puzzle activity time!

Dear newsmedia, Facebook page, friends, and assorted coworkers:

I have a little quiz for you! I know you like quizzes. But first!

A trigger warning for discussion of rape.

Let’s say a 44-year-old man invites a 13-year-old girl over to his house. First it’s so that he can take pictures of her–“modeling.” Then, even though she says she’s uncomfortable and he made her feel unsafe, he convinces her mother to send her over for a second session, where he plies her with champagne and, allegedly, drugs her with Quaaludes and, over her protests and begging, performs multiple sex acts on her.

Do we agree that this is rape?

Let’s say he’s charged with that rape, among other charges, and admits that he did it on a plea-bargain–but to avoid standing trial he jumps bail and flees the country.

Still unconvinced?

Let’s say right after he gets to another country, he begins a public and supposedly-consensual relationship with a different fifteen-year-old girl, one who had stated before that she was feeling exploited in the industry in which both of them worked.

This is looking pretty solid, right? But what if there are mitigating circumstances?

What if it’s been thirty years since the crime, and the now-grown woman who made the original accusation has asked that charges be dropped, because she knows her perpetrator will never face consequences or stand trial and she can’t take another round of the trauma of being known the world over as that 13-year-old the famous guy raped, especially now that she has a husband and kids? Still rape?

Let’s say he said he thought the 13-year-old was 18. Still rape?

Let’s say he said she asked for it. Are you convinced?

Let’s say he’s rich and influential and popular and has a lot of wealthy, influential friends, and shortly after he flees the country, the 13-year-old changes her story and asks that he be left alone. Still rape?

What if he had a really, really hard life–war, loss, murdered loved ones. Still rape?

What if he’s a genius, a virtuoso artist with many fans–still rape?

What if he’s really sorry? He’s been punished a great deal already, after all. In the thirty years since fleeing the US, the guy has been forced to stay out of the country and live in comfort in his country of birth instead, where he is ostracized and blacklisted by the film industry in which he works–and so is everyone who dares to work with him, including pilloried, hard-up, blacklisted actors like Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, and Adrien Brody? In fact–let’s throw this in–he was so dishonored and shunned by his colleagues he had to have a friend collect his Academy Award for him.

Still rape?

So are you upset that this man has been arrested and may finally stand trial?

Then why are you upset when that man is Roman Polanski?

But, I’ve heard from plenty of places, isn’t there a statute of limitations for this kind of thing? Well, if there were, he wouldn’t have been arrested. Alternate answer: if she were you–or, if you can’t go there, your little sister–what are your feelings on that statute of limitations? At what point do we just say, hey, it was just child rape, can’t we drop it?

But, can’t we just drop a mere statutory rape charge after thirty years? You mean because the other charges were dropped on a plea-bargain, drugging a girl and having sex with her stops counting as a flat-out rape no matter what her age?

But, she’s grown-up now, can’t we just drop it? She wasn’t then. And if she were, it would still be rape.

Isn’t this just stuffy Americans judging a brilliant man on sexual peccadilloes like they always do, because Americans can’t handle sex as a culture? Yes. Absolutely. The rest of the world thinks raping kids is a-okay, whoops, our bad, we’re just too uptight about drugging people and forcing sex on them. You know us Americans. We’re always up in arms about sexual assault this, consent that.

But he’s an old man now. Yes, and due to the Oldness Exception Act of 1967, old people are no longer accountable for felonies and shouldn’t face consequences for doing things that are wrong.

But he’s really talented, and I really like his movies. That’s. Nice.

But we don’t know all the facts!

That’s what a trial is for.

If you believe arresting people and making them stand trial is worth anything, why the objection? Why the international outcry and circulation of petitions and raging French government officials?

Because seriously, the message I’m hearing is, if you have enough money and celebrity friends, if you’re talented enough, if you’re charming enough, everyone thinks that you should just be left alone to rape underage girls and how dare anyone call you on it or even suggest that you have to stand trial like anyone else. And the same news media that pruriently reports the horrible details of similar crimes done by non-famous people will back you up on it.

This, my friends, is what a rape culture looks like.

Edited to add: Kate Harding utterly nails it. And she nails the part I missed–that even Roman Polanski does not dispute that Roman Polanski raped a child. Period.

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33 comments for “puzzle activity time!

  1. ShelbyWoo
    September 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    He already plead guilty to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor as part of a plea agreement…then he skipped the country. So, no need for a trial, we already know he’s guilty, he’s admitted as much.

  2. September 28, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    THANK YOU Little Light.

    And ShelbyWoo, the point of a trial isn’t just to figure out if someone is guilty. It’s also to determine an appropriate consequence for the acts. Polanski has not faced the consequences.

  3. Ben
    September 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    He plead guilty as part of a plea bargain, was ordered to spend 90 days in jail without being sentenced and was released after 42 days (let me repeat, he spent 42 days in prison without any sentence), then fled the country before his sentencing. A part of it is because his case was severely mishandled by the judge.

    I’m not defending his actions, but there’s more going on than people simply forgiving a rape because it was committed by someone who is rich and famous. I do agree that there’s probably an element of that as well.

    I encourage everyone to check out the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired to learn more about how his trial was mishandled. It’s available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

  4. Felicity
    September 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    You forgot the point that “he’s had a hard life.”

    People always have to drag his parents and his wife into this.

  5. peanutbutter
    September 28, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    As a point of clarification, the statute of limitations has indeed run out for the original offense. What did NOT run out was the part where he skipped the country rather than submit to the sentencing. Fugitive from justice — no limitations. Stupid idiot — if he had served his sentence, this would have been over in five years instead of blowing up again forty years later.

    Should be interesting to see what happens. I’ll be shocked if he gets more than a slap on the wrists, but we’ll see.

  6. Felicity
    September 28, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Never mind! I didn’t see it. You hit it already.

  7. Ben
    September 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I really hope, at the very least, this most recent arrest will bring this ordeal to an end so the victim can finally leave it behind her.

  8. Mkp
    September 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I also hate that so many of the media discussions are still saying “had sex with a 13-year-old girl.” “Having sex with” implies informed consent – no sex that a 13-year-old is having with an adult, especially when other substances are involved, is sex. It is rape. Say “allegedly raped” if you must, NPR, but can we at least acknowledge there’s no way this was consensual.

  9. mike
    September 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    it’s not really “allegedly” on the Quaadludes is it? wasn’t stipulating to that actually happening part of his original plea deal? that we even use the word “allegedly,” which we afford to people pre-trial for a guy in a case where the facts are established and a plea was entered speaks to the deference he continues to be handed.

  10. Taylor
    September 28, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Amazing post. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

  11. September 28, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you, LL.

  12. Sheelzebub
    September 28, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Fuck yeah, THIS.

    LL, I’ve seen his defenders start complaining about lynch mobs and how we want to hang him high. Uh. . .whut?? Roman Polanski is a very wealthy, powerful WHITE guy. He’s in no danger of being lynched, and it’s an insult to the Black people who were terrorized, tortured, and murdered to equate this with lynching. (It’s also rather ridiculous to equate holding someone accountable for his actions with hanging him, but ZOMG! everytime you criticize a White d00d, the angels cry. Or some such shit.)

    I’m not defending his actions, but there’s more going on than people simply forgiving a rape because it was committed by someone who is rich and famous. I do agree that there’s probably an element of that as well.

    You’re right, there’s an element of that, and there’s also a strong element of rape apology. He had a hard life! He was traumatized by all the tragedy in his life (so are a lot of people, including women, but we don’t get a free pass for this shit). She was a slut, he and his defenders claim! He was set up! She was asking for it.! It was TOTES consensual–even though she was 13-years-old and he was forty-fucking-four. I mean, Jaysus, even the news reports–he had sex with a thirteen year old. Uh, no. You can’t legally have sex with a thirteen year old when you’re an adult. That is rape. FFS.

    And I’ll point out–when female schoolteachers fuck 13-year-old students (or even older students), they are charged with rape and they are jailed. I have no problem with that. Why the fuck does Polanski get a pass? Why is he such a special fucking snowflake? Is it his skin color, his maleness, or his wealth?

  13. September 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    As it turns out, I have something to add.

    There are a whole lot of people in the last thirty years who knew where Polanski was, who were standing right next to him with a cell phone, including all those famous actors who chose to work with him instead of attempting to hold him accountable but also including director’s assistants, prop managers, publicists, reporters, waiters, dog-walkers, whatever.
    All those people knowingly enabled a rapist. All those people with knowledge that he had plead guilty to drugging and raping a 13-year-old and then fled the consequences and worked right next to him, clapped him on the back, took publicity photos of him for film festivals, booked him for appearances, all of them knew that with one phone call to the right authorities they could have brought a serial child rapist to justice–and they chose not to. That goes double for the people working with him right afterward, during his “relationship” with 15-year-old Nastassja Kinski, watching him groom and exploit a second girl thirty years his junior knowing what the prior charges were.

    Every single one of those people, confronted with the choice to hang out with a rapist and support his work or to turn him in, chose the former and not only enabled his crimes, but basically gave it their thumbs-up.

    And they should all be deeply, deeply ashamed.

  14. September 28, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for writing this. This case hits particularly close for me. You and Harding are on it.

  15. September 28, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    to me the worse crime was the lazy and starstruck press that let Polanski define the terms. I was a young girl when this crime occurred and the message was that it’s no big deal if a guy can’t help taking advantage of a ‘lolita’.
    there’s no law of nature that says a filmmaker or any other creative person has to be ‘nice’. it’s taken thirty years, but finally people are calling rape for what it is.
    some of the contradictions in admitting all the sides of a famous person here–


  16. sonia
    September 29, 2009 at 2:29 am

    If you just look at it as rape because she was underage people’s responses from different countries can be very different because age of consent laws vary widely across the world and it is as low as 9 across most of the middle east. If you add the drugging to the case, I am not sure he pleaded guilty to that charge.

  17. Sheelzebub
    September 29, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Roman Polanski is not from the Middle East–and every Arab I know doesn’t think it’s just fine to fuck young teenagers. While we’re at it, lots of things are legal in the US that aren’t legal in other countries, and vice-versa. Polanski doesn’t get a pass to rape a 13-year-old because he’s not a US citizen–nor should he get a pass because he’s such a great freaking director, wealthy, White, and male. He knew goddamn well that it was against the law, so don’t give me the crap that “other countries think fucking children is just fine” excuse.

  18. September 29, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Roman Polanski: Probably Not As Bad As Them Ay-rabs.

    Nice, sonia, real nice. And please, provide examples as to age of consent laws for “most of the middle east.” I don’t think I’ve ever met someone from over there who actually believes it’s okay to fuck a 13-year-old, let alone a 9-year-old, and that includes a lot of people who know that in the 600s or so, Muhammad did.
    And then, y’know, show how that’s relevant.

    I’m leaning toward disemvowelling this one. Thoughts, peanut gallery?

  19. debbie
    September 29, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Let me be the first vote for disemvowellment!

  20. Kristen J.
    September 29, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Between this and the Oprah-Phillips interview, I think I’m done with the universe for a bit. There are times when the hatefulness of our society just boggles the mind.

  21. jemand
    September 29, 2009 at 10:26 am

    because of reading this, I was tentatively worried before opening the article at slate about Roman Polanski, but was rather surprised. They aren’t exactly cnn, or msnbc or whatever, but they call rape rape without any sort of wishy washy wavering, and even explain that the “judicial misconduct” during the original trial was such that dismissal makes no sense.


    mainstream media is kinda dying anyway ‘cuz they never report anything right, I’m glad to see that some of the online replacement seems to be doing better on these issues.

  22. pennylane
    September 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Ben, lest you think the documentary is an entirely objective take on the situation, please read this: http://www.salon.com/ent/feature/2009/02/19/roman_polanski_documentary/

    And then go read the victim’s grand jury testimony which the documentary conveniently leaves out.

    Even if she had been 23 it still would have been raped. He gave her alcohol and drugs, she said no, he did it anyway.

  23. Ledasmom
    September 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Does the statute of limitations run while someone is fleeing justice by skipping the country? I thought there were circumstances under which it is suspended.

  24. darthhellokitty
    September 29, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    He gave her drugs and alcohol, he put his penis in her when she said no, and he continued putting his penis various places as she continued to say no.

    She could have been 30 years old, and it would still have been rape.

  25. Ginjoint
    September 29, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    “There’s the America of art and culture, and then there’s American justice, which is very Puritan, which doesn’t forget, which doesn’t forgive, that absolutely wants enforce, exercise the law, punish,” said Serge Toubiana, head of the French film archive and heritage institution, the Cinematheque Francaise. “Justice has a right to be exercised, but not in any old way.”

    (French Culture Minister) Mitterrand continued with a jab against the United States: “In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face.”

    BIG fuck, big you, to all these assholes spinning this into a “Americans are so Puritan and we are so very sophisticated” schpiel, or using this as some sort of bizarre example of “America is such a bully!” This is about a creep who raped a little girl. I don’t give a flying fuck what the HBO documentary says, he copped to it. That last line, Little Light? Sheer perfection. And thank you to Sheelzebub, for bringing up the revolting use of the word “lynching” by these rape apologists. In fact, thank you for your whole post.

  26. Sheelzebub
    September 29, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    @Little Light:

    I’m leaning toward disemvowelling this one. Thoughts, peanut gallery?

    Can we point and mock for a bit first?


    Mitterand is a douche. Oh, yeah, it’s so very puritanical of us to think that child rape is wrong. :::rolls eyes::: It’s not at all puritanical, of course, to revert to the old madonna-whore rape apology BS that Polanski’s defenders use: she wasn’t a virgin, she’d used drugs before, there fore impure woman and totes unrapeable. That’s puritanical, right there.

  27. Malta
    September 29, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    @sonia -> some pointing and mocking

    Fun fact: kids in Kansas can legally wed at age 12 for girls and 14 for boys with their parent’s consent. So I guess that means Americans support underage, arranged marriages seeing as how the anachronistic laws of one state tell you about the current cultural mores of an entire region. Wee, illogical generalizations sure are fun!

    Back to the topic at hand, it’s worth repeating that the victim DID NOT consent, so even if she had been 23, this still would have been rape. Rape is rape is rape.

  28. September 30, 2009 at 11:02 am

    I am astonished at the need for this article–this is obvious stuff.

    That said, very well said.

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