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. The Author Function

      You aren’t very good at this. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. The Author Function


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

  6. 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’.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. The Author Function
  10. 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. 

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. deadgod
  14. 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??

  15. Guestagain

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

  16. 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?

  17. 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).

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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. 

  22. 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

  23. anonymous

      rule 34 on Occupy Wall street now

  24. 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.

  25. Matt Tyler

      yea, you do, bro.

  26. 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.