David Bowie has died. It hit me pretty hard, harder than any other celebrity death. He always seemed so ethereal, whether he was playing Jareth the Goblin King, Ziggy Stardust, or Phillip Jeffries. He’s an artist who was always evolving, always re-inventing, and the world is poorer for having lost him. Luckily, the influence he has had on music, popular culture and ideas about gender and sexuality aren’t going anywhere.
Content warning for the next part: discussion of underage sex/statutory rape
Yesterday, amidst bouts of crying over the Bowie’s death, and reading other people’s thoughts and memories of him on social media, something infuriating kept popping up. A few people kept bringing up a tumblr post, referencing a VH1 special that mentions Bowie had sex with a very young girl (13 or 14) while he was 23. Like, “hey everyone, I know you’re sad that an artist who means a lot to you has died, but check out this bad thing he did 45 years ago.” I saw a couple people tweet out this post and I just wondered…why? Why is it important to share this right now? Is it to tell people their heroes aren’t perfect? That they make bad decisions and are problematic like every single other person on the planet? Is it to detract from his career or his death? To say don’t feel so bad, he wasn’t that great a guy? I just don’t understand the motivation here.
While I agree that the trend of rockstars sleeping with young teenagers is gross, and something to be discouraged, it’s also important to take the thoughts and feelings of the girl in question into account. From the post:
at one point, Pamela Des Barres, the women who made the documentary, brings up Lori Mattix being young at 10:39 and that she may have gotten “overwhelmed” by the scene, but Lori gets very defensive and says she felt much older – it’s clear Lori Mattix doesn’t see what happened to her as rape or assault and as consensual…
My point here isn’t to defend the bad, most likely illegal, decision to have sex with a minor that the recently deceased made many years ago, but to question the decision of people who are still around to bring this up right now.
First of all, this is shitty timing. It’s just generally disrespectful to broadcast out to people who are in mourning that the person they’re grieving for did a bad thing once and try to undermine their feelings.
Second, I think it’s also shitty to the woman involved (Lori). Legalities aside, Lori didn’t see her sexual relationship with Bowie as a problem when she was a teenager, and still didn’t see it as a problem many years later during this interview as an older, and hopefully wiser, woman. It would be different if she looked back and said she felt taken advantage of or abused. There’s a huge problem in our culture of people not listening to women when it comes to sexual assault. Women are not believed or are blamed when they say they’ve been raped or assaulted and as a result, crimes go unreported and unpunished. The message, which is one I believe in, is that we should believe women. However, it also goes the other way. If Lori maintains the feeling that it was consensual, and doesn’t feel like she was taken advantage of, maybe we should believe her and not impose our own indignation on her experiences.
Pointing everyone to this extremely cursory post condemning a man who just died seems really cheap and opportunistic. And I honestly still don’t understand the motivation for doing it. Please don’t do this.