So, which one are you sleeping with -- the drummer or the guitarist? Or did you go home with a fan? C'mon. You musicians are all the same, right? Throngs of groupie fanboys at your beck and call?
Thus went the playful text from an attractive guy-friend who had just come to one of my shows. He had given me the cursory "Nice show slash I'll see you soon slash but there's no way I'm waiting in that line to say hello to you" wave as he passed me in the merch booth, selling my wares to adorably tipsy audience members at the Hotel Cafe.
Now I was back in my dark hotel room, far from the venue on Cahuenga Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood, where singer-songwriters get record deals for writing songs that end up on Grey's Anatomy and Gossip Girl. Where I myself scored a record deal a few years ago with songs that ended up on Grey's Anatomy and Gossip Girl.
Now I was back in my dark hotel room -- alone, the smirk on my face illuminated by the iPhone glow of sardonic text messages.
My mind went down a familiar path, a path I've been treading for the past few years, as I focused on the words.
you musicians are all the same
throngs of groupie fanboys
at your beck
In fact, the sentiment of the text was one my female peers in rock and I have heard a hundred times over -- the gist being: you rock chicks must be fending off sexual advances from groupies like Mick and Keith in an outtake of "Cocksucker Blues." These comments, dispensed by friends, strangers and even family, are intended, I can only assume, to boost the presumably fragile ego of the performer, but the truth is, we "rock chicks" are in fact not engaging in many -- if any -- SexyFunTimes™ post-show. I thought I was alone, unique in my post-show solitude. But as I continued to find -- through months and months of careful research and data gathering -- I was the norm.
No one I talked to was reaping the sorts of sexual benefits people associate with musicians. None of us had a male equivalent of a Cynthia Plastercaster or a Marianne Faithful. Not even close. And if you follow Neko Case on Twitter, you already know that "ladies in bands don't get any action," as she so eloquently put it. Many -- myself, Michelle Branch, Miranda Brown (Crooked Fingers) and others -- concurred. It's true. None. Zilch. Nada. In fact, in many cases, being a performer seemed to actually work against us. It's almost as if a career on stage all but ensures a dismal romantic future with men -- specifically, with any "civilian" male in the general vicinity of our performance.
"Why do you think I married my bass player?" Branch joked.
It's not that we women wish for "throngs of groupie fanboys" (most of us don't). What's compelling is that the phenomenon of "throngs of groupie fanboys" does not exist when the shoe is on the other foot, and when that other foot belongs not to Mick Jagger but to a PJ Harvey or a Juliette Lewis.
It's not just musicians, either. Over the next several months, I asked the same question of any female performer I met -- comedians, authors, anyone who stepped onto a stage in a position of some illusory "power," especially those who travel or tour regularly: Has it been your experience that female performers enjoy the same sort of sexual attention/"action" that men in your position have enjoyed?
The answer was always the same: a resounding, "NO."
The follow-up, as you may suspect, was something along the lines of, "Well, why the hell not?"
The answers were so varied and interesting, I thought they merited more than just one column. Everybody had a theory -- ranging from the obvious ("The Question of Intimidation") to the esoteric ("The Issue of Guitar as Phallic Symbol/Cockblock") -- and I'll be examining each one over the coming months with the help of psychologists, gender studies scholars, sexperts, and my fellow rock friends. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you guys: are you a female performer who's experienced this phenomenon? Any fanboy groupies out there want to prove me wrong?
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