You already know that David Bowie died last Sunday. However, you might not know about the allegations that have dogged his death. David Bowie, the revered cultural icon, had sex with a fifteen-year-old girl. This information has caused a moral dilemma for fans everywhere. This fact is reprehensible, but we cannot allow it to detract from the monumental contribution Bowie made to music, fashion and the lives of his fans. Whether you liked Bowie or not, you cannot deny his influence.
Lori Mattix claims to have lost her virginity to David Bowie in the 1970s. A fact which Bowie never confirmed nor denied. She was a member of the infamous ‘Baby Groupie’ scene, along with the notorious Sable Starr. During this time, you could find these teenagers in the pages of the glossy groupie magazine ‘Star’ or hanging off of the arms of Iggy Pop, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones whilst they sipped on cocktails and popped pills in the darkest corners of the VIP rooms on the Sunset Strip. The relationships between these pubescent girls and certain celebrities hid in plain sight. This behaviour was seen to be a part of the 70s Zeitgeist. It was unacceptable but it happened. A lot. We are now left to try and make sense of this information which has resurfaced after Bowie’s death.
The goings on of the night in question have been well documented. Mattix speaks freely and candidly about having sex with David Bowie, she remembers the experience fondly and has never suggested it was anything but consensual.
Herein lies the problem. Though it is evident that Lori Mattix did not feel she was taken advantage of that night, or any other, we cannot write off what happened as morally permissible just because she doesn’t identify as a victim. Laws against statutory rape are there for a reason, yes, but that does not render this episode a matter of rape or not rape. Though Mattix’s consent obviously does not void the law, it does serve to establish a moral grey area. As such, it seems unreasonable to force a narrative on to Lori Mattix’s personal experience just because we think it was wrong. If we intend to condemn Bowie, to boycott his music and blacklist his fans for his actions that night with Lori Mattix, then we the have to take on the task of digging into the past of many cultural icons. In for a penny, in for a pound.
There is a wealth of evidence of other rock stars engaging in sordid relationships with underage groupies. For example, Iggy Pop details sleeping with a thirteen-year-old Sable Starr in his song ‘Look Away’. The Rolling Stones song ‘Stray Cat Blues’ includes similarly crude and condemnable lyrics. Furthermore, celebrities such as Jimmy Page, Bill Wyman and Kim Fowley have also been accused of engaging in affairs with minors in the 1970s. There are not many things which are bigger than Bowie, but this is one of them.
Though I was appalled to learn about this allegation, I think it would be cosmically cruel to allow this allegation to taint the legacy he left. Bowie was not just Ziggy, the Thin White Duke or the Goblin King in the film ‘Labyrinth’. He was also intricately complex individual who undoubtedly made mistakes throughout his life. As much as we might want to, we do not live in a world of gods and monsters, every individual is nuanced and therefore, it is essential to critically examine our heroes. Bowie’s past was by no means flawless, but that does not make him a rapist.
Image: Brandon Carson