R. Kelly's Victimhood Doesn't Excuse His Alleged Sexual Misconduct
“I Admit” addresses sexual misconduct accusations against Kelly and mentions his childhood experiences with abuse. Critics say the song seems like a bizarre attempt to garner public sympathy in the hopes of absolving Kelly of his alleged crimes.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.
On Sunday night, singer and alleged sexual abuser R. Kelly released a 19-minute track called “I Admit” in which he addresses a number of the accusations against him and discloses the alleged molestation he suffered as a child up until age 14.
Since 1996, Kelly has faced numerous accusations of sexual misconduct, many of which have come from women who were underage during their encounters with Kelly. In that time, he has been accused of impregnating minors, trapping six women in a sex cult, and making child pornography, to name a few of those allegations—though he was found not guilty of the latter in 2008. In “I Admit,” Kelly repeats "I admit it, I did it" throughout the chorus, without clarifying exactly what he's admitting to. Because of that, some are reading the song as a confession of the many allegations against him. But the rest of the lyrics paint him as not guilty: In the verses, Kelly attempts to discredit the allegations by challenging the philosophies behind them, singing that the accusations of pedophilia and sexual misconduct are a matter of a difference in “opinion.”
I admit I fuck with all the ladies, that's both older and young ladies (ladies, yeah)
But tell me how they call it pedophile because that shit is crazy (crazy)
You may have your opinions, entitled to your opinions (opinions, opinions)
But really am I supposed to go to jail or lose my career because of your opinion?
Say I'm abusing these women, what the fuck that's some absurd shit (what?)
They're brainwashed, really? (really)
Kidnapped, really? (really)
Can't eat, really? (really)
Real talk, that shit sound silly (yeah)
What's the definition of a cult?
What’s the definition of a sex slave?
He also mentions his own history as the victim of sexual assault:
Now, I admit a family member touched me (touched me, touched me, touched me)
From a child to the age 14, yeah
While I laid asleep, took my virginity
Though the R&B star wrote about being molested in his 2012 autobiography Soulacoaster, this is the first time Kelly has mentioned it in a song. In 2016, GQ published a long profile and interview with the singer in which he revealed more details about the molestation he says he suffered as a child, like that his abuser was a relative. But something else he revealed was equally alarming; Kelly told GQ that he believes molestation to be a “generational curse,” seemingly not realizing the way that statement might incriminate himself until journalist Chris Heath brings it to his attention later in the interview.
“As I'm older, I look at it and I know that it had to be not just about me and them, but them and somebody older than them when they were younger, and whatever happened to them when they were younger,” he told Heath. “I looked at it as if there was a sort of like, I don't know, a generational curse, so to speak, going down through the family. Not just started with her doing that to me.”
But according to psychology professor and author of Children, Sexuality, and Child Sexual Abuse Dianna Kenny, the “cycle of sexual abuse” or the idea that those who are molested as children grow up to be molesters is far less common than people think. “Contrary to popular belief, it’s quite unusual,” she tells Broadly. “All the documented cases that we have of young people who were sexually abused as children, about 20 percent of them will go on to become sexual abusers themselves.”
Kelly maintains that he does not belong to that 20 percent. In “I Admit,” he says he continues to support women even though “they wanna bring down the R.” In the GQ interview, when Heath asks Kelly why the cycle of abuse wasn’t passed down to him, he responds, “Generational curse doesn't mean that the curse can't be broken… I feel the child-molestation part, that definitely was broken. But of course you gonna be misunderstood because you R. Kelly.”
But according to Kenny, if the allegations against Kelly are true, then being misunderstood is no excuse. “He’s 51 years old, he’s a songwriter and a record producer. He’s had quite a lot of success in his life,” she says. “It’s inconceivable that he wouldn’t know that sexually abusing young people and women is not only illegal but [that] there are ethical and moral issues surrounding his subjugation of these people.”
“I Admit,” with its mentions of child abuse and philosophical questioning, seems like a bizarre attempt to garner some sympathy from the public in hopes that it could somehow absolve Kelly for his alleged crimes against women and girls, but the song doesn’t seem to be achieving Kelly’s desired effect. In fact, the song has reignited the social media campaign #MuteRKelly that launched earlier this year demanding investigations into Kelly’s allegations and justice for the (largely Black) women he hurt.
Online, the overwhelming response to “I Admit” seems to be confusion as to why Kelly has yet to be found guilty or why the man still has a platform. Civil rights activist DeRay McKesson summarized these sentiments clearly in a tweet on Monday: “R. Kelly literally sings 'I admit it, I did it.' Someone, pull the plug on his career please.”
Broadly has reached out to R. Kelly for comment and will update this article if we receive a response.