[photo of John Phillips with his daughter Mackenzie is from here]
[24 Sept 2009 update: see here for more about how her family has reacted to the news--as she notes, it's in a very typical way in families with incest. Her half sister and member of the all-female band Wilson Phillips with Beach Boy Brian Wilson's two daughters, will be the guest on Friday's Oprah Show, with Mackenzie via satellite. As someone who comes from a family loaded up and torn apart by incest, I'll be watching to see what kind of support Mackenzie gets.]
I welcome you to click here for an article about Mackenzie's story, which is where I found the image above.
I used to watch all the talk shows, or chat shows, in the 1980s that dealt with matters of sexual violence against women (and girls and boys): incest, rape, battery, prostitution, pornography. I kept looking for pieces of my own story, and to understand how people survive it all. I'm not sure I learned anything too useful, as too many of those shows refused to highlight a radical feminist analysis of these crimes against children and women. But at least in the 1980s feminism had something of a voice, a presence, in dominant media. That has been completely replaced by apolitical analysts, who refuse to see male and white supremacy's abuses as such even when they're staring the psychologists and relationship experts in the face.
http://www.oprah.com/media/20090826-tows-mackenzie-rape [there is more of her story there, and more videos from Oprah's talk show]
Oprah Winfrey's last show to air in the U.S., a portion of which is played in a video above, featured child actor, singer, and daughter of the creator of the famed musical group of the 1960s, The Mamas and The Papas. His name is John Phillips but because of the band, he was known just as much as "Papa John". He died in the spring of 2001 at the age of 65. Eight years later the oldest of his many children, daughter Mackenzie, co-star of the 1970s hit TV show "One Day at a Time", has a new book telling of her life's many serious struggles. She was a child in L.A. with a drug using father; she developed a decades long drug habit herself when she was an adolescent; and her father, the one and only Papa John, also raped her when she was nineteen and unconscious. He then continued to sexually violate her over the next ten years. There is a term Mackenzie uses to describe the sexual abuse that happened when she was, in her painfully honest words, old enough to know better. That term is "consensual incest". That term makes me very uncomfortable, but probably not exactly for all the reasons you might think.
From the perspective from which I analyse social reality, I'm not sure the term "consensual incest" has any merit or meaning. Once a man rapes his daughter, so many things happen to a person that what happens later by him cannot, in my mind, be said to be "consensual". For me, it is all abuse--his against her. And I realise that is a contentious position to take. But I take it based partly on my own childhood experience.
[added on 24 Sept. 2009] For more discussion of this by Mackenzie Phillips, see this:
When I was a prepubescent boy, I was deeply attracted to a man who lived for several years in my family's home. He was at least ten years older than me. He engaged me in some incestuous behavior that confused me. (He was, from my point of view, a part of my family.) And, because he never frightened me in his approach, I longed for more contact, which never happened.
I grew up, and after a family member of mine that he knew well had died, I contacted him to let him know. He was not born in this country and had, years ago, returned to the country of his birth, where he had lived with a U.S.-born woman--his spouse, with whom he had two children. And he was divorced by the time I reconnected with him by phone. Of course he didn't recognise my voice. It had deepened considerably since I was eleven. But he knew my name and the name of my relative who recently died.
Learning of his divorce sent many thoughts through my head, such as: I wonder if he could possibly be gay? (The answer is no.) And, more bizarrely, "I wonder if he'd consider resuming our relationship." I thought about going to visit him, and us picking up where he left off. I was in therapy at the time, and my therapist reminded me it wasn't "a relationship" in any healthy understanding of that term. She reminded me of something I'd said about him in an earlier session: He exploited me, plain and simple. I hated to think that, though. I wanted to believe he was in love with me, because that way there'd be some way for me to stay in denial about being so utterly and callously used by him. (He wasn't in love with me, ever. And even if he were, that wouldn't make this story any less abusive.)
I have brought up "the past" and he has said he doesn't remember much from that time. How convenient for him. When he said that, when he dodged responsibility for his actions, I realised he was fully capable of being an asshole. Of course he wouldn't consider taking responsibility for what happened, he wouldn't apologise, he wouldn't explain what the fuck he was doing to an eleven year old boy who longed for affection and closeness and got what he wanted from me. Nothing terribly "overt" happened between us, on the spectrum of what can happen to children. But any violation is a serious one, and every form of abuse and betrayal does damage. And part of the damage to me was my insistence in thinking of him as someone who loved me.
What I'm relieved about is that this story told on Oprah's show and in Mackenzie Phillips' book, High on Arrival, makes it clear John Phillips actions were always wrong and always an abuse of power. The way Mackenzie speaks of her father is the way many of us speak of those who incested us, who we loved.
My heart goes out to her, and to all survivors of incest and rape, the forms which vary considerably from heinously sadistic and horrifying to the forms that are gentle in approach and appear to be caring, but aren't.
[25 Sept. 2009 addition:]
John Phillips shot up his daughter with heroin and had nonconsensual sex against her while she was unconscious. To those who do not know, can you imagine what either of those things does to a person's sense of self? To their sense of "what's right and what's wrong in the world"? Would you EVER volunteer to find out?
END OF POST.