Cody Corrall | May 2017
This is the first installment of Eff Your Boys Club, a bi-weekly column highlighting and discussing the marginalized voices in music.
Content warning: This piece discusses sexual assault and LGBTQ violence.
PWR BTTM was on the path to stardom. The transfeminine punk band from Massachusetts gained notoriety this past year for promoting unapologetic self-expression with the help of body glitter and inclusive lyricism. Their second studio album Pageant was locked and loaded to skyrocket their already growing career, until an alleged history of sexual assault was unearthed online.
Ben “Bean” Hopkins, one half of the gender-variant punk duo, was accused of being a “known sexual predator” among fellow queer fans at shows. The post was originally posted in the DIY Chicago Facebook group and was quickly shared all over social media, forcing Ben and fellow band member, Liv Bruce, to release a public statement in response to the allegations.
“Unfortunately we live in a culture which trivializes and normalizes violations of consent. There are people who have violated others’ consent and do not know. Ben has not been contacted by any survivor(s) of abuse. These allegations are shocking to us and we take them very seriously. Further, the alleged behavior is not representative of who Ben is and the manner in which they try to conduct themselves,” said the statement.
The band went on to set up a third party email account that survivors could contact and discuss their experiences without directly communicating with Hopkins, which many fans had issues with. One of the survivors allegedly reached out to Bruce about Hopkins’ history of assault months before the allegations were made public, and was met with no plans for action or admittance to assault.
LGBTQ people face alarming rates of sexual based violence; as many as 44 percent of lesbians, 61 percent of bisexual women, and 37 percent of bisexual men experience rape, sexual assault or stalking, according to CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. Because of this, sexual assault allegations are not taken lightly in the queer community.
The LGBTQ fans who felt the most connected to PWR BTTM’s radical queerness were also the quickest to drop them the moment the allegations became public. PWR BTTM no longer signified a safe space for queer youth; they became the exact monsters they were trying to eradicate from the world.
Since the allegations rose, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya and T-Rextasy have dropped out of opening their upcoming summer tour, and several shows have been cancelled. Salty Artist Management, the independent agency that represented PWR BTTM, announced that they were no longer going to be working with them. Polyvinyl Record Company, the label that was set to release Pageant, announced that they are no longer selling or distribute PWR BTTM’s discography. They offered refunds on PWR BTTM products and will be making donations to RAINN to support ending sexual violence, as well as AVP to support ending LGBTQ violence. Father/Daughter Records, the label that released their debut album Ugly Cherries, also stopped associating with the band. As of Monday, May 15, their music is no longer available on iTunes or Apple Music.
The fall of PWR BTTM was a blow to the queer and disenfranchised fans who idolized them. They were symbols of trans-femininity in a very masculine genre, and were getting public recognition outside of their niche. But the loss of a band--no matter how fundamental to a person's sense of identity--doesn’t begin to compare to the suffering these survivors have dealt with, especially from a supposed figurehead of inclusivity and safety.
The willingness of the fans and the industry to side with survivors over the band--who turned out to be something much darker than they led on--is a huge statement. Artists will be held accountable for their actions, and sexual assault will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Now is a time for queer people to come together. For many, PWR BTTM was a large part in finding their own queerness. But we won’t lose our identities with PWR BTTM. If anything, the LGBTQ community is stronger than PWR BTTM’s inclusive melodies could ever be. PWR BTTM wasn’t the first queer band, and they won’t be the last by any means.