Monday, September 28, 2009

On Roman Polanski

So you might have heard that Roman Polanski got arrested in Zurich, on a 30-year-old warrant issued in the United States for 'unlawful sex' with a 13-year-old.

Both France and Poland are asking for his release, while we're waiting to see whether the US will request Polanski get extradited and stand trial for his crime.

Now, I like Polanski a lot - one of his films, Bitter Moon, is a personal favorite of mine. I also acknowledge that he got a really bum rap with his trial judge, Rittenband, who basically double-crossed him by reneging on a plea-bargain.

But let's get one thing straight... 30 years ago, Roman Polanski got a 13-year-old girl drunk and stoned on Quaaludes - and then screwed and sodomized her. There's nothing okay about that, because she was thirteen.

Polanski invited Samantha Gailey to his house to photograph her - so he knew how old she was. Even ignoring the ethical implications of having sex with a drunk, passed-out girl - Polanski should have known what he was doing was wrong from the very beginning.

Samantha Gailey was apparently 'no angel' - but that's really not relevant (how come a girl's sexual history is always brought up, to somehow suggest that she 'deserved' what happened to her?)

Even if the courts consider the girl to be a 'raging whore,' making an overt and deliberate attempt to seduce a guy, it's still wrong to sleep with her if she's only 13-years-old!

I mean, there's no ambiguity there. It's just a case of 'right' or 'wrong.'

And Polanski didn't just have sex with this girl - he got her drunk and high first. While I think it's fine to pour champagne and pills down a willing girl - it's only fine if the girl's not 13!

And there's some debate as to whether the sex was consensual, or if she passed out and Polanski just decided to have vaginal and anal sex with her while she was unconscious. In my mind, both scenarios are wrong because of her age.

If she was drunk and high, but willing and horny, she was still 13! No way, no how, should Polanksi have thought that was acceptable!

And if she was actually unconscious - actually unable to consent - than that's a whole new level of 'wrong.' That's rape.

Now I'm normally pragmatic about this kind of thing. If the girl had been 18, I'd have been willing to give Roman Polanski the benefit of the doubt - but she wasn't.

She was 13-years-old. Which means that whatever happened that night, Roman Polanski had already made one deeply questionable moral decision when he had sex with her. Why wouldn't anything else that happened that night be equally morally dubious?

So I'm not saddened by Polanski's arrest. Whatever his contribution to cinema, or his achievements, what he did was wrong. If the US hadn't have pursued this, it would have been an unspoken message that it's 'okay' to have unlawful sex with an underage girl if you're rich and famous.


Britni TheVadgeWig said...

Even if she was 18, it was still rape if she was drunk and passed out. Even if she willing drinks and takes drugs, when she passes out, it ceases to be okay, regardless of her age. And even if she isn't passed out but is WAY too fucked up to really be aware of what she's doing, it's still rape. While you do once mention that it's rape if she's passed out, you still come across like you'd be willing to give him a pass if she'd been of age. Almost like you could overlook the drunk and passed out thing.

And "even if a girl is a raging whore?" Come on; you know better than to use terms like that. Define "raging whore" and tell me how that makes any difference at all. No is no. And "raging whore" usually equals sexually liberated, promiscuous, "easy." So, me.

champagneandbenzedrine said...

Hi Brit!

"You still come across like you'd be willing to give him a pass if she'd been of age."

No! No, no, no. I was ABSOLUTELY explicit in saying it's ALWAYS rape if you have sex with somebody who's passed out.

I wrote: "if she was actually unconscious - actually unable to consent - that's rape."

There's NO ambiguity there and I have no idea where you'd POSSIBLY make the assumption that I think it would be acceptable to have sex with somebody if she was passed out - EVER.

That's really NOT a cool comment to make and it contradicts what I actually wrote a few paragraphs higher up.

If the girl was eighteen, I would have at least given Polanski's claim that the sex was consensual the 'benefit of the doubt' and been willing to consider his account of what happened.

False accusations do occasionally happen - just last week there was a case at Hofstra university on Long Island.

But since he had sex with a 13-year-old, which is wrong whichever way you look at it, I'm not willing to even consider his claim that the sex was consensual - and certainly don't think that would have made it 'okay' even if it was true.

As the for 'raging whore' comment - I was using a term I imagined the court or the commenters on Fox News would use.

Surely you'd agree that women get judged on their sexual history all the time in the courts and in the newspapers. I even wrote:

"How come a girl's sexual history is always brought up, to somehow suggest that she 'deserved' what happened to her?"

But I'll add some inverted commas on the 'raging whore' label to make that ABSOLUTELY clear.

And no, I wasn't talking about you, or anybody close to being like you - and I wasn't making a judgement about them anyway.

Do you know a girl who is self-destructive? Who make really poor decisions about the people she has sex with? Has poor self-respect and does things for all the wrong reasons? I do - and I'm arguing that a girl who does all of those things STILL doesn't deserve to be judged for her sexual history and shouldn't be 'blamed' for being a rape victim.

So just to clarify the points in my post, because I guess I didn't make them clearly enough:

1: It's ALWAYS wrong to have sex with a thirteen year old.

"There's nothing okay about that, because she was thirteen."

2: It's ALWAYS wrong to have sex with somebody who's passed out and can't consent.

"...the ethical implications of having sex with a drunk, passed-out girl..."

"...if she was actually unconscious - actually unable to consent - than that's a whole new level of 'wrong.' That's rape."

3: Just because a girl has a checkered sexual history does NOT make it okay to rape her, or blame her for being raped.

"Samantha Gailey was apparently 'no angel' - but that's really not relevant (how come a girl's sexual history is always brought up, to somehow suggest that she 'deserved' what happened to her?)"

Darkling Muse said...

Here here!

I couldn't agree more, being famous doesn't mean you don't know wrong from right and what he did was wrong whichever way you look at it!

It really galls me the way in which they try to pin some blame on the girl too i.e. she was sexually adventurous at a young age - so what? Being sexually adventurous at 13 is quite sad (where was her childhood?) and perhaps a reaction to our over sexed modern media but there is a huge difference of being sexually experimental at 13 with other 13 year olds than with a 30 year old man!

Besides those kinds of comments are completely out of kilter with the impression the media gives us ladies now adays: That sex is good, being sexy is better and that we should be having screaming oragsms whenever a man is anywhere near us....

But then suddenly something goes wrong and its 'her skirt was too short so I raped her' (a case I remember reading about a long time ago when a court actually had to weigh out if a woman's pencil skirt provoked her own rape...ffs...). As a woman it makes me want to scream: So what is it you want? Sexy, uninhibited me? Screaming organisms from a look across a croweded bar? Or chastity belts and witch burnings?


Ron in Florida (Ronald10021) said...

Hey C&B---We may have disagreed about circumcision, but we agree on this 100%. Roman Polanski is a rapist. There is no excuse. And he should be in jail.

champagneandbenzedrine said...

hi Lypiphera! Thanks for your comment - I totally agree.

Hey Ron - look at that! We finally agree on something!

Pandora Blake said...

If you read the court transcript, he raped her forcibly, after she repeatedly said no and asked her to stop. This is intolerable whatever age a woman is. Unfortunately, people in this society are quite used to finding excuses for to let men who rape a woman over 18 off the hook, so if the focus is on her age there's less "ambiguity".

There's no ambiguity. As Kate Harding points out, the child testified that she was frightened and unwilling and said no and asked him to stop. He confessed to forcibly raping her. He was found guilty of forcibly raping her. It's cut and dried. Why do people still persist in seeing this as complicated?

Of course feminists see her lack of consent as the most important factor, but this is rape three ways: she said no, she was incapacitated by drugs, and she was thirteen. I think my point and Britni's is that even if the second two weren't true, the first point would still make it rape. And people are unwilling to focus on the fact that she said no, because we live in a rape culture and so for a lot of people, that factor isn't sufficient.

champagne and Benzedrine said...

Hi Pandora,

Just to clarify, the whole reason I wrote this post was to condemn Roman Polanski - I'm not condoning his actions in ANY way and I was upset at the implication that I was.

The document you linked to was the grand jury testimony of Samantha Geimer - 'her side of the story.' Polanski never went to court for his crimes and he never stood trial in front of a real jury. A grand jury simply decides whether there's enough evidence to bother having a trial or not. As it happened, they dropped all charges except 'unlawful intercourse.'

Now, as far as I'm concerned, what Samantha said in the testimony you linked to is exactly what happened. It's a pretty clear cut account of being raped. She said 'no,' repeatedly and he refused to stop.

However, Polanski was only convicted of 'unlawful intercourse' - which is what we also call 'statutory rape' in America. He was only CONVICTED of having sex with a minor, nothing else.

So while we might BELIEVE that he raped her - and have transcripts of Samantha's testimony to support that belief - from a legal sense, he was convicted of one thing and one thing only - having sex with an underage girl - and that doesn't imply that the sex wasn't consensual (even if we ALL believe it wasn't.)

That unfortunately means that if Samantha Geimer had been over the age of 18, it's unlikely Polanski would have been convicted at all.

You can read the transcripts of his plea bargain here:

One of the reasons Whoopi Goldberg and other Hollywood characters are defending him is because it was never proven in court that he raped her - only that he had sex with her.

Personally, I think the fact that he was even willing to have sex with a thirteen year old girl makes him capable of rape - and after reading the transcript you linked to, there's no doubt in my mind that he raped her.

But that's not what the grand jury or the courts ruled - and if she had been 18, it's doubtful that Roman Polanski would have been charged at all (or would have been able to wriggle out of it.)

From a legal point of view, there IS ambiguity about whether it was rape or not. You can believe the testimony of Samantha Geimer - I certainly do - but what she said was never proven beyond reasonable doubt in court (which DOESN'T make it not entirely true.)

So when it comes to Roman Polanski, there's only one solid, legal fact that we have to lean on:

He had sex with a 13-year-old. That's morally reprehensible, he's a pedophile, it's disgusting.

End of story.