Lady Gaga has revealed that she wrote the song “Swine,” off 2013’s Artpop, as a way to express the rage and demoralization she felt after being sexually assaulted as a teenager. In an interview with Howard Stern on SiriusXM, the singer brought up the rape in the context of her performance of the song at South by Southwest, where British artist Millie Brown vomited colored paint onto Gaga while the singer rode a mechanical bull. “I want this chick to throw up on me in front of the world, so that I can tell them, ‘You know what? You could never, ever degrade me as much as I degrade myself, and look how beautiful it is when I do,'” Gaga said.
The singer then addressed the event that inspired the song. Although she declined to reveal the person who raped her at age 19, Gaga said that the man was 20 years her senior. “It didn’t affect me as much right after as it did about four or five years later,” she said. “It hit me so hard. I was so traumatized by it that I was like, ‘Just keep going,’ because I just had to get out of there.”
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Gaga said that for many years, she wasn’t willing to admit it had even happened. And when she did, she didn’t want to share it. “I’ll be damned if somebody’s going to say that every creatively intelligent thing that I ever did has boiled down to one dickhead that did that to me,” she said. “I’m going to take responsibility for all of my pain, looking beautiful, and all the things that I’ve made out of my strife.”
When Stern asked if she had ever confronted the assaulter, the pop star said no. “I think it would terrify me,” Gaga said. “It would paralyze me. I saw him one time in a store and I was paralyzed by fear. It wasn’t until I was a little bit older that I went, ‘Wow, that was really messed up.'”
Eventually, the singer had a revelation about the experience and decided to confront it. “All this drinking and all this nonsense, you have to go to the source,” she said. “Otherwise it just won’t go away.” The vocalist sought mental, emotional and physical therapy to cope with the rape.
Gaga had appeared on Stern ostensibly to promote her recently released album of duets with Tony Bennett, Cheek to Cheek. “Just to bring this back to Tony, can you imagine after all that time and after how I was feeling, having Tony Bennett be so loving?” she told Stern. “He’s not just a father or a grandfather or an uncle, he’s a friend. He’s a brother. He’s everything. He wants nothing from me but my talent and my friendship. All I wanted all along was somebody to say you’ve got a great voice and I’ll do anything to help you.” She also spent a major part of the interview talking about her working process with the music legend.