The Devil Makes Work for Idol Hands
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Is Music Following Hollywood into a Dark Pit?
A couple of big revelations have come from the world of music…
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@melwasser
that have caused shock and called into question how far cases of sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviour extend. It is not a shock seeing big names in Hollywood being revealed and exposed when it comes to taking advantage of women and letting their hands wander. Bill Cosby has just been sentenced to between three and ten years in prison and it has shown powerful men are not immune from justice. It makes for grim reading!
“It is time for justice,” said Judge Steven O’Neill, who handed down the sentence on Tuesday at the Montgomery county courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Cosby was found guilty earlier this year of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia estate in 2004. The sentence caps a precipitous downfall for an actor once known as “America’s Dad,” who starred in the popular Cosby Show in the 1980s and 90s”.
I suspect Cosby’s sentence will be reduced – if he lives long enough to see that happen – but it is another instance of a once-loved figure being revealed as something nobody expected. When we come to music, there have been fewer high-profile cases. Times have changed and women are coming forward; accusing and revealing men who have let power go to their heads and crossing lines.
IN THIS PHOTO: Judge Steven O'Neill sentenced 81-year-old comedian Bill Cosby for sexually assaulting Temple University athletics administrator Andrea Constand in 2004/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/AP
Look back at music and you can see how things have changed regarding consent and sex. There once was a time – maybe it still happens – where the ‘groupie’ would hang around and wait for her favourite band/artist to emerge after a gig. That idea of bedding a famous musician and them in turn revelling at the attention of their fans was glamorised and seen as normal. Who knows which of the idolised and celebrated music legends have been privy to having sex with a string of female fans – who knows how many of them were under the age of consent. It is rather seedy and sworded thinking about how those encounters were initiated and whether any of the women/girls were plied with alcohol/drugs beforehand. As I say; there are dungeons and crevices of music where that still happens but, thankfully, the groupie culture died and has taken on a reduced form. A lot of bands scorn groupies and find it embarrassing; a lot of the dangers regarding sexual exploitation and abuse are online – grooming and inappropriate messages/images falling into the hands of young girls/women. We have passed the time when big bands like Led Zeppelin would engage in debauchery and excess; their contemporaries inviting young fans into their tour buses/hotels and, in essence, using them.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@sauvageisland
This article, written by Rae Alexandra last year, examines the history of assaults at gigs and how things have changed since the 1990s:
“Assault at shows is an issue that has been publicly discussed since riot grrrl first shone a light on it in the early 1990s. This reached its peak in 1999 when the chaos of Woodstock resulted in numerous sexual assault reports and a number of rape allegations from audience members. More recently, in 2015, five teenage girls in the U.K. started #GirlsAgainst to highlight the fact that this problem is ongoing. Just last year, 26 women reported being assaulted at the Schlossgrabenfest music festivalin Germany.
It’s not talked about all that often, but the risks facing women and girls who like live music are not limited to fellow audience members. There is a culture of silence in this male-dominated industry that, in my 18 years of journalistic experience on the road and backstage, has shocked me”.
She went on to examine that idea of the groupies and how it is a rather complicated discussion:
“The issues surrounding bands and groupies are complex and frequently rooted in a culture that tells rock musicians that it's their right, and tells young women that their greatest commodity -- their easiest “in” -- is their bodies and their sexuality. Romanticized depictions of groupies in TV and movies (Showtime’s Roadies was a recent offender) continue to perpetuate the idea that groupies are beloved and essential; that women can get in on the excitement of being on the road, if only they’ll give it up. In reality, groupies are often mocked by the band the second they’ve been ushered off the bus”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/carolinehdz
There are articles that seem to skew the idea that being a groupie is negative. This piece features a different take on sex - as a way of making connections and bolstering confidence:
“There’s no stigma around making connections within a music scene through online or non-sexual networking, but there is lots of stigma around using sex to make those connections, and there shouldn’t be. Why not utilise my erotic capital, whether through flirting, dressing a certain way, or having casual sex? This became an almost necessity when I realised how hard it is to get a foothold in a music scene. When we started our night we had practically no contacts; we couldn’t even get through to most venues, never mind convince them to take us seriously when we finally got hold of someone on the phone. If you’re not a DJ, then the received wisdom is, what business have you got starting a club night anyway? No one starts club nights just for the fun of it. Even the DJs who we eventually booked were skeptical. So I felt it necessary in certain situations to deploy the erotic capital I realised I had after gaining confidence after sleeping with a string of musicians”.
The New Yorker investigated the often-maligned word and wondered whether being a groupie was about sexual expression, independence and the only way women, in music or not, could feel part of the scene:
“Some feminists might wish to decry this kind of live-and-let-live ethos as witless and naïve. There is, of course, a more troubling presumption embedded in these relationships—that, at least in the earliest days of rock and roll, “groupie” was the only viable position open to a woman who wanted to participate, in some way, in the creation and dissemination of the music she loved. The logic goes like this: women became groupies because what else could they possibly do to mediate or amplify the sublime experience of reacting to these songs?
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“For me, the most interesting question that “Groupies” raises has less to do with cultural pathways and more to do with old-fashioned carnality and the places within us that it comes from. Perhaps it’s not so much that sex was the only option for these women, but that it was their preferred option. Fandom operates differently than a creative or critical impulse—and it wants for different things, too. People find all sorts of ways to manage the magnificent, sometimes paralyzing feelings a true communion with art incites: as long as there have been humans making beautiful things, there have been other humans who wish to subsume or harness that energy via sexual congress. Sex is a method (and an effective one) for achieving a kind of transcendental closeness to another person and, by inevitable extension, to the work that they make”.
There are other articles such as this; here and this that looks at the way musicians and fans used to connect – or the somewhat lascivious and sexual nature of band-fan relationships. The reason I bring all of this to play is because of the way some artists still think that culture is acceptable. I am someone who is unwilling to accept anything positive or good could come from celebrating casual sex in music and that rather unseemly scene of the past.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew G via Flickr Commons
I am glad to see there is not the same sort of exposure and gaudiness happening today but there have been a couple of big stories coming out that make me wonder whether music is as clean and safe as it should be. Most male artists are respectful to their female fans and the big bands of today – Muse, Coldplay; Foo Fighters and the like – are not inviting lines of women into their tour buses and getting their rocks off. It appears, even though social media is there to unveil and condemn any form of sexual inappropriateness, it still is happening. BØRNS is the latest artist who is making the news for all the wrong reasons. Pitchfork has reported what has happened and the revelations coming forward:
“On September 21, a woman with the Twitter handle @kaliforxniaposted a statement in which she called Borns a “manipulator” and “user.” She said that she met him at a concert in 2015, and struck up a friendship that continued over text and social media. Months later, she alleged that he asked her to “meet him for drinks” in L.A. “I was expecting a bar but ended up at his place,” she wrote. She claimed that she then entered Borns’ home, where he offered her alcoholic drinks. “Suddenly I became drunk and was completely taken advantage of,” she said. She continued, “Once everything happened I went to the bathroom and started bleeding. I was completely shocked from the blood and started to get it together and realized what just happened. I blamed myself for that night because I didn’t say no even though I was intoxicated”.
IN THIS PHOTO: BØRNS/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
The piece continues and looks at the allegations. It paints Garrett Clark Borns in a very bad light. He came forward and tackled the accusations:
“In a note posted to Instagram today, Borns wrote, “I am both hurt and angered over the disturbing and false allegations that have been spread over the past few days on social media. All of the relationships I have had were legal and consensual. They ended abruptly and that obviously caused hurt feelings, but for anyone to suggest anything beyond that is irresponsible”.
It seems a special account was set up on Twitter in order to collate testimonies and reactions from fans who have experienced similar inappropriateness from the musician:
“The Twitter account @exposing_borns has also been collecting various accounts of alleged misconduct. One claim was allegedly made by a 19-year-old named Mathilda. She allegedly said that she and Borns began corresponding over social media, after she reached out as a fan, but “he never wanted to get to [sic] deep or personal. Only asking for nudes. If I didn’t send any, he ghosted me for days.” She then claimed that he flew her out to Hamburg, where they spent two days together. “I did not like the way he wanted to have sex wit [sic] me. Made me scream for daddy’s cock etc etc. Very uncomfortable”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Moose Blood/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
These accusations will have a damaging effect on his career and you wonder why artists feel they can still behave with this sort of disregard and arrogance and expect to get away with things. There is that danger, in a social media age, anyone can out and accuse any musician without evidence and they, in turn, can immediately be removed from Twitter and the ball can roll a lot quicker – being dropped from their label or gig organisers cancelling them from their bills. You can never tell how true the allegations are but it seems like so many young women are coming through and sharing stories. His Twitter account is still active and it seems like he is standing his ground. It is troubling to see this story come to light and I wonder how far it goes – whether there will be more women telling their stories. You always have to ask how many of these allegations have validity and proof but it seems odd to accuse, originally, a musician for no reason. Back in February; Moose Blood were in the news for sharing nude photos from a fan’s phone and spreading them around. NME told the story:
“Moose Blood have responded to allegations that frontman Eddy Brewerton stole nude photos from a woman’s mobile phone.
Last year, Twitter user Zoe Maria spoke out to claim that Brewerton took the images from her phone before spreading them around on the band’s WhatsApp group.
“Just a friendly reminder for those of you not in the know: Moose Blood vocalist stole nudes off my phone and sent them to band’s Whatsapp group,” she wrote. “No I will not shut up about it because it still hasn’t been addressed. I’ll bring it up at every opportunity”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@charissek
After Good Charlotte removed the band from their tour; it signalled a new low for Moose Blood and, just recently, they have announced they are taking a break from music:
“Moose Blood have announced that they’re going to “step away” from music, following a “traumatic year” off the “back of serious false allegations”.
The band removed drummer Glenn Harvey in March 2017 following sexual harassment allegations against him that surfaced online.
This was followed almost a year later by allegations against frontman Eddy Brewerton, when he was accused of stealing nude photos from a woman’s phone and sharing them with other band members. Brewerton denies the accusation”.
The band have come out and staunchly defended their reputation. They claim they are being falsely accused and are not happy with the situation:
"Rumours have escalated beyond belief and it makes us sick to our stomachs that we have been very wrongly labelled with these horrendous, incorrect terms. If certain people actually did their research and knew one ounce of truth about the situation then we would not be in this position. You can’t wrongly label innocent people. Your words have very real effects and consequences. You are part of the problem and the reason why social media can be such a toxic place".
We will have to wait and see what the future holds for Moose Blood but I find it hard to believe a band who have had two unrelated accusations levied at them are innocent. Even if, in one case, they were misunderstood or joking around does not wash – there is no excuse for any of it!
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@kj2018
A survey conducted early this year revealed the extent of sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry as a whole:
“The survey was conducted by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), a non-profit organisation with nearly 9,000 members, who work to protect the interests of professional musicians. Among the respondents, 60% said they had experienced sexual harassment, both from superiors – such as conductors, teachers or established musicians – as well as peers in musical groups.
“I always take a sleeping bag on tour, because often we are sharing sleeping space, and a sleeping bag (that doesn’t zip all the way down), is the most effective way of not being molested while asleep,” one respondent wrote. Another said: “‘I have been propositioned and/or expected to engage in ‘casting couch’ or flirtatious behaviour so many times I have lost count.” Other respondents spoke of musicians exposing themselves, being kissed and touched against their will, and, in 6% of cases, being victims of rape and assault”.
Big artists such as R. Kelly have been accused of sexual assault and, as this list shows, it is not only actors/those in the entertainment industry that are being exposed. I looked at sexual abuse and misconduct in music last year off of the back of reports such as this and revelations from big names who have experienced sexual harassment/assault.
IN THIS PHOTO: R. Kelly/PHOTO CREDIT: Live Nation
BØRNS and Moose Blood are aberrations and rarities: they are the most-recent cases of sexual assault/misconduct but this has been a problem in music for a long time. It seems the punishment for artists who go too far is severe. This article, from this May, looked at the case of R. Kelly and how Spotify dealt with allegations of sexual abuse:
“Streaming service Spotify will no longer promote R. Kelly’s music, Billboard reported on Thursday. The move comes after Time’s Up called on Spotify and other companies and concert venues to cut ties with the singer, who has faced allegations of sexual abuse for decades.
This is a small step forward, I guess. But as many have noted before, the music industry has yet to face the same kind of #MeToo reckoning that Hollywood and media have. R. Kelly and XXXTentacion are just two of the many men whose careers have, until recently, been largely unaffected by the allegations against them. Earlier today, New York Times pop music reporter Joe Coscarelli tweeted an email he got from XXXTentacion’s lawyer, who listed some of the other musicians accused of sexual assault and domestic violence that Spotify has not yet penalized, including the band Red Hot Chili Peppers, multiple members of which have been accused of battery, the Backstreet Boys, whose member Nick Carter has been accused of rape, and rapper Trey Songz, who was arrested in March on charges of felony domestic violence”.
I do worry how many cases are coming to light and how many are being hidden – women fearing they will not be believed or punished somehow. Whilst names as big as Harvey Weinstein are not being accused in music, I know full well there are numerous cases of sexual abuse happening and the penalties for artists who are accused is not stiff enough. I think more stringent and brutal measures need to be taken. I know everyone is innocent until proven guilty but you cannot really allow any artist to remain on social media and touring until they have been cleared. One does not know for certain how many of the recent stories are 100% true but I am in no position to disprove or cast aspersions on the young women who have come forward. As I said; sexual abuse is not new n music but we continue to see it and I wonder how far the problem extends; whether it can ever be stopped and what more can be done. It is not only female fans who are being subjected to unwanted abuse/attention – those in other areas of music (publicity, for example) report issues with boundaries and how they often find themselves being inappropriately touched or talked to.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@crea_tives
This Noisey article investigated that in more depth; how endemic and widespread the issue is – and how many women are pressured into having sex by those higher up in the industry:
"There's a lot of confusion over what is the boundary and with whom," said Rebecca Haithcoat, a freelance music journalist, who has contributed to Noisey. "If I go out to [a drink meeting] with a publicist or a manager and he sexually harasses me, who do I tell?"
Others I spoke with said the insecure nature of freelancing makes speaking out too great a risk, particularly among younger workers who may rely on such work as an entry point into the industry.
Kate, a former freelance music writer who now works in A&R and asked to use a pseudonym, says the precarious nature of freelance work made her afraid to speak out when a well-known musician pressured her to have sex with him before an interview. She was 21 at the time. Kate says she excused herself to the restroom and left. Though she eventually told the festival publicist who had invited her to the event about what happened, she never told her editor.
“This was my main source of income, and the reason I was able to meet people and get assignments—I didn’t want people to think I was difficult. You can easily feel isolated. I was scared that [the musician] was gonna take some revenge on me, or publicly discount everything that I said in order to save his career”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@rawpixel
Social media makes it easier to identify perpetrators and lead to greater awareness. Whilst some of the waters are muddied – how many true cases and genuine claims are there?! – women (and men) are not afraid to come online and castigate artists who have come too far. Only time will tell as to whether music can turn a corner and we can do much to protect female fans/those in the industry. It is sad to see artists risk their careers and be so stupid. I am not one who feels those accused are as innocent and spotless as they say. I do not believe random attention-seeking or vendettas are at the heart of these claims. More needs to be done to ensure we see fewer cases like we have seen recently. Until then, it is sad to see cases of sexual abuse/inappropriateness emerge. I genuinely hope, sooner rather than later, we can create change and safeguarding so women in music (and fans) can…
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@isaiahrustad
TRULY feel safe.