What Should We Say About David Bowie and Lori Maddox?
David Bowie died on January 10, 2016, two days after his 69th birthday and the release of Blackstar, his 25th album. The news came meteorically; we were dazed and flattened, looking at the world through debris and glitter that suddenly it seemed we’d borrowed from him. Lady Gaga paid extended, exhaustive tribute to him at the Grammys on Monday night; in the week following his death, there was a second line for him in New Orleans, a shrine outside his apartment in Tribeca, a series of farewells from his musical echelon, a million Instagrams, a segment on SNL. Bowie was that rare thing, a revolutionary who was also near-universally beloved. He gave off an uncanny combination of generosity and brilliance, in which he seemed to give everything to and ask nothing of the people who idolized him—except for, I guess, the bodies of the young teenage girls he fucked.
Word choice is hard here. Should we say “raped” automatically if a grown man has sex with a teenager? Does it matter at all if the 15-year-old, now much older, describes their encounter as one of the best nights of her life? What is our word for a “yes” given on a plane that’s almost vertically unequal? Does contemporary morality dictate that we trust a young woman when she says she consented freely, or believe that she couldn’t have, no matter what she says?