”
Win does acknowledge he was wrong to start sexting her after that night:
“I was drunk when I texted her and misread her not answering that she just didn’t get my texts. I really misread that she was uncomfortable with that second round of sexting and eventually assumed that I must have hurt her feelings by not reciprocating her request to sleep with me.”
The “relationship” with Stella didn’t go any further. She says after a couple months she “couldn’t take it anymore”:
“I definitely said explicitly that the texts and pictures were not wanted, but that did not stop him.”
But it took blocking two different numbers before he stopped, she says. About a year later, in September 2017 she attended an Arcade Fire concert where he had put her on the guest list. She says that was not because they were cool but because she “wanted to at least get something out of the relationship.”
Reflecting on the dynamics, despite a difference of memory, Win now agrees he was in the wrong, saying:
“I didn’t realize the significance of the age difference at the time. I can now see how it could be overwhelming thinking back to when I was 18, but at the time I didn’t appreciate that.”
Sarah and Fiona
Sarah and Fiona‘s stories have been paired due to their similarity. Both girls met Win as a result of him responding to them after they messaged him on IG about their love of the band. Fiona was 20 when she began talking to the Everything Now singer in 2017; Sarah was 23, and her interactions began in 2018.
For both women, nice interactions turned dark as Win allegedly began to solicit sexually explicit videos. He asked both, according to their shared messages, for very specific poses and outfits and lines read to the camera.
Sarah says she went through with it even though she was uncomfortable — because it was Arcade Fire, he was her hero:
“I did everything because it was him. I don’t like doing any kind of video stuff, especially sexual stuff. I remember being so nervous and so ashamed that I did it. I’d be like, ‘I don’t feel well.’ And he’d be like, ‘Send me a picture right now.’ He used me, basically, as his personal therapist, and easy way to get sex over the phone. The FaceTimes would be strictly: he gets off, hangs up. I felt sick every day after I did it.”
Win remembers this very differently. While Sarah was made uncomfortable by the cybersex, he says he was made uncomfortable by her real-world proximity:
“I love our fans but this was an unhealthy fandom. We started sexting and talking a lot, but I became increasingly uncomfortable when she started coming to all my DJ events and showing up to my restaurant multiple times, to the point I had to tell security to make sure she didn’t get too close.”
Uh huh. Well, while we’re sure he was uncomfortable by this, it doesn’t mean she was the one in the wrong. He wouldn’t be the first man who asked a woman for sexual gratification only to later feel discomfort when she dares engage in real-life acknowledgement. Now, Sarah confirmed she went to two of his DJ events — one in Montreal in August 2019 and another in LA in September 2019 — but these are public events, they’re not exactly his home address. Of course, even if he was making her uncomfortable online, he could still be wary of her getting too close IRL — after all, she could really blow up his life if his wife found out! (As an extra wrinkle, Sarah says she went to the restaurant because her boyfriend worked there, and she got freebies.)
As for Fiona, after her own sexting interactions, the 20-year-old actually began a physical, in-person sexual relationship with Win, which he confirms. He says about the relationship:
“This was consensual. We would sext and eventually slept together a couple times. The first time, I realized she had a tattoo of my band, which honestly felt a little weird.”
Really, dude? You’re in a huge band that’s been around for like two decades. We’re sure lots of people have Arcade Fire tattoos.
The cheating and secrecy were more difficult for Fiona than she expected; she says she attempted suicide with an overdose of Tylenol after one night having sex with him in her room in 2017:
“I felt incredibly low. The toll of having to keep everything secret, constantly pushing my needs aside in order to appease him, lack of boundaries, and the guilt of being the other woman was getting too hard to ignore.”
Win says she didn’t tell him about this at the time — but did eventually reach out:
“Later, she messaged me after saying that the experience of hooking up with me had been difficult on her mentally, which was really surprising and very sad to me. We immediately talked on the phone and although she indicated her depression was not related to me, I left that conversation committed to never sleeping with someone again that I fundamentally knew so little about.”
Or maybe just never sleep with someone who isn’t your wife? Just a thought…
“It really shook me. Although she repeated it was unrelated to me, she was suffering from mental illness, to which I am very sympathetic. After this we wrote for pages and pages like the friends we had become and the feeling I had was that something had been healed in both of us. We talked about getting coffee next time I was in Vancouver, which I intended to do before I heard of these accusations.”
Fiona was shown this statement and responded about her depression:
“It was absolutely related to him.”
Lily‘s story is different. They weren’t even a big fan of Arcade Fire, though they of course knew Win Butler as a local Montreal celebrity. They went to a concert there in January 2015 — and gave the singer their business card. Win recalls Lily “flirted with me all night” — they say it was more friendly than flirtatious. Either way, Win — then 34 — did use the card, emailing the 21-year-old art student the very next day.
The two began exchanging text messages over a couple weeks. Early on, Lily set a boundary, writing:
“Not that I’ve been making it particularly clear but if this is about sex for you I think you found me at the wrong time.”
They went out on what Butler believes was a date, meeting for drinks, just the two of them. Lily says it couldn’t have been a date because they both had significant others. One major discrepancy: Win says they kissed on that first meeting, Lily is adamant “that did not happen.”
They went for dinner together soon after. Butler recalls they “flirted all meal,” Lily disagrees. They claim the Reflektor singer stuck his hands down their pants without consent on the car ride home. Butler says he recalls putting his hand on their inner thigh but NOT down their pants. Hearing this, Lily says they may have been mistaken and it may have been outside the pants — but it was definitely “very aggressive” and aimed at the crotch. Win does concede Lily rebuffed this advance but remembers it very differently, recalling:
“[Lily] looked me in the eyes and said ‘not in the car’ in a way that seemed flirtatious.”
They agree there was a goodnight kiss after the car ride, but while Butler believed it was a sign “the attraction was mutual,” Lily recalls:
“I did not ask for it. I did not reciprocate. It was very short and uncomfortable because it was so bad.”
Win acted quickly on what he thought was happening between the two. He stopped by Lily’s home just a couple days later, despite them saying not to because they were too busy with school. Win confirms this, saying:
“I happened to be by [their] apartment a few days later and asked if [Lily] was free. [Lily] said [they were] busy with schoolwork and I said I would just say hi since I happened to be right there.”
What happened next is, according to Lily, completely nonconsensual:
“I opened my door and he pinned me up against the wall and was aggressively grabbing my body and sticking his tongue down my throat. It was an attempt to be sexy, and it was so not OK in the context.”
Win recalls the same event differently, saying:
“When [Lily] opened the door we started kissing immediately…I don’t remember who initiated it but it was definitely mutual.”
And this is why confirming consent explicitly is so important!
Lily says they asked Win to leave but instead he continued:
“Eventually he pulled me onto his lap on my couch. I don’t know if he was holding me by the waist or what, but I was physically constrained by him as he was putting his hand down my pants. At some point he tried to go down on me.”
That’s when they finally made it unequivocal for anyone — shouting at him to leave:
“The anger and the power in my voice surprised me. I will never forget it.”
It finally worked, Lily says; Win got up angrily, and “berated” them for denying his advances. Win remembers the entire incident differently. He even says he stopped and made sure there was consent:
“We moved to [Lily’s] bed, but it felt like the mood was weird so I stopped and asked if [Lily] was OK. It seemed like maybe things were moving a little fast. [Lily] never asked me to leave, and I never berated [them]. I did express some genuine confusion as to how the mood had shifted so suddenly and become awkward. I said it was no big deal at all. I stopped and I left.”
“The mood was weird.” That’s how much these two were not on the same page.
Lily then texted Win to apologize for spurning him later:
“He thought my behavior was weird, so maybe it was actually me in the wrong.”
Today, they no longer feel any responsibility for the miscommunication. They now view the events in the car and the apartment as sexual assault:
“Looking back, it’s pretty easy to identify the manipulation at the core of that exchange. It’s also really clear that it worked. I continued to doubt the validity of my behaviors and my assertion of my ‘no’ and lack of consent for months after.”
For his part, Win recalls:
“[Lily] wrote me to apologize the next day. I figured it wasn’t a match, and not a big deal. I never forced myself on [them], and when the mood changed I stopped and checked in and left with no drama or issue. I would never assault anyone and I did not assault [Lily].”
A Consensual Affair
It was only after Stella posted on social media in 2020 about her experience that all the accusers found one another, sharing their stories with one another first, then finally with Pitchfork.
There was one other woman who spoke to the magazine, though she did not have the same take on her similar experience, complete with getting sent nudes. She told the outlet she also slept with Win and still thinks of it as consensual — but understands the personal politics of it all are messy:
“It’s this really complicated thing. Yes, it was consensual, but also, there’s a side to it that was almost like, I couldn’t say no.”
Win contends all of these relationships were consensual but says he sees how the inequality in both age and status made the encounters inappropriate.
Win’s Full Statement
The Arcade Fire frontman sent a lengthy statement focused more on the effect all of this had on his longtime wife and bandmate. He wrote:
“I love Régine with all of my heart.”
Just not all of his body?
“We have been together for twenty years, she is my partner in music and in life, my soulmate and I am lucky and grateful to have her by my side. But at times, it has been difficult to balance being the father, husband, and bandmate that I want to be. Today I want to clear the air about my life, poor judgment, and mistakes I have made.
I have had consensual relationships outside of my marriage.
There is no easy way to say this, and the hardest thing I have ever done is having to share this with my son. The majority of these relationships were short lived, and my wife is aware — our marriage has, in the past, been more unconventional than some.”
Wait, is he implying they’ve had an open relationship in the past? If so, he should come out and say that, because it really doesn’t come across in the rest of this. He continued by once again denying there was ever anything nonconsensual:
“I have connected with people in person, at shows, and through social media, and I have shared messages of which I am not proud. Most importantly, every single one of these interactions has been mutual and always between consenting adults. It is deeply revisionist, and frankly just wrong, for anyone to suggest otherwise.
I have never touched a woman against her will, and any implication that I have is simply false. I vehemently deny any suggestion that I forced myself on a woman or demanded sexual favors. That simply, and unequivocally, never happened.”
However, he does apologize, saying:
“While these relationships were all consensual, I am very sorry to anyone who I have hurt with my behavior. Life is filled with tremendous pain and error, and I never want to be part of causing someone else’s pain.”
This is a good start, but it does quickly become about giving “context” to the behavior — of being abused and later being deeply upset about a personal tragedy:
“I have long struggled with mental health issues and the ghosts of childhood abuse. In my 30s, I started drinking as I dealt with the heaviest depression of my life after our family experienced a miscarriage. None of this is intended to excuse my behavior, but I do want to give some context and share what was happening in my life around this time. I no longer recognized myself or the person I had become. Régine waited patiently watching me suffer and tried to help me as best as she could. I know it must have been so hard for her to watch the person she loved so lost.”
OK, he says these issues are not meant to excuse the behavior. He then went on:
“I have been working hard on myself – not out of fear or shame, but because I am a human being who wants to improve despite my flaws and damage. I’ve spent the last few years since Covid hit trying to save that part of my soul. I have put significant time and energy into therapy and healing, including attending AA. I am more aware now of how my public persona can distort relationships even if a situation feels friendly and positive to me. I am very grateful to Régine, my family, my dear friends, and my therapist, who have helped me back from the abyss that I felt certain at times would consume me. The bond I share with my bandmates and the incredibly deep connection I’ve made with an audience through sharing music has literally saved my life. As I look to the future, I am continuing to learn from my mistakes and working hard to become a better person, someone my son can be proud of.”
Finally he apologizes again, to everyone, writing:
“I say to you all my friends, family, to anyone I have hurt and to the people who love my music and are shocked and disappointed by this report: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain I caused – I’m sorry I wasn’t more aware and tuned in to the effect I have on people – I f**ked up, and while not an excuse, I will continue to look forward and heal what can be healed, and learn from past experiences. I can do better and I will do better.”
Régine shared her own statement with Pitchfork in response to the article. She wrote about standing behind her man and his version of events:
“Win is my soulmate, my songwriting partner, my husband, the father of my beautiful boy. He has been my partner in life and in music for 20 years. And for all of the love in our lives, I have also watched him suffer through immense pain. I have stood by him because I know he is a good man who cares about this world, our band, his fans, friends, and our family. I’ve known Win since before we were ‘famous,’ when we were just ordinary college students. I know what is in his heart, and I know he has never, and would never, touch a woman without her consent and I am certain he never did. He has lost his way and he has found his way back. I love him and love the life we have created together.”
Wow. A lot to unpack here.
What do YOU think of the allegations? Does this rise to sexual assault? Misconduct? Let us know any takes you have on the stories and Win’s response in the comments (below).
[Image via Sakura/Lu Chau/WENN.]