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 }

    Susan (woo222) October 1, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    This sickens me too. Thank you for writing about it! It is amazing the extent to which people will go to minimize rape. Susan
    .-= Susan (woo222)´s last blog ..Instructions are for Schmucks =-.

    Kat October 1, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you for putting into words exactly how I feel. Bravo.
    .-= Kat´s last blog ..It’s 7PM…What is Your Child Doing? =-.

    Issa October 1, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Crying as I read this. But I am applauding you.
    .-= Issa´s last blog ..Struggling =-.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting October 1, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you for this post. The way that some communities are rallying to support him and prop him up is disgusting.
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..An open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family blogger event =-.

    After Words October 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Amen. It’s appalling how many people who seem to otherwise possess good sense are lining up to defend a child rapist. It’s bizarro world.
    .-= After Words´s last blog ..I Am Trying to Break Your Heart =-.

    KBO October 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I have nothing to say other than Amen.
    .-= KBO´s last blog ..Buck Up =-.

    BusyDad October 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    When I heard on the radio that there were actually people who we against bringing him to justice, I could not fathom it. It did not compute. This is what I hate about our society. Celebrities are held to different standards just because they are “gifted” or “brilliant” or “enriching” in some way to the general population of commoners. Screw that. Roman needs to be anally raped by Tuan in cell block 4. That’s what I think.
    .-= BusyDad´s last blog ..Cyborg. Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time… =-.

    Cinthia October 3, 2009 at 6:42 am

    LOL, Busydad. But I totally agree.

    Cinthia October 3, 2009 at 6:42 am

    LOL, Busydad. But I totally agree.

    Megs October 7, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I believe Polanski should be brought to justice. That he should serve a full sentence, appropriate to his (clear, inexcusable) crime, without any consideration for his age, status, “brilliance,” etc.

    That said, we as a nation, as a culture, as a world even (though I think this is a particularly American issue) have GOT to stop laughing at anal rape.

    ANY FORM of anal rape. Whether done to a girl or a man. An innocent or a criminal. I’m sick of seeing rape, of any kind, made light of on television, in print, and, most often: in the same breath as the rape of a child is condemned, the rape of another is made a joke, condoned.

    I don’t get it. “Poetic” justice is not for us to dole out. And this fantasy–of the molester/rapist raped–leads us to turn a blind eye to the rape of prisoners, incarcerated for any offense. Do we as a culture think that a crime (any crime) warrants the loss of the basic human right to keep safe one’s body?
    .-= Megs´s last blog ..Tired Updates. =-.

    anymommy October 1, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Exactly. Shame on them all. I hope they want better for their own children.
    .-= anymommy´s last blog ..Tread Kindly =-.

    Amo October 1, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    AMEN!

    Thank you for posting this.

    Viv October 1, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Moving post, and I absolutely agree with you. Thanks for addressing this.

    Jo October 1, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I have no words. Wait…I do have a word. DISGUSTED.

    If what happened to that girl happened to ANY ONE of the people who are defending him then you can BET they’d be screaming from the rooftops for him to fry.
    .-= Jo´s last blog ..Last post was HOW long ago??? =-.

    Mamacita October 1, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you for putting this in just the right words. I’m so angry, I could never have done it as well as you did.

    The man is a child molester. He’s an unrepentant rapist. He is scum. SCUM.

    And so is anyone who would excuse his behavior. Bah. I’ll go away now before I say anything else.
    .-= Mamacita´s last blog ..Ten Things Tuesday =-.

    Carrie October 1, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Well said.
    .-= Carrie´s last blog ..Fish Food =-.

    Maternal Mirth October 1, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Sick, sick, sick … just another divide between Hollywood and the general public, you know, aside from the millions of dollars and luxury lifestyle, Hollywood also doesn’t understand that they are not above the law.

    This is appalling and Hollywood should suck it up and realize, CRIME IS CRIME regardless of your supposed “genius” or alleged “talent”. And fame and fortune cannot absolve you from paying restitution.
    .-= Maternal Mirth´s last blog ..I Like Frogs =-.

    Erica October 1, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I was young when he was first charged, so I must admit that I never really paid much attention to Polanski or and didn’t really know what happened. So I didn’t really pay much attention to his recent arrest. Thank you for waking me up, thank you for making me outraged. He doesn’t deserve anyone’s support.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..1 year, 32 weeks =-.

    red pen mama October 1, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    It’s not just the issues you list here (he’s an artist, he’s rich, etc.) that make this so reprehensible. It’s other people going out of their way to point out that “the judge reneged on his word (regarding sentencing)”, the victim “wants it all to go away”, “why did they wait so long”. Yadda yadda yadda.

    If someone did that to one of my little girls, I can’t even imagine what I would’ve done. And you know, the U.S. doesn’t extradite to France.

    It is infuriating. Thanks for writing about it so passionately and well.

    ciao,
    rpm
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Progress =-.

    Karen October 1, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Brilliantly said. I’m still stunned and disgusted that he has so many supporters. Don’t people understand that tolerance and blatant disregard for his actions has the power to put victims right back into feeling shame and fear. Injustice is an understatement.
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..I Wasn’t Raped Once. =-.

    Rhia October 1, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Yes. Exactly. Thank you.
    .-= Rhia´s last blog ..Totally Crap at Blogging =-.

    jen October 1, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I unequivocaly agree with you.

    But is anyone else confused by this case? I mean if he did what did, then how did he get the plea bargain? I think he was going to essentially be released for time served? It is horrifying to think anyone could do what he did and could get that sentence in return.

    Beyond that, he should still have to face the consequences of fleeing. He broke the law. Period.

    Tanya Dennis October 1, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    AMEN and AMEN!!!!! I agree with you 100% and am just as outraged.
    .-= Tanya Dennis´s last blog ..Ellie-isms & Zach Attacks =-.

    habanerogal October 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Two justice systems one for rich & famous one for the rest of us. Seems a little late to be “catching” him. Perhaps he feels this is Charles Manson’s fault that he allegedly commited these acts on this girl.
    .-= habanerogal´s last blog ..It’s been a month now =-.

    Erin October 1, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you for this post. I completely agree and feel appalled that there is so little outrage on this issue. Have you also noted how the media has colluded with the whitewashing of Polanski’s crime by refusing to refer to it as rape (which he plead GUILTY to) – they keep saying “had sex with” her. I’m sorry, on no PLANET does anybody have sex with a 13 year old. It’s called rape. And he’s a criminal. And I don’t care how brilliant he is or how tragic his life. I bet many child molesters out there had terrible lives.

    Judy October 1, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    It sickens me too, because I have lived for years with the result of this sort of crime. I was divorced when my son was 7. When he was 10, after my efforts to get his father involved in his life failed, I went to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and my son was matched with a man who we believed was the answer to our prayers. A Marine! Lived nearby! Became a member of our family, went on family outings with us, ate at our house as often as at his, teased my teen daughters…and then got my son alone and forced him to perform sexual acts with him. This man who was my friend, who was screened by the organization which matched him with my son, stole the innocence from my little freckle faced blonde haired boy. The boy who never told his mama until 20 years later, after his horrendous teen years, his involvement with drugs, minor crime, estrangement… Today my son is 38 years old and emotionally, maturity-wise, he is 18. He’s off the drugs, he’s seeing a counselor, he’s taking anti-depressants, I’m hoping to get him on track because I am 67 years old and damned tired of working a full time, high stress job to take care of him.

    There is never an excuse for any sort of unwanted sexual activity on the part of anyone. Consenting adults only, please.

    Phoebe @ Cents to Get Debt Free October 1, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Amen!! Very well put.

    It just sickens me. Our world is falling apart..our morals are gone.
    .-= Phoebe @ Cents to Get Debt Free´s last blog ..Making Hair Bows =-.

    Saisquoi October 1, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Yes. What you said. Being creative does not give one carte blanche in civil society. Or it shouldn’t. We all have to play in this sandbox together, and I’d prefer to keep the Hobbesian state of nature outside. If it’s OK for one of us it’s OK for all of us and what that man did to that little girl is by no means OK. Ever.
    .-= Saisquoi´s last blog ..Sweet Pea for my Sweet Pea =-.

    Jaelithe October 1, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    A++ I endorse this post.

    One thing I find interesting about this case is an aspect of the argument to absolve him that you did not cover here: some people argue that his actions can be excused because of the terrible things that happened to him. He survived a Nazi ghetto in Poland and his mother died in a concentration camp. His pregnant wife was brutally murdered by a gang of insane killers.

    I understand why such things might DRIVE a person to change into the sort of person who would do crazy and harmful things to others, but I don’t understand the argument that a history of suffering excuses crimes against innocent people. That thirteen-year-old girl didn’t imprison Roman Polanski in a ghetto or kill his wife. How do the terrible things that were done to him excuse the terrible things he did to someone else? In my mind they do not. They just make the whole story all the more tragic.

    BTW Jen, Roman Polanski got away with a plea bargain to a lesser charge only because the girl in the case did not wish to testify in a lengthy, highly publicized criminal trial. I think that’s quite understandable, given her age at the time.

    jen October 1, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    @Jaelithe: Thank you for the info. It made no sense to me how easily someone could get away with something so atrocious. None of the articles I’ve come across really explained the case. I don’t understand how anyone could “back” him.
    .-= jen´s last blog ..veiled =-.

    Amy October 1, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I know many people just love love love “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” – but having read it, I personally don’t find it surprising at all that Kundera wouldn’t get this. I found that book to be repellent and morally bankrupt. But what do I know?

    Anyway, why should be we surprised at all this when we live in a culture where morality absolutely IS relative? When it is often argued and accepted that the fact that you sicken at the thought of your daughter being abused really just describes your personal preferences rather than any inherent wrongness in the action itself.

    It all makes me so sad and sick

    Excellent post with important things to ponder.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Everyone should start their day with high fives. =-.

    Michelle Pixie October 1, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    My stomach turns every time I think of this. I cannot get over that people “Hollywood” people would actually defend his actions because he is some kind of great artist. I have even heard some say “Well it happened in Jack Nicholson’s hot tub” as if to further excuse his actions. Like everyone should just assume that if your there you know something is bound to happen even if you are only a 13 year old child. And I would have to say Sharon Tate’s sister’s comments bother me the most calling this child a young woman as if to paint a prettier picture. It is morally reprehensible and will never be accepted in my book no matter how many ways these people try to spin it!
    .-= Michelle Pixie´s last blog ..Cold Front =-.

    Scattered Mom October 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Society is bizarre. They act as judge and jury, destroying Michael Jackson, who is found NOT GUILTY of child molestation, and here is someone who has actually admitted to it and they don’t think it’s a crime. In fact, we have to define “rape-rape” and just “rape”.

    Rape is rape. Period. Makes me sick.

    james betz October 1, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Your article is sensible, thoughtful and honest. I am astonished at the support being shown to this despicable criminal. If he believes that he has a credible defense he should return to present it to the courts. America may suffer from a lack of ethical political leadership but the American judicial system is probably one of the most respected and fair in the developed world.

    Kat October 1, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    So well written yet I still feel sick to my stomach about it.

    ClassyFabSarah October 1, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Well said. Bravo.
    .-= ClassyFabSarah´s last blog ..Happy October 1st! =-.

    domestic extraordinaire October 1, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    too many people, don’t advocate for the children who deserve it, instead they sweep things under the rug. I know, I wish I didn’t, but I know.
    .-= domestic extraordinaire´s last blog ..Happy Birthday Renee =-.

    domestic extraordinaire October 1, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    oh and p.s. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for being a voice that needs to be heard. Thank you.
    .-= domestic extraordinaire´s last blog ..Happy Birthday Renee =-.

    Megan October 1, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Ugh. This makes me sick. Why is it that celebrities get special treatment. When something is wrong, it is wrong. There are no shades of gray when it comes to rape.

    And I swear, if anyone ever sexually abuses my daughter (or my son), the police will not have to worry about whether or not it should be considered rape or rape-rape. Because that person will be dead.
    .-= Megan´s last blog ..I’m In Shape. Round Is A Shape. =-.

    Jennifer October 1, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you. The more people speak out against the loss of childhood and innocence, the better chances our children have of keeping theirs. The world needs more women like you.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday – oh hell edition =-.

    all things BD October 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I get paralyzed with anger every time I read about this. I literally cannot comprehend the logic being used by Hollywood elite to excuse and forgive Polanski’s behavior.

    Thank you for writing this post and giving voice to our rage.
    .-= all things BD´s last blog ..Yet Another Reason To Love Texas =-.

    StacyG October 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I have yet to find a blog post in any of the 100 plus blog that I follow that supports him. Yet, many of the richest people and some of the most influential do support him. It leads me to believe that those with the most are very out of touch and unaware of the real world. The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach. Personally, I think he should be put away in jail for the rest of his life.

    Jaden October 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    This post is incredible. I’m sharing it on facebook, I hope you don’t mind. I just would like my friends to be able to think about this through the lens you paint here… Which is so true. What he did was simply deplorable, and the messages that people are sending regarding it make me shudder.
    .-= Jaden´s last blog ..Three Generations of Spunk =-.

    Melissa Wardy October 1, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    My children are the same ages as yours, and my thoughts about this mirror yours exactly. I’ve had similar experiences with unwanted male attention. Girls are not part of our world to serve as eye candy or sexual playthings…they are children, and should be allowed to have a childhood. Polanski’s victim was forced, let’s just say that again – FORCED – into adulthood when she was 13.
    You also bring up the concept of what this teaches our sons. Mine is just a toddler now, but will be raised to respect women. I think that will be an uphill battle in a society that allows members to drug, rape and sodomize its children.

    Angela Giles Klocke October 1, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Amen. Amen. Amen!
    .-= Angela Giles Klocke´s last blog ..Things aren’t always what they seem =-.

    kelly October 1, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Well fucking said.
    There’s lots more I could say, but I’ll just leave it at that.
    Thank you for writing this.

    Peggy October 1, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Excellent post. It angers and saddens me to no end that people think this issue is anything other than black and white. Thank you for writing this.

    thatgirlblogs October 1, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    standing on chair, clapping, cheering madly, and a great “here-here!” so true.

    elaine October 1, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    word.

    Melly October 1, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Amen. I also linked to this in FB.

    a October 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    While I do not agree with all the changes that have occurred in society over the last 30 years (the overbearing pressure to be PC, for example), I am certainly glad that in today’s society, Polanski would be labeled a child molester, would be a lifelong registered sex offender, and probably would be prevented from making any more movies that might have any child actors.

    Having read the trial testimony of the victim on The Smoking Gun, I can’t believe anyone would minimize his actions. I guess deliberate blindness is a luxury that we common folk just can’t afford.
    .-= a´s last blog ..Travels =-.

    Kimberley October 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Great post. I agree 100% with everything you said. What Roman Polanski did was wrong. No matter what he went through (he wife who was 8 months pregnant was murdered by the Manson Cult years earlier).

    However, there is another layer to this case. There was a good deal of judicial misconduct with the case. That judge has often been compared to the spotlight seeking judge that over saw the Anna Nicole Smith case. Apparently he treated his job as a forum for self promotion and over saw many celebrity cases and enjoyed the attention.

    Polanski deserved and still deserves to be punished for his crime. I think it is wrong for people to speak out and say what he did was not that bad. It was terrible. But, from what I have read, it seems like many people are speaking out against the way his case was originally handled and the extradition from Switzerland.

    Thank you for writing this post. Let’s hope the American Justice system deals with this case properly this time around.
    .-= Kimberley ´s last blog ..WTF… That Was a Total Waste of Time =-.

    Lianne October 1, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Well said.

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