David Bowie was famous for nearly 50 years, plenty of time for him to be called everything from a rapist to a Nazi. Depending on your definition, David could have been either of those things at one point or another, but a narrative is emerging across the internet that Bowie didn’t just dabble in Nazi ideology at some point or have sex with underaged groupies. It’s that he was a rapist. It’s that he was a Nazi.
For fans reeling from the news of his death, it’s easy to have a strong response to seeing such accusations. How can your idol, especially one who espoused as many progressive ideals as David, be associated with two of the most reviled words in the English language? Could Bowie really be a Nazi? A rapist?
With the Nazism, it’s more or less a case of aesthetic choices resulting in some unfortunate associations. On the rape accusation front, there are two particular cases that are currently under discussion. One is David’s relationship with Lori Mattix, who from the age of 15 dated and slept with several of the biggest figures of rock from the era. Speaking of her time with Bowie to Thrillist, it’s clear that she wasn’t forced — even though the act he committed was legally statutory rape.
“I was an innocent girl, but the way it happened was so beautiful. I remember him looking like God and having me over a table. Who wouldn’t want to lose their virginity to David Bowie?… No. You need to understand that my life has never been normal. I have always been special. I always felt like the universe was taking care of me.”
Of course, what happened between David and Lori isn’t a simple case of rape or not rape. Does Mattix’s consent, and especially when she still speaks fondly of the event years later, negate the fact that he was having sex with a minor? Bowie wasn’t exactly a creepy old man at this point; he was in his early twenties, less than a decade older than Lori. It’s interesting how many critics have misstated that Mattix was 13 when speaking about the issue, as if those two overlooked years make that much of a difference than the other three that would have made her 18.
But the problem is that, either way, Lori is not a child anymore, and she does not remember her own experience as rape. Instead of respecting that, critics have been quick to tie her name to David and use her as an example of his sexual abuse. Mattix is, in turn, robbed of being the protagonist in her own story. She can’t remember losing her virginity to Bowie as it was, but rather has to see it refracted through the lens of people who are out for blood. As sexologist Carol Queen told Salon, calling her a rape victim is disrespectful to her own agency.
“Then young women went out with sex on their minds in the 1970s, I’m pretty sure most of them did not understand themselves as victims, and labeling us as victims in retrospect is not a very conscious thing to do – it’s not very respectful to what we thought we were doing at the time … Having sex with someone, who was a hero or whatever, was a way to get information and get experience and those things were valuable to me.”
At least in the case of Lori, the evidence is apparent. You can debate whether or not what happened was rape, but it’s almost completely sure that she was intimate with David. The other case being touted around to disparage Bowie’s name is simply an accusation, and an odd one at that. Before a Grand Jury, David had all charges dropped when a 30-year-old woman said that he assaulted her in her hotel room and then told her he had exposed her to AIDS. Bowie, who has a daughter born several years after the scandal, offered to take a test to prove that he was HIV negative, but a lack of evidence elsewhere in the case didn’t even get it that far, reported Spokane Chronicle.
In the end, those accusing David Bowie of rape are left with two main points: one debunked accusation and one confession to consensual sex with a minor. Criticizing your idols, politicians, and even close friends is important, and there’s still much to discuss when it comes to the topic of statutory rape. But calling a dead man a rapist when his “victim” has positive memories of the experiences is certainly its own way of forcing yourself on someone.
[Image via Carl Court/Getty Images]