Earlier this week, rock legend Chrissie Hynde stirred up debate when she said that she considers her sexual assault at the age of 21—which she write about in her upcoming memoir—to be her own fault. Calling her comments “common sense,” she said women should be careful of how they dress and act in public, adding, “if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.”
Now Hynde has followed up those comments in a new interview with The Washington Post, telling the interviewer, “Do I regret saying it? I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.” The conversation is illuminating, giving insight into Hynde’s mindset about the comments—“[W]e’re talking about millions of displaced persons … and we’re talking about comments that I allegedly made about girls in their underwear,” she says—and her attitude towards personal responsibility in general.
In Hynde’s mind, hanging out with the bikers who raped her was a choice, albeit a bad one. (She speaks in similar terms about the choice to do drugs, something she survived but many of her friends did not.) “I would say there was an element of sexual assault, but frankly, if you go into the club house of the world’s most notorious bikers, it’s not going to be for a Bible reading,” she says when asked directly about the incident, adding:
[M]ost people aren’t as stupid as me. I wouldn’t expect most people to do some of the stuff I did. But then again, most people don’t get to be a rock star, either. We have to walk the plank. I don’t think that’s a sign of intelligence, I don’t know what it is a sign of. I’m not saying I was asking for it. It wasn’t the same as walking down a street in the middle of a nice evening and somebody dragging you into a bush with a knife in your throat.
It’s a divisive opinion, as this week’s online uproar proved. According to feminists, victims of rape should never be held responsible for what happened to them, regardless of the circumstances that led up to the assault. (There’s even a word for it.) And to hear Hynde hanging on to that attitude is disheartening for fans who have trouble reconciling that stance with her status as a pioneering woman in rock. But, as she says herself, “If you don’t want my opinion, don’t ask me for it.”