“David Bowie had sex with a 13 year old.” Should I be resisting the urge to comment this on everyone’s Facebook posts idolizing the guy?
Yes, you should be resisting the urge. Mostly because you don’t seem to have your facts straight, but also because it’s a nuanced situation.
First of all, Lori Maddox by her own admission was 15 when she had sex with David Bowie, not 13. You can call it splitting hairs, but I think that’s a significant difference. At 15, Lori did not look or act like a child. She looked and acted like a fully developed woman. Obviously, she wasn’t, but that’s where things get sticky.
Secondly, David Bowie was not predatory or coercive. By all accounts, she wanted to have sex with him. Lori Maddox was a teenager who wanted to fuck rock stars, and by golly, that’s what she did — for many years, and with many rock stars. That’s fine. Good for her, but again, things get sticky when we get into the nuances of teenage sexual agency.
That’s the real question here. Can a 15 year old consent to have sex? It’s a trickier question than you might think, both morally and legally. Consider Jerry Lee Lewis. He’s a rock star who married his 13 year old cousin. It was controversial at the time, but perfectly legal. The age of consent has varied wildly over the years, and I’m not suggesting that it should ever be as low as 13, but my point is that there’s a lot of grey area when it comes to the morality and legality of teenage sexual agency. Speaking personally, I had plenty of friends who lost their virginity by age 15, and they were ready to lose it. I personally believe that some 15 year olds are both mentally and physically developed enough to consent to sex. Then again, many aren’t, and thus age of consent laws typically are set to at least 17, and that’s a good thing.
So, was Lori Maddox a victim? She certainly doesn’t think so, and personally, I don’t think she was either. At age 15, I think she was mentally and physically developed enough to have consented to sex. She was definitely underage, so there are still statutory issues to consider, but in her situation, I don’t think she was raped in the sense that she wasn’t able to consent to having sex. Not with David Bowie. Not with Jimmy Page. Not with Mick Jagger. She knew damn well what she was doing, and I’m okay with that. All of this comes down to consent. Was Lori able to give consent, and did she give consent freely? If so, I have a hard time calling David Bowie a rapist or a molester.
That being said, if I were to learn that she had been drugged or pressured or coerced into sexual acts by any of those men (as was the case with Roman Polanski and 13 year old Samantha Geimer, or Woody Allen and his 7 year old adopted daughter), I would instantly and forever have a completely different opinion of the situation, but by all accounts, Lori was a legendary groupie who enjoyed the hell out of herself at a young age. Again, good for her. I feel like I have to give her the benefit of the doubt. She says it was a positive experience, and I have to credit her with the sexual agency that she herself claims (now as an adult) to have had.
I realize how controversial this kind of thing is, and I freely admit that I may not have all the facts straight either. I’m not excusing David Bowie (who was in his early 20s at the time) from having sex with a teenager who was under the legal age of consent, but I also think it’s a stretch for people to call him a rapist, and it’s ridiculous for people to call him a pedophile.
Again, so much grey area, and let’s not forget that we’re also talking about early 1970’s glam rock hedonism and debauchery of such epic magnitude that it’s really unfathomable by today’s standards. That shit was messy, and whatever David Bowie’s sins may have been, the man was also a visionary artist and positive cultural force who spent half a century creating incredible music and making huge strides towards public acceptance of LGBT and gender queer identities.
That shit was important, more important than anything you or I will ever do, so maybe you should resist the urge to make snipey Facebook comments to people who are genuinely feeling his loss.