Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was a man of strong principles. He was a man who knew what he believed in, knew what he considered to be the morally right thing and he was never afraid to make himself known. With this in mind, Cobain, on stage with his Nirvana bandmates during a show in Oakland on New Year’s Eve in 1993, confronted a male fan in the crowd who was allegedly groping a female in the front row during a gig.
Never shy to make his opinions on the difficult topics known, Cobain passionately approached themes of women equality and, after being drawn into a conversation about rape because one of the band’s most famous songs, went as far as to offer progressive thoughts on a seriously distressing conversation. In an interview with NME back in 1991, Cobain explained his thoughts on how he believed society should look to eliminate sexual assault and rape. One of the most important factors in eradicating sexual assault, he believed, was educating men about rape.
The musician spoke about a female friend who had begun attending rape self-defence classes, he said: “She looked out the window and saw a football pitch full of boys, and thought those are the people that should really be in this class.”
Sexual assault was the subject of Nirvana’s song ‘Rape Me’ from In Utero, which was Cobain’s attempt to write an anti-rape anthem. He explained the meaning behind the track to Spin: “It’s like she’s saying, ‘Rape me, go ahead, rape me, beat me. You’ll never kill me. I’ll survive this and I’m gonna fucking rape you one of these days and you won’t even know it.’”
He later clarified: “It’s about a young girl who was abducted, the guy drove her around in his van. Tortured her. Raped her. The only chance she had of getting away was to come on to him and persuade him to untie her. That’s what she did, and she got away. Can you imagine how much strength that took?”
With his viewpoint clearly established, the enigmatic lead singer, obviously distracted by what he had seen in the audience on that celebratory night in 1993, stopped his acoustic rendition of ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’ and threw his guitar to the ground before rushing over to the crowd. Having alerted security and pointed to the door, Cobain returned to the microphone and said: “Copping a feel, eh buddy?” as other onlookers seemed confused by the interaction.
Bassist Krist Novoselic, becoming aware of what had happened, added: “How’s it feel, huh?” before publicly ridiculing the man who was accused of sexually assaulting the woman in the crowd.
It was a momentous moment, one that offered yet another insight into the mindset of Cobain who relentlessly fought for what he believed in.
Below, you’ll find the footage of that moment.