A friend of mine recently wrote (on facebook) about the Roman Polanski situation. In the briefest of terms the situation is this:
Roman Polanski (world renowned director) was charged and convicted of the rape of a 13yr old girl in the US in the 70's. He served 42 days before being fleeing the country prior to being sentenced. The defense presented the usual 'she consented' argument and Polanski pleaded guilty to statutory rape.
This friend, is generally very sympathetic to my feminist musings (and is also very intelligent and very pretty.) But this friend hesitates over the issue of consent, and the seriousness of statutory rape vs. rape. In particular she mentions -
The girl said at the time that she said "no" a few times, but other witnesses for Polanski indicate that she seemed willing and "all over him". I'm happy to assume she did say no but the fact is he was not convicted of rape so he cannot be sentenced as if he was. Furthermore it appears that he did believe she was of age, a belief encouraged by her mother.
She finds herself conflicted, as many do, over his responsibility in the crime and generally comes to the conclusion that he should receive a suspended sentence or probation. While I can definitely see how she has reached these conclusions, I whole-heartedly disagree with them.
First up, it's rape, regardless of consent etc., sex with a a minor is illegal, and minors, by law cannot consent to sex with an adult. Not knowing the age of the minor does not excuse you from the legal complications. All of this is without debate.
Second, in regards to consent - all of those things, that she was all over him, that she looked older, that her mother encouraged it, they are lines of defense tried and tested by men (and women) for decades and I'm sick of hearing them, if the circumstances of consent are shady, then the likelihood that she was not fully consenting is very high. If he was sticking his cock in her while she was hesitating about the situation but not kicking and screaming, she was not 'consenting' she was confused (and at 13 ,in the presence of a celebrity who she was in awe of - probably way out of her depth.)Consent is not the absence of vocal distress or physical resistance, it implies WILLINGNESS, not just a lack of objection. So it's rape, whether the issue of consent is less defined for you or not, it's still rape by law, at the very least, stat rape, which he was charged with and pleaded guilty to.
So what to do with him? I understand the fleeing, fuck, his life was about to be ruined, I'd have a shot at fleeing too (although how he thought he'd get away with it completely is beyond me.) I don't think it's necessary to further punish him for that, but then I don't really care either. It was 30 years ago? I don't care. 30 years ago he raped a 13 year old girl. Time doesn't make it go away, I don't think it should make a single bit of difference. The only deterrent I can see to forcing him to serve time is the calls from the girl that the whole thing be dropped. If anyone even remembers at this point - she's the one whose life has been fucked by this, not his. She's the victim and the one everyone is supposed to be trying to help, not the guy who abused her. Everyone deserves compassion, and he's not a serial rapist, nor does he seem particularly violent, but that doesn't change what he did - imagine if you or your 13yr old daughter was raped and the cunt that did it didn't have to serve time because, well, he was a pretty good guy generally and you know, it was all a mistake. Fuck off.
The only reason this is even an issue is because he's famous (and brilliant) - the same thing is happening with John MacKenzie currently (singer from The Mama's and Papa's who drugged and raped his daughter over a 10 year period) no-one wants to think badly of them because THEY are attached to their idea of these people as brilliant benevolent artists, they don't want to think badly of them because it makes them uncomfortable - how selfish is that? 'I'm sorry you were raped and abused, but look, I really like this song/film and I don't want to have to feel uncomfortable when I hear/see it, so we're just going to have to ignore your pain okay?'
Again, 13 yr old girl = VICTIM. Why is there even discussion regarding Polanski as a person, it doesn't matter. It's blatant discrimination - you can be sure that if the rapist were black, Arab, poor or anything other than a white upper class male (or probably female) in an idealized industry there would be no discussion. Seriously, why is there even sympathy for Polanski? He raped a girl, where is the public sympathy for HER? At the very most he deserves compassion, but certainly not respect or public support.
So if we're looking at what's best for the victim - then maybe the charged should be dropped as that's what she seems to want? Perhaps. Or perhaps that sends completely the wrong message - do you really want to set precedent that says rape is sometimes okay, under the right circumstances? That says famous white men can get away with sex crimes? That says if you flee sentencing, time will erase your crime?
Maybe he's sorry, maybe he really is a great guy who made a mistake, maybe every circumstance was in his favor, maybe he's tried to make amends. Is any or all of that worth the implications of letting him off?