Lily Allen: ‘The mu­sic in­dus­try is rife with abuse’

The Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - Libby Brooks and So­phie Hea­wood

Lily Allen has given her first ac­count of a mu­sic in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive’s sex­ual as­sault against her as she slept, say­ing that abuse is “rife” in the record busi­ness. In a frank in­ter­view in Week­end, the Brit award win­ner says that even af­ter #MeToo, in­sid­ers are silent on the scale of the prob­lem.

De­scrib­ing a hi­er­ar­chi­cal world that “al­lows and some­times even en­dorses toxic be­hav­iour by men to­wards women”, the 33-year-old Allen de­tails an in­dus­try that trades in “a po­tent mix of sex, youth and avail­abil­ity” in her mem­oir My Thoughts Ex­actly, pub­lished this month.

Allen re­counts the de­tails of her ex­pe­ri­ence with a mu­sic ex­ec­u­tive who as­saulted her af­ter she had fallen asleep in his ho­tel bed.

She says that the man set­tled her in his own ho­tel room af­ter she had got “smashed” at a party, and left her to sleep it off. Then, Allen al­leges: “I woke up at 5am be­cause I could feel some­one next to me press­ing their naked body against my back. I was naked, too.

I could feel some­one try­ing to put their pe­nis inside my vagina and slap­ping my arse as if I were a strip­per in a club. I moved away as quickly as pos­si­ble and jumped out of the bed, full of alarm ... I found my clothes quickly … and ran out of his room.”

Allen, whose lat­est al­bum No Shame has been nom­i­nated for the Mer­cury prize, says she blamed her­self for the as­sault be­cause she had been drink­ing. She ex­presses her frus­tra­tion that she did not con­front or re­port the man’s be­hav­iour, ex­plain­ing that she felt si­lenced be­cause he had more power and money than her, and that she feared be­ing la­belled “hys­ter­i­cal” and a “dif­fi­cult woman”. “I ex­pected him not to take ad­van­tage of my weak­ness,” she writes. “I felt be­trayed. I felt shame. I felt anger. I felt con­fused.”

Allen thought it was point­less to re­port the at­tack and she feared she would be seen as un­re­li­able. “He had more power than me in the mu­sic in­dus­try, and more money,” she writes. “If things went down, I told my­self, he’d win.” She adds that at the time she viewed the in­ci­dent as be­low a re­portable thresh­old. “What was the crime? Record in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive didn’t rape me. Was I sup­posed to re­port some­one try­ing it on? (An­swer: yes.)”

She also re­veals that, af­ter re­turn­ing to Lon­don from Los An­ge­les, where the al­leged as­sault took place, she con­sulted a lawyer and signed an af­fi­davit doc­u­ment­ing her rec­ol­lec­tion of events be­cause “I wanted it on record that I’d been sex­u­ally abused by some­one I worked with”.

In her in­ter­view with the Guardian, Allen says she was later of­fered a gig pro­moted by Ra­dio 1 where one of the ex­ec­u­tive’s artists would have been present, but had to turn it down be­cause she did not want to en­counter the man again. Sub­se­quently, she says: “I got pun­ished by Ra­dio 1 with no air­play for my next sin­gle, Trig­ger Bang – I just couldn’t tell them why I couldn’t take the slot.”

She stresses that she is not the only fe­male artist to have had such ex­pe­ri­ences, say­ing the mu­sic in­dus­try is “rife with sex­ual abuse” and sug­gest­ing that there should be “a proper union for mu­si­cians”, and pos­si­bly a women-only or­gan­i­sa­tion too.

In her book, Allen also re­lates the story of an older A&R man with whom she had con­sen­sual sex at the age of 20, when she was look­ing for a record deal be­fore shoot­ing to fame with her first al­bum Al­right, Still. “It was con­sen­sual, sure. It’s just that he had all the power and I had none. It’s just that I was young and he wasn’t. It’s just that I was look­ing for help and he acted as if he was do­ing me a favour.”

Allen, who has two young daugh­ters, con­cludes that she hopes that the next gen­er­a­tion will not be as ac­cept­ing of preda­tory be­hav­iour. “Let’s try and teach our daugh­ters to be stronger and more re­silient, bet­ter at be­ing less grate­ful, more in­sis­tent on be­ing taken se­ri­ously, louder at say­ing no.”

Week­end Cover story

‘It was con­sen­sual, sure. It’s just that he had all the power and I had none. It’s just that I was young and he wasn’t’

Lily Allen

On an early re­la­tion­ship

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