To celebrate the release of our 103rd 33 1/3 on Live Through This by Anwen Crawford, we bring you the third installment of Hole week. Here is an excerpt from the chapter “Asking for It.”
Underlying public antagonism towards Courtney Love is the same suspicion that has dogged female participants in rock ’n’ roll for decades: that, in the end, she is merely a groupie, and fucking is her talent. Groupies reaffirm the phallus worship that lies at the heart of rock culture; they make literal the fantasy of consummation that is spun between a star and his audience. At the same time, the groupie (and, by extension, any female fan) is needed to deflect the anxiety provoked by an objectified male performer: if he is being looked at by other men, what kind of desires are being generated? Homosocial ones? Homosexual ones? ‘The whole rock scene (as opposed to rock music) depends on us being there,’ wrote the pseudonymous Susan Hiwatt in 1971. ‘Women are necessary at these places of worship so that, in between the sets, the real audience (men) can be assured of getting the women they’re supposed to like.’ A ‘real’ rock star connects with a male audience through the objectification and denigration of women, both thematically and literally. To do otherwise is to risk emasculation. We all know which kind of male performers appeal largely or exclusively to women—the pussies and the fags.
Groupies attract contempt, but their position is not as wholly debased as it may at first appear. Arising in tandem with the early stirrings of second-wave feminism and its emphasis on the liberation of women from conservative sexual mores, the groupies of the 1960s and ’70s counterculture modelled a newly assertive sexuality, pursued outside of monogamy and wedlock. They also took the logic of fandom to its limit. Why collect records when you can collect sexual encounters with the people who made those records? Such savviness provokes hostility—women aren’t supposed to plan for and pursue sexual activity. It’s easier if a woman can be romanticised as a spontaneous innocent, as in The Rolling Stones’ ‘Ruby Tuesday.’ She would never say where she came from/Yesterday don’t matter if it’s gone. As opposed to the frigid suburbanite who so tediously insisted upon her individual status—she might even want to marry you, for pity’s sake!—Ruby Tuesday is gloriously interchangeable, without name; an untamed animal.
A female performer further exacerbates this antidomesticity. Courtney Love couldn’t even dampen suspicion by getting married, for, in the strange logic of her detractors, her marriage proved that she was a groupie (and, worse, a gold-digger). On stage and off, she demanded notice, and knew that what she received in return was a combustible mixture of admiration, opprobrium and desire. I pay good money not to be ignored, she snarled on ‘Teenage Whore,’ the opening track to Pretty on the Inside, and that was before she was famous. By the time of Live Through This—post marriage, post pregnancy, post Vanity Fair—her tone was wearier, more circumspect. Every time that I sell myself to you, she sang on ‘Asking for It’ (actually singing, now), I feel a little bit cheaper than I need to. The ‘you’ was all encompassing: fans, enemies, the press, perhaps even her husband, perhaps herself.