What the tiny Westboro Baptist Church lacks in worshippers, it makes up for with extravagant stupidity. The WBC has picketed funerals of men whose lives were lost to homophobic violence, has remade a version of the charity single We Are the World as God Hates the World and has harangued businesses that carry Scandinavian cleaning appliances for “moral” reasons that cannot be found in any bible.

This week, the church vowed to picket memorials for David Bowie, presumably for his fleeting declaration of bisexuality in the 1970s.  Following the musician’s death last Sunday, the WBC lost little time in making one of its favourite arguments: “GOD SENDS THE CANCER” to those who do not repent.

God sends the cancer. And feminism sends the tedious think pieces. The sexual history of the late musician is being protested not only by Westboro but a significant number of feminist activists.

There are currently no published plans for feminist disruption of Bowie’s funeral. But he has been called an “abuser”, a participant in “rape culture” and a “perpetrator of sexual violence” in print, and far worse on social media. The story, such as it isn’t, has now crossed over into mainstream news discussion, and David Bowie will now be widely remembered as a rapist by extreme progressives just as he is reviled as a pervert by extreme conservatives.

At the centre of this non-allegation of rape is a woman, now almost 60, who makes no claim that she was raped. Lori Mattix, whose name is also recorded as Lori Maddox, first publicly told the story of congress with David Bowie in a VH1 documentary back in 2010.

Mattix says she chose to be deflowered by Bowie in his LA hotel suite when she was 15 and the musician in his early 20s. This of course was statutory rape under US law, but it was also, says Mattix, “so fabulous”. Sometimes, such encounters are.  Last November, she spoke at length with the website Thrillist and again recounted a happy experience. In recent days, her cheerful account has been appropriated as evidence of rape.

Mattix, one of the underage Sunset Strip groupies whose sexually competitive culture was documented in the movie Almost Famous, says she does not consider herself a victim. Rather, she recalls membership in a group of women who actively sought rock’n’roll conquests. This friendly game of one-fuck-manship was recorded in the groupie periodical of the time Star and lives on in the sculptures of Cynthia Plaster Caster, an artist who has been holding and moulding rock’s most notable penises since 1968.

But, the new Feminist Baptist narrative cannot brook these stories of sisterhood and delight.  We must come to understand Mattix as a damaged, self-loathing victim. She’s obviously mistaken about the fun she had, so it falls to us to revoke her consent.

A woman who has made no accusation of rape and has recounted on several occasions a joyous, consensual encounter is deluded.  Whatever she says, we must remember she is in a state of denial because “it is not uncommon for people to sweep this reality under the rug”.  If we forget that this woman was raped, even if she says that she wasn’t, “we become part and parcel of the rape culture we otherwise decry.”

It’s true that Mattix was terribly young and that the age of consent exists for a good reason. But it’s also true that she does not seem to bear the injury many feminists would prefer her to have. She is very glad of the experience, but large numbers of people insist that she should never have had it. Seeing as she did, though, we must make its memory as painful as possible.

Westboro asks only that a pervert be damned. The new lunatic parish of feminism demands both Bowie’s damnation and Mattix’s eternal pain. Feminism in its “rape culture” iteration warns of the wages of sin.

WBC is a hate-group that protests “indecency” with an ignorance so forceful, it loses the case for the Christian right every time. We don’t need Charlie Hebdo to draw us a picture; the WBC is its own brutal caricature. The new feminism, so eager to annul a woman’s memory of sexual pleasure, has begun to offer itself up as another ridiculous cartoon.

The accusations of rape and of victimhood, now as widespread as they are unfounded, make feminism a brutal caricature.

It is likely that Bowie’s legacy will survive this damage. It is unlikely that contemporary feminism will be so lucky. Like Christians who hate “perverts” to the point they will picket their funerals or Islamists who hate cartoonists sufficient to put them to death, this particular hate points to nothing but its own defeat.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey