The reporting surrounding Roman Polanski’s arrest is making me angry. Finally I have discovered a voice of reason in the Guardian’s Joan Smith, who criticises Whoopi Goldberg for declaring that this case is not ‘rape rape’, and rendering such cases ‘rape lite’. Polanski admits to ‘unlawful sexual conduct’ with a minor, and was found guilty of grooming a thirteen year old girl with drugs and alcohol, giving her oral sex against her will and forcibly sodomising her, in the home of Jack Nicholson, who wasn’t home at the time. For this to now be considered ‘rape lite’ is quite frankly an outrage, but is it indicative of our times?
The number of women coming forward to report rape is scandalously low, and no wonder given the public perception of rape, that supports the Polanski case. The xenophobic media are horrified by ‘honour violence’ perpetrated against rape victims to erase the ‘blackened vessel’ (karokari) of the fallen woman, yet the very same media propagates the myth that women are ‘asking for it’ if they have been drinking, flirting, wearing provocative clothes, or have consented to sexual acts in the past. Sexual violence routinely sensationalised and glamorised in rap videos, pornography, horror films, even in ‘Hollyoaks Late’ watched by every British teenager.
What really concerns me is how this affects the spectrum of what is consider sexual violence. The media has us perversely fascinated with sexual violence, but does that mean we want it committed upon our bodies? ‘The Truth Seeker’, a website for submissive women, ‘reacting’ against feminism, publishes an article written by a MAN about how all women secretly want to be raped. In a society where we see sex everywhere and women are routinely objectified, I think this must affects how consent itself is conceived- do we desire sex or an affirmation of our own desirability? Given the normalisation of sexual violence, the notion of reciprocity itself must be affected- have men become conditioned to be aroused by forced sex, and are women conditioned to feel they must desire a ‘rape lite’ of their own?
‘Rape lite’ with a rich and powerful director is of course an entirely different matter. Mr Polanski is almost as famous for this sexual offence as for his films, on which an article in itself could be devoted to the glorification of sexual violence. Polanski’s cult following has descended to the tradition of accepting this sex offence as part of his torrid past that colour the air of his artistic mystique, as much as his mother who died in Auschwitz, his time as a rent boy, and his wife’s gruelsome death at the hands of gang violence. Sex offences have become normalised artistic behaviour, most Parisian artist models being from the brothels of Montmartre. Polanski, has been adopted as a French citizen into a canon of sex pests: Manets dubious relationship with his most famous model Victorine Meuret, Degas unseemly years as an ageing voyer in ballet school for young girls, and Gauguin’s love of Tahitian prepubescent girls.
Some journalists are already brought up the class issue- if Polanski was still a tea boy on set, or even a Catholic priest, would the media, actors, the French state be jumping to his defence? Of course not. Polanski’s hope lies in his trappings of power. The same money, authority and blind adoration of the public that allows football managers to buy silence from the women used and abused at the hands of their players. Polanski had expensive lawyers and the money to fund his exile on a first class ticket to Paris, box office hits, and now has the academy awards and status of his ‘Life time achievement award’. This turns him from a paedophilic villain into a lovable rogue, and sexual violence becomes a politically incorrect artistic preference… rather like caviar from an endangered fish.
Only a couple of weeks ago Jordon was in the press making rape allegations against an anonymous celebrity. Her ex husband Peter Andre was mocking her, calling her insane and advising her to keep it quiet. I was pleasantly surprised to see an article in the Sun encouraging her to come forward despite this, to give her fans the confidence to also report sexual assault. In contrast to this, my own paper of choice (the Guardian’s Duncan Campbell) ran an article on the Polanski saying that the case shouldn’t be reopened out of SENSITIVITY to the victim, who would be awfully upset to have the whole dirty matter dragged up again.
I ask Mr Campbell- what about the other victims? Over two thirds of victims never come forward because they fear that they will not be believed in a society that measures a woman’s worth according to her utility as a sexual object, that sees women as ornamental property at the hands of a man that has ‘earned’ as ‘right’. A society that then has the audacity to tell us that it is our fault when we speak out against this. Women will never find justice in a society that protects and hero worships rapists such as Polanski as a chauvinist elite, and sees rape as a legitimate sexual or artistic preference.
Only 1 in 20 rapes brought to court reach conviction. I hope that Miss Gailey find justice after thirty long years and this will serve as inspiration for other victims to come forward, and act as a lesson to all the other Polanskis out there that money and artistic acclaim will not buy them exemption.
Let no man ‘earn’ this privilege.
One reporter jokes about protests the next time Sarkozy visits London demanding Polanskis extradition... personally I think this is a great idea...
Joan Smith- http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/29/roman-polanski-arrest-whoopi-goldberg
Duncan Campbell- http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/28/roman-polanski-arrested-ignores-victim