It’s very easy to find examples of men employed by rock ‘n’ roll getting away with being total creeps. David Bowie’s many appreciations in the past two weeks have mostly omitted mentions of his participation in the “baby groupies” scene of the 1970s where he took the virginity of a 14-year-old, nor have they delved much into the rape accusation against him in 1987 (he was acquitted). A British police investigation last year named 40 people in the music industry who’d participated in child sex abuse, some of whom had faced prosecution but many of whom had already died. In July, Jackie Fuchs of The Runaways told a horrifying story of being raped in front of a room full of people in 1975 by her band’s manager Kim Fowley, who died in 2015.
These stories are often discussed alongside descriptions of changing cultural mores—of the permissiveness of the ’60s and ’70s, of drugs, of murky ideas about consent. Many are stories about men with power and fame attracting women and girls without either of those things and taking advantage of the differential. They are not stories, generally, about consequences for the men.
In fact, it’s probably the expectation of no consequences that enables many of these incidents. Sexist attitudes and simple lust may fuel some men’s desire to become a sexual predator, but impunity allows them to act on that desire. If the goal is for women to be able to operate in the music industry (or anywhere) free of harassment, assaults, discrimination, and predation, removing that impunity would seem like a good place to start. And that might—might—be what’s happening right now.