#FreeKesha: Realizing When I’m Not Being a Sexual Assault Survivor’s Ally

Whether or not you’re a fan of the pop artist Kesha, you’re likely not a fan of sexual assault. In October 2014, the singer filed a lawsuit against her music producer, Dr. Luke, claiming he repeatedly harassed her sexually and emotionally. I was not made aware of this until yesterday, when I came across this Buzzfeed article about her current situation.

This is on the heels of the gross Bill Cosby mess, the rape allegations against James Deen, and sadly, so many others. Reading about the case and how long it’s taken for it to go to trial brought up a lot of feelings for me. I’m not a particularly big Kesha fan. “Timber” is super catchy and I like her glittery style, but regardless of whether or not she’s talented, is deserving of celebrity, or any other aesthetic aspect, she’s a human being. And what she’s accusing her producer of is very serious and very important.

However, I find myself being a terrible ally. As a woman who would like to think of herself as a just feminist, I trip up in many situations. When I find myself reading about rape and sexual harassment accusations by female celebrities, I inevitably find my brain going a dark direction: What if they’re lying?

I hear the voices of the standard narrative saying terrible things:

  • Oh, stop being such a victim.
  • She’s likely doing it for attention.
  • Well, duh, that’s what happens when you make a living being sexy.
  • No, he can’t be a rapist. I like him too much.
  • If she didn’t come forward then, why should we listen to her now? What does she have to gain?

I find myself blaming the victim, having a knee jerk reaction of giving the accused the benefit of the doubt. Why? Why do I go against my fellow woman to give a potential abuser any leeway? The insidiousness of cultural upbringing scares me a great deal.

But I want to learn. I want to become a better ally. I want to get to a place where I can read about David Bowie having sex with a minor without just jumping to the conclusion that the girl probably seduced him, end of story – and without leaping too far the other direction and directing hyperbolic vitriol at the accused, either. Innocent until proven guilty. Legitimate until proven false. (What kind of person can really believe that every single woman who accused Bill Cosby of sexual abuse is lying?) Let’s seek to get rid of the double standard. There are people, men and women alike, who do throw around false accusations for a variety of reasons. Those sully the waters and make it harder to see the true cases of abuse and misconduct, but that should not stop us from actively sifting through the muck to find a path toward justice.

That shouldn’t stop me from becoming a better and better ally.

What are your thoughts on how our legal system handles sexual harassment allegations? What sort of change to do perceive has to be done to improve the system? What are you reactions?


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[Header image source: stuffpoint]


7 Replies to “#FreeKesha: Realizing When I’m Not Being a Sexual Assault Survivor’s Ally”

  1. I think simply from a legal standpoint that it isn’t beholden upon us women to always believe someone when they make allegations of this kind. There is a reason we have a judicial system, and the rule of law. Flawed as they are, they are the best construct that human beings have created thus far to deal with criminal acts. To believe that someone is innocent until proven guilty is the backbone of this system. We can indulge ourselves all day long in the privacy of our own lives, our homes, our internet selves, and so on, but were we to become a member of a jury we are bound by law to ask for evidence and substantiation. I personally need some proof, or at least a number of women claiming the same thing, before I make my own armchair judgments. I think every woman knows another woman who might have made allegations that were transparently untrue- just because women are women, doesn’t mean that they don’t lie. This is the sort of group-think that has always troubled me about EVERY ism- that it somehow means you give everyone a pass from the same need for substantiation you would ask for in any criminal case simply because the claimant is a women, or a minority, or queer, and so on. I am not going to believe everything because I am a reasonable, critical, logical thinker. I do not want to be hidebound by my own natural alignment with people of color, people outside the sexual binaries, or outside the prevailing norm. Now, having said that, I know, from experience, and life, that this jerkbag probably DID do what Kesha claims, and I have seen many, many men getting a pass for sexually predatory behavior simply because of who they were. People like Kim Fowley really earned the title of sexual predator. He made prey of his victims, and he always went for the young and those dependent on him. A sexual predator follows a pattern, as do all sexual offenders. A man earns that distinction by following that pattern. If I accidentally murder someone with my vehicle, I am guilty of vehicular manslaughter. If I seek out this experience, over and over again, I am a serial killer. Bowie is NOT a sexual predator. He did not display a predilection, such as clearly the case with Jimmy Page, for younger girls. He did not KIDNAP (the phrase Lori Maddox used herself) an underage girl for sex, as Page did. He did not continually make a habit of sexually grooming the young and the vulnerable, as Fowley did. He did not make a career out of young girls. This is why I have no problem with Bowie’s sexual escapades with a legally-a-child baby groupie, because this was more a matter of the times, the girl’s own willingness, and I don’t see ANY victimizing being done on his part, nor any coercion or violence whatsoever. He didn’t abuse Maddox, regardless of the fact that it was statutory rape. Statutory does not equate to assault. There is no pattern with Bowie of sadistic sexual behavior, not even mentioning his obvious steering-clear once he was fully cognizant. I have even read of his warning his own camp about messing around with young girls- hardly the work of a sexual predator. To me, classifying Bowie with the same words used for people like Gary Glitter, Jmmy Saville, and Jimmy Page is cheapening the word, much like calling the use of a derogatory word a “hate crime”. Painting with a broad brush wastes the ire best left to true predators. If Bowie had been such, I would not be such a fan. I can hardly listen to Zeppelin, or Miles Davis for that matter, without feeling squeamish (Davis threw Cicely Tyson down a flight of stairs and was by all accounts a horrible abuser of women). Bowie will never trouble me in that regard. He was a GOOD man, flawed, like all of us, and we never rid ourselves of our flaws by taking cold comfort from falsely painting others in lurid tones. To throw Bowie and Saville in the same pond dumbs down discourse, and does disservice to all victims of sexual abuse. Thank you for your article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thorough reply! Overall, I agree with you. I want to see actual justice being served. And while I find myself becoming emotionally charged by these stories, I can also find it funny that layman can suddenly become legal experts just because they believe gossip columns serve as substantial evidence (e.g. all the craze around “Making a Murderer”). “Innocent until proven guilty” is indeed very important. However, evidence of rape is hard to come by [Sorry, pun not intended] and currently in our society, coming forward with rape allegations is stigmatized, so it can be difficult for other victims to come forward with their corroborating testimony. I’m not going to lie: if Kesha turns out to have been lying this whole time, I will be sorely disappointed, but I will also accept that result.

      And with regard to Bowie: I don’t know too much about Bowie’s personal life, but from I gather, I don’t think he was a sexual predator either. Who knows what the exact truth was, but reading Lori Maddox’s account of her time with Bowie was very eye-opening and thought-provoking. I don’t know how strong the “matter of the times” argument is, but she certainly seemed willing and seemed without regret. It’s in a gray area for me, something I still have to collect more data on and think about, but yes, I do agree that he was very probably not a “sexual predator,” unlike those men you had named.

      Again, thank you for your well thought out reply!


  2. Sorry your post became my soapbox .. I really didn’t mean for that to happen. I agree .. Sex really is handled in an effed up fashion. It’s hard to change people’s mindsets, though .. We all think we’re right.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I typically shy away from expressing how I feel about controversial topics .. I don’t know why, I’m actually pretty opinionated, lol. Thanks for writing a post on a topic I apparently feel strongly enough about to post a comment regardless of how scary voicing my opinion can be. Hopefully it’s something I’ll start doing more often 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s sad how our legal system, and people in general, handle sexual harassment and rape allegations. We don’t question or blame the victims of other crimes the way we question and blame sexual harassment and rape victims. We don’t ask if the victim was drunk when his house was robbed, or what the victim was wearing when his car was stolen. We don’t ask, ‘are you sure you didn’t mean to give your credit card information to this person?’ Yes, it is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but in no way does that give us the right to blame the victim automatically. Sure, we can ask the question, ‘why didn’t so-and-so come forward x-number of years ago when it happened?’ But, this is part of the reason. After being hurt, humiliated, violated, and more … Nobody wants to go through all that again. Nobody wants to be questioned about what they did wrong or how they could have avoided being sexually harassed or raped. No victim wants to be blamed or shamed. So they keep quiet until they gain the strength to speak up, or until they see it happening to someone else. Yes, sometimes people are falsely accused, which is horrible. But, sometimes it’s true. Which is why we have to be as fair and as just as we possibly can each and every time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is sad. Actually, beyond sad – horrifying. Very good point about the double standard with sexual harassment and other types of crime. Sex is handled in such an effed up fashion in our society. *sigh* Thank you for your thorough thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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