Creative, Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 07/13/2009

Tori Amos on men

Tori Amos just wrote a beautiful a piece for The Guardian’s Observer. She speaks, as a victim of sexual assault, how her life was shaped by the incident, the dangers of masculinity standards and the men in her life. 

I think this is really worth reading. I always find it so interesting to read the stories of sexual assault/rape survivors — it’s hard to even fathom the strength that such people have to have in order to continue their lives as normal, let alone the strength it would take to share that story and experience with the world. I’ve always loved Tori’s music, such feminist strength in the lyrics. It’s nice to know that from something so painful she created beauty. 

Tori’s story:

I have known the violent side of men, the side that can destroy another human being because of their own desires [Amos was sexually assaulted at knifepoint when she was 21]. I couldn’t be normal with men for a long time. I had to take on all kinds of different scenarios in my brain to be with them. I don’t think I had a healthy, intimate relationship until I was with my husband. Sometimes you can take on the vision of women the abuser had and start to apply it to yourself without even recognising it. I’ve spent years and years trying to stop that. The most dangerous thing is it finds a home in your own mind and the messages just get repeated. You don’t know how you could allow yourself to be compromised. Ultimately I think the thing that men have taught me is that I am my own keeper. I will never give myself over to anyone.

Violence and seduction are a ticking bomb. I think it goes back to the powerlessness some men feel. They feel so emasculated that they get angry or seek attention from a place that they shouldn’t. For a man to get off on a woman screaming, the wires have got crossed somewhere. When you’re dealing with men with real power they only want you if you’re willing. It’s about the dance between the male and female. Real power is about exchange, not subordination. For some people a powerful man is a bully. He’s powerful because he scares people. And I would say that’s not a powerful man – that’s an intimidating man, a man who uses intimidation tactics. A powerful man is a man that knows who he is and doesn’t need to manipulate people to get what he wants.

My father was the head of the house, there was no question about that. His parents were both stern Christians. His mother was the iron hand behind him, probably the biggest influence in his life, and wanted him to follow the path of the ministry. My mother had hopes and dreams too, but ultimately put them aside to have children and become a minister’s wife.

My brother was a fantastic cheerleader for my development as a musician. He was almost 10 years older than me and would really push me to develop as a songwriter. My father was more like an agent – he took me to the clubs to play piano and sing. He got quite a lot of flak because nobody could understand how a Methodist minister could be seen in gay clubs. He would say: “Where else would you take your 13-year-old daughter? It’s the safest place in town.”

I’ve worked with many powerful men in the music industry. The big power brokers in the industry are still men for the most part. And not just them: it’s the people behind them, the business affairs, the structures, the boards – it’s all men. And there are the good guys and the not- so-good guys. There are the controlling men and there are those that want the exchange.

The birth of my daughter was my healing. I claimed my body back. I stopped being a victim. And I happened to marry a man who, because he’s British, was not ingrained with that religious seed that America can scatter. He believes in a woman’s right to her own sovereignty. It took the love of a good man. When I was reverting back into my, let’s say, perversions, he would say: “Let’s go get an ice cream. I am not going to enable you. If you can only come as a wanton woman for hire, because you feel dirty and shamed, then no. Women are goddesses.” And I know that and I believe that. I chose a man who believed that too.

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  • Bethany Elfrink @ at 3:24 pm, July 13th, 2009

    I love Tori Amos. She is a heck of a woman. And, she had Adrien Brody in one of her music videos, who is one heck of a man.

    Her father sounded like a great man and I am happy she found someone who respects her and loves her.

  • portiaslegacy @ at 11:33 am, July 15th, 2009

    Hi, I found your site via a link on Jezebel. I am glad that you are doing this blog and are a fan of Tori. I’ve been a fan since around when I turned fifteen (I’m twenty-six now). I am really grateful for her existence and articulation. Thanks for writing.

  • Nurdiyansah @ at 4:41 am, February 2nd, 2011

    Greetings from Jakarta,

    I love Tori Amos, she is definately a loveable feminist

  • magdalena @ at 8:15 pm, April 16th, 2011

    As a survivor of sexual assault, I can say that Ms. Amos said everything I have felt before (far better than I could.) May every survivor be so lucky as to find the sort of man she has.

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