David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser. How do we handle that?

A couple of notes. First: CN for discussions of CSA.  Second: despite my repeatedly asking them not to (and having my comments removed and accounts blocked), a site whose views on trans women I find abhorrent insists on linking to this post. If you’ve come from there, please read this.

I feel genuinely sad about Bowie’s death. Like many people, I grew up listening to his music. He had a unique voice in every sense of the world. He was brave and beautiful and fearless. Growing up as a queer kid and a bit of an oddball, it would have been hard to not feel a connection to him. Space Oddity was one of my favourite songs, way back when I was a child obsessed with space and robots, convinced that I could go to the Moon someday.

Some of my friends don’t understand why people grieve celebrities.

They say- we’ve never met them, so why would it affect us?

Just as they don’t understand me, I don’t get that perspective either. After all, we don’t just spend our time with the people we know. We spend it with artists we’ll never meet.

That’s not even a 21st century thing. Ever since humans first learned to draw and then to write, we’ve been connecting with each other through time and space. Music written centuries ago gives me goosebumps. Authors who died long before I was born feel like old friends. They’re not, of course. We get their final drafts. What they choose to share. But despite that, this one-way connection is still real.

If we can have a real relationship with people who died long ago, then why wouldn’t we feel connected to living people we’ll never meet? Their words, art, discoveries and music can still change our lives. Or at least, give some texture to their backdrop.

I understand that people feel differently. Some of you simply don’t feel that kind of personal (if one-way) connection to people they’ll never meet. That’s absolutely legitimate, although I don’t see why you’d bring it up when people are obviously upset. Some take it further, describing this kind of grief as performance and appropriative. As if some people are permitted to be sad, and others aren’t.

I think that’s bullshit. When we express sadness over someone we haven’t met, we’re not stealing grief from their family or loved ones. My melancholy this morning isn’t the same as losing someone you love. It’s not even close. People grieve David the man in ways that none of us who loved Bowie the artist could imagine. Of course they do. But the idea that this means the rest of us should shut up and not feel anything? Ludicrous. Bullshit. Ludicrous bullshit based on a holier-than-thou fake cool that looks down on actually feeling a thing.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling. There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm and there’s nothing gauche about grief. We get to be sad if we damn well please.

Here’s where it gets complicated.

The other story filling up my news feeds this morning? It turns out that David Bowie may have had sex with an underage girl. I say “may have”, because this morning was the first I’d heard of it. And I say ‘sex’ and not ‘rape’, since the woman in question seems to have, as an adult, always maintained it was consensual and I don’t think it’s okay to force our own meanings onto women’s experiences.

That still doesn’t make it okay, if that was what happened. Statutory rape is statutory rape. It’s never okay for an adult to do that.

I get why people are sharing this today. What I don’t really know, is how I’m expected to respond or if the expected response is realistic. You see, I think that this is the expected response: to put Bowie into the Terrible People category and be done with it. To stop caring, never listen to his music again.

I get why people expect that. It’s about standing up for survivors in the face of a culture that brushes away abuse of women and girls by rich white men. Yes. That is important. In fact, I don’t want to dismiss it with three words like “that is important”. That is essential.

But I can’t.

No, I don’t think that what he did was okay because it turns out it didn’t harm her. We don’t have laws against statutory rape because every time an adult sleeps with a teenager they’re scarred for life. We have them because young teenagers aren’t yet able to understand the consequences of their actions or what will or won’t harm them. And because teens who are barely out of childhood are desperately vulnerable to manipulation by older people. The age of consent is a mechanism to prevent adults from taking advantage of disparities in power and decision making abilities.

When it comes to causing irreparable harm, it looks like Bowie dodged a bullet. But the unacceptable action is firing that particular gun in the first place. He did that. That was a decision he made.

I’m supposed to call him a monster because of this, and stop feeling sad about his death. I can’t do that. I can call him someone who did a monstrous thing, though.

What he did was unacceptable. And he still inspired me. He still made music that crawls in through my pores and under my ribs. That kid singing about floating in tin cans in her kitchen a quarter of a century ago is still part of me.

And I think that that’s the hard part, isn’t it? We want to live in a world of heroes and monsters. We want to be inspired be wonderful people, and to condemn the human excrement who do terrible things. We’re not comfortable with how grubby it is, here in the grey areas. Of course we’re not. It’s not comfortable.

But it needs to be. While we make monsters out of people who do bad things, we turn every single one of us into Tinkerbell- only able to feel one thing at a time. To be one thing at a time.

So that’s what I’m going to try to do: try to get comfortable with the discomfort of the grey area. To understand that a glorious oddball can also be someone protected from consequence by his position in the world. To see genius and abuse not as reflections of monsters or angels, but simply things that people do. Real, complicated, screwed up things and people. To try to understand more about the why of it all, since all of it is part of our common humanity whether we like it or not. To acknowledge that I love and am inspired by so much music this man created, and that I’m going to be as saddened by his loss and transported by his music as I’m furious at what he did. And in that discomfort, working towards a culture where rich, white, extraordinarily talented men don’t get a licence to abuse with impunity.

Because we can’t make Bowie into someone who didn’t inspire. And we can’t make him into someone who never abused his power. All we can do is sit with that, and work towards this generation of extraordinarily talented white men knowing that they are as human as the rest of us, and that nobody’s immune from consequence.

I don’t see what else I can do, really.


Well! You had an awful lot of things to say about this. Thank you for coming by! I’m responding in some separate posts to some of the themes coming up in comments. I’ll link to the response posts here:

  1. Aoife is a vile opportunist attention-seeker, jumping on a bandwagon for clicks and money.
  2. It Was Acceptable In The 70s: Why I won’t excuse the actions of the past.
  3. …soon. Soon. Real life demands attention.

Even bloggers have to pay the bills! Monthly subscriptions- no matter how small- help give me the security to devote time to this place and keep a roof over my head. If you like what you read, please do help out:

Monthly subscription
onetime donation
Why Donate?

David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser. How do we handle that?

187 thoughts on “David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser. How do we handle that?

  1. 1

    This is an issue that’s been covered before- what people expect is not to discredit their achievements or abilities, but to accept that the person did wrong, and is not worthy of as much personal respect as before. How much respect is lost will vary from person to person, and it’s okay if one loses barely a modicum of respect, so long as they do not deny that the action took place and that it was wrong. One can still enjoy their accomplishments and their work, and celebrate their abilities, but one is expected to refrain from celebrating the person. It’s difficult to strike the right balance between respect and disgust when a public figure does something like this, but many people feel that this is the best way to do that.

    Also, on a semi-related note, rape is sex without the legal consent of both parties. Someone under the Age of Consent cannot provide legal consent, and so, sex with a person under the AoC is rape, in all cases, and should be prosecuted in a court of law as such.

    1. 1.1

      Andrew- I agree. I hope you can tell that learning about this (just this morning!) has affected my own views of Bowie.

      However, I have seen people dismiss other people’s sadness because of what he did. And tell them that they shouldn’t care that he died ’cause he’s just another predator.

      Maybe it’s different in your circles? But it’s something that I saw a LOT of in mine today. Along with a bunch of other people denying that it happened at all.

      I think it’s important that, like you said, we allow ourselves to celebrate someone’s work (and maybe even some parts of their life and who they were as a person) and simultaneously acknowledge the terrible things they did and allow that to be part of our view of them.

      1. Thank you Aoife. I’ve been struggling with what I think I should be feeling for the last day or so. Really appreciate your description of how to sit with the uncomfortable grey.
        Also, thank you to Andrew, really appreciate your succinct outline of where the discounting line could or should be.

        1. What are you saying? This is profiteering! I remember well the fact! She was a girl who looked older than his age. He tried to formulate the accusation of rape but she was betrayed when told that “after waking up …” If somebody rapes you, then you do not you fall asleep peacefully … It is shameful notoriety try telling, not knowing, yet this story!

    2. 1.2

      @ Andrew “Someone under the Age of Consent cannot provide legal consent, and so, sex with a person under the AoC is rape, in all cases, and should be prosecuted in a court of law as such.”

      So what happens then when a 14 year old boy has sex with a 15 year old girl? Would that count as rape? only because of an arbitrarily attributed age of 16 has been decreed the age of consent? What happens as has happened when an underage girl of say 14 rapes a a boy of 10? Who is the victim and who is the rapist? they are both under age?
      your other points are very valid, but to say that any sex carried out with someone under the AOC is rape pure and simple is to over simplify things. I agree that it should not happen of course, and in the case where one person (male or female) is considerably older then of course it should be taken very very seriously. But you cant prosecute a case blindly, simply on the fact that one of the two people concerned was under the AOC. The age of consent is a guide set by law. The law is much more complicated than that. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t need a judiciary system.

      1. And if the story said, I missed it – under the AOC in one jurisdiction can be fine ten miles away over the state line (or whatever the country you’re in has). I understand that it’s almost impossible to assess the ability to decide of every individual, and that laws have to just draw an arbitrary line because of that – but I still get a lot more outraged over a thirty year old with a twelve year old, than over an eighteen year old with a 15 years and 11 months old. He probably (if he was even aware) should not have done it… but I’d need a lot more info to be able to decide where this lay on the continuum between child molester vs. guy who just took her looks as a guide and didn’t check ID.

        My late husband almost fell afoul of that last one, many years before I knew him – got hit on by a woman who looked twenty-something, who had to have shown ID to get into the venue they were at – almost took her up on her offer when a friend pulled him aside and told him she was… sixteen, I think?… under the AOC consent here, anyway, whatever it is/was then. If he’d asked for ID, she apparently could have shown it, since she got in.

        And I get the gut reaction that child molesters should be hung drawn and quartered – but I also know there are extremes at both ends.

    3. 1.3

      The age of consent is arbitrary nonsense , that’s why it’s called legal FICTION. At the time that they had sex , 14 | 15 was still the age of consent elsewhere in North America such as Canada , Mexico , and even other US states like South Carolina, what sort of alternate reality did those residents of other places live in that what they did was not rape at all where they lived, but it suddenly becomes rape just by physically moving what may be a short distance away? And it’s implied that the Federal Government realized that it’s all illogical and irrational by passing the Mann Act, which is against the basic human freedom of movement. Y’know for a country that has always been pathological in needing to brag about it’s moral, ethical, and cultural superiority to all others as the so-called Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, the sheer repression and cowardice of both the Religious Right and Liberal Left on the issue of intergenerational sex is HYPOCRITICALLY pathetic.

  2. 2

    To understand that a glorious oddball can also be someone protected from consequence by his position in the world.

    That’s a good way to put it. I’ve always been a bit – perplexed – since I found out that Jimmy Page openly travelled around for a tour or two with his underage model girlfriend.Everyone’s attitude appears to be “well, it was the 70s…” and I have to admit that was my first feeling about it. Maybe Page got away with it because other rock stars were doing worse, and – well – Jimmy Page. I didn’t know about Bowie. So you’re now the person who helped introduce that little bit of poison into my views, on this particular day. I don’t thank you for sharing.

    1. 2.1

      I’m sorry you had to find it out like this, today. I only learned about it today as well. And yeah, I kind of wish I didn’t, too. :/

      (And I wrote this post ’cause I needed to actually talk about it and work out what the hell to think, you know?)

      1. It isn’t just surfacing, it’s been known for a long time but because people struggle with the idea that artist they admire could have made such a shitty choice it isn’t talked about much. It’s certainly true that people mature at different ages, that they mature on different levels at different times (may be mature enough to comsent to sex but not be mature enough for other decisions for example) but it doesn’t matter how much a child (or barely post pubescent teen) consents, or how enthusiastically they do so, an adult should know better than to indulge that.

        I’ve known about this for years and still managed to enjoy Bowie’s music but listening to many people I respect making excuses for his actions on this score has actually left me pretty depressed, possibly because certain decisions I enthusiastically made at the same age and that were indulged by adults are ones I have real misgivings about now. Ones that I will never discuss with anyone because I can see what the reactions would be all over my FB feed right now.

        1. Em

          I think it is not discussed much because for decades the general culture has thought about statutory rape as a crime of the present. This particular incident happened so long ago, and the woman it involved has always been so enthusiastic, that the prevailing reason of the time said: “Well, I suppose she was consenting after all and no one was hurt.” Statutory rape does not suggest that adolescents cannot consent to sex. It suggests that, in situations involving a minor and an adult, it can never be proven that a minor consented sufficiently enough to satisfy a court because the possible power dynamics are too complex by default. Thus signalling the crime as ‘statutory’ or ‘by statute’ in nature and explaining why two minors are not guilty of the crime if they are having sex.

          (This is also why ’emancipated minor’ laws allow married emancipated minors to have sex. It is assumed that, in this rare circumstance, the court can assume legal consent has been given.)

          So forty or fifty years after the fact, most people assume that enough evidence and time has passed to be assured that consent was given and that no moral crime was committed (or at least not one worth being concerned with) and that it was only a crime of statutes.

          Our culture -now- chooses to engage with and attack rape culture where it is found. Which is noble, laudable, and right. So issues like these get brought up as people think about them. Perhaps with too much vinegar and venom in some cases, and there is sometimes a tendency to choose rhetoric over humanity where no harm has been done because we perceive a systemic harm all the same, but I do not think it was kept quiet because no one wanted to address it. It was simply not the way the average person thought about situations specifically resembling this one.

          Like the author of the blog says, it is a complicated gray area.

          1. for decades the general culture has thought about statutory rape as a crime of the present

            Isn’t that something really interesting, though? That for decades, we’ve thought that we-now have higher standards than them-then (or us-then). If we’ve been feeling this way for such a long time, then maybe people then did know exactly how screwed up it was. And maybe there’s something dishonest about our treating people a few decades ago- many of whom are still alive today- as if they couldn’t possibly have been expected to know that it’s not okay for adults to fuck fifteen-year-olds.

          2. Em

            What I mean to say is that it was a crime of the present, whenever that present was. It was a crime when it happened in recent memory or as a recent event. If it came to light later in life and the person affected was either (1) not concerned or (2) felt that they had been consenting, then the generally accepted opinion has been that no crime was actually committed. Law never asserted that adolescents cannot consent. Only that it cannot be sufficiently known if they consented where a court must be concerned. I.e., the law acknowledges that personal consent might have been given but it cannot prove legal consent so long as the minor is a minor and under the influence of the adults around them.

            This is similarly why the State can only prosecute statutory rape cases after the minor has reached the age of adulthood if the minor-now-adult wishes to press charges.Because the law acknowledges that, once a person is of legal age, the court can accept their testimony . Same, why we have so-called ‘Romeo and Juliet’ laws which are specifically put in place to protect minors who are having sex with other minors from prosecution. Because the court acknowledges that they -can- consent, and that it is the situation surrounding that consent (i.e., an adult) which makes it impossible to pin down legally.

            I think people had a moral concern surrounding the act. Absolutely, and I did not mean to suggest otherwise. What I am suggesting is that, up until very recently, people accepted the word of minors who later grew up (and established that they were consenting) as the final word on the issue. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault and as one of the last of the Gen-X’ers – this is also where I am generally at with the issue. Maddox says she was consenting and has always said so for 50 years. So she was consenting. Bowie made a mistake but I hesitate to call that mistake anything resembling ‘monstrous’ or whatnot considering her many decades of asserting both consent and enthusiasm.

    1. Rox

      that is not true,and btw this is nOT news, and those now making it news, are trying to nowvillianize an action that aside form the 12 year old, who jimmy page then had at 14 has parents, and they did nothing, she was a model, and her parents don’t just say hey shes 12, 14 and we haven’t seen her in a week, that’s okay, i dont care if it was the 70’s or not,and btw it was and bowie who yes should never had done it,and page gets all the blame usually, was very young,and the girl was at after hour parties and at places a kid wouldn’t be. Does that make it ok? ofcourse not, but it does explain how it happened, its not like he went to a playground and picked up a teen.. and the whole white thing is arguably laughable as it was a time without media so you do not know what others were doing, you’d not know of this if she didn’t write a book…
      What Id really like to know is why one crazy ex’s letter makes it okay for everyone to call scott weiland a monster for having a disease 2 actually addiction and bipolar ,and Lemmy who collected nazi artifacts and wore them a great man. and now something that happened 40 years ago,that everyone except the young has known about for years and came to their opinions about it, is having people call him a monster or a person that takes hostages..
      He was a man who grew up in a different time and world and was very much human, just because we make them our infallible idols doesn’t make it so.. The girl whose parents left her in a situation where she was a rock n roll groupie since 12 until she was too old and wrote a book, well, I know how I feel, i’ve seen the interviews, heard both sides, and today when I’ve lost a man who Inspired me in many ways and wrote meaningful songs , silly songs and fought for some very good causes, i will remember him, play his music be very sad, and not put my 2015 very pc way on an act that happened in 1970… thats me though all the generation hipster will have to make up their own mind ,butin the end will it dent his image no, or it would have by now…

  3. 6

    You take an unsubstantiated rumor, write the balance of your article as if it had been proven in court, and you do all this to assassinate the character of a human being on the day he died. You are the lowest form of life: and attention w—e who will stop at nothing to get the notice she does nto deserve.

    1. 6.1

      Either that, or I’m someone who just heard two terrible things about someone I’d looked up to in one morning, and who’s trying their best to make sense of things. Up to you, really.

      But please: if you’re going to insult me or anyone else here, as per the comment policy leave out the slurs. I’ve edited that one word accordingly.

      1. I would highly suggest that you stop looking up the sexual histories of 95 percent of musicians from his era. You won’t have any classic rock left in your life.

        1. I never said I’d stopped listening to Bowie! That was pretty much what I did all of last night. My fave is problematic. More than problematic. But that doesn’t mean I have to throw out music I love.

          However, what is a far more interesting thing to think about? The fact that it is really, really sad that women and survivors don’t get to have a simple, joyous, uncomplicated relationship to Loud Guitars From Back Then. It sucks that I can’t just turn the volume up and let go.

          That’s not my fault for reading about the screwed up things these guys did. It’s their fault for doing them in the first place.

    2. 6.2

      It’s not an unsubstantiated rumour. Every rock fan knows this: There was a 13-year-old groupie called Lori Lightning. Bowie (and Jimmy Page) shagged her. It wasn’t rape, but it was definitely wrong. As you are for not checking facts before expressing outrage.

      The rape allegation, court cleared Bowie of all charges, up to you whether you think the woman was after his money or genuinely assaulted.

      It’s not attention-seeking to mention these frankly legendary stories in a story about a legend.

      Love, a Bowie fan

      1. TBH I just find it a bit amusing that I’m being accused of “attention seeking” in a post about David Bowie. A man who not only sought out attention, but was celebrated (and IMO rightly, ’cause he did it in spectacularly creative and fantastic ways) for it.

        Ain’t nothing wrong with attention seeking!

        (The fact that I had no idea that this post would get a couple of orders of magnitude more attention than my stuff usually does, and mostly just posted it ’cause I wanted to have the chats about something that was on my mind? Actually kind of irrelevant. Wouldn’t matter even if I did want attention.)

  4. 7

    I completely agree that you should “try to get comfortable with the discomfort of the grey area,” and I understand that it can be difficult to do so. But I do think it’s the wrong day for this post. Something happened yesterday, something else happened forty-plus years ago, and was previously reported, it’s not even new news. There is more to discuss here, I just don’t want to do that right now.

    1. 7.1

      That’s okay. And I get why people feel that this isn’t that day for it.

      I’m not writing about it today to make a point. I’m writing about it today because today I learned two things about David Bowie: that he died, and what he did. And I’m having a hell of a time trying to reconcile learning about the latter within hours of finding out the former.

      I understand completely that many people don’t want to have this conversation today. It’s fine. This it just where I’m at right now, you know?

      1. I will copy what I wrote to a friend with some minor change. And will post when it comes up.

        Bowie did some screwy things in the 70s. But he regretted most of what he did in the seventies, that is what Ashes to Ashes is about. People can change.
        For an example he in the seventies played several characters and images had drug issues and etc.

        But people can clean up their act and reinvent themselves. Bowie did that with feelings of regret.

        So can the social justice movement stop with it’s moralism. My existentialism get’s mind blown of how much moralism I see among many postmodern feminists.
        Some refuse to ever forgive, regardless of the time span or who he was when he died and what felt among those years when he was messed up.

        Everyone can be monsters and everyone can regret and everyone can change.

        Or I should say most people can change in various ways.

        We just have to remember that Bowie feels nothing but regret from his seventies.

        This is also a broader problem in criminal justice, that those who feel regret and try to reinvent themselves are met with scorn from society who refuse to forgive and refuse to give a second chance, many of them go back to crime then.

        Also many countries including my own work with rehabilitation of criminals, because we know scientifically that most of then can go live normal lives given the right and the right conditions. 🙂

        So never lose the human ability to forgive

        1. Thank you. I don’the actually count myself among those really moved by David Bowie. Great talent for sure-but not a personal connection for me. That said, I really appreciate your reminder of our penchant for casting people as either angels or demons, with an inability to live in the gray of reality and change. I am not happy to hear of what Bowie did in the 70’s, but I respect his introspection and self-acknowledgement to change. If we can’t believe that people are capable of that change, then what’s the point? If we can’t accept that life is gray, that reality isn’t the good/evil of TV and Hollywood, then we need to admit to an inability to be human.

        2. Well said Jasmine K.

          Who among us is perfect and who is free from all problems and questions and things they’ve done and said in the past they don’t now regret? (Mea culpa) Some worse than others of course.

          I’ve just seen Heina Dadabhoy post this :


          Shared my thoughts on this in the comments there too (& linked your post here Aoife as well) FWIW.

      2. The fact that you decided to have this conversation and write this article when you did kinda saved my sanity, and that of a number of other people, as we were honestly grieving a loss and feeling guilty for our sorrow (how messed up is that?!)

        On Australian feminist writer Clementine Ford’s Facebook page she posted a tribute to David Bowie. The fallout in the comments section is, predictably, highly charged and polarized. Ms. Ford has said that she’s taking some time to thoroughly sift through the barrage of new info so that she can come back with a balanced response.

        I posted your blog on a few comment threads below the post. Some people wanted to stone me in the public square, but most expressed gratitude or relief.

        Thanks again!

        1. Heh, there’s always going to be a bit of that.

          In fairness, I try to be as generous as I can be when people lash out when they’re upset? And when you have grief mixing with anger it’s pretty potent. Doesn’t mean it’s nice to be on the receiving end of it, of course. But it’s at least understandable, you know?

      3. People realise that it was a different time right? That people were doing things with 16 year olds and it was considered okay. I don’t think we should go back and judge people of a different time doing something that was normal in a different time. David Bowie would have never done anything with anyone against their will and even judging him is wrong. Let’s then go back and look at John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Mozart, every fucking artist in the history of the world who has done something that was once normal in their time and is now considered bad. Lets ruin their art and slander their name because we feel weird that they did one thing (a rumour btw). My great grandfather married my great grandmother at 14. He was a wonderful man and her a wonderful lady. Should i go and piss on his grave? No. Shut up. Stop judging people and especially stop judging people who literally saved the lives of hundreds of people who never thought they belonged in this world

    2. 7.2

      I think that today is the absolute appropriate day for this post. I also just learned of this detail today. She is feeling conflicted about this today and writing about it today expresses how she feels about it today. Many others, like myself, are experiencing the same conflict and it helps to read how another person is dealing with that. This is not a place to pass judgement about feelings and the timing of their expression. It is a place to allow conversation to evolve.

  5. 12

    […] David Bowie has died at 69. Bowie was bigger than any one person could be or live up to – so much queer subculture became available to so many of us through him. So many of us, myself included, saw the possibility that we could exist through him. How do we reconcile what he represents with his actions? […]

  6. 14

    I mean, Steven Tyler ADOPTED his 14 year old girlfriend (convincing her parents) so she could live with him full time.

    I guess today the thing I’m most interested in is what I’d call “pop social justice”–rather than any deep or nuanced thinking about what this means, a lot of quick hit posts (usually unsourced) that are more “gotcha” moments and shaming mechanisms. Usually toward other feminists. This blog post is one of the few exceptions to the “oh yeah? Really is kind of despicable you’re mourning Bowie’s death…isn’t it?” tone I see in many places. It’s just a method of “personality manicuring” rather than any analysis or–god forbid–empathy.

  7. 15

    I’m all for shades of grey but this isn’t in that category. She always said it was a consensual thing and she never regretted it so what right do random strangers have to say that his actions were wrong? He didn’t hurt anyone or do anything against her will so it’s really none of anyone’s business.

    “When it comes to causing irreparable harm, it looks like Bowie dodged a bullet. But the unacceptable action is firing that particular gun in the first place.”

    You fire that gun every time you sleep with someone, regardless their age, so if this is your viewpoint you’d better remain celibate. Oh, and don’t have any lose friendships or anything either because you can easily hurt someone without having sex with them.

    There is always a risk a relationship will end up emotionally scarring one or both people. If the girl had slept with a boy her own age instead of Bowie the risk of harm would be just the same, yet we don’t go nuts about teenagers banging each other. Age of consent laws are really arbitrary and don’t make any sense when you look at the issue logically. There’s no particular reason why you become an adult at 16 instead of 14, 15, 17 or 18…or 20 or 25 for that matter. Plenty of 20 year olds are still mentally kids. And to add to the ridiculousness, you can have a legal relationship then cross a state border and suddenly it’s “abuse”. Give me a break.

    There’s no need at all to tarnish the reputation of a great musician. In many European countries it wouldn’t even be illegal.

    1. 15.1

      A 13 year old can not, by even the most stretched of definitions, be said to be developed enough mentally to understand the potential ramifications of sleeping around like that. Yes, the age of consent / legal adulthood is largely arbitrary. The idea that the answer to that is to draw the younger, to draw the line at 13, however, is just obviously, insanely gross and wrong. There is plenty of research even now showing that the brain isn’t fully developed until well into our 20s.

    2. 15.2

      The author already conceded there was no apparent harm done in this particular case based on the girl’s own words.

      Relative age of consent laws make obvious sense to almost all people of all cultures. How could you possibly ignore the tremendous overwhelming power imbalance between not just a young teenager and an adult, but also a rockstar that she idolized? An adult-child relationship has a VASTLY higher risk for abuse than closer aged relationships, and that is why they are generally seen as criminal. That is looking at the direct evidence. That is looking at the issue logically.

      He made a gamble that a young teen would have had to pay. That’s the long and short of it.

      1. I mostly pity me ’cause of the sheer quantity of… recycled dogfood.. that I had to clean up yesterday while I was writing this.

        And I mean that in a literal, not figurative sense.

        Pro-tip: don’t accidentally leave your dog in the same room as a quarter-pound of butter. there will be results. They won’t be pretty.

        Both me and the dog were DEFINITELY pitiable, and it had nothing to do with writing words in a blog.

  8. 21

    The 70’s were a really fucked up time, man.

    The fuckery and boundary-pushing of the 70’s helped to shape and fuel a number of civil-rights movements, including feminism. I see it as a time where society was trying to figure out where to redraw the lines of, uh, appropriateness, and during that time, a lot of things happened that we later determined to be highly inappropriate.

    Given another thirty or forty years, I’m sure people will look back on our time and wonder what the hell we were thinking.

    As for Bowie, specifically…*shrug* I’m comfortable sitting back and letting the woman involved have her say. Who am I to tell her how to feel about the whole thing?

    1. 21.1

      The 70’s were both worse and better than now. The excesses were worse but the good spirit of youth solidarity (Hippies, Punks, New Wave progressives) was also much stronger although that died in the 80’s (MTv)

    2. 21.2

      For those attacking the author for writing this, I came to this after seeing this:

      Which doesn’t even include the “may” and basically says Bowie is a monster to be shorned, no further looking at the cases. One they link to, a woman who accused him of sexual assault, had enough oddness (she claimed he told her he was “exposing her” to AIDS), failed to impress a jury. Given miscarriages of justice with celebs (Simpson, Cosby), that doesn’t always mean a lot, but this particular incident seemed odd and (unlike the sex with a minor) otherwise unsubstantiated.

      It’s an issue in general too, as you tried to say, when things are unearthed about someone whose work you enjoyed and you used to admire. In the case of Bill Cosby, there’s really no doubt anymore, so it’s just deciding how much of his contributions to pop culture you can stomach. With Bowie and a lot of others (more than a few current celebs have basically committed manslaughter and got away with it because they’re famous and rich), it can be more complicated and personal (and to some extent “People in the 70s had their moral compasses *really* off” is true; not an excuse in and of itself, of course, but being aware that sadly more than just the famous probably tried to and some did get away with stuff like that at the time). Good think piece even if some think it should have waited a day or two.

      1. I agree with the comment about the 70s being a terrible time for more than the rich and famous. People on drugs and alcohol do incredibly stupid and always regrettable things. Even today, and with more media coverage, we encounter and are still exposed to fucked up kids and adults doing obscene/regrettable things. The difference between Bowie and Cosby is admission of regret for past wrong doing or dumb fuckery. Cosby hasn’t shown an ounce of humility of possibly doing anything wrong! Many mature performers and artists have shown growth and transcended their era of extravagant stupidity. Some old artists, will never grow up or out of the dismal pit they started in.

  9. 22

    I agree that we will have to get comfortable with the “grey area”. I define that area as the understanding that people are capable of great work and destructive, hurtful acts. Celebrity privilege allows a double standard and keeps them insulated from reality. They get to be untouchable because they are the golden geese. They produce and are successful and are given more leeway than common people because of that. The 70’s groupie culture was part of celebrity privilege. It’s amazing that Lori’s mother was okay with her “dating” Jimmy Page but again… celebrity privilege. Robin Thicke is dating a 19-year-old girl and people think that’s slimy but at least she’s of legal age.

  10. 24

    I am glad to see generally intelligent and thoughtful comments about this. No news to me and I love both artists a lot. The Art and the person are two different things and there lies the answer. Wagner was a disgusting racist and a horrible human being who abused everyone around him. An inspiration for Hitler and yet his music is some of the most powerful ever made.
    Judge the person for their actions. Being an artist is no excuse for abusing other humans any more than being a dockworker is. I cried today about Bowie’s death because he (and Page) were brilliant artists at the highest level and some of my absolute favorites, Beatles level stuff. But just as John Lennon was a violent man who beat women when young and stupid he changed and loved a brilliant wild Japanese woman, even later giving up being a star to be a father and husband.
    Bowie was saved spiritually and mentally going to Berlin and escaping the plastic world of ‘I’m afraid of America’ to cleanse himself. Later in 1979 in Berlin he met Lene Lovich but she loved her husband. Lene was huge in 1980 (‘New Toy’, ‘Bird Song’ (inspiration to Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stockers Drakula with Gary Oldman), ) and in New York considered the next big thing, Bowie was fascinated with her dramatic beauty as were other intelligent rockers like Frank Zappa (and earlier Salvador Dali!) as was she by David. ‘Blue Jean’ and ‘You’ve been around’ are both fantastic songs dedicated to her by him (if you know about Lene and her video’s and read the lyrics every line except one deliberate half truth are about her situation).
    She has a later song ‘Blue Motel’ about the place where originally Jim Morrison of The Doors and his friends had young female groupies (G.T.O. Girls together outrageously) who were also friends with Frank Zappa. Jim Morrison was depressed after seeing Led Zeppelin and wrote *Rock is Dead’ about them because they played at a new level of intensity that his jazz psychedelic band could not and he knew ‘the 60’s’ were over.
    Led Zeppelin were the future sound of the early 70’s metal Rock era and so Jim because he was also impressed by them invited Led Zeppelin to come use this motel as their new party pad as he was tired of rock and roll (later in 1971 he left for Paris where he died that year) and it was here that Zeppelin indulged in their worst excesses. This was also the place that later David Bowie and John Lennon would go and lose their minds (John Lennon’s ‘lost weekend’) when he left his wife and took his young secretary down their for a fling. Ironically this act he would regret and he came back to Yoko very sorry. He gave up his music recording ‘Fame’ With Bowie to say. Hey David. You have it , I m tired of fame . It’s your turn to get into this BS! The irony is that it was now that Yoko actually started writing some great stuff, better than Johns, at that time (Kiss, kiss, kiss, Everyman has a woman who loves him, Tell me the truth (her song accusing John over the ‘lost weekend’) Their love clearly got stronger after that just as David finally got happy with Imam
    Well David Bowie and Jimmy Page were with John that weekend and here David acted as ‘tester’ for Jimmy Page’s nubile young women who were the new thing as the GTO girls were getting ‘to old’ (19!). There were now 13/14 year old’s. In the 1960’s Bowie had been with Page in the same Alistair Crowley Satanic movement and they saw the young girls as vessels for energy that they could use to gain more ‘magic’ power. Bowie felt Page was manipulating him and basically lost his mind, hiding in a room with his candles and Tibetan rituals, drinking milk and warding off Page’s evil.
    This place broke Lennon who went back to New York and gave up his career, Page and Zeppelin had now done their last great LP and Page descended into almost lethal heroin addiction. Bowie had to flee to Germany and attempt to sober up with Iggy Pop and get his shit together. This is also the reason why today Robert Plant will NOT go back to Led Zeppelin and he wrote a song about this darkness in Led Zep (‘No bodies fault but mine’). Robert had dabbled in the craziness in the early days but did not like the direction they were going in by the mid 70’s. Bonham became a drunk. JP Jones who never indulged in the crazy sleazy party scene (he always had his room on the opposite side of the Motel) has since been the most productive with Robert also doing well going back into his gentle world hippie roots where he is happy.
    When I was a teenager in the 70’s I wanted to be Jimmy Page. I am very glad I am me now as everyone should be.
    This is what I know. I lived in New York City from 1973 to 1994 and played lead guitar in 1980 for J Lennon’s hippie friend David Peel ( a pro pot hippie punk of middling talent who started the NYC Pot legalization movement in 1969 and wrote ‘I wanna be a hippie and I want to get stoned’ (Since redone by Technohead; their version is great!). I was going to play lead while Lennon was playing rythym for David Peel 3 days after he was shot at Prince Studio’s at 123 Prince Street). My moms apartment was on the same street as Lennons 344 W 72nd street.
    In my opinion Lennon was over as a creative artist in 1975 just as was Page but Bowie by working hard, cleaning up and struggling with Brian Eno went on to cure himself and do his best music era (Heroes, Sound and vision, TVC 15, Ashes to Ashes).
    Should we mourn David Bowie?? Of course we should. He did do something terribly wrong but he did the best thing after wards anyone can do. He really changed himself for the better and stopped being a force for darkness. He is the last of the old music titans and I have 64 songs on his on my Spotify list (ie a lot) The reason for his friendship with Lene Lovich being important was that she was a very spiritual woman of high morals and she pleaded with David to regain his spirit and be true. She always cared for animals and nature and she was not only the Goth Godmother (Siouxsie Sioux’s mentor) but a true hippie earth mother and a dignified and brilliant woman (best friends with Nina Hagen too).
    Everyone is capable of evil. Goodness is choosing to fight to do right and be better. Only art can be perfect. No person is perfect. We must condemn the wrong behavior and approve the right later behavior and the art if it is good. That’s the only true option!

  11. 25

    Your position on the subject completely takes the power away from the woman. She is no longer a self-made entity, capable of her own decisions .. she is a delicate flower that we must protect. She clearly enjoyed her life and the choices she made, and you have no right to take that from her by suggesting what she did was wrong or that she was raped. I dated (and had sex with) adult men when I was a teen too. Like Lori, I did not need your permission nor your protection. Honestly this article and your timing are just completely disgusting.

    1. 25.1

      I never actually said that? In fact, I specifically pointed out that she gets to define her own experiences.

      But there were two people there. Lori- who gets to have had a positive experience. And Bowie- who was still an adult who knew full well that he was having sex with a minor.

      We can acknowledge Lori’s right to own her own experience, and at the same time judge Bowie for what he did.

      It turns out that everything worked out fine for Lori. That’s great! But Bowie had no way of knowing that having sex with an underage teen wasn’t going to mess her up. And he knew that what he was doing was statutory rape. So yeah, I’ll judge him for it.

      I’ll also acknowledge that he was a brilliant man and I’ll love his work.

      1. I’ve been searching to find the actual age difference between Bowie and Maddox (which took a little while, as nothing in your article mentioned their ages), I’ve determined that since
        the photo of him in the kimono was from ’72, suggesting he was 25, Maddox was 10 years younger. Ok, so big age difference there, but not that ridiculous?

        However, nothing that she said when interviewed (for what can only called an “article” in very loose terms) would imply that she was not a willing participant and part of the decision, and she herself said it was consensual. I understand that people under the AOC are apparently unable to make this kind of a decision about sex, but really, no one who is a virgin can possibly understand the full potential repercussions and risks associated with sex, no matter their age. It really depends on experience and exposure, and from reading this, we don’t know enough about either when it came to Maddox’s life.

        So, ok, let’s talk about it. But why call Bowie monstrous, or an abuser? Isn’t that a bit speculative? This girl never claimed she was abused, never came forth like those poor women drugged by Cosby. There just isn’t enough information in the articles you linked to to come to any sort of conclusion. If we want to have a conversation about underage sex, why not talk about the lack of education teens were getting about safe sex in the 70s? Or, how about the way the media portrays the desirability of virginity?

      2. When talking about statutory rape in that time period, it helps me to remember that prior to 1975 in California, gay sex was also illegal… If you’re a young bisexual man, you’re already breaking the law any time you have sex with other men. So then you start questioning the law as an arbiter of sexual morality, and you trust your instincts instead… you have no reason to trust the law whatsoever–you trust yourself and your partner instead. That may be hard for people–especially straight people–to understand today. But if the law violates your trust in an extreme way like outlawing your sexuality altogether, then it’s hard to trust the law.

        I’m not going to weigh in on whether teen girls in America now should be allowed to have sex or not. But when you’re trying to get a measure of Bowie’s sexual morality, it’s important to remember that he was living at a time when the law isn’t the best guideline to morality — so engaged in an illegal activity isn’t by itself a guaranteed problem. In many countries then, and still in many countries today (e.g., France and Japan, to name a few), 15 is a legal age of consent — so clearly the consent-ability of 15 year olds is something of a gray area in universal terms, not an absolute…. which is to say that reasonable people can disagree on what the law should be. So IMO it’s better to look not at if it was legal but at things like whether or not he had informed, enthusiastic consent and whether or not his partner was old and mature enough to make that consent. Whether he “dodged a bullet” in this case or just made a good judgement call–that’s hard to say. If Lori was giving interviews about how she had been raped, and how horrible it was, then I’d be on board with saying that this was wrong. But she still maintains that her consent was real, and she has no regrets about it, and the fact that it was illegal means next to nothing to me in the context of the time period.

        Was it probably the wrong thing to do? I’d say yes. But is it a massive moral failing and a terrible crime? Not so sure about that.

        1. Just FYI- I’m very not straight!

          I’ll give the rest of your comment a proper response after I’ve had my coffee (first thing in the morning here), but had to get that in. Couldn’t have that kind of misconception going around!

  12. Ann

    There will be other negative comments and confessions about David Bowie a timely ambush to take advantage on a vulnerable day of his passing. It is a disgrace when this man has been a devoted husband to Iman who changed his life for the better, a wonderful devoted father to his children who can rise above such ignorants. There too many bloggers like you to ask money to support your kind of opinions in a free country. You are not one of a kind, but David Bowie is!

  13. M.

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been struggling to process my feelings about this information, which I hadn’t heard about until maybe half an hour ago.

    I’m reading a lot of “David Bowie is a rapist, so HE IS A BAD GUY” types of articles, and it’s disheartening and kind of crushing. If you really do your work, you’ll learn that there are no good guys or bad guys. I think part of the problem is, like you say so eloquently, that so many of us have this black-and-white view of human beings. When someone has done something harmful or cruel (it’s very possible and even likely Bowie was a rapist, though we have no “proof” per se), our knee-jerk reaction is to denounce their entire character/being. Or, because they did beautiful things, to explain it away and become an apologist for something terrible because we want so badly to believe in total good or total bad. It is hard for us to deal in what is messy, and hard for us to reconcile the good and the bad. It is hard for me right now, and like you, it will take me a long time to process.

    Anyway, thank you for writing something so sympathetic. I’m grateful to see someone on the same page as me as we mourn a man who was brilliant enough to orchestrate a public death through his music and videos (!!!).

    1. 27.1

      I watched the Lazarus video yesterday- god, it was brilliant. And emotionally, it was like someone’d taken a cheesegrater to the inside of my ribs. The perfectly-crafted sense of desperation in it just… it was perfect. And terrible.

  14. 28

    Who are you to say what he did didn’t cause “irreparable harm”? The harm is sometimes hard to see. Survivors may not want to publicly acknowledge it always. I think you need to reflect on this a little bit more and stop defending him just because you liked his music…It’s scary how you rant about how much you love him before you acknowledge the “complications” (not so complicated actually) as if that should come second, and then try to make up for it by saying “this is essential” when you clearly don’t understand how/why

    1. 28.1

      This person says so…
      Your position on the subject completely takes the power away from the woman. She is no longer a self-made entity, capable of her own decisions .. she is a delicate flower that we must protect. She clearly enjoyed her life and the choices she made, and you have no right to take that from her by suggesting what she did was wrong or that she was raped. I dated (and had sex with) adult men when I was a teen too. Like Lori, I did not need your permission nor your protection. Honestly this article and your timing are just completely disgusting.

      1. Going by that logic, how do we know that all non-heterosexuals are not really just delusionally trying to rationalize being abused by horny perverts in their formative years like what Conservatives are always saying about how there is really no such thing as LGBT orientation?

    2. 28.2

      The only reason I say that it didn’t cause irreparable harm is because Lori said so.


      It’s her story. Her experiences. She owns them, and if we’re to give her her autonomy then we have to take her at her word.

      Maybe that word isn’t the whole story. Maybe it is- but either way, it’s hers and I’m never going to tell a survivor what they can and can’t feel.

  15. 29

    I totally agree with you: I remember when I learned about Bill Cosby’s actions and thinking go myself “can I still laugh at his jokes?”

    We have this impression that “good” people are inherently good and only do good things, and vice-versa for “bad” people.

    Bowie made a mistake, which could have been a lot more serious than it ended up being. It doesn’t change the fact that he inspired people. Thomas Edison vigorously stifled the opportunities of rival inventors. The Wright brothers sued anyone else who tried to build airplanes, even if they used different designs. George Washington owned slaves. It doesn’t change the fact that they did great things. As long as you acknowledge that, okay, yes, they’re not saints, I see no harm in still admiring them.

    1. 29.1

      I feel pretty similarly.

      I think it’s fine to admire people who did terrible things, as long as we never deny the things they’ve done. And also, as long as we get that other people might not be able to admire them.

      Like, it’d be relatively easy for me to say “I admire Washington despite his slave-owning”. (Caveat: I’m not American and tbh I don’t have any feelings either way on him as a politician and I side-eye the hell out of anyone who “owned” people.) That’s fine. But I’m gonna assume that, say, a POC who’s a descendant of people who were held as slaves might not find him admirable in the slightest.

      I think it’s fine to have Problematic Faves, as long as you’re fine with other people focusing on the Problematic? Know what I mean?

  16. 30

    First of all, the age of consent is a legal status that differs from country-to-country, and from it has differed from era to era. The notion that someone is innocent and unable to consent until age 17 or 18 is a modern construct. European sexual mores are and have been different from that of the United States. In other eras it was not uncommon for young men and women as young as 13 to be married and to have children. Society has deem that practice to be undesirable, and has created the age of consent and statutory rape laws in order to give young people more time to be “innocent” and to discourage adults from taking advantage of the naive, but young people are not asexual, and innocence is sort of a fairytale notion that exists on a sliding scale.

    More particular to this case is it perpetuates rumor and innuendo without real facts. Yes, we should protect young people from predators, but be should not sully the name of anyone, including the famous, without actual facts and an understanding of the shifting legal and moral boundaries. Instead of focusing on supposed consensual sexual dalliances from 40 years ago, we should focus on non-consensual rape charges such as those leveled at Bill Cosby or the woman raped by 5 men in Brooklyn a few days ago.

    1. 30.1

      We can do both though, can’t we?

      And yes, the age of consent varies. That doesn’t mean we get to ignore it. It’s there for a specific reason: to protect minors. The cut-off point is going to be somewhat arbitrary, but it’s there for a very good reason.

      And yes, adults do have a responsibility to abide by it. We, as a society, have decided that people under the age of consent are under our protection. We don’t abuse that protection by fucking them.

  17. 31

    I agree what he did was wrong but the guy is dead now we shall let him rest in peace we as teenagers think people did realize this and know about this but I think only us as teenagers didn’t know since we weren’t born or didn’t en know of him at the time it was happening so at that time he probably was getting the hate he deserved and it just faded away over time but r we really bringing it back up now that he’s dead we teenagers think “people should know this” but people do know this it’s just us teenagers that don’t cause we weren’t there when all of it happened so please have your higher and opinions but let David rest in peace

  18. Amy

    The girl was 16! She was old enough to know right from wrong and consequences. Seriously? Plus age of consent in many states is 16. IF she was 13 or 14 then yes I would be mad at him for his horrible judgement. But she was freaking 16. And in the late 60s and 70s you had 17 year olds being sent to war so you know what? the times were different and kids were expected to grow up a lot faster than the sheltered protected kids we have today. You know what Statutory Rape really protects? The parents who get pissed off that their kid is dating a person they don’t like and having sex with it. You know what else? So a 18 year old who has sex with a 16 in a state where age of consent is 17 would be committing statutory rape. It wouldn’t matter if the two had dated for a while, all that would matter is one of them was 18. So you’re basically saying that an 18 year old having sex and dating a 16 year old is a monstrous act. Therefore all the TEEN MOM and 16 and Pregnant shows should be considered horrible and taken off the air instead of having teen pregnancy and statutory rape celebrated because at least a few of the pregnancies involved statutory rape.

    1. 32.1

      She wasn’t 16- she was 14 or 15, it’s not clear. But definitely not 16.

      And this isn’t an 18 year old having sex with a 16 year old. This is a rich, powerful man in his mid 20s (at least) having sex with a 14 or 15 year old.

      If kids a couple of years older than her were sent to war then? That is screwed up too. We don’t get to excuse one screwed up thing because another happened as well. We can say that they’re both wrong.

  19. Eli

    Having read a few articles about this, I do wonder whether or not Bowie was aware of the age of the girl. I mean, Jimi Page obviously knew (he’s notorious for his treatment of underage girls) but the account Lori Lightning gives Thrillist never makes it fully clear. For all he might have known in his haze of drugs, these were just two fans that wanted to have sex with him and he never considered they might be under age. Perhaps I’m trying to rationalize what he did, but that seems like an important detail.

    Is this victim blaming? I’m not sure.

  20. 34

    What Bowie did was wrong. He used his power and fame to get this young woman into his bed. And while I am totally not against teens having sex, I don’t think they should start at 13. Too much can go wrong, too many risks of somebody ending up traumatised.
    But when all the people who all of a sudden need to discuss this completely erase her and her story, I get a feeling that they don’t actually care for her and her wellbeing but are more interested in simply shitting on people, especially on queer people for whom Bowie was a lifeline.

    BTW, it is totally possible to deeply love a person who abused you personally, who fucked you up more than you’d ever thought possible. So telling people that they should stop feeling about somebody is just abusive as well.

    1. 34.1


      I want to work out a way of talking about this without erasing her.

      One thing that’s really annoyed me in the past couple of days? People using Lori’s photograph to make a point about CSA.

      It feels to me like we should be able to make points about Bowie Doing Wrong Things without using Lori’s photo to stir people’s emotions when she’s said that she doesn’t feel like a survivor. Not respecting her autonomy is screwed up.

  21. 35

    I just found out about this, it is shocking to imagine a 13 year old girl having sex with someone older, and even more with a star to which many of us will have great admiration and partly consederarlo a great hero. I will not say who is right or we should put it aside, but it is obvious this was not the type of environment in which a girl (or many) should attend, I mean they were adults in a world of drugs, music and power. Probably ‘Lori Middox’ did not have sufficient mental maturity or sexually CONSENT wanting to be with someone that age, but in part she had the CONSENT of wanting to be surrounded by great artists in that kind of environment, she was aware of what was happening around her, grew too fast and probably did not have the opportunity to grow as a normal girl, but that was their decision, not the sex part, but haunting those spaces. Bowie and many others possibly ‘take advantage’ of that innocent rebellion and its eagerness to feel like a woman.

  22. 36

    David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser how do we handle that?

    With difficulty.

    With thought and compassion and puzzlement and disappointment and other emotions and more.

    Bowie meant an awful lot to an awful lot of people. He was a Rebel, a Hero and the Starman. (Ziggy too.)

    He even kept some of his fans and followers alive – one of my best friends posted that and why on facebook earlier today.

    He did a huge amount of good too :


    Far more than any evil in the metaphorical cosmic balance I think.

    But yeah, he also clearly did a few things that were horribly wrong. And that sucks but also shouldn’t be ignored.

    So, I don’t know.

    I do know I can’t imagine not enjoying his music or celebrating the good he did in life and thinking we’re not worse off for losing his voice on this pale blue dot though.

    I also think calling him an “abuser” here is a bit too harsh for given what he did and even more so what she said about it later and I believe her too. I don’t condone or agree with it but also, well, its complicated and probably (?) on the lesser end of the severity of offense spectrum. And I can also see why you’ve called him that and the case for it so yeah, torn.

    1. 36.1

      I actually chose “abuser” because I didn’t want to say “rapist” since Lori doesn’t define the experience as rape. And going into explanations would have made the title of the post a paragraph in itself. I’m aware of the connotations, but I figured: okay, he had power, he abused it. That was a thing.

  23. 37

    Reading the interview with the young woman in question, she talks about how after Bowie she was with Jimmy Page, who met the girl’s mother and got permission for what they were doing with each other. I’m not saying any of this was good or right, just that at the time, for good or ill, people in certain circles had a much more laissez faire attitude about this sort of thing. Notice the many other musicians and celebrities she mentions who witnessed she and Bowie together, knew what was going on, and didn’t bat an eye. I’m sure many had done the same at one point or another. I don’t approve of it, but it doesn’t change my high regard for David Bowie.

  24. 38

    “How could you possibly ignore the tremendous overwhelming power imbalance between not just a young teenager and an adult, but also a rockstar that she idolized?”

    You could say the same about any celebrity+non-celebrity pairing regardless of age. Any normal Joe or Jane Bloggs dating someone famous will be a “victim” then according to this viewpoint. But power is more complex than that. Theoretical imbalances don’t always translate into reality and even if there is an imbalance it doesn’t automatically follow that there is abuse of that power.

    “An adult-child relationship has a VASTLY higher risk for abuse than closer aged relationships, and that is why they are generally seen as criminal. That is looking at the direct evidence.”

    We’re not talking about an adult-child relationship. We’re talking about a relationship between a man in his twenties and a girl in her teens. If you have any direct evidence that that carries a higher risk for abuse than a closer-aged relationship I’d like to see it. I’d say the risks are about the same. And they’re not “generally seen as criminal” actually. Ages of consent vary from place to place. In many US states a sixteen year old can legally date a sixty year old but a fifteen year old dating a twenty year old is considered “rape”, so the law is pretty ridiculous really.

    What it comes down to is that the woman in question says she doesn’t regret a thing, so what right does anyone else have to say that it was wrong? Why should she regret something that she enjoyed and has great memories of, just to fit in with other people’s cultural expectations? Smells like people trying to take away her agency and redefine her experiences for their own purposes. That’s pretty abusive imo.

    1. 38.1

      It’s not wrong because of how she did or didn’t feel about it. She gets to feel like it was good and we have to respect that.

      We can respect her experiences and simultaneously acknowledge that Bowie shouldn’t have been fucking a 15 year old. What he did was wrong. He was an adult. Adults have responsibilities. One of those is to protect minors, not to fuck them. Being rich or famous doesn’t absolve you of that.

  25. C S

    I’m struggling with this information as well, and I think it’s appalling that people are being abusive towards you for discussing it.

    Here’s a few points that I feel the need to get off my chest, and I don’t wanna do it on Facebook where the only people who’ll hear me are survivors who’ll be triggered, or rape apologists who’ll triumph in it… so:

    1) it’s not ‘statutory’ rape in the UK unless they’re under 13. Lori Maddox seems to have been 15.
    2) it was consensual, and as someone who lost her virginity at 15 to a man in her 20s, I’m absolutely comfortable with not calling it rape just because of her age.
    3) literally the only sources are a few interviews available on the internet. This isn’t (like I’ve seen discussed) like the Cosby allegations; we haven’t heard from a victim and I would be reacting differently if we had.

    People we admire are flawed, damaged and sometimes have done really dodgy stuff. But just as we owe a victim a hearing when they call out this behaviour, we owe the accused a defence in the absence of a victim doing so. I think this situation is more complex than the labels ‘rape’ or ‘paedophilia’ (seen that thrown around too); it’s not about saying he didn’t do anything wrong, but it is important to talk about what he did wrong accurately.

    1. 39.1

      I very much agree with you on throwing around ‘rape’ or ‘paedophelia’.

      It wasn’t paedophelia- that word specifically refers to attraction to prepubescent children.

      When it comes to rape.. well, it was statutory rape. Which is a different category to just-rape. Lori was in LA, not the UK, so it’s US laws that apply and as far as I know, the age of consent there is 16-18, depending on state? Either way, she was definitely underage. So while I call it “sex” and not “rape” (because that’s how she describes it), I’ll also say “statutory rape”, because it was.

      I do think that we get to use words like “abuse”, though. Bowie was abusing his position. He was an adult, he should have done better. He didn’t.

      I agree with you that this is a hell of a lot more complicated than the likes of Cosby. This isn’t a situation where dozens of women have shared their stories of being raped- and called it that. This is one person talking about a situation which was abusive but was also something she remembers as a Cool Thing That Happened Her.

      It gets to be both, and I think that if we’re going to strive for accuracy and truth- which we should- we have to accept that contradiction.

  26. 40

    I still feel so torn on this issue. I cried yesterday morning when I heard that he died. I knew that Bowie had been heavily involved with groupies and drugs back in the 70’s (very common knowledge) I knew that accounts of his actions were already public to an extent as books (memoirs) written by groupies were published years ago. what I didn’t know was the exact age of those involved, which is still hazy since there are many accounts that claim the girls involved lied about their ages, meaning that it was statutory rape, committed by a huge slew of celebrities, some of which are still alive and could be held accountable, but nobody is going after them. I’ve read the interview given by Lori “lightening” Maddox, who was the under-age girl involved in all of this, who to this day still says it was consensual, and she regrets nothing. Despite her being under 16 at the time of said event, I would still take her account of what happened more seriously than those who try to erase and discredit her words. I’ve known plenty of girls engage in underage sex with partners who were over 16, over 18, over 21, and they have not come out the worse for it, but nobody calls that rape because it is not on public record.

    Thank you for writing this, as it sums up how I feel this morning after having the night to process the information. Also, thank you to the poster above who shared their experiences of being in New York at that time frame. Condemn the action. Bowie was the artist, Jones was the man. A very talented but flawed man who did some dick moves but then tried to clean himself up and made himself accountable for his actions. [this is why nobody has ever tried to pay Lori or any of the other groupies on the scene at the time to keep quiet, which is why we know about Page, about the abortion that Tyler’s groupie had, and about Folley’s multiple rapes – Folley was manager of the runaways.]

    Today I shall continue to mourn Bowie, as that was the man and artist that I adored so much. Jones is who his family and friends will mourn.

  27. Ann

    The grey area of under-aged sex and the world of music. Not ‘right’, but Bowie was hardly the first or the last to avail himself of what was offered. And while NOW it is said that anyone under a certain age is considered unable to make such choices, look back into history: That wasn’t always the case. Can’t condemn a guy for being human, especially in the sex/ drugs and rock-n-roll culture that has been so prominent since the late 50s.

  28. 44

    […] “So that’s what I’m going to try to do: try to get comfortable with the discomfort of the grey area. To understand that a glorious oddball can also be someone protected from consequence by his position in the world. To see genius and abuse not as reflections of monsters or angels, but simply things that people do. Real, complicated, screwed up things and people. To try to understand more about the why of it all, since all of it is part of our common humanity whether we like it or not. To acknowledge that I love and am inspired by so much music this man created, and that I’m going to be as saddened by his loss and transported by his music as I’m furious at what he did. And in that discomfort, working towards a culture where rich, white, extraordinarily talented men don’t get a licence to abuse with impunity.” (From “David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser. How do we handle that?”) […]

  29. JC

    It’s strictly unfair to call someone a predator in this situation. Look up what predator means. I have very little tolerance for old men chasing underage girls, but underage groupies like Lori Maddox were not exactly prey. Moreover, there is also no proof that her story about David and Angela is true, whereas her running about with Jimmy Page is well-known.

    1. 45.1

      We don’t get a pass for fucking underage girls because of how those underagers behave. The whole point of being a kid is being impulsive and doing ridiculous things and having godawful impulse control.

      Adults, though? Adults should know better. Adults should understand “this person is fifteen. I’m an adult. I have a responsibility to behave as such”.

  30. 47

    as a survivor this really offends me. One i don’t care that it was david bowie it could have been david from the bagel shop. Two to those of us who understand, there is a huge difference being consensual and non-consensual (rape, sexual abuse, etc.). The woman who lost her virginity to him expressed her love of being a muse and how wonderful the experience was. She was not traumatized she was not abused yet people want to put some sort of experience on this woman that doesn’t exist. The reason this is so offensive is because it’s statements like “Bowie is an abuser” that make the words “rape” and “sexual abuse” have less meaning. Don’t toss them around unless you understand the implications because then you aren’t helping you are hurting. “my body my choice!” means just that, you don’t get to decide what is okay for another person only they can decide that.

    1. 47.2

      You’re right- she wasn’t traumatised. And I’ve acknowledged that, and used language appropriate to that.

      However, he had no way of knowing that his actions wouldn’t traumatise her. That’s why what he did was wrong. Not because it didn’t harm her. But because he was willing to take that risk. His momentary pleasure was more important to him than the potential of screwing up that kid.

      That’s why we have age of consent laws. Not because every time an adult has sex with someone under 16 it’s going to mess them up. But because as adults we have an absolute responsibility to not take that chance.

      1. Would you still be calling this abuse if it had happened in a state or country where Lori *would* have been of legal age to consent?
        Or do you feel that “under 16” is/should be where one draws the line even if legal age of consent is actually younger?
        I’m not asking to be snarky or to try to get into some kind of hairsplitting argument, I really can’t parse from your post and comments which one is the case.

  31. 48

    The fact that this crap has blown up on my newsfeeds over the past 24 hours makes me question the intent of the writers and critics. I think they are trying to get a free attention ride off of Bowie’s death on the back of someone else’s story (the alleged “victim”. I don’t read that crap.
    I have never heard of this case until yesterday and I was the same age as the groupies at the time of this “alleged” incident. How old was Bowie at the time?

  32. 49

    There are many things that are legal which are ethically wrong, and many things which are or once were illegal that we now believe are ethically correct. I think it’s rather strange to leave the definition of ethics purely to what is defined by the political process. We ought to evaluate it on its own terms.

    I don’t think celebrities ought to be held to any different standard than anyone else.

    But quite frankly I have always been skeptical of the definitions of statutory rape that have been floating around various places. According to California law, the age of consent is 18, and in fact ANY sexual activity under the age of 18 is illegal, no matter what the ages of the participants. That means every one of my high school classmates who had any sexual experiences were technically the victims of statutory rape. To me, this is ridiculous. I didn’t even know this until I was 17, but when I found out I thought it was absurd.

    In the film Risky Business, Tom Cruise has sex with a prostitute. Cruise’s character was probably 17 at the time, and the prostitute was probably in her 20’s. If those events had occurred in California, the film would be depicting felony statutory rape. This just doesn’t seem right to me, either.

    The age of consent in Canada was 14 until 2006. In Italy, it is still 14. In Spain, it is 13. In California, it is 18. What are these different ages based on? Scientific studies? Psychological evidence? Is 15 really too young to consent, across the board?

    According to Thrillist, she was 15 at the time, he was… 23? In California in 1970, that was statutory rape. However, as noted in her own testimony, it was consensual and she has fond memories of it even now. Is using the definition of statutory rape the ethically correct way of evaluating this? Can we think for ourselves rather than just follow what some politicians in California decided was the definition of what is ethical, a century ago?

    I personally am not and have never been convinced that 18 is the “correct” age of consent. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t seem like a simple matter that has an obvious answer.

  33. 51

    I see Bowie and every other well-loved abuser as talented people whose talents didn’t happen to include a stronger moral compass than those around them or the society at large that they are but one thread in. I judge him harshly for that – but I also judge most of humanity harshly for the evils that exist only because they haven’t been sufficiently challenged yet. It is distressing that the list of similarly-beloved famous men who are not abusers seems to be extremely short (I’m going to guess it includes Fred Rogers – anyone else?), and my ire for Bowie is folded into my ire for every abusive guy who is given a moral pass because of how talented or entertaining he is, whether on a global stage in or a private abusive relationship that one can’t seem to get out of…

  34. 52


    For me that is the issue.

    The Powerful can take, and avoid the consequences. That is what Power is all about.

    In a world where 2000 years of Christianity has destroyed healthy sexuality, undermined the child-mother bonding processes that are the seeds of empathy, autonomy and sense of self mandated by our biology. devastated the Earth with Empire, where most people endure 12 years of imposed powerlessness (State Education) which is designed to limit the grass roots sense of power, the abuse of power finds many excusers and rationalisers.

    In my view, genuine art is honest, truthful, inspiring; craft what I call the dressing up of Power in image…

    The Cistine Chapel is not great art. Guernica is.

    Stephen King is not art, The Ragged Philanthophist is. For me, anything that has a public audience MUST be 100% honest and truthful and must support healing and justice. Otherwise it is PR craft.

    And the Pop industry thrives on the understanding that people with dysfunctions will attach to and internalise the product aimed at them, and it’s function within this system of abusive power is to normalise that state of dysfunction, to maintain it rather than expose it and address it in healing ways….

    And for me the actions, the behaviour of the ‘artiste’ cannot be separated from their craft …. that is a position of no integrity…

    1. 52.1

      I just love how Liberals ALWAYS bash Christianity for everything wrong with the modern world but absolutely ignore Islam for doing much worse in quality and quantity.

  35. Mox

    The age for consensual sex change a lot from a country to an other. In Canada by example, it was 14 years old until recently. I think we need to stop to think that teenage girls and boys can’t know what they’re doing. And especially in that story with Lori and Bowie, she says that at the first encounter, she wasn’t ready, and he didn’t forced her. When she saw him months later, she was ready and wanted it. At this age, I knew the consequences of my choice to have sex or not. Mandatory rape exist, this story is not one of those case.

  36. 54

    So, he was “accused”. Billions of people, likely every single person on the planet, has at one time, if not dozens of times over, been accused of something they didn’t do. I checked around several sites for proof and the best I found was a news article stating he was actually acquitted! Such a terrible thing to hang on someone without having ALL the facts!

    And, what was that young person doing there? Smoking pot and hanging out, as in fitting in, with older people? Did he even know her age? Some 13 year olds can look 18. I did at that age. Almost all my friends were older than me. At 14, my best gf was 17, and her boyfriend 19. I was going to the bars at 14!

    AND, are we not allowed to evolve as human beings? Must our mistakes of the past, even decades ago, define our entire existence? Whoever Bowie may have been at one time in his life, he didn’t remain so. Every day we learn something new and grow as human beings.

    AAND, none of us are perfect. We ALL make mistakes. Indeed, we all make huge ones! Why can’t we celebrate and appreciate the goodness in us without “honouring” the bad? If it were possible to find intimate truths about all entertainers, there would be dirt everywhere, no exceptions!

    AAAND, is not everyone entitled to forgiveness? Must we be left in a continuous state of punishment, unloved forever because of mistakes of the past? If this accusation is even true, should Bowie have just killed himself on the spot, once he realized his error? It would seem so, if a whole life of accomplishment can be thrown down the tubes over one error, no matter what it was.

    1. 54.1

      I think the author’s point is that no, we don’t have to “throw a whole life of accomplishments down the tube.” That’s like… one of the main points of the article — that there’s a way to respect someone for their accomplishments and also not be okay with 100% of the things they did.

      It’s possible to critique someone and still appreciate them. (Personally, I think honest critique is one of the best sign’s of real love.)

      1. jo

        Then I also think we need to critique ourselves when it comes to Lori and the author. Just because it fits with our usual discourse – who are we, as others have pointed out before.. to take ownership of her body, deny her her sense of autonomy, and put words into her mouth? By the laws of California, I too am a “victim” of statutory rape – which makes me pretty angry as at 35, I still look back and am comfortable with all the consensual sexual decisions I made as a teenager and with who. By the laws of my own county I was ready and fine to make those decisions. She has presented her account of consent, but it doesn’t seem to fit with some people’s ideology and therefore they are ready to dismiss her experience and I find that part of the whole argument across the web extremely frustrating and it certainly doesn’t feel feminist. It just feels like a different set of people trying to take ownership of a woman’s body.

        I also think that the comments on this thread of the survivors are extremely powerful. What’s that old feminist saying? “shut up and listen.” So while so many are arguing the toss if Bowie abused a girl who claims she wasn’t abused – listen to how this argument is making actual survivors feel.

    2. kuu

      oh no. another person who lived the life and is now being the person who seems like they excuse the actions of happening! that is what happens. the youths get deluded with something, like a wizard’s spell. and they just don’t know.

      that is why I am super awesome, and if I ever see that happening in my nehborhood. a 13 year old smoking and drinking(soon it will be that time when a new flock of kids that age will, as the previous ones are now 17 or maybe 18) I will tell them to go home and be a kid. play D&D or tinker with making things, or build modles

      it’s for everyone’s benifit.

  37. 55

    How do “WE handle this”? Sorry? Are you implying that we’re all supposed to reach some unanimity of opinion? If we did, it would be the first time in human history that ever happened and, just FYI, most people who imagine that they lead some sort of movement or sway mass public opinion are said to have a mental disorder; delusions of grandeur, megalomania, like that. How about this: you “handle it” any way that works for you and let everybody else think what they like about it? I know, I know: not as much fun as playing God. It is, however, good for making people see you as an adult.

        1. Okay. Listen: I can’t see one comment that you’ve made that’s actually constructive or trying to add a thing to the conversation. If you’ve nothing to do but make snarky comments insulting people, you’re going on moderation. K?

  38. Kif

    “David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser”

    To claim Bowie ‘abused’ Lori Maddox is disingenuous & maddeningly offensive, for several reasons, and I speak as an adult survivor.
    Firstly, the age of consent is not a God-given universal constant, it is decided by Government, and reflects the cultural mores of the particular society at that time. In other states in the USA, their consensual intercourse would’ve been perfectly legal. Secondly, in the articles you link to above, the photographs of Lori Maddox taken around that time show a beautiful & glamorous young woman who looks like she could be any age between 18 – 25. She doesn’t look underage, in some of the photos she’s clearly in licensed premises, and she also mentions in the articles that she and her friend Sable would go out “to clubs on the Sunset Strip in search of musicians”, so obviously the door & bar staff didn’t think she looked underage either. Thirdly, at no point in either of the articles does she say that she told Bowie her age, or that he knew her age. The tours she refers to happened in 1972–73, when Bowie himself would’ve been 25-26. So if he didn’t know her age, and she looked(as I think most people would agree she did) a similar sort of age to him, how was he to know she was under the age of consent? Fourthly, they were different times – the Summer of Love had happened 5 years previously, and young people world-wide were caught up in the aftermath of the late 60s struggles for sexual liberation & emancipation. It is unfair to judge the morality of 1973 by today’s standards.
    Fifthly and finally, SHE WAS A GROUPIE! She hung around with other groupies, IN ORDER to meet famous people & have sex with them – that’s what groupies DO!
    I’m not trying to justify or excuse statutory rape, I believe fervently that we need an established age of consent, and a legal framework to support it, to protect vulnerable young people from exploitation by unscrupulous adults. But do you honestly believe that a consensual sex act between two beautiful young people of roughly the same generation, one of whom is under the legal age of consent, REALLY equates with ACTUAL rape, ACTUAL child abuse? Lori says,”I was incredibly turned on”… “the way it happened was so beautiful..” “who wouldn’t want to lose their virginity to David Bowie?”and finally, “I saw David many times after that, for the next 10 years, and it was always great..’

    That doesn’t sound like an abuse survivor’s testimony to me, and I feel that to label the sex they happily & consensually had with each other as ‘abuse’ , and Bowie as an ‘abuser’ disparages the experience of those women and men who have suffered genuine abuse, is insulting & disrespectful to them, and also to Lori Maddox & David Bowie – who, of course, is no longer around to give us his side of the story.

    1. kuu

      we need to make sure minor aged groupies don’t be a thing. but how to do it without putting them in tears and have them not want to act? if some lovestruck 14 year old wants to Justin Beiber’s groupie, isn’t making her feel terrible for what she wants to do the best way? just hand her a new Videogame system, some paper and pencils and tell her to go play and leave groupie life to the adults?(no saying Beiber is careless enough to take the steak if you want to call lovelorn kids who want the adults steaks)

  39. 60

    I raised the ‘Age Of Consent’ issue relating to both Bowie & Page in my own personal ruminations on David’s death. They share a birthday and much else besides. However, I’m struggling to understand why you raise the issue of Bowie’s ethnicity in this discussion, especially given the comments related to the ongoing Cosby Show. I’m also querying why you make abuse a gender-specific abuse of political power given that you write from the island of Ireland as it approaches the centenary of it’s Counter-Revolution which enshrines clerico-fascist priests AND NUNS into hegemonic control of culture. Tuam Babies, etc. We now know very clearly that CSA is not specific to race, sex, gender, sexuality or any other facet of an individual. The fact that ‘rich white men’ have more power to abuse is purely a function of Economic Privilege, nothing else.

    best wishes

  40. 61

    You can’t judge the past by modern standards – something that, unfortunately, it takes Years and experience to learn. 40 years from now, someone might read your judgemental, sophomoric opinions and wonder why people in the 2010’s were so eager to blame, scandalize, and general be puckered up tighter than an asshole.

  41. 62

    Like yourself, I find this to be quite a conflicting and emotional subject for discussion. Bowie was an enormous personal influence on both myself and my wife and I find this news difficult. I don’t at all wish to be contrarian, but I have some thoughts on your post…

    First of all I would like to consider the cultural and social values both now and in the early 70s, as well as the changes that have occurred within that time. Around the early 70’s there were political movements in the UK calling for the legal age of consent to be lowered to 14. That is not to say that I agree with or condone that motion, I personally believe that physical and mental maturity are non-negotiable requirements for sexual activity and that when I myself was 14 years old I wasn’t even mature enough to decide what I was having for breakfast, never mind sex. My point is that if Bowie was a product of his environment then we must consider that his environment contained a social element large enough to be considered a political movement that was challenging the legal age of consent at the time. This is evident that rightly or wrongly, society was not settled on what physical age constitutes as being mature. Also bare in mind that it was only in 1967 that homosexuality was made legal, and even then the legal age of consent for same-sex intercourse was set at 21 years old. I say this because I think it is relevant in the regard that society was challenging the laws surrounding sexual activity in pursuit of sexual liberation. This may have blurred the lines further, especially if a large part of society felt oppressed.

    Also, and I realise that I may be a tad naive here (perhaps even in denial), I just can’t help but consider the idea that maybe Bowie didn’t actually know that Lori Maddox was only 13 years old. A famous person may be more inclined to be cautious these days, learning from the mistakes of cultural icons before them and making absolutely sure that someone is mature enough physically, mentally and legally before engaging in sexual activity with them… but we can’t apply the wisdom and logic of today’s society to what happened there. This was a nightclub in 70’s Hollywood frequented by rockstars and models. Lori Maddox was regularly photographed in drunken, chaotic scenes with people like Iggie Pop, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, etc…

    I am not making any assumptions about her, but this is a girl that had the confidence to seek out and become acquainted with her idols. According to her own account of those events she repeatedly propositioned Bowie. Amongst the hazy, drug filled environment could this kind of confidence not have been misconstrued as maturity? I doubt that it was common practice for anyone to ID their dates. Maybe the real question should be, was David Bowie even aware?

    I dunno, maybe I just want his credibility to remain infallible.

  42. 65

    Misleading headline and an article based on hearsay and rumor (post-mortem, no less), yet it’s trying to take the moral high ground. This kind of “journalism” is disingenous and self-serving. Very gross.

  43. 66

    I think that what really stands out is that most men if given the opportunity would have sex with 12-15yo’s. There is no shortage of women who would do the same, though clearly fewer. The vast majority want a willing partner, even if they have to jump through mental hoops about why there is a legal age in the first place.

    On Sable Starr’s Wikipedia page it says ‘She had a younger sister, Corel Shields (born 1959), who dated Iggy Pop at age 11’ – no verification of this horrifying statement, but does anyone have a problem believing it? Also that ‘dating’ is clearly a euphemism, presumably to avoid legal action.

    There was clearly a widespread acceptance of ‘dating’ very young girls, which is not surprising as the music industry was and is extremely male dominated. I expect it isn’t much better now.

    1. 66.1

      most men if given the opportunity would have sex with 12-15yo’s

      I’m not sure if ‘most’ men would do that. But if they would? They’re adults. They know how to make decisions. They’re capable of making different ones, you know?

      1. AMM

        I certainly wouldn’t consider sex with 12-15 year-olds. I’m old enough to be their grandfather! And if they did crawl into my bed, I’d do what I did with my own kids: lead them back to their bed, give them a cuddle and a kiss on the cheek, and let them go back to sleep.

        Jeez! It’s bad enough that there are guys who would consider it, without them tarring the rest of us with the same brush.

        1. I know, right? This reminds me of that counter-argument to the idea that feminists are man-hating. Nope, we’re the ones who think that men are adults who are capable of taking responsibility for their actions.

          1. Aoife – unrelated to this post, can you please tell me how to stop email notifications? I have gotten dozens at this point every time a comment is posted. I have gone to “Manage Subscriptions” and have selected each option multiple times, trying to turn off notifications, but it isn’t working. Do you have any advice for me?

          2. Oh gosh, I don’t know! Have you tried unsubscribing from the email itself? Sometimes that one works. I’ll have a word with Those Who Tech here and see if there’s a fix. So sorry that you’re getting spammed!

          3. Judy- could you pop me an email? considertheteacosy at gmail dot com. I think I can get you unsubscribed from this end, but I need to check that I’m unsubbing the right address

        2. But if you weren’t old enough to be their grandfather? If you were in your early twenties, say, and you met a 16 year old girl? You’re also presumably old enough to be a 20 year old’s grandfather. Would that be similarly taboo for you?

      2. Problem is, not all adults have the same set of cultural values in all times and places. Who are you to condemm people for being true to the values of their time and place? Isn’t that that what the Left always says about Islam and other non-White demographics to explain away their lack of the criticism they always

  44. AMM

    I’m disturbed by the number of people who say, “we can’t criticize David Bowie because that’s just how it was for rock stars.”

    How is that argument any different from saying, “we can’t criticize the Steubenville rapists, because that was just the high school sports culture”? Or “we can’t criticize anti-abortion terrorists because they’re part of a culture that believes abortion is worse than murder”?

    I can’t believe that David Bowie wasn’t aware that if he were just a clerk at the local chips shop, people wouldn’t overlook it so easily.

    Certainly, in each case, the offenders were part of a group which encouraged its members to think that the rules that existed elsewhere didn’t apply to them. But why is that an excuse? At what point do we absolve people of the responsibility to be aware that what their clique encourages is wrong?

    1. 67.1

      It wasn’t “how it was for rock stars”, it was how it was back then for everyone. And I was about the age of that young lady back then, so I speak from personal knowledge. You youngsters are awfully keen to make girls victims – quite often they do things of their own accord, because they want to – are you saying they should not have that freedom?
      The age at which people are considered adult has been increasing rapidly over the last 150 or so years – back in the 70s it was quite normal for 15 year olds to leave school, get a job, and move out of their parents’ house. It was perfectly normal for girls to marry at 18.
      Age of consent is quite arbitrary, there are 14 year olds who are mature enough to consent, and there are 20 year olds who are not.

      1. AMM

        It wasn’t “how it was for rock stars”, it was how it was back then for everyone.

        Actually, it still is. Sex between teen girls and substantially older men is mostly winked at. You have to have gotten someone with some power annoyed at you to get into legal trouble for it.

        And, yes, sometimes it isn’t exploitive — or, not really equivalently, sometimes the girl even years later does not regret it. It does not change the fact that it often is exploitive and harmful. For instance, the majority of teen pregnancies are of girls in relationships with older (> 5 years difference) men. It does not change the fact that there is almost always a big power and experience differential.

        And it does not change the fact that, if you are the older man, you have no way of knowing that your relationship with a particular teen girl will not harm her, even if you are 100% certain that you would never abuse or exploit anyone. (Because if we are 100% certain of something, it must be true, amiright?) Yes, I am ignoring the girl’s perspective(*), because it is not the girl we are criticizing. It is the older man and his choice.

        Lots of laws and taboos are in place, not because the proscribed behavior is always harmful, but because it is harmful enough often enough and society judges that the harm caused overall is more than the harm caused by proscribing it. You may think that you are safe driving 100 mph on the NJ Turnpike in the middle of a weekday, and maybe you are, but maybe you just think you are but aren’t; most people aren’t safe at that speed and that’s why we have speed limits.

        BTW, this sort of prohibition exists in other relationships where there is a power imbalance. Sex between psychotherapist and patient or between attorneys and clients is considered at least unethical (not sure if it’s illegal or something that gets your license taken away.) It’s definitely illegal between prisoners and guards.

        (*) And the girl believing beforehand that no harm will result doesn’t mean no harm will result. Most 14-year-olds aren’t mature or experienced enough to judge it with any reasonable accuracy.

  45. kuu


    apparenty some people enjoyed their age gap relationships. I assume the best way to handle it is before anything happens, in any way to slag both parties. if I ever encounter a love struck highschool freshman yerning for some poor sap who got held back for a second go at senior year, I go after both parties. call the kid a dirty little enabler and the older one a lulztastic looser. to many times i got into the fray of people supporting relationships when it looks like young girls initiated it or chased down their guy.

  46. 69

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am a David Bowie fan. I have also been in a position where I have had consensual sex with someone of age when I was still a minor (it was a long term relationship and, yes, there was an age difference of several years) and, unfortunately, I have also been the victim of sexual assault. So I can look at this issue from a variety of angles.

    I can also accept that our heroes falter and fall down and sometimes they disappoint us with their behavior.

    However, I think we are trying to equate 1970’s rock culture with our expectations in the present, which is unrealistic. If you read interviews with fairly famous groupies like Laurie Mattix (the girl lost her virginity to Bowie at 15) and Sable Starr, the large majority of them remember their time as groupies fondly and have no regrets about the things they did. This is not to denigrate statutory rape laws, it is merely to make a distinction that cultural perceptions among the people involved in 1970’s punk/glam/rock scene were such that many of the people involved saw no problem with this kind of behavior. While it’s fine to mull these issues over for yourself, if you are deeply concerned with the ethical and moral behavior of rock stars from the 1960’s and 1970’s, you should probably find another form of music to enjoy since Bowie is hardly the only rock star of the time period to sleep with a girl who was underage.

    I also think it takes agency away from the women involved to suggest that they had no conception of what they were doing. Just because a person is young doesn’t mean they have no conscious perception of their own feelings and desires. This does not excuse situations in which young people are clearly being taken advantage of, nor does it suggest there isn’t a legitimate concern on the part of people who want to ensure that young people are protected from harm. However, if Laurie Mattix doesn’t feel as though David Bowie took advantage of her (and she was pretty clear that she doesn’t feel that he did), who are we to tell her how to feel about their encounter. Moreover, Bowie, with the benefit of hindsight, regretted and apologized about many of the things he had done in the 1970s when there were less rules about “proper” behavior.

  47. Rob

    Get a life!!! Words like “may have” discredit this whole post. If you don’t have confirmed evidence, shut up and keep your “speculation” to yourself.

  48. 71

    I think part of the issue here is that there’s Truly Awful People on both ends of the spectrum, using legitimate responses as cover for their agendas.

    On the side of the fans who just want to mourn and let the misdeeds die with the man, we have the folks who want to be allowed to f##k young girls and not worry about getting arrested for it. Look for comments about how Age of Consent laws are arbitrary and therefore stupid so who cares anyway?

    On the side of folks who sincerely feel that simply being famous doesn’t get you a pass on behavior that would be regarded as reprehensible if anyone else did it are those individuals who want to rip down Bowie because of his impact driving forward social change on the LGBT front–they want to tar the LGBT community as a whole with the idea that all non-heterosexuals are really sexual predators.

    And because there are so many damned bad actors involved, it’s tough to have a civil conversation about the subject.

    (My personal feeling is that Bowie, by all appearances, was a reformed rapist. And no, I don’t shy away from that word just because the girl-now-woman involved doesn’t view it as rape. We don’t call it underage sex, we call it statutory rape, for a reason. But it’s also fair to acknowledge that he clearly came to regard that entire period of his life as a time of bad choices that he should never have made. This contrasts strongly with the Cosby situation, wherein the predator still clearly views his actions as viable.)

    1. 71.1

      Oh, give me a break. Come down off your high horse for a moment and consider the possibility that you are not the be all and end all of ethical thinking for the universe. The folks who want to f##k young girls and not get arrested for it? You really believe that’s what motivates people to question the validity of statutory rape laws with an age of consent set at 18?

      I lost my virginity at 19, I’ve never had sex with anyone under 19 and I never have wanted to do so (except when I was under 19 myself, but I didn’t actually do it). It seems ridiculous for me to have to say that, just because people like you think it’s OK to impugn the motives of anyone with a different view of sexual ethics than you happen to have — do you really think, in your small-minded world, that everyone is actually motivated only by what personally gets them off? That is really such an immature, judgmental mindset.

      As the law is currently written in California, an 18-year-old who has sex with his 17-year-old high school sweetheart is committing statutory rape. Thankfully, prosecutors are not crazy enough to actually prosecute the law literally like this, but that’s the way the law is written today. And, yes, I do believe this is wrong, it is ridiculous, and it in unethical for the law to be so far from reasonable.

      I have never agreed with the way statutory rape laws are written in California — not because of David Bowie, but for anyone. I think they’re too restrictive, too arbitrary, the age cutoff is too high. The age of consent is not something established by the laws of nature, it is something that varies all over the map, from 13 or 14 in some European countries to 18 or even 21 in some cases over the last few decades. Is it “stupid”? No, of course not. I think it’s pretty unambiguous that as the age of one of the partners goes down, the ethics of the act becomes more and more questionable. 12 years old — always wrong, no matter how “mature” the person — that is pedophilia. But 15? That is a grey area, and if you think you have the absolute moral authority to know for certain that 15 is “too young” in every case, no matter who it is, no matter what the circumstances, well then I think you have a rather rigid and frankly unrealistic view of the nature of ethics in the real world.

    2. 71.2

      Nice, do you ever also publicly call Mohammed or any of those POC celebrities Ex. Black rappers with young lovers rapists too or do you reserve your judgementalism for “safe” targets i.e. Not likely to violently retaliate?

  49. 74

    Mitsu: If those scenarios you’re discussing had anything to do with Bowie’s case, they might not qualify as obvious derailing. But they don’t. The case in question is of a 13-year-old girl being f##ked by a guy more than a decade older than that. So yes, I have every reason to believe that the people who are whining about statutory rape laws are arguing for the right of adult men to f##k 13-year-old-girls, because, otherwise, at the very barest minimum, the posts would have the overall structure of, “Bowie’s case was clearly a bridge too far, but I do think that the statutory rape laws need serious reform.” And they don’t–it’s all, “the age of consent is arbitrary so there should be no reason to call this wrong.”

    Analogy time. Let’s say some state passes a drunk-driving law that pretty much is set so tightly that it’s impossible to get behind the wheel legally if you’ve had anything to drink that day–let’s say a BAC of .0001. Then, some celebrity gets busted for drunk driving and is found to have a BAC of .24. It doesn’t matter, in that case, that the law is set absurdly stringently; what matters is what the specifics of the actual offense were. Even if I think the law-as-it-exists is totally wrong-headed, I also don’t see any reason for the actual case to get a break for it, since he was nowhere near the contested zone.

  50. 75

    Although in the eyes of the law what he did (if indeed he did actually do it – has he been tried in a court?) was ‘rape of a minor’ I think everyone needs to get some perspective on this. The girl in question was 15 (although some repeats say 13). The age of consent is 16. A difference of 1 year hardly makes him a ‘child rapist’. I understand why laws are in place and a line has to be drawn somewhere but this hysterical moralising is ridiculous. The age of consent in the UK has historically fluctuated between 12 and 16. Today the age of consent ranges between 12 and 18 globally. In Italy for example its 14. So what are we saying here? Are we saying what he did was ‘morally’ wrong? Or are we simply saying because he broke the law that makes him a ‘child rapist’. Should we boycott going on holiday to Italy because raping children is condoned by their government and the whole country is full of child molesters?

  51. 76

    Yes. It’s bad and maybe he should’ve faced justice. But he’s dead now. I have a hard time with condemning someone postmortem, especially for something he did some 40 odd years ago. You can’t put a dead man on trial, so we’ll never know if he’s guilty. I’m willing to believe he’s guilty of something, a whole lot, in fact. Nobody lives 69 years and doesn’t do some stupid shit, especially when they’re beautiful and talented and rich and famous and stoned. Nobody ever thought David Bowie was a saint. You don’t have to be a saint to have an affect on people or to be loved. Thank goodness for that.

  52. 78

    You just can’t judge actions of the past on today’s standards. Lori Lightning and Sable Starr said they had the time of their lives and I am sure they did, just like I did I when I started dressing like a groupie and going to rock clubs with older men who I thought were rock gods, aged 14. Back then, when women gave birth they were assigned to the kitchen, not all women, an some of you were there, wealthier women were luckier, no longer things of the male gaze and society’s focus was on very young women; they were the wild ones, with no responsibilities they could roam free in platforms and sequin halter tops and practice all the free love and that was a special thing; expressing sexuality, thank you 70’s rock, we could be naked and dance in fields, finally! The media lapped them up, being this young and adored by older men was normalised and they adored older men which too was normalised. The ”baby groupies” as they were known as had a mission to get with as many rock stars as possible, they went to parties week after week on Sunset Strip – becoming friends with the rock stars, put on the cover of magazines and made stars.Yeah, they were very young. Today, this would never happen, and that’s a good thing. We have ”MILFS” now. Things were different back then and it’s important to think about that, no matter what your thoughts are on it all.

    “I was an innocent girl, but the way it happened was so beautiful,” she replied. “I remember him looking like God and having me over a table. Who wouldn’t want to lose their virginity to David Bowie?”

    She later added, “I feel like I was very present. I saw the greatest music ever. I got to hang out with some of the most amazing, most beautiful, most charismatic men in the world. I went to concerts in limos with police escorts. Am I going to regret this? No.”

    – Lori Lightning.

  53. Ant

    I’m not at all comfortable with the words ‘rapist’ and ‘abuser’ being banded around. There is clearly a moral spectrum when it comes to sex crime, with brutal violent rape or sustained child abuse at one end, and consensual sex with someone who may well have been rather pleased with the situation (based on the fact that she was a big fan of Bowie, and to this day considers it consensual) firmly at the other end. If there was any form of pressure from him then that is repugnant behaviour against a young person, but it’s just as likely that in a euphoric and hedonistic environment it was a long way from being a damaging experience. None of us can know because we weren’t there, and I think we have to give the girl some credit for being her own person – she had the gumption and confidence to sneak off and hang out with rock stars at 14, after all. Was having sex with a 14 year old wrong? Yes, notwithstanding the fact that the age of consent is pretty arbitrary and varies significantly between nations and cultures. A mistake on his part, certainly. I hope he wasn’t proud of himself. Is Bowie a rapist and an abuser? If this is the only accusation leveled at him in a 50-year career as a rock star (and at that, by members of the public, not the ‘victim’ herself) then I don’t subscribe to that label at all and think it’s defamatory.

Leave a Reply