Motley Crue and Christian Fundamentalists would get on great

I love Mötley Crüe. They were one of the bands that were instrumental in helping me to break out from the fundamentalist bubble I grew up in. “Dr Feelgood” was incredible; it made the Christian music I used to love seem anaemic and pathetic by comparison. And when I finally got to the point where I could sing “Shout at the Devil” without fearing that I might burn in hell, it was a huge personal breakthrough.

Mötley Crüe promote violence against women in their lyrics and in their live shows. I call myself a feminist now, and I can’t make excuses for them. But what shocks me now is how for so many years I didn’t recognise this violence against women, because my fundamentalist upbringing had taught me not to see it.

Trigger warning for sexual violence against women.

Let me explain about the Crüe, for the uninitiated. On every tour since the band’s 2005 reunion, Tommy Lee’s “Titty Cam” has been a staple of the show. Here’s the premise: There are huge video screens behind the stage. Tommy stops the show to stand on stage with a video camera. He points it at women in the audience, who are required to expose their breasts for the band and audience.

If all the women involved were participating willingly and with no coercion whatsoever, perhaps I’d think about defending it. That’s not what happens. Here’s a verbatim transcription from Tommy’s titty cam performance on the band’s 2005 Carnival of Sins DVD (emphasis added):

Everybody, all my motherfuckin’ friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan: say hello to the motherfuckin’ titty cam. I’m coming to get you. I’m to get you. Whatcha got? Whatcha got Grand Rapids?

Where’s ya titties? Where’s ya titties? Whaddaya mean, ‘no’?

Tommy Lee in 2012 (Photo credit: Wikimedia commons) It seems relevant to mention that Lee has also served time for spousal battery

You can watch it on YouTube here (viewer caution advised: this link needs a trigger warning and a NSFW tag)

In the documentary (Mötley Crüe’s Greatest *its) accompanying the DVD, there’s more footage in which, Lee confronts an audience member who is declining to expose herself:

Don’t even think you’re just gonna kick back right there. It’s time. Look, your shit’s halfway out anyway, fuck it.

Your shit’s halfway out anyway. That’s about two inches away from If she didn’t want to get raped, she shouldn’t have dressed like a slut. When this charming tactic doesn’t work, Lee tries to get the entire 18,000-strong crowd chanting with him:

BUST ‘EM OUT! BUST ‘EM OUT!

How would you feel if you were in that situation? Can the woman say no? Is she safe if she doesn’t?

In the documentary, Lee explains: “Oh yeah, I’ll do that often. I’ll just wait. I ain’t got nowhere to go. We’re playing here all night, so [shrugs].” The camera then cuts to another part of the performance. Lee is talking:

You know what? I’ll sit here and wait all night [sits on stage pointing camera at woman]. I got nothin’ else to do but kick it with a bunch of titties… Don’t make me come down there, I will.

This is a world where women have no right to say no. It is a world where men get to decide what happens to a woman’s body. I can’t think of a more graphic example of rape culture in entertainment than this. Yet in all my years as a fan, I have never seen it condemned by the rock press. I haven’t heard feminists speaking out against it either, but I guess that’s because people who care about women’s rights don’t pay attention to Tommy Lee.

I am sitting here now and my face is hot with anger that the Crüe get to be rich and famous for perpetuating this. But I went to see Mötley Crüe in 2005, a fresh-faced kid living away from home for the first time. I was experimenting with secular culture still, figuring out what parts of my childhood indoctrination had been real and what was just control. When I saw the Crüe at Wembley Arena, I saw nothing wrong with the titty cam.

That’s because the only thing fundamentalism had ever told me was that you shouldn’t look at breasts outside of marriage, ever, or it’s a sin. That was it. No one ever talked to me about consent, or objectification. I was completely comfortable with a world where men tell women what to do with their bodies, because that’s the same in fundamentalism. It was obvious to me that looking at breasts wasn’t a sin. Since the only objection I had ever heard was clearly rubbish, I couldn’t see any reason to complain.

Fundamentalism would have told me those women were sluts for exposing their breasts, sinners for going in the first place, and stupid for not leaving. Everything about this is wrong. It ignores that women always have the right to choose what happens to their body, wherever they are. They have a right to go to a rock concert without being threatened. They have a right to express their sexuality how they choose (including exposing their breasts in the right circumstances, if they want to). And wearing sexy clothes in no way means you want to be publicly humiliated, sexually harassed, or raped. And the fundamentalist who says all these women are sluts for doing this ignores that some of them are not given a choice.

Conservative Christians spent much of the 1980s picketing Mötley Crüe concerts. If they’d just gone inside, they would have found they had plenty in common. They both treat women’s bodies as property. It’s just that for fundamentalists, they’re the husband’s property, and for the Crüe, they belong to men in general.

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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on January 13, 2014, in Atheism, Christianity, Fundamentalism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. I kind of agree with you but aren’t you assuming that sexual identity and position is an egalitarian proposition? If there is no difference between the sexes or treatment of them, is there left any competition for evolution to function? It is a question, not a theory.

    • 1) No.
      2) You’re making a mistake assuming that we should make moral decisions based on evolution. That way lies social darwinism and all kinds of evils I don’t even need to tell you about.

      • I agree, but in not doing so lies the alienation of the differences.. though Crue’s demonstration of them is crude, such differences and perspectives are necessary in some way. To assume that all are equal in all ways is to ignore the fact that we are not. Men cannot bear children. This is an unavoidable fact. There must be differences in life because we humans are not all the same. At what point do we declare that too much is too much? What is the dividing line? What is the moral that we must abide?

    • Dude, I don’t have time to reply to this as thoroughly as I’d like, but you are not being your usual intelligent self about this.

      I agree that there are some biological differences between men and women. But you are arguing here under a post about a woman’s right not to have her body violated. If you are trying to suggest that because of biology, men might have the right not to get raped while women have no such right, you are a class 1 idiot.

  2. I look forward to that explanation. No, all people are not the same in skill, ability, or even development. That would be pretty boring. But all people are equal. They should have the same rights. I’m a woman and I damn well do have the right to say no to anything I want.

    • There must be differences in life because we humans are not all the same. At what point do we declare that too much is too much? What is the dividing line?

      You appear to be arguing that because of evolution a woman should have to get her tits out for any man who can over power her.I’m not quite sure how anyone could argue that a woman having ownership and control of her own body is crossing the line.

      If I am wrong and this is not your position could you please explain why you chose to write what you did under this particular blog post.

      • Exactly. We all know that there are differences among us. But no one is less than another because of those differences. It appears that myatheistlife is positing that women are somehow inferior to men.

        I say appears because my knee-jerk reaction to their comments was anger. Having had a bit to think about it maybe they are arguing some twisted(to me) logic about women who succumb to this kind of pressure being “weaker” and therefore evolutionarily not “equal”. But, frankly, I’m calling bullshit.

  3. I actually did find this post somewhat triggering in that I became that woman, but then I thought, no I’m not her I’m me and I have very tiny breasts and I wouldn’t have made it on this guys radar in the first place. Instead I would have got “Is that a girl?”

    I just wouldn’t go to a concert like this ever. The entire thing to me is just out of control. Having said that I know I would have been analyzing my options to get out of there but in that mayhem was it possible for her to leave without further insult or injury. I mean for him to say he’ll wait is coercion to me and well it appears to be a verbal assault, a threat. So what’s he going to do when he comes down off the stage? Hit her, rip her shirt/top open, fondle her? What’s he going to do?

    Does anyone know of any predominately female bands where they have a penis cam?

  4. This was a really good post. (Not that the rest are not.) What you say is true. When first leaving the fundamentalist, you are unaware of how to treat women correctly. After I left the IFB, I was still under the impression that I had to do what men told me to do. I had yet to realize that I could do whatever I wanted. As a result of not really catching up to speed on having rights as a woman, I did go through bad dating situations. I felt as though I had to do whatever the men told me to do, even if I didn’t want to do it. Thankfully, I have woken up to this. I control my own body, mind, and everything else about me. I do get ridiculed for it from time to time, but at least I am not living in abuse anymore.

  5. republibotthreepointoh

    I don’t think that you’re unaware of how to treat women fairly when you leave fundamentalism. When I left it, I had been well versed in being polite, in actually listening to what women said, in protencting women from physical and/or verbal abuse if the need arose, in opening doors for ladies, in always picking up the tab, in always bringing flowers, and in never pressuring ‘em for sex or anything else. I think the worst thing you can say about me is that I was rather provincial. The big thing I got out of fundamentalism in that regard was “When in doubt, be polite” and “Never hurt anyone.” Beyond that, I got most of my cues on how to act around women from TV shows and old movies, as such things were never discussed in school.

    I dunno. I’m sure a lot of people did (I know a number of people who ended up marrying the only person they ever dated), but I never had that experience.

    Incidentally: for me it was Oingo Boingo. When I first heard them in the early ’80s, they scared the hell out of me. I never really understood why, they were just representative of everything that was slithering and evil in the world, and they scared me. Around 1986/87 I was going through a big crisis of faith, and just needed to get in my car and drive very fast for a long period of time to clear my head. I grabbed a roomates tape at random (“Dead Man’s Party”) and from the very first line – “There’s life underground…” – I was hooked. As it happend, far from being something I should have been afraid of, Boingo was probably the only band in the world I could funny identify with at that point. Fast, bouncy, catchy, weird, offbeat, mopey, depressing, and goofball all at the ame time. It captured my general “Enthusiastic Panic” lifestyle.

    • First things first: Chivalry is just benevolent sexism. (More eloquent people than me have explained).

      I don’t think you’ve seen my point. Of course, a fundamentalist would never run a titty cam. But the reasons they give for not doing it are bullshit, and they still oppress women in other ways. Once you reject their bullshit reasons (as I did), there’s nothing left. Nothing to stop you treating women badly. And since the fundamentalist way is to oppress women anyway, unless you give that some serious thought, it can perpetuate itself.

    • The women I know and me don’t want to be treated like that. It implies that we are not equal, it’s polite to hold open the door for the person behind you, no matter their gender or yours, it’s creepy to rush ahead and open every door for a woman. I earn a good wage and so do my friends, many of whom earn more than their partners, to expect the man to pay is unfair on the man and demeaning to the woman. Flowers are always nice but are not expected and I tend to buy my partner chocolates or something else I see that I think he will like every now and then.

      You may think it’s provincial, it comes across as really sexist. Would you also ask a woman’s father for her hand in marriage?

  6. republibotthreepointoh

    Oh, no, I’m not arguing that at all. I think you’ve made a valid point. All I was really trying to say is that Oingo Boingo kicked ass back in the day.

    Certainly there are zillions of examples of fundamentalist abuse or simple oppression of women, and this is not strictly a Christian phenomenon either. It’s also been documented (I can’t find the citation at the moment) that some extremely dogmatic secular groups have had the same problem. (Hippies notoriously treated their women like shit). Alas, believing just about anything firmly and without question seems all-too-often to lead to marginalization and slapping chicks around. It doesn’t even seem to matter much what the ‘thing’ you’re believing in is.

  7. Reblogged this on Nice Atheist and commented:
    Jonny,

    This was incredibly good. I’m on a bit of a blogging break, but I couldn’t pass this up.

    I recently saw an interview from my teenage years of the Beastie Boys. One of the guys signed his autograph on a young girl’s belly than he slides his hand down the girl’s pants right into her crotch. He repeatedly talked about how good it felt. I just couldn’t listen to the Beastie Boys anymore after that. Don’t get me wrong, there were songs that I already felt “crossed the line” regarding women and I didn’t listen to those. After seeing that incident, I couldn’t listen to them at all without feeling “ill”.

    Thank you for this great article, Jonny. I hope you’re having a great New Year.

    • You might be somewhat relieved to know the Beastie Boys grew up, realized their own stupidity and spent time apologizing for having perpetuated that kind of culture.

      • Thank you, Castille360. I do remember reading and hearing about their human rights work over the years. I didn’t know if they were apologetic for the sexism or not, I’ll take your word for it. It would make sense in light of the other ways that they had changed.

  8. republibotthreepointoh

    It’s probably worth noting that the working title for the Beastie Boys’ “Licence to Ill” album was “Don’t be a Faggot.” The record company said “no way,” and they changed it.

  9. Cindy B Giovanetti

    I gotta disagree with this. No true Christian thinks it’s OK to peer
    pressure a woman in to exposing herself in public. They would NOT be
    comfortable in that concert with that going on.

    Cindy

    • You’re absolutely right of course, Cindy. That’s not the point I’m trying to make though. I think I need to do a follow up post explaining, but essentially I am saying two things:

      1) Both fundamentalists and this type of rock music treat women as subservient to men

      2) Fundamentalists may be against this sort of thing, but they criticise it for very bad reasons – and the kind of bad reasons which often lead to blaming victims.

      Libby Anne has a more relevant post on this than the one I linked to. I just have to find it.

  10. republibotthreepointoh

    …my point being that I don’t have a ton of regard for the Beasties as any kind of high moral authority, or what have you.

  11. The “Titty Cam” is not coercion. Does the woman in your example have no will or ability to deny Tommy Lee and the crowd? To remove herself from the situation is she doesn’t wish to be in it any more? Conflating peer pressure with coercion is ridiculous, in my opinion.

    • You demonstrate a disturbing lack of empathy.

      Lee has said that he will sit there and point the camera at her until she does what he wants.

      Perhaps she could leave, but there are probably 2,000 people between her and the nearest exit, chanting “BUST ‘EM OUT!” and leering at her. I doubt that she is safe in that situation. She is almost certainly going to take some verbal abuse from some members of the crowd if she tries to leave (ironically, they are most likely to call her “slut” or “whore”). And no one should be subjected to that.

      Anyway, perhaps she doesn’t want to leave, because she wants to see the concert. She has a right to go out in public without being sexually harassed.

      It’s bullying, and there is no option for her that leaves her with dignity intact.

    • Have you ever been to a rock concert with a large crowd? I ask because I’ve been to many – probably 50 or more – and I can tell you that trying to move around within the audience can be EXTREMELY difficult. Everyone wants to get as close to the stage as possible, so people are packed together very tightly. You literally have to push and shove your way out from the crowd if you want to move anywhere, and if the crowd wants you to stay where you are – or if they want you to be elsewhere – they will often move you forcibly.

      At one concert I attended, my husband-to-be and I were near the front railing. The people behind us decided they wanted to be at the railing so a couple of them simply picked up my fiancé’s feet and flipped him over the rail on to the concrete walkway just below. I then had to fight my way out of the crowd to go attend to him. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt, but it was pretty terrifying.

      Now imagine you’re at the concert like Motley Crüe show. The audience of several thousand people is largely made up of guys who love the image of the lifestyle that Crüe portrays in their music – partying hard, lots of “babes” around all the time – strictly for their pleasure – and rebelling against any kind of authority. A sizable chunk of that audience is going to be at least drunk, if not stoned (or both) and are going to be feeling rowdy just from the atmosphere of the show.

      So. Tommy Lee gets up there with his “tittie cam,” and has picked out this woman. Concert tradition says that she must now show her breasts, but she doesn’t want to. Tommy starts egging her on, and saying he’s going to wait – holding up the concert and not playing further music – until she complies. The audience wants it’s show – both the concert they came to see, and the woman’s breasts. If she tries to leave, people around her are going to try to stop her from doing so, because – to them – it’s all part of the “fun.”

      Now at this point, the woman can choose to either continue to try to escape the situation – and run the risk of some of these rowdy, drunk and/or high guys – many of whom already view women primarily as objects – will get more forceful in their efforts to get her shirt off (and if people in an audience will pick someone up and pitch them over the railing just so they can get a foot closer to the stage, believe me, they’ll tear the shirt off of a woman if they think she “owes” them a flash without any hesitation) or she can do as she is told and take her shirt off herself. Those aren’t really great choices. In fact, they really aren’t choices at all. One way or another, she’s going to end up on the screen with her naked breasts showing to the entire stadium – whether she wants to or not.

      Does that not sound like coercion to you?

  12. Jonny, I really do appreciate you writing about this.

    I was a very devoted Christian until I turned 39 and became an atheist. As much as I loved pop, rap and metal, I could see my own hypocrisy in listening to artists who sung about other groups of people, races and women in a negative way. This has bothered me the last couple of months because I remember the last time I sat in a Southern Baptist Church before my deconversion. I evaluated what I had always known to be true about that denomination, women cannot lead men, nor can they lead a group/s of men and women together by themselves. Yet, I continued listening to music that belittled who I am as a woman. It’s not as though I’m looking at rock stars to be my moral compass. I just can’t go along with that kind of music anymore now that I have a better understanding of who I am as a woman. I’m also more aware of my influence on my two little boys and I don’t want them thinking that sexism and slut shaming is acceptable. You are right, we cannot criticize a denomination or religion or even a political group of blatant wrong doing if we are going along with the same bad behavior in other ways. I’m not saying all “secular” music is bad, I just don’t need to listen to the music that tears down a race, gender or homosexuals in any way.

    Thank you for this great post!

  13. CALLING ALL CHRISTIAN WOMEN – Tired of the war on women? Ready to flex your beautiful muscles? You can show your power after you Google “The Male-Dominated Pretrib Rapture Cabal” (on Joe Ortiz’s blog dated Mar. 6)!

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