Saturday, October 3, 2009

If Polanski's assault of a 13 year old girl isn't "rape-rape," then what is?

A week ago today, celebrated director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss authorities for fleeing the United States after his conviction on the rape of a 13 year old girl after drugging and luring her to his friend Jack Nicholson's house for a photo shoot. Many opinions have been given in the week since his capture. Some of these opinions are found here, here, here, and here.

I write about this here because when drugging and forcing oneself on another is not seen as true rape, then other rapes, those which don't involve drugs, force, or minors, are more easily dismissed and minimized. By minimizing Roman Polanski's crime, people also minimize date and partner rapes against adult victims, because those rapes involve less coercion and older victims then the Polanski rape.

What is noticeable that only a few celebrities have publicly came out and said that what Polanski did to Samatha Geimer is rape. Not statutory rape, but, in Whoopi Goldberg's term, "rape-rape." These few celebrities include Chris Rock and Kirstie Alley. Most Hollywood celebrities are firmly standing behind their man.

One thing overlooked by most commentators who get that what Polanski did was a crime is that drugging and sodomizing anyone is what Whoopi Goldberg would call "real rape." Being 13 aggravates the crime, but adult status does not mitigate it. Even if Samantha Geimer was the same age as Polanski, and the director drugged then had sex with her, it would still be rape. The elements of the rape were the drugging, then forcing himself on the victim, not the victim's age. Age comes into play when drugs, force, or formal fiduciary positions are not used to trap and violate the victim.

If people can "debate" whether a drugged 13 year old girl in a powerful Hollywood personality's sexual lair was really raped, then they would have no problem at all dismissing a grown woman's claims that a director forced herself on her. If people aren't willing to see that status influences sexual coercion (whether non violent or violent), then they are certainly willing to ignore the rapes which occur between people in the same "peer" groups, whether date rape on campus, partner rape, or spousal rape.

If one person is willing to manipulate, coerce, or force sex from another, you have a victim and a perpetrator, not "lovers." The rapist (or sexual coercer) creates power difference in addition to whatever power differentials existed when he rapes his victim. All sexual or other advances before the rape in cases of date rape or "partner" rape are grooming, designed to let the victim's guard down before the attack.

When rape in such a clear case as Polanski's is minimized, then efforts into sexual assault prevention in other areas are also compromized. After all, say the rape apologists, if a 43 year old man with a drugged 13 year old girl isn't really rape, then the 25 year old man who had sex with his sleeping 25 year old "partner" definitely did not violate her.

Society has a long way to go to change these attitudes. The events of last week certaingly nailed that.

No comments: