Mark Kozelek, the songwriter behind Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters, has been accused of sexual misconduct by three women.
As reported by Pitchfork, Kozelek is alleged to have exposed himself without consent, forced a woman to touch his penis, and pressured a fan into nonconsensual intercourse. While the three women did not know each other, all told similar stories about Kozalek’s use of guilt as a tool of manipulation.
Update: Kozelek has “publicly and unconditionally” denied the allegations in a statement issued on his website on Monday. Read it in full below.
One woman agreed to use her real name for the story: Sarah Catherine Golden, a 37-year-old mental health worker based in Los Angeles. She claims to have met Kozelek after a flight to Portugal, whereupon the songwriter put her on the guest list for a November 24th, 2017 show. She returned to the hotel with the band, and was surprised when Kozelek’s bandmates got off the elevator on different floors, leaving her alone with the singer. Once inside his hotel room, she went to smoke on the balcony. He alleges he soon joined her outside, wearing nothing but his underwear and a T-shirt. When he asked her to spend the night, she said she declined, at which time, “his whole demeanor just changed.”
According to Golden, Kozelek pushed his twin beds together and forced his way on top of her. As he made his advances, Golden says he gave her “a guilt trip about how I was afraid of him because he’s old, and I’m just like everyone else, because I think he’s too old, he can’t be attractive.”
She continued, “At that point, I was kind of in shock. I told him I really needed to get a cab, if he could please just call for it.” Kozelek did call for a taxi, but before it arrived he allegedly began masturbating. She claims that he grabbed at her, tried to kiss her, and forcibly moved her hand into contact with his erect penis. She was eventually able to escape the hotel room into her cab.
Golden said she considered calling the police, “but I didn’t know how to do that. I don’t speak Portuguese.” Instead, she texted with two friends back in the States, both of whom confirmed to Pitchfork that they clearly remembered that night. In one message, she wrote, “That went very wrong. He totally just pulled a Louis C.K. on me,” referring to another non-consensual masturbator. “He started kissing me and simultaneously was somehow naked and hard and jerking off. I seriously just became one of those women.”
Three months later, Golden says he confronted Kozelek in an email. She wrote, “Hey, Mark. I can’t swallow this anymore. Do you know that you were really inappropriate? As in, you broke me… You put my hand on your dick. I froze. I was so stuck there.” Kozelek did not reply.
Other troubling behavior was reported by a young woman who chose to be identified as “Andrea”. She says she first met Kozelek in 2014 at a concert in Washington, DC, when she was 19-years-old. Kozelek called out to her from the stage, asking “What’s a beautiful girl like you doing sitting next to an empty chair?” Afterwards they exchanged numbers, but she wasn’t alone with him until some time later in Raleigh, North Carolina. Andrea attended a notorious September 5th Sun Kil Moon show, during which Kozelek berated the crowd as “fucking hillbillies.”
Afterward, Kozelek reportedly texted Andrea inviting her to his hotel. As she later wrote to a friend on Facebook, “I went in there thinking (so naive) ‘cool mark and I are going to talk.’”
According to Andrea, shortly after her arrival Kozelek announced his intention to take a bath. He did so without closing the door, and then returned to the room in nothing but a towel. Soon the towel hit the floor, and as Andrea recalled, he “pretty much just pounced on me.” Kozelek then initiated sex that, she said, “wasn’t really consensual.” She explained, “He was on top, and I think I was visibly frozen, because afterwards he was like, are you OK? Because I was stuck in this hotel room with him, I didn’t have the courage to be like, no, that wasn’t OK, and that’s not what I wanted to do.”
Andrea also noted Kozelek’s use of age as a weapon of guilt. “I was just really afraid to say no,” she wrote to her friend the next day. “He focused on my age a lot… He kept asking me to say how old i was (literally one of the worst things i’ve had to go through) and he called himself ‘daddy.’”
In messages reviewed by Pitchfork, Andrea wrote, “I’m kind of afraid of him i mean we’re in the same hotel and stuff and he has my number it’s just one more time i’ll honestly be ok.” They had sex several more times in Raleigh, and afterwards continued a three-month long-distance relationship. While some sexual encounters felt consensual, she said that for others, “the lines [were] really blurred.” She felt pressured into having intercourse in public, and said, “I feel like our sexual relationship, every encounter was him trying to find another thing he could do, and not in a way where he asks for consent or permission.” She said his subsequent breakup emails were both “kind of scary” and a “relief.”
A third woman refused to give her name, and has been identified only as a “female musician.” She declined to give any details that may reveal where she met Kozelek or her own identity. But, she claimed, he also made comments about age and sexual appeal, and she called his behavior inappropriate. “It’s alluring to be around people who have made it to that higher level, especially when you’re trying to get success of your own,” she said. “My friend really wanted him to have [her record], because she respected his music so much.”
Pitchfork editor Amy Zimmerman did an admirable job poring over emails, texts, Facebook messages, concert tickets, and hotel receipts to corroborate these women’s stories. The full article is both detailed and damning, and is well worth your click.
So far, Mark Kozelek has not issued a response.
Update — Monday, August 17th: Kozelek has now issued a response denying the allegations. In a note published to his website, he wrote,
“It is important that I publicly and unconditionally deny that I engaged in the inappropriate and disturbing incidents falsely depicted in the media. While I support the important work of addressing legitimate claims of sexual misconduct, I reject the false allegations and innuendo in the recent press.
I have retained the legal counsel of Lavely & Singer to investigate and to pursue as necessary any claims against anyone participating to defame me in the media.”
Kozelek’s scheduled Sun Kil Moon UK tour has been canceled, according to The Guardian. The dates were originally planned for November 2020, but now look to have been pushed back to next year, per his label’s website.
If you or someone you know is suffering from sexual abuse, contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.