R. Kelly has been in the news as of late due to a Buzzfeed article that details how he allegedly keeps women in a ‘cult.’ I’ve seen comments defending him from either side, some saying that no one batted an eye when Hefner did the same. Some also argue that these are grown women who are free to do what they want. I agree with that sentiment. You are free to be in any abusive relationship you want to be in, even if it is slowly choking the life out of you. R. Kelly has committed no crimes, but morally, he is a reprehensible person who seeks out the companionship of young, impressionable women who he can easily manipulate by using his fame and fortune to leverage control. There is no law that prevents you from being manipulated, and people confuse manipulation and abuse because the one may lead to the other, but they are not the same.
In my opinion, these young women are being mentally trained to not question their roles in his home. Is it it a cult? No, but is it unhealthy? Yes. He is using his cult of stardom to wow them and let them know who is the star, but there are no beliefs to be shared. A cult uses the same strategies to maintain their lambs, but they are not the same thing. He can be seen as a cult leader because he is charismatic and forceful, but he is not one. What he is is a man who craves control because it makes him feel more powerful. He enjoys the position of power as did Warren Jeffs, of a Utah Mormon sect that abused his position by having sex with underage girls. Once again, similar, but not the same. It’s easy to bandy that word about, but do not confuse the two situations. R. Kelly is simply a man who uses his position to get what he wants sexually, but Warren Jeffs is a man who uses his religion and position to get what he wants sexually, and religion can easily be eschewed to line up to his benefit. Religion is a far more damaging agent because it can encompass your whole life and way of thinking.
I do not agree with the fact that these women chose to stay with him, but I also do not agree with the fact that women in the Mormon sect decide to stay within that society, that women all over stay in abused marriages, and that a lot of harm befall women because this is how they are kept from rebelling. If we keep letting women believe that they are less than, they will keep trying to and not ask for more. As with manipulators and cults of any sorts, the antidote is to question, for when you start questioning, you start unraveling. If there is the one thing you teach your children, I hope it is that they always have the right to question.