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.
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.
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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