Lionel Hahn, ABACA/Empics/PA In case you missed it, Daft Punk made a cameo…
- Posted on Jul 26th 2011 11:00AM by Anne T Donahue
Sophie Howarth | Felix Kunze, Redferns
More recently, provocative Danish duo the Raveonettes released the self-explanatory (and, yes, incredibly catchy) 'Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed).' Though singer-guitar Sune Rose Wagner tells Spinner that they made it for personal reasons, not because of any overarching artist's responsibility.
"I wrote ['Boys Who Rape'] with an old friend in mind who had been repeatedly raped by her uncle," explains Wagner, who also once covered a poem written about Danish women who were sexually assaulted after dating German soldiers in WWII. "I saw how it affected her life and how she became a heroin addict because of it and it nearly killed her. And I saw her sort of bounce back from it and regain a sort of normal life, and I thought it was pretty heart-wrenching to see what it could do to a young person like that.
"And that's why I wrote it: in disgust for people who don't have any respect. And I meant every word of it, too. But in terms of me wanting it to be an anthem, I never thought of it like that. I just thought it was the right moment for me to write a song like that. And I felt very strong about it -- there's nothing left to the imagination in that song."
That straightforwardness in song on this rarely-spoken of topic can be cathartic for listeners -- and artists, too.
Lost in the Trees frontman Ari Picker used last year's 'All Alone in an Empty House' to acknowledge his own history of abuse and to reclaim the power most victims feel stripped of.
"I guess it depends, you know?" Picker tells Spinner. "For me, I think it's my responsibility to myself because these songs... I needed to write them for these specific reasons."
"To be a healthy person, I had to find some sort of outlet for all that kind of energy," he continues. "I think that artists should certainly write about their perspectives on issues, but I think they should make art that reflects something about their individuality -- them as individuals. That's their responsibility as artists, whether it be [on] these topics or not."
Former Bikini Kill and Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna is also no stranger to creating awareness through music, having used tracks like 'Star Bellied Boy' and 'Suck My Left One' to address sexual violence and feminist issues by blasting people out of their apathetic comfort zones.
"It's unexpected for women's issues to be brought up in places other than women's centers on college campuses or crisis places," Hanna tells Spinner. "Bringing these issues into a space that claims to be for everyone but is actually male-dominated will always feel more dangerous than presenting a paper about sexual abuse at a social worker's conference. Singing about sexual abuse onstage brings a tough subject into people's leisure space and claims that women have a right to that space, too."
Hanna sees the overarching value in challenging conventions that have continued to make issues of sexism and sexual violence so taboo.
"I think as a culture, we don't like conflict or looking at icky stuff -- especially in our downtime," she says. "Facing the reality of rape and incest is not super fun; we'd rather watch Katy Perry squirt whip cream out of her boobs with a laughy look on her face. Also, sexism exists and sexual assault is a big part of that whole constellation. Challenging it challenges the status quo and male privilege, in general."
Of course, sexual abuse is by no means limited to a specific gender and, as proven by Picker, confronting taboos can not only serve to spark necessary discussion, it can also help in the healing of victims of assault and emotional trauma.
"These issues are certainly not unique to me," Picker says. "I'm sure there's a lot of people that need some sort of cathartic experience from listening to a song like that. That's why I wrote it: to let go."
"[The victim of abuse] feels powerless and then society kind of shames them even though they don't mean to, because it is such an intense topic. But I think if you can turn around and make something really powerful out of it ..."
The power of music is no secret, especially to RAINN spokesperson Katherine Hull who acknowledges music as "an incredible platform for artists to reach people and their audiences."
"Tori Amos taking on the issue of sexual violence really started this tidal wave of musicians really incorporating sexual violence and social activism in their work," she tells Spinner. "Tori Amos' involvement had an incredible impact on the number of people who not only sought out help following a sexual assault, but also awareness of RAINN's resources, really with the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
"Every two minutes somebody in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. So this is an issue that clearly resonates with these audiences."