New York City, New York (TFC) – While there has been such an outpouring of support for Kesha Sebert since a Supreme Court judge ruled that her contract with Sony Music Entertainment will not be dissolved, there has also been a great deal of backlash expressed towards her and the sheer ignorance of her situation has been downright disgusting. With this article, I will demonstrate how Kesha’s ruling is a manifestation of a rape culture, one that devalues womyn and allows sexual abuse to occur unchecked. That being said, the following will contain graphic material that may be upsetting to some. Please contact your local crisis line should you find yourself feeling unwell. I am also available for peer support on Facebook.
Since 2013, Kesha has slowly been opening up regarding the abuse she has suffered by music producer Luke Gottwald; who is well known in the industry and in celebrity circles as “Dr. Luke.” In an interview with Rolling Stone published October 24, 2013, Kesha briefly acknowledges a petition started by fans that sought to free her from Gottwald and speaks about how little she is able to express herself creatively under his control. In January of 2014, Kesha entered rehab for an eating disorder she says was inspired by verbal abuse she suffered from Gottwald that targeted her weight. Doctors at the rehabilitation facility found that Kesha was suffering from a host of physical and psychological disorders. Kesha filed a lawsuit against Gottwald in October 2014 that details the finanical, emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse she has suffered since she first signed on to work with him and his label in 2005, at the age of eighteen.
The lawsuit states as fact how Gottwald abused and threatened Kesha in order to keep her silent. In the lawsuit, Kesha discloses how Gottwald would sexualize womyn in front of her and act in ways that implied he has no respect for womyn, herself included. In a move that is classic for predators, Kesha explains how, after isolating her by moving her to L.A., Gottwald tried to pursue her sexually in spite of their professional relationship and him being fourteen years her senior. Also classic to predatory behaviour, Gottwald would force Kesha to drink alcohol and take drugs; as a matter of fact, the lawsuit describes one case where Gottwald roofied, raped, and then threatened Kesha to ensure her silence. Gottwald continued to control Kesha after her successful debut album by refusing to re-negotiate her contract and stunting her creative pursuits. Of course, still completely in tune with his past behaviour, Gottwald systematically denied all of this ever occuring and filed a counter-suit against Kesha.
Although Sony reportedly stated they would allow Kesha to continue to make music with other producers, they would not terminate her contract with Gottwald and continue to support him. After all that Kesha has gone through, it makes sense to me why she would not want to work with a corporation that has stood by her abuser. And while I won’t pretend to be an expert on contractual agreements within the music industry, I do know this: contracts are re-negotiated, dissolved, or broken all the time. Bands switch from one record label to another, artists start off working for a label and eventually end up creating their own label, I could go on for ages. To make an easy comparison, in early 2015 Zayn Malik was signed out of a contract that he had with One Direction and Syco Records because of stress. Now, anyone with two neurons to rub together should be able to grasp that, after all that she has gone through: the abuse, rehab, courts of legal and public opinion, Kesha may be a little stressed out. So what’s the deal here?
The deal? Rape culture. Coined by second-wave feminists of the 1970s, the term describes a culture that facilitates rape and sexual abuse. Rape culture works by means of misogyny, sex-based roles and stereotypes (gender), and normalized sexual objectification of womyn. Rape culture thrives by blaming and shaming survivors of rape, dismissal of rape as “not that bad,” and trivilization of rape and sexual abuse as something that can be watered down to “just a joke.” With rape culture, there is a hideous fixation on “proving” rape, as if a survivor’s words mean absolutely nothing and there is an unhealthy focus on “regret,” as if something the survivor did (and later regretted) brought on her violation. Oh and don’t get me started about the “false allegation” line, as if rape is something womyn dream about at night and lie about during the day. We live in a rape culture, folks, if you haven’t already noticed.
A rape culture is created and supported through mass and social media, everyday encounters that display the aformentioned behaviour, and commonly held beliefs about what rape and sexual abuse “actually is.” Rape culture teaches us that rape and sexual abuse are, most generally, committed by strangers who jump out of alleyways to dramatically snatch their next victim who, of course, puts up one hell of a fight and ends up in a hospital bed before the scene cuts to the show’s opening theme (think: countless episodes of Law & Order: SVU). While, sadly, this sort of situation does occur, this stereotype of a “real rape” and a “good victim” discourages survivors of rape and sexual abuse from coming forward, and encourages rapists to continue offending.
When the news broke about the ruling I knew exactly what to expect. From my own experiences and what I have learned from living in a rape culture, I know that a “good survivor” doesn’t come out after years of abuse; she knows right away after one violation. She cuts contact with her abuser outright; also her abuser probably isn’t her boss. She probably didn’t even know the guy. A “good survivor” doesn’t have a public or personal life that includes going to parties, drinking and doing drugs, getting wasted and sleeping around; she doesn’t have a life outside of what happened to her, she is just reactive to the actions before and after What Happened. She is probably a hermit. A “good survivor” doesn’t bother the public with her story; she keeps to herself and likely Moves On in a respectable amount of time. She probably doesn’t even think about It anymore.
She isn’t your mother, your sister, your daughter, or your partner. She isn’t your neighbour or your school teacher or your lab partner or your co-worker. She doesn’t sit beside you in class and she didn’t just message you on Facebook. She is no one and everyone, never and always. She certainly isn’t a pop star with celebrity status. She is a “good survivor,” obviously! Didn’t you see that her rapist was brought to justice in a criminal court of law? So when I started to see comments about Kesha and the situation she is in; let’s just say that I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see rape culture alive and thriving:
There is no way that no one knew what was happening to Kesha. The way I see it, either no one recognized Gottwald’s abuse as “actual” abuse or no one cared to intervene as he isolated, preyed on, and almost destroyed Kesha because… rape culture! The way I see it, of course, executives at Sony dismissed Kesha’s situation; she’s probably lying! The way I see it, of course, no one working with Kesha or Gottwald called out his abuse; she probably wanted it! The way I see it, of course, she’s lying or she wanted it (pick one); just look at her! What Kesha has gone through is a tragedy and, the way I see it, the ruling on her contract with Sony is a direct result of rape culture and (of course!) men supporting rape culture have proven me right. I’ve seen it.
There is a gofundme collecting to buy out the contract and #FreeKesha.