November 18th, 2011 / 9:32 pm

Song for Bob Dylan

In 1988, I spent my month’s allowance on Guns n’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction,” and was unwittingly yet gleefully met by a stunning illustration on the inside cassette flap of a disoriented woman having just been sexually assaulted or raped. At 12 years of age, I think I understood the sociopolitical significance of the image — that it was “bad”; that rape and physical violence towards women was “bad”; that a hard rock band had a vested economic interest in conveying the image of themselves as “bad,” yet there was still a part of me, perhaps the majority, that simply, essentially, found the cotton stretched panties and exposed plump breast extremely erotic. I may have even unsuccessfully masturbated to the picture; I kept saying “this is a cartoon” to myself as I eventually grew flaccid. More than two decades later, today, knee-deep in Occupy Wall Street media k-hole, I came across a picture of a young protester, perhaps in need of some originality, reading a book that could be anywhere from Twilight to Chomsky’s greatest hits. And guess what I thought? What image immediately came into my mind. I know this is “bad,” that my adult male brain has been hijacked and permanently fucked by the images, album covers, videos, proposed by “bad” rock n’ roll boys who ostensibly were writing songs about how I felt, my unsettled and unsettling emotions, somehow, somewhat, probably not. David Bowie’s “Song for Bob Dylan” (1971) offers the lyric you gave your heart to every bedsit room / at least a picture on my wall / and you sat behind a million pair of eyes which honors Dylan’s voice as being that of his generation. Decades only happen once, but they take ten years to happen, and that is a enough time to get bored. I was born already tired of the 60s. Children dream of perfect worlds, and adults resent and lament the missed opportunities. It is touching, really. This slow dance between frowning parties that never ends. Cobain is dead, and Bieber’s voice is still of a eunuch’s, so maybe our reposed protester can only settle for a sign printed in caps, a sign she doesn’t hold, but places between her legs.


  1. Evan Hatch

      that’s some mad fuckin juxtaposition son

  2. Matt Tyler

      real good.

  3. Pappas

      article too short.  you weren’t done.  why stop?  didn’t seem like you had said everything you wanted to.

  4. juan pancake


  5. BmrsMstD

      How the fuck do you unsuccessfully ‘bate at age 12? Admit you made up the anecdote or your appetite for destruction concluded with a splurt of November rain.

  6. Jimmy Chen

      nah, my little slashes never left the chapel to play the solo

  7. Cyril Connolly

      Will this finally be the moment that HTML Giant fires Jimmy Chen? 

      “so maybe our reposed protester can only settle for a sign printed in caps, a sign she doesn’t hold, but places between her legs.”Not to mention “perhaps in need of some originality, reading a book that could be anywhere from Twilight to Chomsky’s greatest hits”

  8. Wayne

      jimmy chen!

  9. Cyril Connolly

      Seriously, could you be any creepier? That’s a real person in the photo. The whole of this post boils down to “this thing is like this other thing. both make me want to masturbate, i’m pretty fucked up, huh? p.s. that young woman is probably reading a dumb book because she’s stupid.” 

  10. Jimmy Chen

      i view this entire post as an implicit apology, so feel like an apology would be redundant. i am interested in form, and the way photos relate to one another, their shapes, their composition, etc., without imposing judgement, or soliciting it. in my post preceding this one, i compared yves klein to eddie vedder, as arbitrary a relation as the ones examined in this post. i find such arbitrariness a challenge to write about; it interests me. i like writing that is morally and formally oblique. my aim is not to be ‘right,’ or convey anything authorial. i’m not a creep, i do belong here, what the hell am i doing here is not a question which i ask. 

  11. Jimmy Chen

      if i was fired, i would be grateful to the editor, my co-contributors, and this readership, for the opportunity to have played along in such playful fashion, as i can earnestly say it has improved my life in ways which humble me, and i will never forget.

  12. drew kalbach

      what’s wrong with masturbation and chomsky’s greatest hits?



  14. The Author Function

      It is one thing to eroticize rape, but another to compare erotic rape to a picture of a random person who probably does not want or need to be viewed as an object in that way. 

  15. Blake Butler

      it seems pretty obvious to me that this post is more about the volatility of images, how they appear and repeat inside a person’s vision whether you want them to or not. i remember being similarly scared/intrigued by the image in the gNr, simply because i knew i was supposed to react to it. the looming of that thought over an “innocent person” male or female, who wants to be loomed over no more than a kid with a popular rock band’s tape does, is inadvertent, happens to minds; the recurring unwanted thought; the same impulse that makes thoughts like stripping relatives nude without meaning to because of the way we are taught to see bodies under clothes regardless of whom, etc. pretending that this impulse isn’t there, or that being candid about that kind of cultural experience is gross or wrong, is sad. though i imagine there are those who don’t have uncontrollable thoughts, wanted or unwanted, i would hate to be in that kind of a mental body.

      i don’t usually find the need in these forums to “defend” jimmy in any manner, but i’m bored waiting to go eat pork in the cold.

      furthermore, i’d sooner “fire” myself from this “blog” sooner than i’d “fire” jimmy chen; this is a blog not a nursery; i’d also mentally “fire” the opinion of anyone who can’t see the underlying person in him, as cloaked as it can come to those who are hellbent on finding fire for or at (versions of) themselves. good luck.

  16. Wayne

      brainwashed hypocrite

  17. Cyril Connolly

      But to post an unwitting real person’s picture (and not a public figure like Eddie Vedder) alongside an eroticized rape cartoon is an awfully long way to go just to say, in effect, “man, the brain sure does play crazy tricks.” 

  18. The Author Function

      Not sure you know what the word “hypocrite” means. 

  19. Matt Tyler

      you don’t get to be offended for someone else.  it’s the 90s.  we don’t let superstition hinder a conversation about ‘the brain playing crazy tricks’.  [that’s sort of like saying the internet is a device that ‘just tells some crazy stories’.]

  20. The Author Function

      Time-traveling post!

  21. deadgod

      Questions concerning Williams’s inner-sleeve image:  why is it assumed that the woman was ‘raped’?  The robot is handing her flowers, right?  –maybe ‘it’ just walked up?  And how is the alien protecting her??  Truth:  I thought the woman-image was re-purposed WCTU propaganda, ha ha.  (Maybe it is?)  Was the woman selling the flowers from the folding table?  What does it say on the hat on her hair?  –or is there supposed to be any narrative because there’s no narrative – ha ha ha ha ha.

  22. BmrsMstD

      Welcome to the Jungle bro

  23. werdfert

      i’d never rape a cartoon.

  24. Cyril Connolly

      superstition. wow. 

  25. Lilzed

      the underlying person in an author we haven’t met? Who likes to push boundaries on what’s misogynistic in expression versus misogynistic in subject matter?

  26. Lilzed

      Posts like this show that this blog IS a nursery.

  27. Guestagain

      I fully support these attempts to censor and repress Mr.Chen’s efforts, it can only make them more important

  28. Webeginbombingin5minutes

      you would be slightly enraged, all of the little personal habits and affectations you have observed in others that made you feel disgust would come suddenly rushing up, like a blemish suddenly inflamed to a boil, and it will take all your effort not to lance the pus by tearing those people down in the way you privately, quietly do every day in the back (or front, depending on your mood) of your mind anyway. a bullshit concoction, seen here, is even necessary to preempt this possibility, which only makes it more blatant.

  29. Webeginbombingin5minutes

      i have always though chen added a kind of simplistic, unreconciled, bitter hatefulness to this site. that is what he brings into the equation more than anything.

  30. alex crowley

      listening to Bob Dylan is aural rape

  31. Jimmy Chen

      i really appreciate what you said blake, not necessarily that stuff about me, but more so, your ideas on the matter

  32. Jimmy Chen

      i read this comment twice fully, then glanced over it a third time, and feel like i understand only 14% of it; it is either too smart for, or confusing to, me. idk if your use of the second person is literally directed at me, or rhetorically at yourself, which is why i’m confused. but overall, i can tell that you are upset, so, sorry abt that

  33. Jimmy Chen

      i compared the form of the pictures, not their content; of their content, i feel like i implicated their dissonance. so i feel like i did the opposite of what you are saying.

  34. Jimmy Chen

      i will concede that i have hatred inside me, and that i convey it somewhat indulgently in my satirical work. but i also have love inside me, and i feel i also convey it in some of my more earnest posts. i don’t have the incentive to be a fully rounded or well adjusted or likable person ‘online,’ or even in my real life. i feel at peace with your comment

  35. Jimmy Chen

      if it makes you feel any better, i hate men more than women

  36. jeff noh

      feelin a strong connection b/w earlier post on yves klein & shit storm down here

      w/r/t recurring charges of misogyny (etc) levelled against jc’s interesting (& often troubling, but also important, imo) work, i thought that article was an excellent apologia 

      …in which he showed an empty display case in an empty gallery in order to present nothing; of course, somewhat unfortunately, the presence of the display case in itself was necessary in invoking the theoretical absence of what might have been there.

      outrage, on the other hand, often circumscribes just prejudice and ego 

      not saying there aren’t things “problematic” in the piece here (e.g. i share part of author fn’s discomfort thinking of irl sign girl), but it seems like a lot of ppl never made it to the written part of the text

  37. MJ

      “you don’t get to be offended for someone else.”

      For realz, we don’t? Damn, so next time my friend gets the shit punched out of him, or you know, someone calls him a bitch ass pussy and he’s too much of a pussy to defend himself, I need to just, you know, chill out a little then.

  38. MJ

      Then you havent lived.

  39. MJ

      I guess I understand you here Chen. There’s really no point beyond your thoughts here, as you are aiming at a point but do not have any ‘want’ to arrive at them. That’s cool. I see your thinking more about yourself here and letting the conflicted feeling of the thought arising, and the juxtaposition of the actual objects, affect your outview of one of the objects (if we are to take the least emotionally invested and distanced approach to this). However, I do not understand why you automatically arrived at the idea of the woman being raped. At 12 maybe, without a hardened (no pun) sense of sexual intimacy beyond what you’re young imagination gathered to assume what an adult (or adults) may/should/do look like after having intercourse. So by viewing the source of the image (GnR), combined with naivete, imprinted this notion of the image onto your brain which surfaced years later after stumbling across this image (superimposed).

      What I am more interested in is how you directed your anger. It was partially directed at yourself, but instead, it mainly went toward the second subject/object — ie, this person, this young woman.

      Very interesting.

  40. Michael

      There really is no point. It’s just a mind dump post. It’s like the kid in workshop who writes a story that people roundly criticize and his only defense is, “well, it happened in real life.”

  41. Wayne

      oh i know exactly what it means. the “brainwashed” is the part that’s more tourette’s-sy. but you know what they say: half-turret, half-angel…



  43. Jimmy Chen

      things i found similar between the images: the legs of each woman form a triangle; the protester’s shoe is kind of similar to the cartoon’s shoe, with a black ‘ring’ around the shoe; both pictures have not only a coarse shadow on each woman’s left, but a second shadow to their right implicating an unseen object; the sign and the panties are both visual and content ‘fulcrums’ of each image; the artist’s signature in the rape scene shares the position, in the lower right corner, with a chalk marking in the protest scene, itself a kind of man made signature; the fence/wall behind each woman are formed with hard lines. this is not to defend the post, but merely addresses you question

  44. Jimmy Chen

      no, if my aim was fiction, then “well, it happened in real life” could arguably be a lame defense for lack of content or imagination; but this is a blog which publishes, loosely, non-fiction, so of course it happened in real life. what you suggest as an ineffective defense is what i consider an imperative parameter of non-fiction writing

  45. Michael

      I never said mind dumps couldn’t be classified as purposeless non-fiction. I was making an analogy, too, not a direct comparison. 



  47. Michael

      Actually, my analogy hinged on the idea that presentation or mimesis alone is enough, or automatically qualifies as purpose. 

  48. deadgod

      She’s not “unwitting”–saying so would deprive her of the power of public speech.  She’s displaying a sign – making a statement – and the photograph is not a paparazzi shot:  she’s there to show her sign, and sitting how she is (for passersby to remember or cameras to record) is an element of her statement.

      Why do you perceive the cartoon as a “rape” image?



  50. The Author Function

      Because it is a famous controversial painting about a robotic rapist and an avenging metal monster (both cropped out in this instance, but the woman is still obviously the victim of rape in the painting)

  51. The Author Function

      You aren’t very good at this. 

  52. Wayne

      an excellent stock phrase for ‘the author function’ when they don’t know what else to say. is that really the best you can come up with? come on, now.

  53. deadgod

      It’s a real person showing her sign in the photo:  she wants the sign to be seen and how she’s sitting is her choice.

      The post boils down to ‘culture’ being the repetition of images in intelligible patterns.

      –so, absent the juxtaposition here, what emotion or thought does the photograph catalyze in you?  Is the woman in the photo in control of what this image of her causes in you?  Is there something “creep[y]” about all photography–or about all memory?

      Consider the image Jimmy Chen makes of himself in the text of the blogicle:  what is representation of a real person, anyway?  –other than “creep[y]”, ha ha.

  54. deadgod

      What “erotic rape” are you referring to?  And, since the person in the photo is carefully displaying the sign, why would you take away from her the privilege of being seen in the way that she composes herself?

  55. The Author Function


      Guy who mindlessly says “brainwashed hypocrite” cries about stock phrases. You are even worse at this than I thought!

  56. deadgod

      How is Williams’s image so securely understood to be the aftermath of a “sexual assault or rape”?

      I think what’s actually transgressive about at least some pop culture is not the eroticization of vulnerability – especially women’s and children’s vulnerability – –though it’s a seamily exploitative part of erotic imagery, eroticized vulnerability is not exactly not normal.

      What’s transgressive about the image is not that the woman was “assaulted” – for which, what is the evidence? – , but rather, that she’s ecstatic, transported by delight.  Women in fact like sexthat is dangerous to ‘patriarchy’.

  57. Wayne

      it wasn’t ‘mindless’, not one bit. “hypocrisy: the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have” har. har. har.

  58. Ester

      IAN: You can give it to me straight, you know.
      BOBBI: Listen umm… they don’t like the cover, they don’t like the cover.
      IAN: Uh huh, well that is certainly straight.
      BOBBI: They find it very offensive and very sexist.
      IAN: Well what exactly…do you find offensive? I mean, what’s offensive?
      BOBBI: Ian, you put a greased naked woman…
      IAN: Yes…
      BOBBI: …on all fours…
      IAN: Yes.
      BOBBI: …with a dog collar around her neck…
      IAN: …with a dog collar…
      BOBBI: …and a leash…
      IAN: …and a leash…
      BOBBI: …and a man’s arm extended out up to here holding onto the leash and pushing a black glove in her face to sniffit. You don’t find that offensive? You don’t find that sexist?
      IAN: No I don’t, this is 1982, Bobbi, come on.
      BOBBI: That’s right it’s 1982! Get out of the 60’s. We don’t have this mentality any more.
      IAN: Well you should have seen the cover they wanted to do. It wasn’t a glove believe me.
      BOBBI: I don’t care what they wanted to do. Now see this is something Ian that you are going to have to talk to your boys about.
      IAN: We’re certainly not laying down any conditions…
      BOBBI: And I don’t think that a sexy cover is the answer for why an album sells or doesn’t sell because you tell me…the “White Album”, what was that? There was nothing on that goddamn cover.

  59. The Author Function
  60. The Author Function

      I just hurt myself rolling my eyes. 

      I mean, I guess you are free to interpret an image whatever way you want, but you are bending over backwards here trying to portray a picture of a woman with torn clothes, apparently knocked out, who is cut and bleeding from her breasts, as some non-violent pro-sex image. 

  61. deadgod

      The controversy is “famous”; that the robot is called a “rapist” and the flying alien (? – “metal”??) “avenging” might be part of the history of that controversy, but neither are obvious in the painting, nor is her victimization.

  62. Lilzed

      Implicit in your comment is the idea that the image can’t be depicting both — the aftermath of rape, and “ecstatic” sexual pleasure — at the same time.

      (at least, I hope so)

      Yet, entire industries are powered by selling precisely that idea: that women secretly desire to be raped, don’t mind being raped, are sexually desirable if they are raped.

      And when I say “secretly desire to be raped,” I’m not talking about sexual *** fantasies *** I am talking about actually desiring to be raped in real life. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who, reading some comments, sees that some people really don’t know the difference.

  63. deadgod
  64. deadgod

      Maybe roll your eyes ‘forwards’ and point them right at the image:  the woman’s dishevelment is hardly that of the mauled victim you fantasize. 

      The robot is extending to the woman a bouquet of toy parts–is this gesture a subversive element of the assault you’ve detected?

      Women often get pushed around – and worse – in popular imagery.  This image was controversial with right-wing extremists because it contains a bare teat and panties down past the knees; do you think it was moved to the inner sleeve because music corporatons cared about the power Reagan-era feminists wielded?  –or about violence against women??

  65. Guestagain

      culture being the repetition of images where one theme is a mirrored golden-ageism satirically with sympathy and where the girl is unavailable

  66. deadgod

      Some women and men certainly do enjoy restriction of movement, violence, and physical pain during sex; the salient difference between ‘getting pleasure from violent subjection’ and ‘being raped’ would lie entirely in choosing the former and being forced to endure the latter.

      People who “really don’t know the difference”?  I don’t think I’ve seen pro-rape sensibilities expressed on this thread, including in Jimmy Chen’s self-interrogative recounting of the image’s erectility in his pre-teen understanding of it. 

      He was looking at a cartoon that he thought was an assault aftermath, but the teat and the panties turned him on (anyway? or as a natural consequence?).  Isn’t this examination what anti-patriarchy campaigners, given ‘patriarchy’, would call healthy?

  67. Lilzed

      Interesting. Probably offering her her own broken innocence and girlhood. Because she was raped. Can we agree on that?

      And the robot (the viewer of the image) can’t grasp the emotional reality of what’s happened because it’s a robot. So the image includes a commentary on itself.

      Unlike Chen’s post, which does the reverse. (Waits for the commentary to fill in its holes).

  68. Lilzed

      its not pro-rape sensibilities i am referring to. it’s an ambiguity about a complacency with that sensibility. your question “anyway?” or “as a natural consequence?” is the ambiguity i am referring to. Yes, the examination is healthy. But if you notice, the bulk of the “examination” going on here is in the comments section. All Jimmy does in the post is note it his arousal and projection of a rape situation onto an ordinary girl sitting on the street, with nothing in between about why it is that he would leap to that connection (I find his explanation of the image similarities pretty weak). He leaves US to make the connection. MAYBE he’s dissing the girl, maybe he’s dissing me, maybe he’s just carelessly plumbing his emotional world. The point is it is a visual logic protected by oblique language so there is so no way to say for sure, and YES these ambiguities are the atmosphere of rape culture. . . the way that you write “anyway?” right next to “as a natural consequence?” shows that you too don’t know the answer to the question. Some examination.

  69. deadgod

      I put two (of the many) possibilities next to each other as unanswered questions a) because I’m unambiguously referring to Jimmy Chen‘s libido–on which, perhaps, you’re more of an expert than I–, and b) because I think, in agreement with well-put expression elsewhere on the thread (as I understand it), that the springs of eros are only ambiguously known by anybody.

      You point out that Jimmy Chen “leaves US to make the connection” that he’s “leap[ed] to”.  That’s not accurate with respect to the self-understanding Jimmy Chen has bared with respect to his “adult male brain hav[ing] been hijacked and permanently fucked” by the imagery of popular culture, but you have taken a necessary step in the direction of understanding other people for yourself.

      Some people on this thread – perhaps including you – seem anxious to go out on a limb in publishing their opposition to rape; that anxiety shows, too, how much “examination” is left to conduct.

  70. Lilzed

      i get that jimmy included that line in the post. you’re right, there is awareness there. but it’s like he leaves out the sentence where he says what’s fucked about that. having obsessive thoughts or associations is fucked in itself whether the content is tea cups or rotary telephones. there is no analysis in the post.

      personally what’s more interesting to me is the post’s theme and complication of timelessness.

      i can’t quite make out what you’re saying in the last sentence. sounds offensive tho.

  71. The Author Function

      yeah dude, maybe the slashed, bleeding breast is actually just covered in ketchup. Maybe The Scream is actually about a dude stretching his jaws in anticipation of singing a beautiful song. 
      Really, I don’t get the game you are trying to play with this. Clearly the image depicts one of violence and sex. I haven’t even critiqued (or praised) the image in question here. I’m not saying there is a problem with depicting sexual violence in art. I just don’t get why you need to pretend like you are an alien who can’t interpret an image. 

  72. Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

      damn… more words in the comments than in the post. Jimmy is cool, women loving, intellectual, pro-feminist, lover of life who, I’ve deduced from his writing has some depression and codependent issues. Love the JC. Don’t hate. Shh… shh. shh.. no, no, no… shh, shh… look at you’re own fucked-up-ness negative commentor. shh.. shh. sshh… no, no, no… just love

  73. anonymous

      rule 34 on Occupy Wall street now

  74. deadgod

      Yeah, tiger, maybe you ‘see’ a breast “covered” in blood in the cartoon on this thread.  Maybe there’s pizza on your screen–don’t sit so close when there’s nekkid pitchers on the internet contraption.

      Really, I don’t get the ban-confessional-text game you’re playing with Jimmy Chen’s blogicle.  I just don’t get why you need to pretend like you are an alien who can’t process ambivalent self-revelation.

  75. Matt Tyler

      yea, you do, bro.

  76. Ohno

      This is a painting by robert williams, right? colored pigment on canvas. An obsolete medium out of  its own time. why take the content so literally? oh yeah, that is right, you are “writers” and “professors of writing”. But look  at other album cover art “holiday in cambodia”, etc… form vs. content my friends. in general writers error on valorization of content, while visual artist insist on a prioritization of form. yawn…html giant is out of it’s depth in art criticism and should probably stick to interpretations of novels, and poetry (go back to obsolete medium out of time), I think, ambitious visual artists know that while this image may be bad art  it surely is not controversial within the expanded field of contemporary art practice, and functions as a banal reinforcement in confirmation of the party line handed down by the dominant culture.