What Should We Say About David Bowie and Lori Maddox?


Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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76 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw says:

    The issue seems to be when does an individual get to say that he or she was not harmed by a particular experience. Current mores state that Maddox was a victim no matter what she says and there could be valid reasons for that.

    On the other hand, I seem to know a good number of women who had twenty something (and sometimes thirty something) boyfriends when they were in their high school years. The women always claim that this was consensual, they were just as if not more mature than their older boyfriends, and no harm done. Plus the women always claim to be much more mature than guys their own age. IIRC there was a big fight over whether it was okay for Lorde to have a 24 year old boyfriend when she was 17.

    This is one of the many areas where societies need to have bright-line rule or concepts goes into direct and bitter conflict with an individual’s conception of themselves. Either Lori Maddox was a victim or she was not? Who do we listen to? The mores of society at large or the individual who committed the act?

    I knew a few women in college who had much olde boyfriends. Guys in their 30s and 40s. This always creeped me out. Some guys were professors, others were not. I always found it creepy and appalling that 40 year old guys were hanging around 20 year olds. I seem to recall that people called me a stick in the mud and it was not any of my business to voice such opinions.

    So this strikes me as one of the many areas where people want special pleading but wanting special pleading might be the human condition

    I just had a thought. Adolescents tend to think they are immortal. Adolescent guys tend to express this by doing physically stupid things like jumping off a roof into a pool. What if adolescent women express their false sense of immortality by saying they are more mature than they really are.Report

  2. Kim says:

    *shrugs* If you’re fifteen and it’s not your first time, I think it’s probably okay (if, at the end of the day, you’re happy with what happened). If you’re eleven, and you’re shacking up with an eighteen year old for your first time, then it’s not okay.

    Bards will be bards, and that doesn’t generally count as rape. We put age limits on things for the purposes of stopping men who are considerably more desperate, and more likely to resort to nonconsensual behavior.

    Nobody actually expects a bard to settle down, anyway. There’s a significant difference between this and what happened with the Palins… (shotgun weddings don’t generally work. news at eleven).Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Kim says:

      You don’t get an exception from the law and morality because your a Bohemian artistic type or a bard as you put it. By your argument, what Cosby and Polanski did would be ethically fine because they were artists. Yes, people generally expect musicians and other to live wild lives that do not conform to middle class standards.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Cosby was deliberately altering people’s brains in order to obtain consent. That’s rape, pure and simple. Haven’t looked into Polanski all that much (although I would like to say that if age of menarche has changed from 13 down to 11, you’ve got a lot more maneuvering space in terms of “time to figure out what you’re like”… Four years is an eternity to a teenager.)

        Law and Morality don’t get exceptions from pure, basic biology (or game theory), either. They merely attempt to constrain things… and if they constrain them too much, bad things happen.

        Abortion is perhaps the most powerful tool we have to decrease the number of rapists on the planet. Will it take a while? sure… but it’ll happen.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    When this topic came up in a different way on LGM, the thread was about the Runaways rather than Bowie but even more horrifying, I noticed that during the early days of the Sexual Revolution very few people wanted to speak out against this because they didn’t want to come off as a prude. The only people who would have denounced what David Bowie and other rock stars did during this time would be Evangelical Protestants and nobody wanted to listen to them for a variety of reasons. By the time the necessary feminist corrective came along during the 1980s, it was too late in many ways and the corrective was delivered in away that would turn average people as off as Evangelical Protestant scolding. It was the AIDS crisis and growing parental concerns over potential sexual abuse of their children, or stranger danger basically, that reeled in the excesses of the Sexual Revolution.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Does “fashion” explain this?

    What opinion does Jezebel-from-1980 have on this issue?Report

    • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

      This is an aside, but I just wanted to point out that the linked article was (I thought) very well-written and thought-out and fair, which is…not always what I have come to expect from Jezebel.

      So perhaps the “fashion” is changing, even now.Report

  5. CK MacLeod says:

    To answer the question, “not much.” It was long ago, in a different era, and the age of consent is a convention, not a Commandment . In much of the U.S., it’s 16, and in much of the rest of the world, including most of Europe, it’s 15 or lower.



    As for Jezebel, my mileage varies: The article met my low expectations for that place.Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    In direct response to the title-as-question, I would argue that whatever we have to say about it should be the same thing we say whether the person in question is David Bowie or John Doe. We need to evaluate these situations independent of the ‘status’ of the people in question, except insofar as their status matters vis a vis the power dynamics of the situation.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      The joke about how “if 50 Shades of Gray was in a trailer park, it’d be an episode of Law and Order: SVU”.Report

    • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

      Granted. I was evaluating Bowie as “random vagabond” as opposed to “church leader” or “schoolteacher” or other people with permanent attachments. There’s a vastly different social status attached there.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

      My reading of the article beyond the title is that it’s less about Bowie-vs.-John Doe (except, as you say, as regards his “fame” and status) and more about Bowie/John Doe and a 15-year-old back then, vs. Bowie/John Doe and a 15-year-old now.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

        Its actually kind of weird how much stuff was going back on during the 1970s that would have resulted in a career ending scandal earlier or latter. There really did to be an almost anything goes attitude back than as long as you kept it quiet enough and weren’t too egregious in what you did, although some of what happened was plenty egregious like Jimmy Page kidnapping a very young teenager and keeping her as a concubine for several years than there is what Steven Tyler of Aerosmith did.

        Powerful men have always used there power to do things that would get a more ordinary person thrown in jail. David Bowie wasn’t powerful in the way that a king or captain of industry was but his celebrity power gave him a lot of license. The fact that many people expect artists to be not bound, see Kim by conventional morality or the law, helps out quit a bit. Before the Sexual Revolution, conventional morality kept things in check because getting caught in a scandal could have potentially career ending consequences like Jimmy Lee Lewis found out. The Sexual Revolution removed those restraints and the necessary corrective restraint, in this case the idea that consent is important and some people really are too young, wasn’t applied until the 1980s. Lots of people went hog wild and those that did not were willing to look the other way for some rather venal reasons. Most people perceive things differently now because new corrective restraints have been applied.Report

        • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Pardon, but this is total bullshit.
          Primogeniture was the fashion in Medieval times because they honestly got a better breed of people from it (see gametheory about targeting maidens).

          “Career ending consequences” also implies you can’t just skip town and run to the next one.

          Mr. “Tall Dark and Handsome” skipped town quite a lot, I suspect…Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

        I’m tempted to say if something is wrong now it was wrong then. But I’m not certain that an adult having sex with a 15-year-old is necessarily wrong. I don’t know about the capacity for 15-year-olds in general or that specific 15-year-old to consent.

        I will also say I have a slight temptation to say that some things do change over time. Not necessarily the morals of non-consensual sex. Non-consensual sex — in all circumstances — is morally wrong as far as I’m concerned. However, I do think it is possible that the capacity to offer consent for your average 15-year-old from the 1970s differs from the capacity to offer consent for your average 15-year-old today. Though that doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about this particular 15-year-old.

        I’m not sure how we’d measure such capacity or if my theory even holds water. On the one hand, it seems possible that certain experiences and contexts can impact the development of the capacity to offer informed consent. On the other hand, I’m not sure that a 15-year-old’s brain in 1970 could be sufficiently different from a 15-year-old’s brain in 2016. Maybe Chris can offer some perspective?

        ETA: I guess what I’m saying is that I am open to the idea that we judge things from different eras differently, but only if the situations are sufficiently different. Just saying, “He was a man of his times!” does not suffice for me. The extent to which I’d consider an argument along those lines is if Maddox did indeed offer consent and David Bowie had no reason to question or doubt her ability to do so because the general understanding of the time was that 15-year-olds could offer consent just as well as 25-year-olds and 35-year-olds.
        To draw analogies, I wouldn’t accept an argument that slave owners should be excused because that was the practice at the time; the immorality of slavery should be self-evident. At the same time, if we learned in 10 years time something about plants that convinced us their consumption was immoral — something we don’t and couldn’t know now — I wouldn’t retroactively condemn everyone who ate a salad prior to that discovery.Report

        • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

          a few thoughts: We see a substantial inflection point in risk-taking behaviors at puberty (that’s about the only thing that changes substantially). Puberty, particularly for girls, has gotten younger over the past five decades.

          Experience also plays a role, and here I’m talking about sexual experience, as someone not experienced in decision-making under arousal should be considered to be “off-limits” (as it’s quite easy for someone to take advantage of them).Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

          … the immorality of slavery should be self-evident.

          Well, nowadays . Sure…

          {{Actually, I don’t think it’s self-evident at all, to be honest.}}Report

      • Murali in reply to Glyph says:

        Well, Bowie/John Doe with a 15 year old now would be necrophilia.Report

  7. Stillwater says:

    So, we have a puzzle:

    1. Maddox claims she consented to have sex with Bowie when she was 15.
    2. Our current theoretical commitments say she can’t have consented to sex with Bowie at 15.

    Hmmm. Something’s gotta give, but I doubt it will be our commitment to our current theoretical commitments.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Stillwater says:

      Cultural relativism only applies across geographical distances, not temporal ones. 😉Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

        It’s actually worse than that. I give the Jezebel writer credit for taking the little paradox seriously. The problem isn’t cultural relativism, it’s that our current theoretical apparatus for determining sexual morality (TAD-SM, for short) pretty much requires denying the truth of Maddox’ claims that she consented to sex and that she wasn’t a victim of rape. That’s the only way to consistently square the circle.

        Short of having to explicitly make that move it’s possible that temporally-based cultural relativism can rescue the theory from its brutal confrontation with Bowian reality. But how? What cultural context would suffice to make statutory rape OK back then given our commitment to TAD-SM without reducing TAD-SM to pure relativism itself?

        I think, anyway. It’s a heady game we’re playing at this point and I’m not sure I understand all the rules…Report

        • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

          Half the rules are bone deep, and we’re deliberately not looking at them.
          Fun fun!

          In particular, that some people are born and bred to be rapists (and no, I don’t mean the jump out of bushes sort.) In fact, some people have inclinations/desires towards being statutory rapists as well… (ability to sense early onset of puberty, as well as desire for people of that age).

          It’s not so much that we’re outright denying that some people bend like that… we just don’t want to acknowledge that “good gametheory is likely hereditary”Report

        • North in reply to Stillwater says:

          Ehhh it’s into that grey hazy zone a bit. Had the cops popped in the door and busted Bowie in the act then he’d have been in trouble regardless of what Maddox said. Had Maddox then or at a later said she didn’t consent and Bowie forced her then Bowie would again have been in trouble.
          In the current situation where Maddox viewed the experience as a treasured positive event in her life then the law basically was never engaged as it is routinely never engaged when two people on either side of the statutory line get it on and have no regrets about the matter.

          Yet, statutorially, yes in all the above scenarios Maddox could not legally give consent and so the law could try and prosecute Bowie as a rapist. In morality, of course, things aren’t quite so black and white; setting aside the strict appeal to authority of the legalism I don’t know if one can concretely make a case that Bowie was a rapist in this specific scenario.

          But I would like to note as others have that the Jezebel article was well written and pretty fair overall.Report

  8. Kolohe says:

    Will we have this same debate again when Jerry Lee Lewis passes on? Or is he different because he had already become a pariah contemporaneously with his questionable relationship?Report

  9. Chip Daniels says:

    Communitarianism and self reliance are not conflicting values, so much as flip sides of the same coin.

    The Mormons draw their ethics from the same traditional view of society that places the individual within an inherited Web of obligation and duty.

    One is morally required to be self reliant so as to be able to contribute to the common good.

    This is why they can seem , all at once, to be both liberal in their compassion, and puritanical in their paternalism.

    ETA; Wrong thread. This for the politics thread.Report

  10. Chip Daniels says:

    Issues of sexuality between minors and adults has NEVER had a neat and tidy set of rules.
    It’s not like there is a bright shining line at which autonomy and responsibility sudden burst forth fully developed.

    The variables and specifics matter, a lot.
    That she was 15 and not 14 matters, that she refuses to condemn him even now as an adult matters even more.Report

    • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I agree. We set a strict line in the law because the law requires strict lines by its nature and we choose as a society to afford ourselves a lot of lattitude in defending minors from sexual predation.

      Her refusal to condemn him, indeed her very unambigous positivity about the experience, stops me pretty much cold on the mental paths to labelling him a rapist; who the fish has greater authority than the very much now fully adult Maddox to say whether David Bowie raped her or not?Report

      • Glyph in reply to North says:

        Her refusal to condemn him, indeed her very unambigous positivity about the experience, stops me pretty much cold on the mental paths to labelling him a rapist; who the fish has greater authority than the very much now fully adult Maddox to say whether David Bowie raped her or not?

        I think where this gets weird, is that it’s rare that we’d let someone’s subjective opinion totally determine X/not X; even if that person is the possible victim.

        Some might say that Maddox has Stockholm Syndrome, and unduly-identifies with her abusers. She may say it wasn’t rape, but she was arguably part of a system which groomed her as a sex toy for rich and powerful men, who plied her with drugs, and passed her around.

        Or looked at another way, Maddox may have been the initiator that night (so it wasn’t rape then); but in the intervening years, has come to believe that it WAS rape, due to the age/power differential. “Not-rape”, now becomes “rape”, because she feels differently about it now. But nothing about the act as it occurred at that time has changed.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

          I think where this gets weird, is that it’s rare that we’d let someone’s subjective opinion totally determine X/not X; even if that person is the possible victim.

          Agreed. That’s what I was getting on about up there re: our theoretical apparatus for determining sexual morality. The objective analysis takes precedence even to the point of denying the putative victim’s claims. Gotta analyze them away, baby!!Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

            There’s also the difference between explaining to someone who thinks that they were a victim of something that, actually, they weren’t and explaining to someone who thinks that they weren’t a victim of something that, actually, they were.

            I’m sure we can come up with egregious and tawdry examples of both but, in this case, it seems like we have already been blessed with an egregious and tawdry example of the latter.Report

        • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

          In most business transactions, we allow someone’s subjective opinion to have a good deal of weight. I’m not cheating you if you let yourself be cheated, after all.

          Law is an argumentative field, and if no one’s upset, then there’s no harm and no foul, generally speaking.

          Cults pose a problem for the law for this exact reason.Report

        • North in reply to Glyph says:

          Well absolutely it is wierd but we’re talking morality so there is an element of subjectivity. Stockholm syndrome, for instance, would be something we’d be talking into account when weighing Maddox’s opinion; we give enormously less weight to the opinions of people who are mentally ill. Do we have reason to believe she is suffering it; I would submit not.

          If she had been passed around in that system as she arguably was it still remains very hard to go to bat for her against her own wishes. One would expect that she had been harmed that should would at least later come to recognize it and say as much.

          On the last point Maddox does have that ability, which is why we have created the law and in the interest of affording minors maximal protection have set the law up in a way that privledges their later opinions over the opinions of the non-minor partner. This is us as a society saying “sure, if you fish a minor maybe they’ll treasure it for the rest of their life and never cause you grief but if we catch you in the act or if they ever decide post hoc that they didn’t appreciate you doing it then you’re fished buddy. Don’t risk it. Don’t fishing fish with minors!!”Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to North says:

            One of the reasons it becomes weird is that the lines we draw around the agency of minors are irregular.
            For example- if she became pregnant at 15 and wanted an abortion, would we honor her agency and autonomy?

            Its not too different than the age old lament, “Why am I old enough to be expected to do X, but not old enough to be allowed to do Y?”

            I’ve heard, (and the legal minds here can correct me if I’m wrong), that there is a legal principle that a contract between a minor and an adult cannot be enforced against the minor’s wishes, but can against the adult’s wishes.

            The intent, so I’m told, is to make it risky for adults to engage in contracts with minors by deliberately tilting the field against the adult, allowing the minor a risk-free situation.

            Even if that is anecdata, I can see the wisdom in it, that we acknowledge the imbalance of judgment and power, even if we accept that there may exist cases where such a contract could be beneficial to both parties.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

          Another thing to remember is that Maddox and the other teenage girls like her were unusual even by the 1970s standards. Many teenager girls got crushes on rock stars but they were probably more innocent. All of them seemed to be raised in atmosphere of what we could extreme neglect these days. If Maddox came from an even slightly more average background in terms of how her parents raised her, she would end up closer to a normal teenager than she did.

          Than again, some people are just wild. They can not and will not abide by what we would see as an average life path without feeling like they are imprisoned. Maddox could very well be one of them. She could have two very loving parents and comfortable middle class life and still need to break free. When wild people are adults this really isn’t much of an issue because they can take responsibility for themselves. When the wild people are growing up, all sorts of problems come into play.Report

          • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

            … probably still better than some cases, honestly.
            Some parents raise their kids to be silent whores, and profit off them.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Another thing to remember is that Maddox and the other teenage girls like her were unusual even by the 1970s standards.

            Well, maybe. Maybe not. Either way I’m not sure I see how that’s relevant to the issue of “what should we say about Bowie and Maddox”, when the problem the Jezebel writer is wondering about is internal to her own – and presumably widely shared – moral theory regarding rape and such. In other words it’s a real life example of what could just as well have been a thought experiment.

            And what should we say? That despite her protestations to the contrary Maddox was a victim of rape? That our theoretical apparatus by which we analyze what constitutes rape needs to be reworked to account for cases like Maddox’s? That while we agree with Maddox that from her pov Bowie didn’t do anything wrong, we know that he actually did? (But how does that argument go if there wasn’t a victim?) And so on.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

              I’m just going to put on my lawyer hat and argue that while Maddox might not have been a victim of rape as a tool of oppression against women, she was a victim of rape as a legally defined crime because she was bellow the age of consent. This might seem like tough luck for the precocious but even in a democratic society based on the concepts of freedom and liberty, you need to draw the line somewhere. While there might be some people who might chafe at the idea of being treated legally as a child until they are sixteen or eighteen, it works well enough for a society as a whole to keep things orderly. (And yes, I believe that this means that charging minor’s as adults is horrendous even for the most vile of crimes). If you want to be wild than wait until your legally an adult to do so. The fact that childhood lasts longer now than it did in the past is a good thing. It is a sign of wealth, affluence, progress, and prosperity.

              From a moral perspective, there might have been nothing wrong from Maddox’s point of view but we can still expect a grown man like David Bowie to know better. Giving into biological urges is no reason to break the law and it shouldn’t be a defense to a crime.Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                The fact that childhood lasts longer now than it did in the past is a good thing.

                Childhood lasts less long. Adolescence lasts longer. Why aren’t we changing the laws when our biology clock changes?Report

  11. Rufus F. says:

    I don’t know how to comment on this one without being offensive, which is not usually a problem here…Report

    • Glyph in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I’m torn between telling you to “offend away”, and thinking that since this whole thing has remained remarkably civil, we should let sleeping dogs lie…Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Was it the “women are obviously not moral agents like men are” rant?

      Because I wrote that one and erased it already.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

        It’s not a matter of civility really because the people who started this discussion did so by arguing that they were the courageous ones speaking truth to power… after waiting until the accused was freshly dead… which puts anyone who finds their line of argumentation offensive in the position of what? Defending rape?

        Actually, I find this sort of social justice bullying usually proceeds in this direction.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

          They’re punching up, Rufus. They’re punching up.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

            Jaybird, there’s some variation here on Mencken’s line about Puritanism being the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy, but I’m too tired to find it.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

              When I was a kid, early teens, I found an old joke book with a couple of jokes that took the form of the WWI or Depression Era folks mocking Baby Boomers for acting like Boomers were the first generation to discover sex.

              Now I’m here boggling at how the damn Millennials are acting like they’re the first generation to discover Victorian Puritanism.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

                Not that I want to disrupt the sidebar you guys have going here, but it seems like you both are taking issue with viewpoints that are not really expressed in the linked piece, which was, as I said, pretty measured and fair IMO.

                I realize it is Jezebel, but seriously, give it a read. It’s good.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Glyph says:

                True true. It’s a very good piece and honestly I’ve read a lot of good pieces linked from Jezebel. I don’t read it often enough to know why people complain about it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

                Having read it, I’m struck by the amount of “I’m using stuff I know in 2016” to judge stuff that required the 70’s to realize. I like how, at the end, she acknowledges that sort of thing… but the sexual revolution was quite a social and cultural earthquake.

                I’m glad we’re able to look at it with a much more gimlet eye and be able to criticize it today with much more sober and thoughtful and feminist criticisms than the stick-up-their-butt prudes who were criticizing it at the time.

                It feels like a pendulum, though. The best place to be, culturally, is just a little bit ahead of where it seems to be swinging.

                I wonder how Jia will be criticized for her backwards beliefs 50 years hence.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jay, it was the “voices of victims must be heard, unless they say they aren’t victims, in which case they can shut the fish up and listen to our more enlightened generation tell them how to interpret their sexual experiences” rant.

        Let me weasel out by relating this story. I have a dear old friend (for about 25 years now) who is an editor at a venerable feminist magazine in NY and I asked her
        “Hey, you ran so many positive stories in your magazine about Bowie’s impact, but nothing about this ‘rape’ story. What was your response to that?”
        Her (paraphrasing slightly): “That was our response. You don’t get to tell a woman that her sexual agency doesn’t count now because you say so. I lost my virginity at 15 (to an 18 year old). I was not raped and you don’t get to tell me what my sexual history is.”Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

          There is a big difference between a random eighteen year old having sex with a random fifteen year old and a world famous rock star in their twenties or thirties having sex with a very young teenager. It really isn’t that we are more enlightened but that we are trying to deal with some very complicated situations.

          Its a sort of Chesterton’s Fence situation. Many people on this blog see the sexual morality of the Pre-Sexual Revolution as being terrible because it was hypocritical, hierarchical, and patriarchal. Even though both genders were supposed to be virgins before marriage in theory, women who had sex before marriage received a much stricter and harsher judgment and forget about any sort of mercy if you weren’t a vanilla heterosexual. However, while those ideals were applied inconsistently at best they did provide some protection for predators. What the Sexual Revolution seemed to have done is removed all the barriers but those included the minor restraints on the worst impulses of powerful or at least glamorous men without a necessary corrective. Making matters more complicated is that we are talking about rock stars and there is always a debate on whether artists can be bound by conventional morality.

          Maddox and company might have really enjoyed their experiences but my inner middle class Jew still nags on me that this isn’t enough. That Iggy Pop, Page, Bowie, Tyler, and company were doing some very immoral things with children. The best defense that I can make of Bowie was that he didn’t do anything as wild as Page, who kidnapped and kept Maddox as concubine or Tyler, who became the legal guardian of a groupie so he could Iive with her.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq says:

            These are all great points, let me be clear about that.

            The point about him being a world famous rock star opens up a whole other issue here, which is what do we make of groupiedom in 2016? Because, if we see it as rock stars exploiting a power imbalance, then we sort of discount that groupies can be fairly sexually aggressive in a way that young women often cannot be without being, well, discounted. A big part of groupiedom is about claiming that right to sport fish that’s usually the sole province of young men. This was very much tied to the sexual revolution and ideas of sexual liberation. It’s hard for me to know how harshly to judge a social phenomenon that was so very much tied to female sexual liberation and still is. I know groupies who are adamant that it’s not our place to judge who and how they have sex.

            I suppose the issue of predation here is also tricky for me because, in my very humble experience, groupies tend to be pretty clear about what they want and the musician has to be the responsible one if there’s a question of age or protection or inebriation. And often make those decisions while pretty inebriated themselves. Not to mention that, sometimes, the musician is looking for an emotional connection and the groupie is looking for a one-time experience! I find it fascinating that Maddox said she met up with him for ten years, which I took to mean they had sex periodically until she was 25.

            So, it muddies the waters a bit because I’m very reluctant to judge groupies, which is also what’s implicit here.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

              You can wait until your a legal adult at eighteen and still be a very young groupie. Sometimes you need bright lines even if they seem unfair.

              I suppose some of my vehemence on this subject is from my own romantic frustration. It really isn’t emotionally easy to see people being so flagrant about what they are doing and getting away with while at the same time being told tough luck about your situation and just to deal. Some people are always going to have an easier time at this sort of thing for a variety of reasons and the irrational part of me is also thinking why should you get to sow your wild oats while I’m in my thirties and a monk. One of my nightmare scenarios is getting stuck with somebody who had an unapologetic wild past but now wants something more stable so won’t let me have any sort of wildness or nothing.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq says:

                You know, I think we’re generally getting better about these questions than in the heyday of the sexual revolution and making it up as we go along. But, I’ll say that drawing bright lines around sexual behavior doesn’t have a great track record of success.

                That said, there are plenty of groupies way older than 18 and plenty of musicians older than that who find ways to meet up. Actually, that story’s as old as rock’n’roll- the social outcast who has no luck with the opposite or same sex or both and learns to play an instrument and then has to figure out what to do with their sudden popularity. I’ve certainly seen the small town bar band equivalent of this phenomenon enough to avoid that scene as much as possible.

                But, jeez, if you want to see predators in the music biz, nine times out of ten they’re the guys running the show. The Kesha story is not even remotely a surprise to me.Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I… probably shouldn’t say this, but when has that ever stopped me?
                Do you know why most authors write? To get chicks.

                Learn guitar, sit in a park and play. Then you don’t even need to approach women, they’ll come to you. You look a lot more friendly and approachable like that. (bonus points if you actually have talent, not required though).Report

          • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Fifteen is not a very young teenager!
            Do I really need to walk you through this one????

            A girl cusping into menarche often crushes on older guys, showing a manifest unwillingness to have sex with people around her own age. (Guys do this too, check out the number of twelve year olds with crushes on a schoolteacher or their friend’s mom. this is also adaptive).

            That’s age 12, maybe age 13. Kids grow out of this (guys lose a lot of infantile fascination with breasts).

            “women who had sex before marriage received a much stricter and harsher judgment”

            What harsher judgement is this? Most places didn’t kill the woman… getting married to someone of slightly lower status?? Being socially discriminated against? Biologically speaking, there’s no judgement at all being thrown at someone for having sex before marriage. They didn’t exactly come up with the words “kissin’ cousins” as a joke, you know…

            12 year old girls dress to get noticed, and noticed by older men (often while not realizing what they’re doing). 15 year olds don’t.Report

  12. Rufus F. says:

    I guess my other question here is, imagining people on the Internet succeed in convincing Maddox she was raped, which so far hasn’t happened, what will that accomplish exactly?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Rufus F. says:


      A sincere question…

      Can we respect Maddox’s choice to have sex with Bowie and simultaneously condemn Bowie’s choice to have sex with Maddox?Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m leaning more towards seeing it as irresponsible than immoral, which is not quite condemnation I suppose.

        And my question was also sincere.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Oh, I had trusted as much. Apologies if I implied otherwise. If you follow my comments here, you’ll see I range from conflicted to undecided on just what to say about Bowie and Maddox.

          I share your concerns about denying Maddox’s agency out of the box. I ideally think we determine these matters on a case-by-case basis. I’m not sure it is possible to assess the ability to consent of a 15-year-old Maddox 40 years after the events in question. It’s possible 15-year-old Maddox has the full ability to consent. It is probably less likely that she did than an 18-year-old or 25-year-old, but “less likely” doesn’t mean “impossible”. If she insists she was able to give consent and did so freely, I’m pretty inclined to take her at her word absent strong evidence to the contrary.Report