You might think the #metoo sexual misconduct/abuse/assault phenomenon sweeping the nation has largely bypassed the hard rock and heavy metal community. You’d be wrong. Allegations ranging from inappropriateness to criminality are surfacing in the world of groupies and headbangers. They just don’t get the mainstream coverage received by Hollywood celebrities and moguls and wayward politicos.
It’s out there, and, like with every other aspect of this watershed moment in the dynamic of power disparity and its manifestation as sexual coercion, the situation is liable to get worse before it gets better.
A search of “heavy metal sexual abuse scandals” doesn’t yet yield evidence of a pandemic of bad sexual behaviors, but considering a cultural milieu steeped in backstage sex and obsessive rock star worship, it’s probably fair to posit that we may be at the threshold of widespread allegations. Moreover, it is entirely possible that very few artists in the world of heaviosity would come up wholly innocent if held to the shifting standards currently applied to malefactors in Tinseltown and in elected offices across the land.
The case of death metal band Decapitation, arrested last September after two women accused members of a tour bus rape, offers a glimpse of what may be in store to one degree or another for hard-rocking perpetrators of sexual misadventures. Of course, everyone is ostensibly innocent until proven guilty, though you might wonder given the environment of accusation and de facto condemnation surfacing in recent weeks.
In late October, Marilyn Manson parted company with original bassist and longtime writing partner Twiggy Ramirez—the man responsible for holding down the bottom on Manson standards like “Coma White”–as a result of a 20-year-old rape allegation from Ramirez’s former girlfriend and fellow rock musician.
When Manson disassociates from a key player on the basis of unsubstantiated, decades-old spousal rape accusations, you know things are getting rough out there.
You know things have gone further into the nether-realms when KISS bassists Gene Simmons, a man who claims to have consensually bedded 4800 groupies, appears on Fox Business to offer counsel on the sex abuse allegation firestorm.
(Simmons was banned from Fox News for life following this appearance after some allegedly boorish and abusive behavior at a board meeting.)
Metallica’s Lars Ulrich has spoken out as well, castigating those who sexually mistreat, abuse, or assault woman, but the drummer dodged a blowback bullet after warning about the lynch mob mentality that has seized the jurisprudential tenet of the presumption of innocence and shaken it to its foundations.
Interestingly, the two most notable instances of heavy metal rockers and abusive behavior are accusations of violent physical abuse, not sexual misconduct. Unhappily, both involve members of the band known as the forefathers of metal, Black Sabbath.
Sharon Osbourne has spoken openly about the time husband Ozzy tried to strangle her, and has made no secret about rocky times the couple has lived through (and apparently survived). Tony Iommi’s former significant other, female rocker Lita Ford, recounted protracted abuse she claims she suffered at the hands of the superstar guitarist in her memoir, Living Like a Runaway.
Unlike many of the purported acts of misconduct and abuse currently in circulation, both the Osbourne and Iommi allegations originated within the context of longstanding relationships. While such dysfunctionality is certainly worthy of utmost censure, it is inherently different from acts of sexual misconduct against co-workers, acquaintances, fellow artists and others more peripheral in the lives of the abusers.
The incongruity here is the same as it ever was with powerful men, begging the disingenuous question: Why would “fil-in-the-blank-celebrity-or-politician” need to foist himself unwanted on members of the opposite sex? With all his fame, money, connections, and power, wouldn’t you think he could have his choice of women who would happily agree to a consensual relationship of one kind or another?
As has been shown in many cases, it is just that position of power that causes men to believe they can get away with egregious sexual misconduct. And for a very long time, they have, in Hollywood, in the Beltway and beyond, and yes, certainly in the world of hard rock and heavy metal.
The hoped-for upshot of all this? That men get the message, loud and clear, and that up-and-coming female politicos, actresses, and rockers won’t have to deal with a pervasive sexual power monopoly by men at the highest and heaviest, levels of society.
Backstage at the rock concert will never be the same. Thinking about sexually harassing or abusing rising star and Once Human lead singer Lauren Hart?
Go ahead, make her day.