I’m struggling with something I’ve been seeing on Facebook. It started with David Bowie’s death. And I was deeply affected. I would never have guessed how much he mattered to me, but I spent the day humming his songs and then I made my kids watch Labyrinth. It seemed like a good way to deal with it all.
Then, the next day, I saw a post in a friend’s feed from Amanda Marcotte:
And this bummed me out too. I’d never heard any of these stories. And I was curious, so I read the comments and there was a very helpful link below from Rebecca Hains. Her post is here:
So I read her post and then I clicked on all the citations at the bottom. Starting with this one, labeled “primary source.”
Suddenly, I think we have a much bigger problem than, “reconciling David Bowie’s genius with rape”. I am having a hard time reconciling “trust women and believe them but only when they claim to have been raped.”
See, the issue is that the primary source doesn’t think she was raped. And that ought to matter. I mean, let’s consider all why we have laws of consent in the first place: 1) kids should be protected. 2) People who prey on kids should be stopped. That’s it, right? Don’t have sex with kids and if you do, you go to jail.
So what is to be gained from calling this story rape? The victim talks about this time as one of the greatest times in her life. She’s not sad. I am a parent, so her story freaks me out a little, but I also feel that it’s not my place to pat her on the head and explain that she should feel exploited. She’s a grown woman and has had plenty of time to decide if she felt that way. Why shouldn’t that mean something? And the perp? Well, the perp is dead. He probably wasn’t preying on kids in the recent past, but he’s dead now, so what is to be gained from calling him a rapist?
It’s interesting to look at Marcotte’s post here, where she says, “(edited to add: to be clear, all sex with someone below the age of consent is rape,and if the story is true, that makes it rape) as an opportunity to navel gaze about whether it’s “okay” to like his music, as opposed to an important data point in the larger theory about how sexual abuse can so easily be normalized in a culture—-and how to push back against that.”
I think that’s the real issue here. Calling David Bowie a rapist and throwing out all his albums is a way to show how moral you are. It’s a notch on the progressive belt. That’s why I feel like I have to raise this issue: as progressives, don’t we want to emphasize that women have the final say over their own bodies and narratives? The contrast between the primary source and the analysis is really striking:
“2) Being talented doesn’t excuse a person for committing terrible acts.”
“I was an innocent girl, but the way it happened was so beautiful. I remember him looking like God and having me over a table. Who wouldn’t want to lose their virginity to David Bowie?”
“we are repeatedly put in the position of both loving the art and hating the man behind said art for what he did to women and/or children”
“And I do think he was in love with me. He bought me beautiful maxi dresses to wear and wouldn’t let me do drugs or anything” (of Jimmy Page)
I want to be very clear about this. I am in no way absolving anyone of having sex with kids. If a 14 year old came to me tomorrow and told me she was sneaking out to fuck pop stars, I’d probably call her mom and the police. But this is not a 14 year old: it’s a 50 year old woman telling us about her memories and her life. They’re scandalous. They’re exciting. But using that as an opportunity to moralize and depict her as a victim is itself, victimizing. It removes whatever agency she has. It turns her into property, instead of trusting her as a person, to be the arbiter of her own truth.
How we reconcile an awesome person like Bowie with the idea that he had sex with kids is a tough issue. The bigger issue is, how do we reconcile a movement to listen to women and believe rape victims, if we do not also listen to the women who say this happened to me, and it was not rape?