Why R. Kelly's New Relationship Is No Laughing Matter

August 8th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

People are slamming R. Kelly with dark jokes about his latest relationship.

The 49-year-old R&B singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is reportedly dating a 19-year old woman. Given the long history of accusations against him for having sex with underage girls, social media users were quick to criticize Kelly for dating so far out of his age range.

However Kelly's history with teenagers is no laughing matter.

Kelly was reportedly married to 15-year-old R&B superstar Aaliyah in 1994 for six months. He was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

After the acquittal, Kelly gave a strange interview with BET News where he seemed confused about the definition of "teenage," and whether he previously had sex with teenagers.

People on Twitter didn't forget these scandals from Kelly's past.

The infamous 2008 charges against Kelly stemmed from a sex tape showing a man who looked like Kelly having sex with a girl he allegedly met when she was 12 years old. Prosecutors said the child was the niece of Kelly's musical protegé Stephanie Edwards, according to The New York Times. The tape also reportedly showed the man peeing on the girl.

Multiple witnesses identified the girl on the tape and Kelly. However, he was acquitted because the defense team successfully argued that the identities of the two people on the tape were not conclusive.

Leonard Cavise, a law professor at DePaul University told the Times after the 2008 verdict that Kelly's fame could have played a significant factor in his acquittal. He said the optimistic view of the verdict is that the jury simply thought there was too much reasonable doubt, but there is a more cynical view as well.

“The jury gave him the extra benefit of the doubt because of who he is, just like the O. J. Simpson jury,” said Cavise to the Times.

The accusations against Kelly didn't stop after the child pornography case, though. According to Chicago Sun Times music critic Jim Derogatis, dozens of young women have accused the singer of being a sexual predator, but were met mostly with silence and inaction.

Some people on Twitter noted the conflict of Kelly's iconic music status and the accusations against him.

In 2013, DeRogatis suggested that Kelly has been able to evade criticism from media outlets because they benefit from him financially, noting that Kelly headlined Pitchfork Festival that year.

To be clear, I think Pitchfork was cosigning it. I think each and every one of us, as individual listeners and consumers of culture, has to come up with our own answer. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer. The thing that's interesting to me is that Pitchfork is a journalistic and critical organ. They do journalism and they do criticism. And then when they are making money to present an act — that's a cosign, that's an endorsement. That's not just writing about and covering it. They very much wanted R. Kelly as their cornerstone artist for the festival. I think it's fair game to say: "Why, Pitchfork?"

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