Now he’s bored and old

Kurt Cobain would be 45 today.

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Rape

I have written in the past about the tremendous influence Nirvana has had on my life. From an early age, the music just struck me. But maybe even more striking was Kurt Cobain. The man had more than his fair share of problems, but it is undeniable how striking his mind was. As much as I ate up the band’s albums, I was eating up the thoughts and musings of the front man. From a quick rejection of macho attitudes to the embracing of equal rights for gays, he had a big impact on me.

But one of the biggest areas where he got me thinking was the act of rape. He wrote a number of songs on the subject, including Polly and Rape Me, and his detestation of the act manifested itself within me. Not that I needed a cultural icon to make me aware that rape was a terrible thing, but I grew up in a middle-class environment, fortunately free from sexual abuse. It was never anything more than an abstract concept to me; Cobain helped drive home just how disgusting it was.

One of the things, though, I think when I hear “rape” is a very specific act. I define it as forced penetration. This generally means the entering of a penis into an orifice, but it could be hands or any object. Whatever the specifics, if something is entering another person’s body against that person’s will – perhaps some semantic quibbles aside – it is rape.

What this means, though, is that there are some awful things I don’t define as rape. Fondling, exposure, unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature, they’re all awful, but they aren’t rape. Call them sexual molestation, sexual assault, or some other term, but I simply don’t define them as rape. Part is simply the connotations which come to mind for me, but most of this has to do with the fact that penetration is one of the biggest violations of a person I can imagine. It’s on a level all its own.

So that brings me to a recent CDC report. This is how news organizations are portraying it:

About 20% of women are raped at some point in their lifetime and in most cases the attacker is someone the woman knows, according to a new survey on sexual violence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That is accurate to how the report is written. Here is one excerpt:

Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.

The issue here – and I don’t think I’m alone – is that included in these numbers is “attempted forced penetration” and “alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration”. The latter is something I would likely almost always define as rape, but the former is not. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awful, or that it doesn’t point to the exact same awful problem. It is and it does. But it isn’t rape. Calling it so is for the sake of bringing attention to the issue. Of course, that in and of itself is a good thing, but I fear it is not without consequences.

I know a lot of people reading this will be tempted to draw accusations of rape-apology and other untrue things, but I think my objection here is well-grounded: If we start using “rape” in a way which does not reflect what people think when they hear the term, we begin to undermine its impact. That seems like the worst thing in the world to me.

If we’re talking 15% or 10% or 5%, we still have some pretty terrible figures. And if we condense the numbers as the CDC as done, that’s fine. Let’s just be specific: “Nearly 20% of women have been raped or had rape attempted against them in their lives.” I think the figure is just as powerful, but also accurate. That’s important. I don’t want to give people any reason to question such a horrific experience on the grounds that the numbers have been misrepresented.

Semi-update: I have seen other figures which have included molestation and other forms of sexual abuse. I wanted to include those in this post, but they aren’t the easiest thing to find, especially when I don’t know the specific report in which they appeared.

Club 27

I know “Club 27” is a popular concept amongst music fans. It’s basically a reference to the really big, important artists out there who have died at age 27: Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain. There are others, but those are the most notable. (Kurt Cobain was even been reported as talking about his desire to join the club a year or so before he actually did.)

But come on. Amy Winehouse, no matter what one thinks of her music, has not had the impact of any of those other musicians. Each one was integral to the advance of music, and a lack of mention of any one of them in a talk about the history of music is a mistake. That is not the case with Winehouse. She’s technically a member of the club because she was 27, but she does not meet the point of the meme “Club 27”: impact.

17 years

Happy birthday, Kurt Cobain

I’ve been wanting an excuse to put some music up here lately. Kurt Cobain, were he not long dead, would be 44 today.

Another two quick things

First, I was recently discussing with a friend Sean Penn’s movie “Milk”, an excellent film about civil rights activist Harvey Milk. One of the points Penn’s character made again and again was that in order to advance equality for gays was (and is) to get people to realize that they know and care for someone who is gay. Once people know that anti-gay stances actually hurt real human beings, they will be less likely to cause harm to others (such as through voting against civil rights measures for gays).

And it’s true.

Watch the movie. Like I say about “Brokeback Mountain”, even people who don’t like gays can appreciate this film for its qualities as a piece of art.

Second, I’m interested to give a listen to the new stuff Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic have in the works.

According to a report by Spin Magazine, the surviving members of Nirvana regrouped for the first time in more than a decade at a “secret” Foo Fighters show in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Of course, being that Nirvana was officially just a trio, all that means is that Foo Fighters’ frontman Dave Grohl (pictured) was joined by original Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. However, the duo were also joined by Nirvana’s touring guitarist Pat Smear. Grohl, who sings and plays guitar for the Foos, played drums for Nirvana. The hugely influential group disbanded in 1994 following leader Kurt Cobain’s suicide.

To those paying close attention, Tuesday night’s reunion, while unexpected, should come as little surprise — it’s been widely reported that Grohl recently employed his old bassist’s services for a track which will appear on the new, forthcoming Foo Fighters album. That album, incidentally, is also being produced by Butch Vig, who masterminded Nirvana’s 1991 seminal breakthrough, ‘Nevermind.’

While the Foo Fighters used the intimate show to showcase some of their new material, the short Nirvana segment saw Novoselic and Smear join Grohl on stage to perform ‘Marigold’ — originally a b-side for the hit single ‘Heart Shaped Box,’ it’s the only original composition that Grohl contributed to Nirvana. While many celebrities were allegedly spotted in the audience, we’re guessing that Courtney Love was not one of them.

I am not, however, excited that Pat Smear is involved. He really hurt a lot of the vocals on many of Nirvana’s live songs.

Anyway. Here’s “Marigold”.