Marilyn Manson performing in 2009
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  • Marilyn Manson performing in 2009

UPDATE: The parts of a video mentioned in this post that depict Marilyn Manson were taken from his 2012 videos “No Reflection” and “Slo-Mo-Tion.” They are not unreleased footage.

Someone leaked an unreleased Marilyn Manson video this week, or at least the embryo of one. A two-minute clip of dark but fairly rote horror scenes surfaced on YouTube and bounced around seemingly every music website before it was taken down on copyright grounds. Manson can clearly be seen holding a machine gun on a rooftop in one part of the video; in another, the video’s alleged director, Eli Roth, appears as a man who rapes a woman played by Lana Del Rey. Manson’s camp quickly denied involvement with the viral clip, though a 2013 interview with Roth reveals that he did film a video in which both Manson and Rey appear. Roth said the resulting footage was “so sick” he’d kept it locked up. The evidence suggests that all the scenes in the YouTube clip were intended for the same Manson project—that is, this probably isn’t Manson footage collaged with unrelated Lana Del Rey footage by a fan, as a Manson spokesperson claims. But there is no proof.

Someone else leaked an Eminem song this week in which the veteran rapper spits the lines “Put that shit away, Iggy / You don’t wanna blow that rape whistle on me / Scream! / I love it / ‘Fore I get lost with the getting off.” Eminem has not denied his involvement with this fantasy of raping Iggy Azalea. The song, called “Vegas,” is all his.

Elsewhere in the media, more than a dozen women have told stories about how beloved comedian Bill Cosby drugged and raped them—they never went to the authorities because who would take their word over a rich man’s in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s? Today, the number of accusers stands at 15; some of them remain anonymous, while others have shared their names. There could be more tomorrow, or the day after that.

Both Eminem and Marilyn Manson were the talk of grade schools in the 1990s. Eminem rapped about hating gay people and hitting women, while Manson was nearly obscured by a fog of bizarre and salacious rumors: that he pissed on audiences at his concerts, that he was actually a hermaphrodite, that he’d had a rib removed so he could suck his own dick. They were revolting and thrilling urban legends for children who’d just started to learn the power of the obscene.

Today, both are artists willing to use the specter of rape to provoke excitement among their target demographic: teenage boys hungry to transcend their placid suburban environment by way of violent escapism. Roth and Manson’s video includes rape as one horror in a whole gallery of them, while Eminem’s line about raping Azalea comes from the same guy who years ago rapped, “Hate fags? The answer’s yes.”

If only they knew how boring they sound. Maybe rape is still shocking for those who have yet to come near it. But for those who know it’s everywhere, rape is useless as a horror trope. It’s not fun to watch, unlike Saw or Dead Alive, which push the primal fear of bodily harm to campy, flamboyant extremes. It’s dull and sad. It produces a commonplace, chronic ache, not a sharp pain. This sort of threat is all over the place in the real world, which takes the teeth out of supposedly provocative fantasies.

In her essay “Your Friends and Rapists,” Sarah Nicole Prickett writes, “I am tired of rape stories. I think rape stories are boring. I am sick of rape stories on CNN and sicker of rape stories on Jezebel. I would like instead to see national, televised debates and full episodes of morning radio shows and several long-form podcasts and a portion of the next State of the Union address dedicated to determining whether men should be allowed to keep their dicks.”

She has a point. Rape works as fantastical escapism only for the shrinking number of people who have not been harmed by it, either directly or because they care for someone who’s been affected directly. Some sources say one in three women have been sexually assaulted. But one in one women live under the threat of rape. One in one women must dodge catcalls and come-ons, must watch how they dress and try not to drink too much for fear of waking up fucked by somebody they can’t realistically blame; one in one women live under the heel of male power.

Rape is not a singular act of violence. It’s a system of dominance that enables the continual abuse of women, children, queer people, and whoever else is rendered vulnerable by the status quo—a hierarchy enforced by the men who get to sit at its peak. As horror fantasies go, it’s as boring and redundant as they come.