February 19, 2016


Justice For Kesha: On Rape Apology, Music & Misogyny

Getty Images
Getty Images

On the morning of Friday, February 19, Kesha Rose Sebert entered the New York State Supreme Court in lower Manhattan while surrounded by her supporters to seek freedom from Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald. The pop star was pushing for a preliminary injunction that would allow her to record new material without Dr. Luke, with whom she's indebted to contractually. 

Being locked in a multi-million dollar contract is an unfortunate common practice in the music industry (Exhibit A: JoJo's career being delayed for seven years). What is unique to Kesha, however, is the circumstance: She's trying to get out of her contract so she's no longer forced to work with and for her abuser. 

This morning, Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich denied Kesha her injunction. This might not be the final word on the matter, but as it stands now, Kesha can no longer make music unless it's with her abuser.

Let's back up. In October 2014, Kesha sued Dr. Luke for emotional abuse (verbal attacks on her appearance that fueled her bulimia, a disease she later went to rehab for) and an instance of sexual assault. The allegation read as follows: 

"After forcing Ms. Sebert to drink with him, Dr. Luke instructed Ms. Sebert to take what he described as 'sober pills' in order for her to sober up. Ms. Sebert took the pills and woke up the following afternoon, naked in Dr. Luke's bed, sore and sick, with no memory of how she got there. Ms. Sebert later learned that the 'sober pills' Dr. Luke had given her were…more commonly known as the date rape drug, allowing him to bring Ms. Sebert back to his hotel room alone and rape her while she was unconscious."

Luke's team called it "a spectacular and outrageous fiction that will go down in flames" and countered with his own lawsuit, pointing to Kesha's six-album contract (two in completion) and claiming Kesha created the suit in order to leave the contract. Last summer, Kesha's suit was put on hold, eventually leading to Friday's incident. 

"You're asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry," Judge Kornreich told Mark Geragos, Kesha's attorney. Dr. Luke has invested $60 million in Kesha's career, which Kornreich said "decimates" the "argument," adding, "My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing... I don't understand why I have to take the extraordinary measure of granting an injunction." For what it's worth, Kesha has expressed interest in potentially staying with Sony and not working with Luke, but the label called that move "elusive." 

Got it? Her parent company and abuser still own her career, and the future isn't looking bright. 

There are a plethora of fucked-up things about the entire situation, and all of them reflect a larger, women-hating culture. At the core, all of this is going down because people in charge are refusing to listen to a female artist. All of this is happening because powerful men at the tippy-top of the music hierarchy refuse to believe women. 

Here are some facts about sexual assault: 18 percent of women in the United States (20 of 112 million) have been raped in their lifetime. Only 16 percent of those were reported to authorities. Speaking about abuse is up to the victim: It's a brave thing to do, and it's not something often lied about. Now, it's up to us to listen to Kesha. The fact that we're questioning her abuse at all is unacceptable. 

Kesha's situation is a symptom of an industry with a history of being unkind to women. Beyond the subtle injustices of an unwelcoming world, today we've been sent the message that rape is only bad when you don't get away with it. We're taught money, in whatever capacity, is worth more than human life. 

Kesha can only create if she does so with her rapist. Kesha deserves justice, and we've all failed if she doesn't get it.