Roman Polanski

(Warning: this is a sad and angry post, not a fun and happy one.)

As most of you know, Roman Polanski was apprehended last week in Switzerland, and the US and Switzerland are currently working things out to extradite him to the US so he can serve the time he owes for both raping a child and skipping out before sentencing. This is good, right? Uncontroversial, right? Child rapists and runners should feel justice, right?

Apparently it’s not so clear as all that. Over the last week or so I have been absolutely appalled at how many people have spoken out to defend Polanski. It is shameful to live in a world where the rape of a child can be seen as a gray area. Some are saying it wasn’t “rape-rape” (Whoopi Goldberg), but that makes me afraid. Here’s why – there are three different and sufficient ways in which the act was rape. Three. Let me break them down for you:

1. The girl was drunk and drugged (from champagne and drugs Polanski gave her) and so could not have consented, even if the next two were not also true.

2. The girl was 13 years old. Three years under the age of consent in CA at the time, and five years under the age of consent now. She was thirteen, and so could not consent.

3. She said no. She said no repeatedly, pleadingly, and fearfully. She said no, so she explicitly did not consent.

There is no gray area here. And the French presses (and public?) are withdrawing their support of Polanski now that it has become clear that it was not just a consensual act that prudish Americans criminalized (which leads to the question of why they in France think a 43 year old having “consensual” sex with a 13 year old is no biggie, but anyway). In fact, if you were to try and create a scenario where the rape apologists who say things like “She asked for it!” and “She probably just regretted it the morning after” – if you tried to create a scenario where even they would admit “Yeah, that was definitely rape, no question!” you’d probably create one like this. The layers of non-consent are so thick, you’d think they’d make the issue very clear.

But no. To Hollywood, what’s more important it that Polanski is one of them. He makes great films! He’s an artiste! Read Melissa McEwan’s fantastic piece On Polanski for a brilliant take-down of this argument. Here’s a taste:

They make an exception for Polanski for the same reason exceptions have been for other famous, artistic men…: Because geniuses get special dispensation.

Because there’s only one Roman Polanski.

So goes the breathless defense of the artiste, while the flipside of that particular coin, because thirteen-year-old girls are a dime a dozen, goes unspoken.

One of my other favorite writers, Kate Harding, wrote a similarly fantastic piece for Salon.com titled, simply enough, Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped a Child. It’s great. She exposes the arguments that say that Polanski has suffered enough for the ridiculous apologism they are. Did you know that people are saying that because Polanski’s wife was murdered by Manson we shouldn’t arrest him? As a commenter on Shakesville put it, you don’t get a “rape one child free” card if your wife is murdered! Or that his parents died in Auschwitz, so hasn’t he suffered enough? As if unspeakable tragedy in your life gives you free reign to victimize others! But even they don’t stoop so low as those (Anne Applebaum, I’m looking at you!) who claim that hes suffered enough already because he couldn’t pick up his Oscar in person!

I feel like the world has lost its mind, and all my worst fears about it have been confirmed. But then I learned that Harding’s piec has received hundreds of thousands of hits and re-tweets and links, and she’s been flooded with appreciative emails, and I think:

Maybe not the world. Maybe there’s still hope.

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One Response

  1. Hear, Hear…well said!

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