Headlines are exploding with claims of Kesha’s alleged abuse. The Twittersphere is littered with #FreeKesha tags and social media meltdowns are quickly following.
The singer, Kesha Rose Sebert, claims she was raped and abused for years under Sony producer Dr. Luke. She was recently denied an injunction allowing her to work outside of Dr. Luke’s control.
The producer, who has also worked with Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, has now broken his silence on Twitter denying the charges: “I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her”. He goes on to say “It’s sad that she would turn a contract negotiation into something so horrendous and untrue”.
So let’s read between the lines: It’s sad (embarrassing for her) that SHE (that a woman) would turn a ‘contract negotiation’ (she’ll say anything to break the contract) into something so horrendous and untrue (I’m well-connected, the odds are against her).
It is insulting to force a woman to work with her abuser. Yet this is how our social structures are laid out – aren’t they?
A Question of Entitlement
Information gathered from Rape Crisis tells us that approximately 90% of women who are raped know their perpetrator. Yet only 15% who experience sexual violence choose to report it to the police. The BBC also published a survey by Plan UK revealing that 22% of women admitted they had experienced sexual harassment in or around school.
So what do these figures expose? That institutions and establishments have traditionally held power over women. Of course I am not claiming that every collective is guilty of abuse but the infamous ‘casting couch’ is nothing new.
I spoke to singer/songwriter Iviee Mercutio who had her own opinions: “The same ethics society has of sexualizing women is prominent. In many cases female artists are subjected to demoralizing themselves for global status. Men seem to have no obligation to ‘pimp’ themselves for success”.
Although Iviee herself has worked with respectful, supportive men she warns, “Some artists get signed at 15 and are dictated to become sex-obsessed idols”.
Kesha isn’t the first case of sexual violence against prominent women either. Last year Lady Gaga admitted she had been raped as a 19 year old. So with the headlines brimming with cases like these, it would be too easy to turn this into a battle between the sexes. However this would be wrong and reductive: women are not fighting against men; women are fighting for women.
Sexual violence against women boils down to entitlement. In that moment the perpetrator is saying, ‘I am entitled to have and enjoy you in any way I want’. The exchange doesn’t have to by physical either. Just look at the ‘10 Hours Walking New York as a Woman’ video. If this makes you uncomfortable then you, along with over 40 million of the video’s viewers, have just witnessed sexual gratification at a woman’s expense.
The Sex Trade is Amongst Us
Then what about women like Kesha?
It isn’t rape that destroys a woman. It is the aftermath. It is the feeling of dread when you go to the authorities. It is the belief that you asked for it. It is the fear of being discredited. Or it is the expectation that because you work in the music/fashion/film/sex industry, that it doesn’t even count as rape.
This is the not-so-secret sex trade; the commodification of sexual expectations. It is what abusers feel entitled to; it feeds into the backlash against a woman, and it tries to convince people that sexual coercion is OK.
We should be fighting for women like Kesha, and thankfully she has been supported by big names like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson. However what Kesha’s story reminds us is that we all need to support women who have experienced sexual trauma.
It is easy to become sceptical and pit one gender against another. Or feel that a woman’s plight won’t be heard. The real challenge however is listening to the little voice that tells you something isn’t right, making someone feel comfortable with your presence, or not automatically blaming the victim. Now that is just what the doctor ordered.
Edit: This article was originally written in February 2016.