It is not enough to absolve ourselves by pretending that this has always been a cloak-and-dagger affair. Hollywood culture is rape culture — and it always has been. There is a reason that “casting couch” is a slang term. The same thing is true in the music industry. Do we really want to pretend that the now-septuagenarians responsible for “Under My Thumb” and “Stray Cat Blues” (“But it’s no hanging matter / It’s no capital crime … I bet, bet your mama don’t know you scream like that / I bet your mother don’t know you can spit like that”) have uniformly respected boundaries, including those involving the age of consent, over the course of their long and storied careers?
In 1980 paramedics were summoned to the home of Don Henley of The Eagles, where they found two girls, aged 15 and 16 respectively; the former was arrested for being under the influence of drugs and the latter, who was naked when the authorities arrived, charged with prostitution. Henley paid a $2,500 fine and got probation.
Ted Nugent, a man who has performed at numerous official Republican Party functions, became the legal guardian of a 17-year-old girl in Hawaii rather than face potential kidnapping charges.
There are scores of incidents involving women and minors in Stephen Davis’ Hammer of the Gods, a biography of Led Zeppelin based on extensive interviews with the band’s tour manager, that I do not feel at liberty even to paraphrase in a family website like this one. (The band has insisted that every page of the book is false, naturally). Miles Davis in his memoir tells us that Charlie Parker once forced a woman to perform oral sex on him in the back seat of a taxi while “Bird” ate fried chicken; the trumpet legend himself was unabashed about his violence toward female companions over the years. When David Bowie died, how many of the glowing tributes bothered to mention his alleged penchant for teenaged girls?Most of this has been in plain sight for decades, not lamented or agonized over, but simply ignored or, worse yet, consumed indifferently as mere gossip and forgotten. Finally we have decided to start caring about it.
This is an unambiguously welcome development. But beyond pursuing credible accusations and delivering the stingy justice of the courts, what else is incumbent upon us? How much do we want to commit to? If Weinstein’s name is to be removed from the credits of television shows in the production of which he played even a small part, what are we to do with the mountains of records, CDs, posters, books, memorabilia, commemorating rockers? What about the so-called “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”? What is the point at which it becomes necessary for us to channel our inner Savonarolas and just start burning? Is one confirmed incident enough? How many Station to Stations or Physical Graffitis are worth the assault of a single woman or child? Are we affirming or materially contributing to their crimes when we watch films or listen to music made by abusers?
The Sexual Revolution was, in large part, a triumph for abusive men (and the abortion industry that gets rid of their “problems”).
A reader remarked the other day that sexual abuse was “part of the culture” till very recently. No. Women having to shut up and take it in silence has been part of the culture till recently. Grabbing genitals and breasts and shoving your tongue down a woman’s throat was never “part of the culture”. Everybody has always known it is evil. That’s why women were forced to keep their mouths shut and take it: because men knew they were doing evil and did not want it exposed.
What is finally, thank God, changing is that women are not staying quiet about it anymore: an unalloyed good. I hope the victims of our Beloved Predators find the moxie to come forward as they are doing against the powerful in Hollywood and DC.