Lady Gaga jumps on the rape-culture bandwagon

Pop stars should spark moral panics, not promote them.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater

Topics Culture

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Remember when pop stars used to spark moral panics rather than promote them? Remember Elvis’s pelvis, Madge masturbating and 2 Live Crew’s pool parties sending The Man into apoplexy? Well, no longer.

We live in an era where pop music caters to middle-class sensibilities rather than offending them. Whether it’s gay marriage, feminism or global warming, out-there popsters are now all-too-willing foot soldiers in any culture-war crusade going.

Lady Gaga’s got form here. She’s a self-styled civiliser of the pop masses, a sparkly awareness-raiser on every in issue from mental health to gay rights. Now she’s weighed in on the US campus rape scandal with a new PSA-style track called ‘Til It Happens To You’.

Written for documentary The Hunting Ground, the maudlin tune, accompanied by a heartstring-tugging black-and-white video, offers a grim and graphic portrayal of three female students being raped on campus before coming to terms with their trauma. At the end, the much-touted statistic that one in five college women will be sexual assaulted during their studies is left lingering on screen.

Usually, pop stars getting super serious about The Issues is little more than irritating. But, in this case, it’s downright sickening. The one-in-five statistic, originating from a horrendously flawed study of just two colleges, is simply not credible. It lumped together ungentlemanly groping with forceful assault. Even the researchers behind it have said it shouldn’t be generalised, and official figures suggest the true figure is closer to 6.1 per thousand.

If Gaga really wanted to raise awareness, she should have shown the three girls being fumbled over by some drunk idiots before slapping them and walking away, because that’s the reality that lies behind the one-in-five myth. Instead, she decided to jump on the bandwagon. But this is not just another superficial bit of charidee. She is helping to fuel a phantom rape panic that is demonising young men and terrifying young women.

Pop music used to be about liberating yourself from the kind of buttoned-up mores that held youthful ambitions, and libidos, back. Now, edgy pop stars would much rather scaremonger about what might happen if you leave your drink unattended at a frat party. Everything that once represented freedom for young people is being colonised by a doomladen sentiment that tells them to fear others, rein in the fun and constantly watch their backs. A bit of youthful abandon is needed now more than ever.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked and coordinator of the Down With Campus Censorship! campaign. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Tom will be speaking at ‘Campus Wars: safe or sanitised?’ at the Battle of Ideas festival in London on Sunday 18 October. Get your tickets here.

Watch the video for ‘Til It Happens To You’:

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Topics Culture


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