By now, you all may have heard about or seen the article detailing R. Kelly’s “sex cult.” The long and detailed article provides soul rattling accounts of what life with “Mr. Kelly” is like. My first thought was, “Is anybody SHOCKED?” Toure flat out asked him about his dealing with teenage girls. He has walked out on interviews if asked about any of his dalliances with young girls. I can now see why his wife divorced him. If you are interested, here is the link to the R. Kelly Article.
Let’s be real clear, this man is predatory; he has ALWAYS BEEN predatory. ALWAYS. This man wrote “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” for Aaliyah. He has been singing about and dating young women for 20 odd years. TWENTY YEARS. He has gotten away with being skeevy for twenty years. And what makes all this worse? PEOPLE DEFEND HIM. Men are coming out of the woodwork to defend him, explaining that they are just trying to tear down “the black man” and also bring up Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and Hugh Hefner. So, why don’t we explore these three men:
Roman Polanski is a film director who began his career in the 1960s. He has been nominated for five Academy Awards (he won the Academy Award in 2002 for The Pianist). In 1977, he raped and sodomized a 13 year old girl at Jack Nicholson’s home (yes THAT Jack Nicholson; he was not home at the time). He was charged with the following: rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14 and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. He plead not guilty to all of the charges but then accepted a plea deal. This deal included the dismissal of all five charges in exchange for him pleading guilty to engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse. He was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation. When he found out he could be imprisoned and deported, he fled to France in 1978 where he lives to this day. He avoids extradition by not visiting countries that may send him back to the United States to answer for his crimes. Just so we are all clear, Roman Polanski has avoided the United States since 1978.
Woody Allen’s case may be a little more familiar. Woody Allen is another Hollywood movie director. He was in a relationship with Mia Farrow. They adopted two children and had one biological child. His adopted daughter, Dylan, alleged that Allen sexual abused her (a claim she maintains to this day) in 1992. After 14 months, the New York department of social services closed their investigation due to no credible evidence. Around the same time of the abuse allegations, Allen began dating one of he and Farrow’s adopted children, Soon-Yi Previn. Allen and Previn got married in 1997 and have adopted two daughters.
Hugh Hefner, creator of Playboy Magazine, is a little less scandalous (but his antics are frowned upon). He has been married three times: his first marriage ended in 1959, second ended in 1998 and he is still with his current wife. He went on record saying he dated his playmates. Everyone remembers the pictures of him and his group of girlfriends. While he is in his 80s and has dated/married decades younger women, all of the women he’s been involved with were over the age of 18.
So now that everyone is caught up, I will proceed. Even though these three men are problematic and their antics are disgusting, this does not negate the problematic nature of R. Kelly. Robert Kelly has been a predator for decades (literally decades). The worst part of it, he hasn’t exactly been hiding his behavior; he has just been protected. He is protected by celebrity. Men and women are caping for him as we speak. In the same breath, they will blame these young women and, indirectly, the young women’s parents. Just so we are clear, R. Kelly is not totally to blame for his behavior (grooming and preying on young women) but the parents are more to blame because they let their daughters around him? Do not get me wrong, the parents definitely need to take some blame in the situation but no one should get more blame than R. Kelly.
So there are two parts of this story that honestly grates my nerves: the definition of “adult” and victim blaming. The fact that we use these two constant narratives for black women is troubling. There are men and women alike saying that these girls are “grown” and “adults”. These girls who became women were meeting and began dealing with R. Kelly when they were under 18. Now that they are over 18 (and R. Kelly has his hooks in them) people are relegating them to adulthood because they turned 18. Many of the folks saying they are grown are the same people who remember how grown they were NOT at 18. I remember how grown I wasn’t at 18. At 18 years old, I was heading to college. I had never balanced a checkbook, lived on my own, or paid bills. I was NOT an adult at 18; and neither are these young women. So why, instead of sympathizing with these young women, are we demonizing them and just throwing them away? Oh, I know the reason why that isn’t happening. It just makes me sad.
Saying that these young women “made their bed” or “they are adults and can make their own decisions” is such cop-out. Men like R. Kelly prey on young women, dare I say vulnerable young women. We treat young black women like they aren’t gullible and susceptible to predators like their non-black counterparts. We don’t see their innocence. If an older man notices a young woman’s figure, we blame the young girl (i.e. don’t be ‘fast’) and not the grown ass man who shouldn’t be looking at a young woman like that. A 16 year old, even though Google is everyone’s friend, is not going to dig deep into his past. They just know that R. Kelly is famous and are star struck. The age of consent in the states that R. Kelly is living in is 16 (Georgia) and 17 (Illinois). Two ages where NO ONE should be making adult decisions (and living/sleeping with a fifty year old man is an adult decision).
Indirectly, he also preyed on those parents. I know that may be considered a reach but think about it this way: The parents of these young women were promised help for their children’s music careers. You KNOW how much street cred and weight he carries. So, of course, those parents believed his lies too. But the difference is, THEY are the parents. THEY are the adults. THEY should have protected their girls. That’s the problem.
Of course R. Kelly has released a statement saying that the allegations are false (as if he would say anything different). I didn’t expect anything less from the “Pied Piper of R&B.” This clip below from the Boondocks literally sums up how I feel about this whole situation: