By Rory Winston
As if the recent Milo Yiannopoulos episodes weren’t enough to warn young sexually open cosmopolitans that wolves can dress themselves in Merino sheep clothing, they now have to contend with Ben Hopkins – the seemingly lurid half of the questionably dynamic Bo-Peep-gone-bad duo PWR BTTM, a queer rock band that, judging by recent events, has less in common with the Sex Pistols than with ‘Sex, the automatic rifle.’ As the lead singer and guitarist of the duo, Hopkins is a malevolent cover version of Blur’s classic Boys and Girls, being a “boy who hates girls who likes boys who hate boys.” Standing accused of everything from misogyny to rape to sexual assault, pedophilia and predatory behavior, Hopkins is a homophobe’s wet dream. He is a poster boy for the kind of sex offending stereotype relentlessly sought-for by gay-bashers – an ironic situation considering the fact that most of his songs are about empowering the weak and creating safe spaces for the underdog.
Having been marked a ‘sick punk’ by those who hate punk rock, a ‘debauched bugger sodomite’ by those who still believe Oscar Wilde got off easy, Hopkins is, paradoxically, a man who spent a post-graduate lifetime encouraging gays to stand up against the type of person he, himself, is now accused of being. This scandal is doubly hard to take for a fan base comprised primarily of those inspired by his message. Are the allegations true? And what does it have to do with the quality of his songs? Although, as of yet, there is no answer to the first question, his art does merit reevaluation for the simple reason that it has never been properly evaluated in its own right. At best, it has been lauded as a pleasurable contingency of a positive message, a message which may now have turned out to be not as much well-meaning as, well, just mean. Before looking into the whys are wherefores about his entire reputation hinging more on what he represents than what he creates, we should examine the recent ‘glitz-in-bits-storm’ surrounding him.
Recent allegations leveled by an alleged woman – referred to as Jen for the sake of anonymity – contend that PWR BTTM’s Hopkins forced her into having sex while refusing to wear protection. Jen claims that beside the first attack, she woke to the sight of the rocker trying to have a second go at her on the very same night. While Jen, purportedly, tried to forget, she alleges that for Hopkins it was business as usual. No contrition.
If we go by what Jen says, Hopkins is a sociopath whose thing is forcing lesbians to have sex with their supposed gay icon (the icon being him). Instead of attempting an amends, Hopkins apparently followed up by sending her nude photos. And since she had earlier been subject to rape – not having undergone counseling after an unreported event in High School – she misguidedly assumed that situations such as these were of her own making, turning her into an easy mark for Hopkins’s pathology.
Owing to the fact that victim and victimizer worked at the same venues and had mutual friends and colleagues, it took a mere one month before Hopkins found yet a third opportunity to assault her. It was after this last assault that Jen finally realized she could no longer keep silent. Some survival mechanism kicked in and she confided to a receptive ear – one belonging to a musician that moved in the same circles as Hopkins. No sooner had she explained what transpired than she was besieged by stories from people that had, allegedly, been victimized as well.
Those working with the band noted that lurid accounts of Hopkins’s earlier sexual abuses had first surfaced among the local queer community shortly after December when an offensive photo of a grinning Hopkins in his early twenties, sitting at the beach drawing a swastika in the sand, had been leaked online. Though this sort of gesture hints more towards regressive childish behavior – since even Jewish kids like myself have done similarly insensitive things as confused adolescents flirting with taboos – there is something a bit odd about a person in his late twenties getting his jollies from preteen transgressions. Though, at the time, Hopkins publicly dismissed the troubling image in a single tweet, decrying the incident as the prank of a “stupid kid,” (well done there) his apology was not well received. At least, not as readily as Prince Harry’s contrition in 2005 (when the royal was spotted sporting a Nazi uniform for a costume party). The reason for the skepticism surrounding Hopkins: there were too much in the way of egregious hearsay surrounding Hopkins already.
Meanwhile, Hopkins’s bandmate, Liv Bruce, continued his work, with a deaf ear (forgive the musical slight) to such rumors, striving to create a legacy with the punk magnitude of New Order while evoking the queer edginess of those like Pansy Division. But stories surrounding Hopkins simply wouldn’t abate. He was not just some enfant terrible with an unapologetic air roving in the gay limelight; he was being pegged, instead, as a veritable ´je ne regrette rien’ rapist, a sexual predator and bully with no conscience and few pangs of remorse.
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