Note: I will be referring to Brian Warner, the rock musician professionally known as Marilyn Manson, by his legal name throughout this post. This is done deliberately to disarm him. Brian Warner doesn’t get to be the big scary goth god anymore. The name Brian Warner reveals himself for who he truly is: a scared, childish man, who has taken his demons out on women in lieu of wrangling them for himself.
A mother, child, and suspected car thief in Beaverton, Oregon, USA made headlines last month, after grand theft auto accidentally became kidnapping. The mother briefly left her four-year-old child in her running vehicle in the parking lot, when the suspect reportedly noticed that the keys were inside and decided to simply drive off with it, not realizing the child still inside. Upon noticing he had accidentally committed kidnapping in addition to intentionally committing grand theft auto, the suspect drove back to the grocery store where the mother was shopping, returned the child to the mother, berated the mother for leaving her child in a running vehicle as she shopped and threatened to call the police on her for her negligence, then continued on with the carjacking. The suspect is still at large, as far as we know.
Here in Indiana, local Hoosiers had this to say about the incident (note: I am deliberately leaving their names, as public Facebook posts are public record):
Several more of these comments exist, including comments actually applauding the suspect for having the decency to return the child before proceeding with the auto theft. What these comments reveal is a cultural pattern: men do bad things, and women are responsible for damage control when men cause them harm. The culpability of the suspect is downplayed, and placed entirely on the mother for failing to prevent her car and child from being taken.
We live in a society that encourages women to shoulder the responsibility for men’s poor behaviors. For example, although research indicates that fathers have historically and recently not done nearly as much work around their homes as mothers, we’re culturally inclined to blame mothers for household shortcomings. We also live in a society that fails to discourage–and, in many ways, outright encourages–men from perpetuating sexual violence. This creates an extremely dangerous combination that allows men to engage in sexually-violent behavior, overwhelmingly against women, yet be subject to zero accountability for their choices. Meanwhile, women are forced to take near-unilateral responsibility for when their partners behave badly.
This brings us back to Brian Warner. In my previous post in the Brian Warner series, I discussed how Warner has made it abundantly clear–as early as the 1990s as an independent musician in Fort Lauderdale’s local industrial scene–that he engages in violent, dangerous, predatory, and nonconsensual sexual behaviors. This is something that Warner has never shirked away from, or been shy about; indeed, it’s worth speculating that he branded his own predatory proclivities to create his “Marilyn Manson” image and sell records. Unfortunately, what was an act for so many fans and media outlets ultimately led to the sexual abuse and exploitation of at least five women in his inner circle (that have come forward recently, not counting the several other women he admits to abusing in his book).
Just as strangers were quick to blame the mother in Beaverton for her child’s abduction, so can they be quick to blame a survivor for her own rape. Studies have indicated that people are less likely to blame survivors of stranger rape for their assault than they are survivors of acquaintance or, particularly, marital rape. We can therefore identify a positive relationship between a survivor’s degree of relatedness to her assailant, and the likelihood that she will be blamed for him raping her. Just as it’s her fault if his domestic inadequacies lead to unwashed dishes and children with un-brushed teeth and hair, so is it her fault if he commits marital rape: a crime that was not recognized by all 50 American states until 1993.
Warner and the most famous person to survive his abuse, Evan Rachel Wood, were not legally married–although they were engaged and had a serious dating relationship for several years. Her relationship to Warner means that she does not fit the “ideal victim” profile, one who has done nothing wrong and cannot be blamed whatsoever for her circumstances, nor has the violence Warner has done unto her constituted a “real rape” (or a stranger rape). Indeed, research indicates that people are more likely to espouse rape myths if presented with vignettes of marital rape than if they are presented with vignettes about stranger rape. Women are also blamed for staying in abusive relationships.
A common response to the Warner abuse scandal has been “Well, duh”. Admittedly there has been a degree of cartoonish obviousness to the scandal; Warner wrote an entire book about his abusive tendencies, and allowed these tendencies to enhance his public persona. Instead of calling for bystanders to scrutinize his relationships in an attempt to prevent abuse, or confront him about his behaviors, this obviousness actually protected Warner from any culpability.
On Facebook posts from People Magazine, commentators had this to say:
And yet she stayed with him for how long?
Intimate partner violence and sexual violence are very extreme examples of how women are held responsible for men’s shortcomings. However, we have so many more innocuous examples of this pattern, that I believe it’s safe to propose that blaming women for the actions of men is a longstanding practice in American society. Preventing the Brian Warners among us from serially abusing women for years in plain sight is going to mean a total cultural upheaval that directly challenges our tendencies to blame women for the predicaments that men put them into.
We can’t just talk about how obvious it was that Brian Warner is an abusive person. We also need to talk about how nobody did anything about it, as though he were the sun and any woman caught staring into him was blinded deservedly for being so foolish. When men are so obviously violent, to the extent that they themselves attest to it freely, we must respond accordingly. We must not simply hope that he remains single for the rest of his life, and respond to his abuse with And yet she stayed with him for how long?
Nobody deserves to be put through what Woods and several other women have been put through. Nobody. No matter how long they stay. Every time Brian Warner hurt one of these women was one time too many, and he needed to be stopped from hurting them more than they needed to be stopped from loving him.
Women should never be afraid to come forward about abuse, in fear that they will be blamed for what has been done to them.
There needs to be a better way.
Stick around for part three of this series on Brian Warner.