We don’t often run editorials here at I Die: You Die, but given how much appreciation for Michael Gira’s work we have and how regularly we’ve discussed it on the podcast, I felt it’d be disingenuous to act as though nothing had happened, for reasons I hope this piece makes clear.
Larkin Grimm’s account of being raped by Michael Gira is horrifying. Contrary to Gira’s wife’s intimation that ‘real’ rape is something which only happens when a woman is attacked by a stranger, it’s an account which sadly mirrors the experience of more women than that scenario: being raped by a friend or acquaintance and feeling shamed into silence, by internalized self-doubt, or the power held over her by that person, or their social milieu, or broader attitudes about what ‘real’ rape is or isn’t.
The role that power plays in Larkin’s account is striking. As with the Bill Cosby, Dr. Luke, and Jian Gomeshi cases, we have someone in a position of authority in the entertainment biz preying on a woman either beholden to him or well aware of the power and sway he holds in their particular industry. That Larkin weaves her professional relationship with Gira into her post isn’t just instructive, it’s central to how axes of power, gender, and sex operate in our world. This, by the way, is what’s going to make the oft-discussed ‘separation of art and artist’ impossible in this case: Gira’s songs deal unflinchingly with power and its abuse, including, yes, rape. “Power For Power”, “Time Is Money (Bastard)”, “Trust Me”; all of these songs and countless more identify and decry the abuse of power, but also remind us that it’s commonly exercised at all levels by nearly everyone, not just by governments or the rich. Larkin’s account is frighteningly proximal to the themes of Gira’s work, and I’ve found it just about impossible to think of one without the other since the former was posted.
Do I hope and wish that Larkin’s account is untrue? Sure. It would be heartening to be able to continue to listen to the music of one of my favourite musicians and songwriters of all time, whose records I’ve spent nearly two decades collecting, whose lyrics I’ve spent hours poring over, whose songs I’ve used to cope with pain, loss, and disappointment, without having to think about him hurting someone else in such a horrible fashion. But far, far, far more important and heartening would be living in a world where these things don’t happen. Where this woman wasn’t raped by a man she regarded as a mentor. Where women aren’t made to feel at fault for crimes they are the victims of. Where every time a woman does have the courage to come forward she isn’t immediately presumed to be lying to further an ulterior motive. Where oft-discussed false rape accusations are actually as common as they’re made out to be (not the case), because rape actually is as uncommon as so many “two sides to every story” types would like us to believe. Where people were actually aware of how incredibly rare rape prosecutions, let alone convictions, are (not that Larkin is asking for either) before piping in with “innocent until proven guilty!” (as is currently happening now all over Swans threads). As if the truth is always simple. As if it always comes out. As if it is an abstract, wholly objective thing to be indexed and filed in black and white. Even the most cursory read of Larkin’s account demonstrates what fictions these assumptions are, as does Gira’s initial blanket denial, now being backpedaled very awkwardly.
But hoping and wishing that things were that simple doesn’t change a damn thing, and doggedly and publicly opining that surely this case, this case involving an artist I love and respect (unlike, say, Dr. Luke or Chris Brown) is one of the tiny fraction of cases where a woman is out to make a name for herself (see Emily Pothast’s excellent post) doesn’t just cast aspersions at Larkin. It reminds every woman who’s thinking about coming forward about their experiences of what they’re in store for. It shows them that men in their own lives will do nearly anything to convince themselves that while, yes, surely some rapes happen, a nearly impossible standard of proof must be met before they’d actually believe a woman when she tells them she’s been raped (I don’t recall any male friends who’ve been mugged being asked to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they didn’t just lose their wallet in their apartment and were too ashamed to admit it). Hell, it shows them that men being able to listen to their favourite music with a clean conscience is more important than their voices or safety. Claiming to be waiting for all the facts to come out before passing judgment sounds like a noble position until you realise how few accusations of rape are ever prosecuted (again, something Larkin is emphatically not asking for in her follow-up). There’s never an ideal time to speak about these things (the fact that it was an entirely separate incident which brought this up for Larkin shows this), and in waiting for a standardized burden of proof to be met we run the risk of allowing a victim to be pilloried, to let her story gather dust and eventually be forgotten. That’s unacceptable.
If Gira’s music is largely about surviving the ugliness of the world and ourselves, then the least those of us who are fans of it can do, the very least we can do, is to not contribute to that ugliness and to open our ears and extend our understanding to Larkin as she puts her story forward.
As a rape survivor, who still hasn’t managed to get one shrink to say the word back to me and acknowledge what I went through, I would like to thank you for every single word you’ve written here, Bruce.
This is very good. Thank you.
This is a fantastic piece, not only regarding the story at hand but the larger issue as a whole. What a horrible thing to have happened.
Great, even more speculation…and this time from someone that thinks white text on a black background for a website is actually a GOOD idea.
Glad to see you were able to engage with what was written.
Keen to hear what you think is specifically speculative about this. It’s a personal analysis of what Larkin and Gira have respectively written and how others have reacted. There’s no speculation about what did or did not happen.
Also, we keep it goth as fuck around here. I’m sure there are plenty of Squarespace template sites which’d be easier on you.
Thank you for this. I was raped when I was 17 by a coworker who held more authority than me in our organization at that office and I felt like I couldn’t come forward because he was also my boyfriend and I “probably led him on anyway.” Every time I hear that rape in relationships doesn’t really happen or that women “are probably just looking for advancement” when it involves a coworker, I still feel like I made the right decision in not reporting it to my supervisors or the organization because I don’t think I could have handled such backlash at that age, or possibly at my current age. Which is kind of sad, you know?
For all of you who believe Larkin’s story, please know that it is false. How do I know? I am Michael’s Ex-wife. The same wife who allowed her into my home. A day I will forever regret. For legal reasons I will not go into detail. I have known Michael for 18 years and we were a couple for 12. He is not a rapist. Not everything people post on social media is true and it can destroy people’s lives and reputations and must not be used as a tool to hurt or attack people. So before you hang a verdict on anyone’s head, wait for the truth. Here’s a similar story about another male musician under attack…
“[Her] statements…are not only malicious lies, but they are an insult to the millions of actual rape victims around the world. Faircloth should be ashamed of herself.”-Conor Oberhearst of Bright Eyes
I hope you observe the irony in posting a statement like “Not everything people post on social media is true” in the comments section of a music blog. If I can’t trust Larkin’s word on the matter, then I’m afraid I can’t trust yours either.
When you refer to the time spent together with your Ex-husband, I can only infer that your intent is to assert your position as a qualified judge of his character. When you defend his character, I have no reason to believe that you are not being truthful. I do not know your Ex-husband. I’ve never met him. I’ve never even seen an interview with him. I just like his music. I had never even heard of Larkin before coming to this article. I have no grounds on which to dispute you in these matters.
But the issue at hand isn’t whether Michael Gira is of good character. It’s about what he might have done. I am young and far from an expert when it comes to people, but I know that people of good character can make mistakes and wind up doing terrible things. So unless you were in that bedroom that night, and watched Larkin sleep soundly and unmolested, I don’t understand how you can know whether or not Larkin’s account is true.
It is not my intent to accuse you of lying. But I’m afraid I cannot be persuaded towards believing in Larkin’s dishonesty by what you have said here. I can’t begin to imagine what’s happening in your life during this time, and I wish you well.
I have tickets here to go see Gira play a solo show in Melbourne in a few days. The show has apparently now been cancelled. To be honest, before I found out about the cancellation I was wondering how I would feel about attending. It was so easy to turn up my nose at people who would still go see, for example, a Cosby performance, or buy the music of Chris Brown.
I also find the statements of Gira’s current wife and ex-wife regarding sure knowledge of the events to be strange. Short of a videotape of the entire night in question, what could possibly constitute proof of non-rape?
In any case, it’s the first time that allegations of this kind have been levelled against a person whose work has meant so much to me for so long as Gira’s. I finally have to deal with that whole “separating the art from the artist” thing (as I can’t make any educated statement about the allegation’s truth or fallacy, I have no choice but to take on board that it may be true), and it’s a shame (although I recognize that how this all affects me personally is small potatoes).
As a Swans fan of two decades’ standing, I have been struggling to come to grips with this. I have a little story to share, which has nothing to do with rape or sexual assault of any kind, but which has helped me think this whole situation through. Here goes:
I was in Albuquerque, driving to meet a friend. I had gotten turned around somewhere in the twisting labyrinth of streets that snake through the subdivisions of the Northeast Heights, and was trying to find my way back to a major thoroughfare. It was late afternoon, the sun was low in the sky, and my windshield was not as clean as it ought to have been. When I rounded a curve and found myself traveling due west, the sun glaring off all the little specks and spots of dirt made it almost impossible to see what was ahead of me. Suddenly, I heard shouting and saw a little flicker of motion in the road ahead. I slammed on the brakes.
It was a young boy guiding a dog by the collar, crossing the street. Apparently, the dog had gotten away from the boy and his family and wandered across the street, the boy had caught the dog, and was now heading back to his own yard, dog in tow. Intent on his task, he had not seen me coming; blinded by the sun on my dirty windshield, I had not seen him. His family had seen the disaster about to unfold, hence the shouting. Had it not been for that, I might not have stopped in time.
Suppose I hadn’t? Suppose I had hit that boy and his dog? Suppose the boy had died? Heartbreak and misery for the family, and as for me, my life would be basically over. There would be nothing I could have said to take it back, nothing I could have done to make it right again. It would have been a complete accident, brought about by a freak combination of unfavorable conditions (the sun), a minor act of negligence (the windshield), and a moment’s inattention, but that wouldn’t have mattered. The kid should not have been in the middle of the street, but that wouldn’t have mattered, either. I had not gotten up that morning intending to run over a child, but that’s what would have happened, and I would have had to live with that for the rest of my life, even if I was acquitted in court and forgiven by the family. “CHR.” would stand for “Childkiller” in the eyes of everyone who knew the story, my own most of all.
Sexual assault is like that: it shatters lives and can’t be undone.
It doesn’t matter what Michael Gira started out intending to do that night. It doesn’t matter that he was drunk, or that Larkin was drunk. We have seen testimony from both his current wife and his ex-wife that he’s not that kind of person, and I believe them, but THAT DOESN’T MATTER. What happened, whether it was a full-blown rape as Larkin says, or a regrettable drunken indiscretion as Gira claims, had consequences for Larkin, her art, her livelihood, and her psyche. There’s no getting away from that, and no apology, no restitution, no protestations of “I didn’t mean…” or “I never would have…” can heal this wound, any more than if he had run her over with a car.
I know I’m late to the party but the memebers of the band “heroes are gang leaders” said that Larkin accused them falsely of rape, and that she’s a compulsive liar. So if I had to guess I would say she’s lying about Gira too