Updated: Apr 24
Marilyn Manson's #MeToo moment has arrived, but his victims have nothing new to offer about how women get sucked into these abusive relationships
Do NOT date someone with a 'bad girls room'. CC0 3.0 photo by Rockman on Wikimedia Commons
You don't have to be Marilyn Manson to abuse women the way he's accused, but it undoubtedly makes things a smidge easier.
Last year ex-fiancee Evan Rachel Wood outed the previously alluded-to 'powerful' man who cruelly abused her for years. She was 19 when she met the 36-year-old Manson at a party while he was still married to burlesque queen Dita Von Teese, whom he divorced the same year. Wood told Insider that they looked into each other's eyes and 'knew'.
Whatever she 'knew' wasn't much, because she says she went through several years of hell and still doesn't appear to know why.
She walked into a relationship with a man almost twenty years her senior, young and headstrong, telling her mother she was getting on a tour bus to see the world with Manson for eight months and if people aren't okay with that, well sorry, she can't live her life for others.
Sounds like some may have been warning her it was a bad idea. That's one of the first things you do when you're entering a bad relationship: Don't listen to wiser voices. What do old people know?
If anything was less than happy-happy-joy-joy after that, Wood didn't mention it. She spoke fondly of Manson until the mid-teens and prior to that, she publicly commented favorably on their relationship, and then former relationship. Today she details horrific tales of rape, abuse, degradation and humiliation, echoed by several other former partners and lovers who've stepped forward, empowered by her bravery, to tell similar stories. Manson, of course, denies it all, offering the same tired typical abuser explanations: They're lying, they're doing it for gain, they're trying to ruin me.
That last allegation might arguably be true, but no one seriously believes anymore that women get rich lying about famous men raping and abusing them, and the 'attention' is often doxing, swatting, rape and death threats.
Wood's documentary, Phoenix Rising, about her abuse by Manson, just premiered at the Sundance Music Festival, re-opening examination of her and others' abuse allegations.
I'm glad she's finally calling him to account, and has decided to stop lying.
The long hard road down to hell
Ex-fiancee Rose McGowan and Von Teese weighed in last year, both stating they didn't have abusive relationships with Manson, yet they were supportive of the women.
Von Teese, who says she ended her two-year marriage over Manson's drug abuse and infidelities, states he never treated her that way and she wouldn't have married him if he had. "Abuse of any kind has no place in any kind of relationship," she stated on Instagram and encourages "those of you who have incurred abuse to take steps to heal."
It's almost like they don't think it's beyond him to behave like that.
Worst of all for Manson, even men support his accusers. Nine Inch Nails frontman and former Manson mentor Trent Reznor hasn't hesitated to voice his dislike for Manson, with whom he severed ties 25 years ago. He's also still pissed about a story Manson told in his autobiography that he and Reznor raped a groupie, which Reznor vehemently insists is fiction. Reznor supports the women's allegations with his own testimony of abuse, misogyny, and Manson's violent, dark personality.
Former Limp Bizkit guitarist and Manson collaborator Wes Borland said on Twitch, "Every single thing that people have said about him is f---ing true. So relax about the allegations towards the women. Like when people say these women are coming after him right now… f--- off, they are speaking the truth."
The 'worst-kept secret'
What's always missing in these #MeToo moments for soon-to-be-formerly rich and powerful men like Marilyn Manson is anything more than a cursory look at the deeper meaning of their victims' testimonies. It's extremely unlikely Wood and the others are lying now; three have filed lawsuits against him, and you don't do that unless you're willing to go through the hell of the backlash, including genuine fear for one's life and personal safety. This ain't some immigrant Uber driver you're accusing, it's Marilyn Manson.
There's always an unaddressed deeper credibility issue in these stories that doesn't concern whether they're lying about the abuser now, but when they were, or maybe just being highly disingenuous.
To the public eye, for Wood's entire relationship with Manson, she made out that they were happy, described their relationship as 'healthy', bristled at the criticism she got for being with him, and never indicated publicly she was unhappy, depressed, or frightened.
That's typical for abuse victims, to deny deny deny until one day they tell the truth.
For about eight years no one who didn't know the couple had any reason to believe they had anything other than a healthy, functional relationship. Young women who desired a life like Wood's - beautiful girlfriend to a globally-recognized rock star - were encouraged by her seemingly fabulous life. Wood and her compatriots in victimhood presented one view to the world while suffering in silence, while others looked on and did nothing.
Then again, neither did any of the others until now.
Meanwhile, Manson's abuse of Wood and others has been described as 'one of the worst-kept secrets'.
Men like Manson persist because it's a collective collusive effort, including his victims, to enable them by remaining silent. As Kory Wood and James Newman detailed in their Rolling Stone article about Manson, he was The Monster Hiding In Plain Sight.
When we dissect the abuser/victim dynamic we ignore how many others are adversely impacted too, whose lives may also be put in danger because of the relationship. Like children, of course.
How to learn how to mistreat women, like the example Manson set.
Impressionable teenage girls and young women watched Manson's public appearances with glamorous young women beaming in the spotlight on the arm of their freaky-looking Bad Boy. While lights flashed all around them, they gushed to reporters about how Manson was such a wonderful, great guy. Each woman was accomplished at something in her own right, but none were as famous or powerful as Manson.
Don't you wish you were me, girlfriend???
You can be someone important if you nail a rock star!
That's what Manson's pretty little liars taught girls all over the world. The explanations why they did it, the Stockholm Syndrome, the brainwashing, the cult-like control over them only go so far. These women sought fame, on their own terms and then Manson's, and held themselves up as role models for others, consciously or not.
I'm glad they're finally telling their truths, but I'd like to see them undo the damage they've done by telling their fans the whole truth. Like how this happened to them, without mention of anyone else.
The 70-year Golden Age of Grotesque
There's probably no industry worthier of a glaring #MeToo misogyny-hunting spotlight than Planet RockMusician, where men still rule and women with less power do what women have always done, used their bodies to get a status guy.
The problem with Manson's victims' #MeToo stories is that for anyone who's been around for more than a few decades, they sound awfully same-old same-old.
Manson claimed in a 2015 Guardian story that he was with his then-unnamed girlfriend "because she is willing to do whatever it takes to be with me."
I think he's referring to photographer Lindsay Usich, who he married in 2020. She's not one of his current accusers but is accused by some of them of attempting to silence them. One of Manson's former personal assistants claims he's witnessed Manson abuse Usich on several occasions, and threatened to kill her.
So the cycle of abuse by women perpetuates itself: Lindsay Usich shuts the hell up and helps her hubby like a good little collaborator until one day, almost certainly, she will stop lying to herself and the world.
Rock 'n' roll is nearly 70 years old, and allegations of sexual wrongdoing, misogyny, abuse, and retaliation against young women and girls have been there from the beginning. Rock pioneers Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley also pioneered sexual abuse of women, especially underage girls.
So what have we learned, children?
Seventy years of rock 'n' roll have taught us that boys aspire to become rock musicians so they can have unfettered, unquestioned access to naive girls and women who think they know better, who think they know what they're doing, who think they're in control of their sexuality--except they don't and they're not.
We learn nothing as each generation passeth away: Every year, every decade the cycle repeats itself: Older, wiser women call out some celebrity who abused them for years and get lauded for being brave and 'telling their truth'. Yes, they're brave, but they're also complicit in perpetuating the cycle of abuse. When they complain, 'Many knew but no one stopped him,' no reporter dares ask, "Did anyone warn you, and did you listen? What kind of example did you set for other young women when you repeatedly lied about what happened to you until now?"
Silence is violence, isn't it, gender theory feminists? When will we acknowledge that with celebrity comes a certain level of responsibility to one's fans? To be honest about what the industry, your career, your partners are really like?
When you're 'willing to do whatever it takes to be with him', there's an internal power greater than concern for one's personal safety in play. No woman wants to be abused, but it's sometimes the price you must be willing to pay to stay with him. We don't acknowledge that for some women, it's a profit/loss calculation. How much of his shit are you willing to put up with to be with him?
We never learn the deeper truth these women really owe their fans, the ones who supported their idols in their careers, and support them now as they crawl out from under a very sick man's rock. Why did you allow this?
It's no longer enough to speak out on what happened and take the kudos for being 'brave' and 'honest' and finally bringing on a much-needed takedown of a deeply misogynist artist. They need to do some introspection, a post-mortem, and tell the truth about why they took the step down that long ugly staircase of abuse. They need to talk about the weaknesses in their psychology that permitted someone like Manson into their lives. They need to address why the well-established, no-news-here serial predator grooming tactics worked so well on them, and really be honest about who warned them about him and why they didn't listen.
That's the funny thing about serial celebrity secrets: While the world at large may not know them, absolutely everyone in the industry does.
Only people who weren't in Hollywood in the '50s were surprised when classic masculine movie sex symbol Rock Hudson outed himself as a lifelong homosexual by dying of AIDS.
My mother learned about it from a friend who'd grown up in Hollywood, played with Loretta Young's daughter, and was friends with Elizabeth Taylor. Everyone knew how many movie stars were homosexual back then, but only whispered.
There's no way Manson's maidens hadn't heard the rumors, and the warnings, and seen a lot of shit with their own eyes.
If 19-year-old girls can still see vaginas on the walls, swastikas everywhere, be personally acquainted with a 'bad girls room', and not realize this is not a boy you want to take home to mother, we're not doing a good enough job raising young women to not know misogyny until it's chasing you with an axe.
In the HBO trailer for Phoenix Rising, someone comments that it customarily takes many victims 7-10 years to recognize they were abused, which in Manson's accusers' case means any alleged crimes are outside the statute of limitations. In 2016, Wood testified in front of government committees in support of bills to raise the statute of limitations.
"Something needs to change"
I applaud Wood's and the others' efforts and agree with them that something needs to change. In addition to making it easier for domestic violence victims to seek justice, what would help most is if they could offer insight into what permitted them to get into such a relationship at all. How did they not get blown into the next county by all the violently waving red flags?
We're not learning anything new with each new tedious story. Abuse, brainwashing, gaslighting, yadda yadda yadda. Young women don't pay attention because they don't think it could happen to them. Where victims can add REAL value to the conversation and reduce the mistreatment of women is by helping young women understand how this can happen to them by addressing the common gaps in female psychology. Like:
How easy it is to be impressed by a rich powerful man.
How older men like younger women not just because they're young and pretty, but because they're so much easier to manipulate. Especially when they look to a man to define them, and especially a celebrity.
How easy it can be to be dazzled by the classic manipulator's move, 'love bombing,' to suck you in so he can groom you to do what he wants and put up with his shit.
How partner rape is a real thing.
How you can have clear good examples of healthy, functional relationships (they must have seen some, at least) and not want the same for themselves - or wonder if perhaps love doesn't mean tolerating the vile abuse they're subjected to.
Most importantly, can they PLEASE tell young girls and women to listen to older women who know more than they do? At least some of them will listen. I did. I thank my mother.
What would be most valuable is better understanding how you can see swastikas, knives, an unused Zyklon B gas container from World War II, listen to the misogyny expressed at Manson's concerts, and hear a song you know was written about you, I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies, and still think it's okay to be with this guy. I want to know about every Manson woman's first two weeks with the guy, before the serious brainwashing started, because I really want to know what some women are completely missing.
Today, black people of all ages are hyper-aware of racial hostility and slights, but somehow women see rank misogyny hitting them in the face (literally) and blithely walk Manson's long hard staircase down to hell.
The point is not to beat themselves up for cluelessness at 19 or 20 back then but to help young women understand today how they can avoid the mistakes of the past. Not looking within and asking one's self the hard questions without finger-pointing is what permits the cycle of abuse to perpetuate generationally.
Feminism isn't ready to examine and analyze what psychological weaknesses we all have, as women, that allow men to exploit and abuse us. These time-dishonored techniques for controlling and grooming women have been utilized every day by countless men for thousands of years because they work.
Manson won't likely be held legally accountable for any of this, but his victims can push this aging, pudgy, slightly less relevant rocker into has-been oblivion. All the hand-wringing and worry from celebrity men about #MeToo 'lies' come mostly from those who lie awake at night worrying about who from their own past might be the first woman to break the silence about their own behavior.
Après moi, le déluge.
Many won't mourn Manson's faded passing. But what about future targets who might listen if Manson's victims, and others after them, tell the truth about themselves about why they succumbed to his predations and what they'd tell their younger selves?
While we're trying to fix the ones who were broken, what can we do to educate the young and naive, so they listen now, because they're hearing something new, so they can avoid the ugly web the Marilyn Mansons of the world, celebrity or not, draw some of them into?
Not every teenage girl is so naive
Indie rock musician Phoebe Bridgers recounts a story when she was a teenage girl and went to Manson's home with a few friends. He joked about a 'rape room' in his house which she chalked up to horrible 'frat boy' humor, but that day she 'stopped being a fan'.
And that was the end of that.
Knowing that is more valuable than anything Manson's victims have offered thus far.
This article originally appeared on Vocal.media in March 2022.