Snips And Snails And The Unbearable Heaviness Of Roman Polanski

October 1, 2009

When I was thirteen, a boy named Donald approached me in the schoolyard and told me that I looked like a boy. “I bet you are a boy,” he said. “You have no boobs.” I flushed and moved to walk away, but he clutched my arm and held me there. “I’m going to feel them to see if there’s anything there,” he said, grinning, and then he grabbed at my chest and squeezed, hard. I pushed him, turned on my heel, and ran while his laughter rang in my ears. It still rings, even now, when I think back on it. I can still remember exactly what it felt like, that day; I can still feel my chest stinging, and the hot flush of humiliation on my cheeks, the tears burning a trail down my face and dripping off my chin, the lump in my throat choking me, making it hard to breath. Boys are terrible, I thought at the time. Boys are terrible, awful, horrible things and I will never let one touch me again.

I was thirteen years old. I got over it, sort of, just as I kinda sorta mostly got over being grabbed and touched and groped by other boys and men in the ensuing years of my girlhood and young womanhood and not-so-young womanhood. How many times did some guy get too aggressive? How many times did a stray male hand wander across my chest or my ass or my thigh? How many times did I have to shove some man away? How many times did my cheeks flush and throat constrict and heart pound as I shouted or croaked or whispered, no? Too many times. This, too, for almost every woman I know: too, too many times. But the worst still remains that first time, in the schoolyard, when I was thirteen, when I didn’t know, yet, what attention from the opposite sex was supposed to feel like. When I was still a child. When it had the power to ensure that I would forever be made just a little bit uncomfortable by any but the most welcome male attention. When I was still a child.

When Samantha Geimer was thirteen years old, Roman Polanski drugged her and anally raped her. He did this when she was thirteen years old, when she didn’t know, yet, what attention from the opposite sex was supposed to feel like. When it had the power to ensure that she would forever be scarred, forever terrified by any but – maybe – the most obviously benevolent or harmless male attention. When she was still a child.

She did not, I imagine, get over it.

Roman Polanski, however, did get over it. He evaded full punishment for his crime by fleeing to Europe, where he continued to make films and live the life of a celebrated filmmaker and never express regret or remorse for his crimes, because, after all, “everyone loves to f— young girls!

One would think, then, that Polanski’s apprehension, after all these years, would lead to wild applause and widespread gratitude toward anyone that anything to do with ensuring that he was brought to justice. One would think, but one would be wrong. Because for many people, what Roman Polanski did wasn’t a crime. Or if it was, it wasn’t a very bad crime. Or even if it was a bad crime, maybe, it’s not really important, right? Because he’s a brilliant man, and brilliant men shouldn’t be held responsible for things like, oh, say, child rape. So they – he – shouldn’t be punished.

This, I think, is a moral outrage of the most despicable order. It is a moral outrage of the most despicable order not (that is, not only) because the raping of children – the raping of anyone – is absolutely repugnant and indefensible on any grounds whatsoever (and it is that), but because such a defense of rapists sends the message that, oh hey, the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children? Is not so bad! Not for everybody! Not all the time! Its badness is RELATIVE!

I have a daughter, and the idea that she might someday be sexually assualted in even the most minor, schoolyard-boob-grabbing kind of way sickens me. But I also have a son, and this whole issue sickens me even further on his behalf: what message does it send to boys when leading figures in popular culture and entertainment publicly proclaim their belief that what Roman Polanski did was, simply, not so very terrible? That he doesn’t deserve punishment for what he did? That there are distinctions to be made between rape and rape-rape and not really so much rape as just some guy making a wee mistake and oh, hey, also, he’s an ARTIST and BRILLIANT and RICH, so, you know, it’s different for him? That sexual assault – sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, rape – is ever, EVER, anything other than criminal, and morally repugnant?

What message does it send to our sons when the rape of a young girl is dismissed as something that is not that bad? What message does it send to the would-be Donalds of the world? To the would-be Roman Polanskis? To all the boys and men (and, yes, perhaps, women) who would grab and grope and hurt and rape, and to all the boys and men who wouldn’t? That sometimes, it’s okay? And that even if you wouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t necessarily condemn someone who does grab or grope or rape… who? Your sister, your mother, your wife, your lover, your daughter, your child?

Our sons deserve better, because our daughters deserve better. Our community deserves better. We owe it to our children, to the future husbands and wives and partners and lovers and employers and colleagues and teachers and neighbors and schoolyard knuckleheads of our community, to teach and preach and proclaim loudly, insistently, that it is never, never okay to interfere physically – sexually or otherwise – with another person without their meaningful consent. That, especially, imposing one’s self sexually upon another human being causes irreparable harm, that it is destructive and terrible and deserves every kind of legal and moral censure. That it is shameful, criminal, wrong. And that a good community, that good people, do not tolerate it.

Anything less is deplorable. It just is. And if the giant mutant puppets of Yo Gabba Gabba can grasp this while Bernard Henri-Levy and Peter Fonda and Debra Winger and MILAN FUCKING KUNDERA cannot? Then my faith in the good sense of thinking human beings is well and truly rattled.

And that just sucks.

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    { 124 comments }

    Taya October 3, 2009 at 2:09 am

    Thank you for writing about this! I have been so truly sickened by this, and by all of the people that have petitioned to have the charges dropped against Roman Polanski. Why is it, that because he has fame and wealth, that it is okay for him to be above the law?

    It does not matter that the woman has forgiven him and wants to move on. She probably had to, in order to deal with what had happened to her when she was a child.

    He hurt a child. He damaged a child. And then he skipped the country, breaking a few more laws, and all of these so-called “Hollywood elite” think that he is above the law, and above justice, because of who he is.

    I wonder, would they let their children be around him? I seriously doubt it.
    .-= Taya´s last blog ..That girl again… =-.

    Terrie October 3, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Thank you for stating this so clearly and plainly. I agree totally. You said exactly what I wanted to.

    AmyAnne October 3, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    I just happened to have on the View when W. Goldberg started spouting about this. I almost threw up. I will never watch that show again.

    Prosecute the imbeciles that ran the investigation? Yes. Dump the prosecution for the douche that committed the crime? NO.

    Thanks for this piece. It needs to be said over and over again.
    .-= AmyAnne´s last blog ..Carpool Mafia =-.

    Momo Fali October 3, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    A-freaking-men.

    Mom101 October 3, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Raising fist in solidarity, mama. The YGG reference clinched it.
    .-= Mom101´s last blog ..The story of mommy and daddy (or, the most boring bedtime story ever told) =-.

    Karina in T.O October 3, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Thank you,Catherine. While I was reading this the whisper coming from my lips and thought running through my head was AMEN SISTER, A-FUCKING MEN!
    .-= Karina in T.O´s last blog ..KarinaInTO: @QueenofSpain have you checked out ice.com? They have some fun, gorg jewels + videos, it’s like Jewel porn LOL! http://tinyurl.com/ydtyfab =-.

    Moses Wuggenig October 4, 2009 at 12:22 am

    I can’t fathom his apologists either. What possesses some to equivocate about the most loathesome crimes committed by some people and to suggest, as some nattering nabobs have, that he is a persecuted artist in the United States verges on the truly pornographic. By extension would we exonerate Hitler, the failed artist, for his crimes against humanity?

    watercolor October 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    amen. You don’t ever get over it.
    .-= watercolor´s last blog ..Hope and Risk =-.

    Scrappy Girl October 4, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    I had heard a few snippets about Polanski but didn’t know the full story. Very sad what they let someone get away with.
    .-= Scrappy Girl´s last blog ..Not Exactly The Day I Had Planned =-.

    Sarah October 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    PREACH IT. Those assholes should burn.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Happy Moonlight =-.

    Belle October 4, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Amen. That’s all.
    .-= Belle´s last blog ..Of Surgery and Swooning =-.

    6512 and growing October 5, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Clearly this is still a very sexist world.
    Thank you for your strong, honest words.
    .-= 6512 and growing´s last blog ..Nostalgia rains like autumn apples =-.

    SAHM-I-AM October 5, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Wow, what a fantastic post. I just stumbled upon your blog this afternoon and am in awe of your eloquence and (at the risk of sounding silly) ability to tie your thoughts back to a Yo Gabba Gabba clip. I have 2 boys (2 and 3 1/2-yrs-old) and watch that show with them too. I also have a profound fear of losing them to the atrocities of rape one day. The thought sickens me and can’t imagine (as you said) anyone justifying rape committed by anyone. I’m glad I found you.
    .-= SAHM-I-AM´s last blog ..don’t go =-.

    DeepKickGirl October 6, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Beautifully said. I’ve been wanting to write about this but now I’ll just borrow your words. Thanks so much!
    .-= DeepKickGirl´s last blog .. =-.

    Trista October 6, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    So well said – as sick as Polanski’s crime was, it has been compounded by the defence of his actions that has been mounted by some people in the international arts community. His crime (and it was a crime, not a mistake, not a folly, not anything less than an abhorrent, illegal act)cannot be – or should not be – excused or cancelled out by any amount of fame, talent, or money. I don’t want my daughter to be victimized by a man like him, but I also wouldn’t want a son of mine to emulate him, to think that this sort of act is acceptable in some circumstances.
    .-= Trista´s last blog ..An infinite number of monkeys =-.

    Anne October 8, 2009 at 4:14 pm

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