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 }

    NanciElizabeth October 1, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Maybe I taught my daughters the wrong way. When I was 13 and boys were “bra snapping” one boy tried it on me–felt nothing (there wasn’t anything there anyway)and I turned around and punched him hard in the face, while showing my little girl undershit strap.
    Fast forward 40 years later, some guy makes a crack about how “hot” my youngest is, and her sister (14 months older and teeny weeny) grabbed him by his shirt and said, “You’re talking about my sister,” then she punched. him. hard. in the face.

    Her Bad Mother October 1, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Nope, Nancy: that, I think, is exactly the RIGHT way.

    Awesome.

    Lacey October 2, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Nope, Nancy you have taught those girls right.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant October 1, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I’m still so angry. Thank you for taking it to the personal level (which I could not face doing).
    .-= Julie @ The Mom Slant´s last blog ..Better late than never =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 1, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Your bravery in writing about it at all inspired me, lady. I thought I was too angry to be coherent. Which, maybe I wasn’t coherent, but still. You reminded me that it was still worth hollering about.

    StacyG October 1, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Have you seen this CNN article? I think (hope) the tide is turning.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/10/01/polanski.support.backlash/index.html?eref=igoogle_cnn

    I was never a bg fan of Kirstie Alley but I think I might just lurve her after she tweeted.

    Actress Kirstie Alley wrote on Twitter “JUST FOR THE RECORD….RAPE IS RAPE…this is one HOLLYWOOD STAR who does not CELEBRATE or DEFEND Roman Polanski..his ART did not RAPE her.”

    pixielation October 1, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Time passing doesn’t make the crime any less. The fact that the child he raped is no longer a child has no bearing on it. Justice should be served, and celebrity is no buffer. I have two little girls too. If anyone harms them like this I would kil them

    This article I like: http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/09/28/polanski_arrest/

    And yours of course.
    .-= pixielation´s last blog ..Things you don’t mention in church =-.

    karen October 1, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you. Amen. applause.

    I’m so p’d off that all I could write is: WTF is wrong with these f*ing a*holes minimizing RAPE?

    Jennifer October 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Exactly.

    Baby in Broad October 1, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Someone’s brilliance as a filmmaker (or a musician or an athlete or teacher or politician or religious leader…) does not EXCUSE that person from doing something horrible to another person.

    Brilliant people do fucked-up shit ALL THE TIME! Making movies that people regard as brilliant and influential and important doesn’t make someone NOT a rapist.

    Ugh.
    .-= Baby in Broad´s last blog ..22 Months, 1,000 Words =-.

    Sashalyn October 1, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    So well put. Thank you for writing this.

    As someone who served as a rape crisis counselor for 8 years, I know that you are right on about the shame associated with being victimized by any type of unwanted sexual aggression. There is no gradation there.

    The thing that makes me saddest about this, though, is that it isn’t just a “Hollywood” thing to excuse this type of behavior. Survivors of sexual violence rarely see their attackers held accountable for their actions- and because of that, we continue to allow it.

    Breaking the silence and expressing our outrage is the only way to even begin to make a change. Bravo for your part in that.
    .-= Sashalyn´s last blog ..it’s easier than you think it is… =-.

    b October 1, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Is it any wonder you see so many stories about pre-teens and young teens on Violence Unsilenced? When this kind of inhumanity is OK’d and, frankly, supported?

    Susan October 1, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I am so disgusted with people that I formerly admired, such as (cringe) Whoopi Goldberg, Debra Winger, and Martin Scorcese. I don’t think I will ever be able to enjoy any of their work again. Thank you, Stacy G., for sharing Kristie Alley’s comment. Thank God there is one Hollywood star with common decency.

    Erin October 1, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I fought with my mother about this, because she defended Whoopi Goldberg’s “it wasn’t rape-rape” statement to me.

    It is impossible to explain the anger, the humiliation, and the lifelong shame caused by sexual assault. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even try. I just cry.

    Thank you.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Fall =-.

    Kaye October 1, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Amen! As a rape survivor, I can’t even find the words to express my outrage because I’m so angry. Thank you for writing this post.

    Jennifer October 1, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    your post inspired me to write publicly about my own abuse for the first time ever. I am just so angry about the so called justice system in this country.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Roman Polanski and Me =-.

    Carol October 1, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I agree with you. We have to get this right, do something better for our children, and their children and all the ones to follow. I read that the girl- now a woman- who was raped, wants this to stop, she doesn’t want him punished. How many times was she told that what was done to her was just not that bad? How can she ever hope to heal when the very people who are supposed to protect her turn a blind eye because of who he was? What about who she could have been had she not been violated.
    .-= Carol´s last blog ..Happily ever after…..NOT! =-.

    Brenna October 1, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you for that. I am truly disgusted by the reaction to the apprehension of a child rapist, an admitted child rapist. There are no words… just sick.
    .-= Brenna´s last blog ..Halloween BabyLegs Giveaway!! =-.

    Kelly October 1, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Fuck Yes! Thank you for writing this.

    Michelle October 1, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Could not agree with you more!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Words of David =-.

    Elizabeth October 1, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you. Perfectly said.

    Katherine October 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Thank you! I have been dumbfounded by this for days. I have two little girls. The thought of something like that happening to one of them is sickening. I would want whomever did it in jail forever. Polanski deserves the same.

    kimberly/tippytoes October 1, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Well said! While not as disgusting as what he did, the support he’s receiving is baffling.
    .-= kimberly/tippytoes´s last blog ..Scheduled Unscheduled Time =-.

    Carrie October 1, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I absolutely agree with you. Thank you for posting this.

    Amber October 1, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Until I read this, I didn’t actually know what was going on. I sort of live under a rock, actually, because I have no TV and I can’t listen to the radio in the presence of my children. Because, you know, I don’t want to have to explain stories like this to my 4-year-old. So I am always out of the loop.

    Anyways, I am flabbergasted that Roman Polanski was able to evade justice for 30 years, and that so many others are rushing to his defense. It’s not like we don’t know who he is or what he did. The fact that it’s taken this long and that people seem to feel it was OK is completely and totally sickening.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..The Pitfalls of Behaving =-.

    Taylor October 1, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    thank you for this. and for inspiring me to write about my own experience trying to change our “rape culture.”
    .-= Taylor´s last blog ..let’s talk. =-.

    Boy Crazy October 1, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    As a mother of three boys, I just want to acknowledge what a commenter ‘Judy’ said way up top about her son being sexually abused and emphasize that boys can be victims, too. We need to raise our boys and girls alike with the knowledge that it is never ok for someone to hurt them, and that abuse can not be tolerated no matter how popular the abuser.

    Thank you for this intelligent, heartfelt post. I am a big admirer of your writing, Catherine.
    .-= Boy Crazy´s last blog ..fall(ing) =-.

    miss. chief October 1, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    oh my gosh, that’s fucked. i didn’t know about that.

    i also remember clearly experiencing my first sexual harassment. david. it was a lot like yours except he said my boobs were big.

    hm.

    Bee October 1, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Yes. To everything you have written. It is absolutely crazy to me that the celebrity world seems to be more outraged by what Kanye did at the MVA’s than by the FACT that Roman Polanski RAPED a 13 year old girl. Seriously. And apparently you’re a philistine if you disagree with them. I am SO shocked by the overwhelming support of this man.

    sherry October 1, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    It makes me want to VOMIT when I read about people defending him, especially when they throw in what a great director he is. So… what? If you’re talented enough you can destroy young girls as you see fit?

    Thank you for this.
    .-= sherry ´s last blog ..What’s been up around here =-.

    Ann Douglas October 1, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Thank you for writing a post about this issue. It seems that every day, what we’ll put up with as a society nose dives lower and lower. It’s easy to become morally numb to outrages such as this. But we can’t allow ourselves to do that. We have to speak out and raise our voices: to let our kids know it’s unacceptable, to let our community know it’s unacceptable, and to support others who share our commitment to redefining what we’re willing to allow to pass for justice in our society.

    Thanks again for a great post.
    .-= Ann Douglas´s last blog ..The Parenting Community Will Hold Your Company Accountable if You Pull a Stunt Like Nestle Family =-.

    Aimee Greeblemonkey October 2, 2009 at 1:00 am

    You can extrapolate from my coincidental emotional upheaval on my own blog today that I completely concur with you.

    Al_Pal October 2, 2009 at 1:04 am

    He is so disgusting.

    This is so brilliantly written.

    Blech. Our culture needs SERIOUS change, for sure.

    flutter October 2, 2009 at 1:47 am

    amen, catherine.
    .-= flutter´s last blog ..Forgiveness =-.

    flowy dress waitress October 2, 2009 at 8:53 am

    amen.

    Loural October 2, 2009 at 9:40 am

    That is absolutely sickening. I don’t understand those who try to make it out like it wasn’t a big deal, that is happened so long ago it doesn’t matter. He violated a young girl and he expects to go free?! What is this world coming to?

    Angela October 2, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Bravo! Exactly what I have been thinking, what is wrong with society, where just because someone is a famous “artist” they get a freepass for their actions, and don’t even get me started on the topic of Woody Allen.

    Angela October 2, 2009 at 9:59 am

    I’ve been so upset about this story all week. It just slays me, not even that he did it, but that people are backing him up!! WTF kind of screwed up world is this?

    My first time was when I was raped at 17 by some 28 year old friend of the family next door. And even though it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as what this 13 year old girl went through, it seriously screwed me up for a long time.

    If what she had done to her wasn’t “rape-rape” (which is just the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard) then what was done to me must have been a walk in the park with a side of rape-lite?

    My mind is just blown. Obviously he’s a criminal and in my mind a pedophile. Who gives a shit how brilliant or rich he is? Why is that even mentioned? It doesn’t matter! But any respect I may have had for these celebs who are saying it’s not “rape-rape” or he’s a great guy and this wasn’t really that bad… is just gone. Gone. Poof.

    Damnit. I’m just too mad to even make sense. Splutteringly outraged.

    Thank you for posting this in a coherent way so I can send people here.
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..And the merry go round goes round =-.

    Sarah October 2, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Standing ovation!! Well said!

    gurukarm (@karma_musings) October 2, 2009 at 10:56 am

    And, how easy is it to jump from this “not-so-bad” rape to all the horrific and devastating sexual violence going on daily in, say, the Congo, Darfur, the refugee camps of Chad (which I’m sure that whole list of defenders of Polanski ABHOR. ABHOR I tell you!)

    Excuse one, excuse the other, right? ()
    .-= gurukarm (@karma_musings)´s last blog ..How will we ever get past this? =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 3, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Too easy. CLASSIC slippery slope.

    Catootes October 2, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Excellent, Excellent post.

    Roman Polanski should be strung up by his balls and left to hang there for all eternity. Fuckwad that he is.

    That anyone can defend his actions, that his work should outshine the wrongness of what he did to a young girl, is reprehensible.
    .-= Catootes´s last blog ..drowning the high school mean girl or Corey, you can suck it =-.

    Gaby October 2, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Yes,what you said, absolutely. This is what I have as my facebook status currently: Kanye interrupts an acceptance speech at the VMAs, and the media/famous people rail against him. Chris Brown beats Rhianna, and Roman Polanski rapes a 13-year-old and flees the country to avoid full prosecution, and many of the same media/famous people publicly support these men. WTF is wrong with this picture?

    I just don’t understand it, and it all makes me sick.

    Ali October 2, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    There’s a petition for people to sign who WANT Polanski to face justice — just so those in the entertainment industry know what people in the real world think.

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/art-does-not-excuse-rape-polanski-must-face-justice#

    Her Bad Mother October 3, 2009 at 9:39 am

    THANK YOU.

    Will sign it, and tweet and tweet and tweet.

    Lisa October 2, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Well said. Thank you for taking the time to write that – especially with all of the links. I think it is horrible how so many celebrities are dismissing this and wanting it to ‘go away’. I truly hope justice is done and America’s morality improves.

    annasamantha October 2, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I know!!!!!!!Right? When I took the time to actually read the petition that so many celebrities have put their name to I was stuck by the word that even they used: “He risks extradition to the United States for an episode that happened years ago and whose principal plaintiff repeatedly and emphatically declares she has put it behind her and abandoned any wish for legal proceedings.”

    ABANDONED…Doesn’t that suggest a sense hopelessness and perhaps an unwilling surrender of something that had once been desired? Ugh!!!!The whole thing makes me queasy.
    Thank you.

    schmutzie October 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday – http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2009/10/five-star-fridays-edition-73.html

    blognut October 2, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you for writing this – I posted on this topic, too. I think it’s ridiculous to excuse this rape because Roman Polanski is famous, or because 32 years have passed since he committed the crime.
    .-= blognut´s last blog ..Is This Really Happening? =-.

    georgie October 2, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    You just summed up exactly how I feel about this whole situation-I could never have written it as well as you…everytime I hear about it I get sick! what is our society coming to that they think any part of this is okay?
    .-= georgie´s last blog ..Friday Fragments =-.

    Cam October 2, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Delurking for the first time to say THANK YOU for writing this post.
    I

    Amira @ DefineMature.com October 2, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for expressing my thoughts so eloquently. I don’t know who in their right minds, could defend such scum, yet people do not cease to amaze me.

    Actually he’s lower than scum, but I wouldn’t know what to call that.

    kootnygirl October 2, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Bravo, Catherine! A brilliant post. What is happening right now is mind-staggeringly ridiculous.
    .-= kootnygirl´s last blog ..49 years =-.

    kim October 2, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Thank you for saying this. I’m going to retweet this; I hope that’s alright.
    -kim

    Marie October 3, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Amen, amen, and amen.

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