Kesha: the musical equivalent of the drunk girl in the short dress

This week the 28 year-old singer Kesha lost her injunction to record without Dr Luke, the man she alleges to have sexually abused her

Added on

By Caroline O'Donoghue on

In 2010, me and my friend Megan drove the three hours from Cork to Dublin to attend an all-ages Kesha gig. We were in our twenties, and knew we'd be the oldest there by at least three or four years. We didn't care. Kesha's first album was the soundtrack to all our house parties, and we weren't even pretending to be ironic about it. 

To pass the time, I created the Kesha Lyric Game on the back of a notepad. The game had three columns, and each column had a numbered list on it. The first column was an adjective: dirty, sexy, filthy, bored, rich. The second was a stimulant: whisky, drugs, sex, love. The third was a location: basement, party, warehouse, couch. I would make Megan think of three numbers between one and five, and whatever the result was – Dirty Whisky Party, or Sexy Sex Couch – she would have to come up with the rest of the Kesha song. It is probably the best car game I have ever come up with, because even as fans of Kesha we knew how limited her lyrical sphere was. She sang about sex, and partying, and staying up all night, and going out the next day in the same clothes. She sang about glitter and liquor and boys. 

Kesha's allegations against her producer, Dr Luke, are not news. When The Hollywood Reporter first covered it in October 2014 they did so with the byline: "Who's telling the truth?" After detailing Kesha Sebert's horrifying allegations against her producer, which included rape, drugging and "constant belittling of her appearance, which drove her to bulimia", the article had its own doubts. "But Kesha's suit also raised plenty of questions. Namely, why didn't she report the abuse to police? Was there any medical evidence of sexual assault? And why choose civil action as opposed to a criminal course?"

A rape accusation is not a Swiss bank account. If a rape accusation is a bargaining chip, it has been proven time and time again to be a largely ineffective one

Dr Luke filed a complaint, saying that the claims were untrue and that Kesha was using "defamatory statements in an attempt to extort [him] into releasing Kesha from her recording agreement" and began counter-suing her. Everywhere, Kesha's case was treated with a raised eyebrow, as if a rape accusation is often used as a bargaining chip in contract negotiations. As if a rape accusation is like a Swiss bank account: useful to have, handy to fall back on, and untouchable in its security.

A rape accusation is not a Swiss bank account. If a rape accusation is a bargaining chip, it has been proven time and time again to be a largely ineffective one. Every year, thousands of rape cases are thrown out of US court, for reasons including "lackluster police reporting, lack of forensic evidence, and a victim’s unwillingness to testify". When victims do testify, they face juries who are proven again and again to be biased against sexual assault cases. 

In short: If Kesha thought that accusing a successful white man of rape was a way to get ahead in life, you have to assume that Kesha has not lived one day on earth as a woman. Having seen Kesha gyrate wildly on stage, dry-humping her props and shooting glitter out of a cannon, I can confirm that she definitely has. 

 The world has treated Kesha like the world treats drunk girls at parties: it calls them liars

What Kesha has also done is create a musical persona of a party girl: a girl who gets drunk, and sleeps around, and has "a water bottle full of whisky in her handbag". Whether or not these things are pop-artifice makes no difference whatsoever. Kesha is culturally the Drunk Girl at the Party, and the world has treated her like the world treats drunk girls at parties: it calls them liars. It says: you don't know what you're talking about. It says: you just had drunk sex, and now you're calling it rape, and we won't let you. 

On Friday, after a lengthy legal battle and two years of being legally paralyzed from making new music, the courts have ruled that the singer will have to finish her contract with Sony and Dr Luke. The 28 year-old will have to make four more albums with the man she has accused of raping her, after stating in her injunction request that “I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way.” After years of legal battles and her name being dragged through the "oh, how convenient for you to accuse your producer of rape" coverage, the internet has finally started to show up for Kesha. People are tweeting their outrage, and Taylor Swift has donated $250,000 to the artist.

The world is starting, just barely, to speak up for the drunk girl at the party. They're just a few years too late. 


Tagged in:
Sexual abuse

Tap below to add to your homescreen

Love The Pool? Support us and sign up to get your favourite stories straight to your inbox