I love Mötley Crüe. They were one of the bands that were instrumental in helping me to break out from the fundamentalist bubble I grew up in. “Dr Feelgood” was incredible; it made the Christian music I used to love seem anaemic and pathetic by comparison. And when I finally got to the point where I could sing “Shout at the Devil” without fearing that I might burn in hell, it was a huge personal breakthrough.
Mötley Crüe promote violence against women in their lyrics and in their live shows. I call myself a feminist now, and I can’t make excuses for them. But what shocks me now is how for so many years I didn’t recognise this violence against women, because my fundamentalist upbringing had taught me not to see it.
Trigger warning for sexual violence against women.
Let me explain about the Crüe, for the uninitiated. On every tour since the band’s 2005 reunion, Tommy Lee’s “Titty Cam” has been a staple of the show. Here’s the premise: There are huge video screens behind the stage. Tommy stops the show to stand on stage with a video camera. He points it at women in the audience, who are required to expose their breasts for the band and audience.
If all the women involved were participating willingly and with no coercion whatsoever, perhaps I’d think about defending it. That’s not what happens. Here’s a verbatim transcription from Tommy’s titty cam performance on the band’s 2005 Carnival of Sins DVD (emphasis added):
Everybody, all my motherfuckin’ friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan: say hello to the motherfuckin’ titty cam. I’m coming to get you. I’m to get you. Whatcha got? Whatcha got Grand Rapids?
Where’s ya titties? Where’s ya titties? Whaddaya mean, ‘no’?
You can watch it on YouTube here (viewer caution advised: this link needs a trigger warning and a NSFW tag)
In the documentary (Mötley Crüe’s Greatest *its) accompanying the DVD, there’s more footage in which, Lee confronts an audience member who is declining to expose herself:
Don’t even think you’re just gonna kick back right there. It’s time. Look, your shit’s halfway out anyway, fuck it.
Your shit’s halfway out anyway. That’s about two inches away from If she didn’t want to get raped, she shouldn’t have dressed like a slut. When this charming tactic doesn’t work, Lee tries to get the entire 18,000-strong crowd chanting with him:
BUST ‘EM OUT! BUST ‘EM OUT!
How would you feel if you were in that situation? Can the woman say no? Is she safe if she doesn’t?
In the documentary, Lee explains: “Oh yeah, I’ll do that often. I’ll just wait. I ain’t got nowhere to go. We’re playing here all night, so [shrugs].” The camera then cuts to another part of the performance. Lee is talking:
You know what? I’ll sit here and wait all night [sits on stage pointing camera at woman]. I got nothin’ else to do but kick it with a bunch of titties… Don’t make me come down there, I will.
This is a world where women have no right to say no. It is a world where men get to decide what happens to a woman’s body. I can’t think of a more graphic example of rape culture in entertainment than this. Yet in all my years as a fan, I have never seen it condemned by the rock press. I haven’t heard feminists speaking out against it either, but I guess that’s because people who care about women’s rights don’t pay attention to Tommy Lee.
I am sitting here now and my face is hot with anger that the Crüe get to be rich and famous for perpetuating this. But I went to see Mötley Crüe in 2005, a fresh-faced kid living away from home for the first time. I was experimenting with secular culture still, figuring out what parts of my childhood indoctrination had been real and what was just control. When I saw the Crüe at Wembley Arena, I saw nothing wrong with the titty cam.
That’s because the only thing fundamentalism had ever told me was that you shouldn’t look at breasts outside of marriage, ever, or it’s a sin. That was it. No one ever talked to me about consent, or objectification. I was completely comfortable with a world where men tell women what to do with their bodies, because that’s the same in fundamentalism. It was obvious to me that looking at breasts wasn’t a sin. Since the only objection I had ever heard was clearly rubbish, I couldn’t see any reason to complain.
Fundamentalism would have told me those women were sluts for exposing their breasts, sinners for going in the first place, and stupid for not leaving. Everything about this is wrong. It ignores that women always have the right to choose what happens to their body, wherever they are. They have a right to go to a rock concert without being threatened. They have a right to express their sexuality how they choose (including exposing their breasts in the right circumstances, if they want to). And wearing sexy clothes in no way means you want to be publicly humiliated, sexually harassed, or raped. And the fundamentalist who says all these women are sluts for doing this ignores that some of them are not given a choice.
Conservative Christians spent much of the 1980s picketing Mötley Crüe concerts. If they’d just gone inside, they would have found they had plenty in common. They both treat women’s bodies as property. It’s just that for fundamentalists, they’re the husband’s property, and for the Crüe, they belong to men in general.