Willing Victim (The Audience as Whipping Boy): A 14-song musical retrospective from Lydia Lunch

By on August 8, 2018

Lydia Lunch‘s Willing Victim is subtitled “The Audience as Whipping Boy,” although Lunch doesn’t really abuse the enraptured crowd who have gathered to watch her perform her fourteen-song musical retrospective, commissioned by “the Festival des Masochismus.”

Watch her live concert performamnce — held in Graz, Austria, a two-hour train ride from Vienna, on June 21, 2003 — on Night Flight Plus.

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Filmed by Marc Viaplana and Josep M. Jordana, Lunch and her band — Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, ex-Swans guitarist Norman Westberg, and bassist Algis Kyzis and drummer Vinnie Signorelli of Unsane — are seen performing some of her most well-known songs for what was billed as “Masomania: The Sacher-Masoch Festival,” a project including an exhibition, film, lectures and drama events.

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Lunch (born Lydia Koch) and her group perform material spanning Lunch’s entire recording career, including songs by Teenage Jesus & the Jerks (“Orphans”), 8-Eyed Spy (CCR’s “Run Through the Jungle”), 13:13, her band with Dix Denney of the Weirdos, film composer Cliff Martinez and bassist Greg Williams (“Lock Your Door”) and many songs from her various solo works, from a version of her legendary ’80s song “Stinkfist” (from a record she did with Clunt Ruin of Foetus) as well as classic live performances of crowd faves like “The Need to Feed,” “Psychic Anthropology,” and “Gospel Singer.”

There’s even Lydia Lunch’s cover of Alice Cooper’s “Black Juju.”

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These performances — clocking in at just over an hour long — were later edited in Barcelona, Spain, by Lunch, Viaplana and Jordana in June of 2004, and released on DVD in 2005 by the Atavistic company, distributed by MVD.

The title itself is a phrase Lunch has self-applied many times during his career, repeating it often in interviews, like the time Gene Gregorits — the veteran gonzo journalist, is the founder of Sex & Guts Magazine, a DIY arts and culture journal — asked her about her theory of “the willing victim”, of consensual victimization.

Lunch — who was quoted in Gregorits’ Midnight Mavericks: Reports from the Underground — replied, in part, that she had been “a willing victim for many years of my adult life and the important thing to me was to get to the root of why women like myself will willingly, chronically, get into abusive situations with battering men.”

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Read more about Lydia Lunch below.

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We’ve previously told you a bit about Lydia Lunch’s recording career in this previous Night Flight blog post, so we thought we’d focus here today on one her published works, her loosely-based 1997 autobiography Paradoxia: A Predator’s Diary, in which she candidly documented her bi-sexual dalliances and sexual misadventures, substance abuse and flirtations with insanity, from New York City to London, England, to New Orleans, Louisiana.

The book — sometimes called a novel, although that’s not exactly what it is — was first published in the UK in 1997.

It is aptly described as “an uncensored, novelized account of one woman’s assault on men.”

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Individual publications of the book have featured introductions written by a few of the writers that Lunch admires, including Jerry Stahl — who wrote his own memoir about addiction called Permanent Midnight, later made into a film starring Ben Stiller — and Hubert Selby Jr., who she met in the 1980s, when he was teaching school and living in what Lunch called “a crappy West Hollywood apartment.”

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Selby — who is probably best known for his incredible 1964 book, Last Exit to Brooklyn, and less so for his 1978 novel, Requiem for a Dream – had moved to the Los Angeles area in 1967 to try to escape his drug addictions.

There, that same year, he met his future wife Suzanne in a West Hollywood bar (they moved in together two days after they met and were married in 1969).

Selby was busted in ’67 for heroin possession and served two months in the Los Angeles County jail, but after his release, he finally kicked the habit.

Selby’s first novel took sixteen years for Selby to write, which is just one reason he was such an influential figure in Lydia Lunch’s artistic life, becoming a model for perseverance and focusing on personal inner demons.

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Paradoxia detals a number of increasingly horrendous sexual encounters that a girl from an inbred, abusive family in the Midwest experiences, encounters that she readily admits she thrives on.

There are incidents of rough sex, uninhibited drug use with cocaine (sometimes used during acts of sodomy), and even episodes of Satanic pedophilia.

Lunch opens with a confession, an account of her childhood sexual abuse: “So twisted by men, a man, my father, that I became like one.”

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The book goes on to explain her transformation into a transgressive sexual predator, targeting “marks” and trading access to her body for free rooms and drugs.

She deflowers runaway teenage boys (“supping on their energy like an insatiable bloodsucker whose belly would never fill”), dabbles with a cannibal (whose room smells like “barbecue and old leather”), and turns tricks with a lesbian mother trying to put her girlfriend through law school.

Lydia Lunch has written more than a half-dozen books, including Adulterers Anonymous (1982, co-authored with Exene Cervenka), The Gun is Loaded (2007), and Will Work for Drugs (2009).

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The Sacher-Masoch Festival — conceived by Neue Galerie Graz — deals with the importance of Graz author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose name gave birth to the term “masochism.”

His Venus in Furs (1869) is one of the classics of erotic literature, written by the Lemberg-born Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895) when he began living in Graz, Austria, in 1854.

Watch Willing Victim on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.