“In Defense of R. Kelly…”

While driving back from the beach Sunday afternoon, R. Kelly’s “Bump n’ Grind” came on a 90’s playlist. Carpool karaoke ended. An awkward silence fell throughout the car. And frowns appeared on our faces.

“I just can’t listen to his music anymore.”

“Because he’s an unapologetic sexual predator who sings about his sins,” I responded.

Everyone has problematic favorites. Let me rephrase that. Everyone has favorites who have done problematic things or made problematic statements. Not everyone has favorites who are continually and unapologetically abusive and violent towards other people. R. Kelly is the latter. R. Kelly is a sexual predator.

A sexual predator?
Yes. R. Kelly is a sexual predator. Over the past 25 years, there have been countless accusations of sexual misconduct, multiple stories of R. Kelly frequenting teenage hangout spots (i.e. schools, playgrounds and McDonald’s) and numerous court cases, lawsuits and settlements. While the first accusation to catch the public’s attention was Kelly’s marriage to then 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah in 1994 when Kelly was 27 years old, Tiffany Hawkins later filed a lawsuit stating R. Kelly began having sex with her in 1991 when she was 15 and he was 24 years old. The reports of sexual misconduct and violence have been consistent throughout the past 25 years and included accusations of ephebophilia, domestic violence, mental and emotional abuse and, most recently, running a sex cult.

WTF is an ephebophile?
When discussing R. Kelly, many people refer to him as a pedophile. By definition, pedophilia refers to someone 16 years of age and older who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children (typically children under the age of 13). Based on the accusations made against R. Kelly, he is an ephebophile, an adult with a primary sexual attraction to adolescents between the ages of 15-19.

Isn’t ephebophilia an illness? How can you be angry if he’s sick?
While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has included pedophilia as a diagnosis since 1968, ephebophilia is not included. It is sometimes diagnosed as “Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified.” However, it is important that we don’t use mental illness as a reason to excuse R. Kelly’s behavior. To the public’s knowledge, R. Kelly has not sought any treatment for his attraction to adolescents or even acknowledged his problem and the harm it causes his victims. In fact, he has been extremely unapologetic about his behavior, to the point of becoming verbally combative when confronted. It’s easy to be angry and disgusted by someone who is unrepentant about the harm they cause other people.

Those accusations are old. How do you know he hasn’t changed?
On July 17, 2017, Kelly was accused of running a sex cult out of his Atlanta and Chicago homes. In an investigative piece for Buzzfeed, Chicago journalist Jim DeRogatis, who broke the first major story about Kelly’s sexual misconduct with underage girls, described Kelly as controlling and manipulative. After interviewing three former members of Kelly’s entourage, two who have had sexual relationships with Kelly, and family members of the women currently been housed by Kelly, DeRogatis shared that Kelly controls the girls’ communications, movement, diets and clothing. R. Kelly hasn’t changed. He’s an unrepentant, sexual predator who targets and manipulates black girls.

But the girls had choices. They probably liked it.
When are we going to allow black girls to be children instead of holding them accountable for their own abuse? How are we able to paint black girls as manipulative Jezebels capable of sexually dominating grown men, yet defend black teen boys’ right to be kids? Shouldn’t all our kids be allowed to be kids?

Statutory rape laws and the legal age of consent exist for a reason. Teenagers do not have the emotional or mental maturity of adults and can’t be considered an equitable partner in sexual or romantic relationships. Adults possess power, finances and resources that make it easy for them to manipulate adolescents into abusive situations. A child should never be viewed as an equal partner, the manipulator or the predator in these situations.

What about their families? They accepted the settlements instead of pressing criminal charges.
When you make statements like this, consider the system you’re talking about. You’re talking about a system that unfairly favors the rich, powerful & famous. When we ask poor & marginalized people to fight a rich, famous and powerful devil, we have to be clear what we’re asking them to do. And the reality of the situation is, often what is best for the victim and their family is taking a settlement check, disappearing and healing on their own…away from public speculation, criticism and judgement. Fighting a predator in a unjust system is mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially draining. R. Kelly knows this. And that is why he preys upon the teens he chooses.

He’s just performing. I don’t see the big deal with going.
In a December 2015 Huffington Post Live interview, R. Kelly was asked how he responds to fans bothered by the multiple allegations against him. Kelly responded by saying he doesn’t get asked that often before describing how he is celebrated and adored by fans at malls and concerts. R. Kelly views the applause of his fans as approval of his actions. He doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong because all he sees is people celebrating him.

But his music is really good?
Kelly is a sexual predator who sings about his illegal, immoral and illicit rendezvouses with children. Are you really okay with listening to the soundtrack of statutory rape?

Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full