On Polanski

kateiconYesterday, I wrote the most surprisingly and immediately successful blog post of my life over at Broadsheet, “Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped a Child.”

I first realized I’d hit a nerve when I linked to it on Twitter, and the retweets started pouring in, continuously and (as of this writing) endlessly. (There have been hundreds involving “@kateharding” at this point; no clue how many links to it altogether, but I just realized bit.ly tracks clicks on your shortened links, and that one’s had 6,883 so far.) I figured something was really up when I was invited to be on a right-wing talk radio show, and I saw the article tweeted by a high-profile conservative blogger. (Who knew being disgusted with Roman Polanski would turn out to be the ever-elusive common ground between right-wing dudes and liberal feminists?) Then more media requests came in, including one from France. (I’ve been turning them all down, mostly because they all want me to do it live during work hours.) Also, an unprecedented amount of fan mail, coming via my published address, Facebook, and the general Broadsheet addy. Plus an appreciative tweet from Cheryl Strayed, a writer I’ve adored for years and certainly never expected to “meet” via her saying my work was awesome. And then a couple of letters from journalists not looking to interview me, just telling me I’d nailed it.

The post went to number one on Salon, and is still there at this writing. This morning, I found out that in less than 24 hours, it got over 100,000 page views. (I hope I’m not revealing site  secrets here, but let’s just say that’s awfully rare for Broadsheet.) Then a friend e-mailed to tell me Amy Sullivan at Time called it “the best, most comprehensive rebuttal” to Polanski supporters. Another friend pointed out the Salon post was cited on the Wikipedia entry for Polanski. Later, over at Newsweek, our new pal Kate Dailey wrote, “There have been a lot of smart and convincing rebuttals to these objections, most notably Kate Harding’s forceful, powerful essay on Salon.” Around which time, my editor wrote and said, “OMG HOW BIG IS YOUR HEAD NOW? I am putting an end to this well-deserved praise pile-on by telling you that there is something funny on your nose.” Because she is awesome like that.

Today, I wrote a follow-up rant for Jezebel, focusing on the ridiculous amount of celebrity support Polanski is getting. Neither my editor there nor I expected it to get anything like the traffic of the Salon piece — the news is a day older, I’ve already said plenty — and who knows if it ultimately will, but 45 minutes after it went up, she IMed me and said, “It’s already gotten 5,000 page views.” Just checked, and about 6 hours later, it’s gotten 24,000.

Yes, my head is enormous right now, but that’s not the point of this post. Well, not completely.

Here’s the interesting thing about all this: All I’ve done is say that Roman Polanski raped a child, fled before he could be sentenced for it, and thus, by any reasonable standard, deserves to be punished — all of which is a matter of public record, except the opinion on punishment, which is common sense. I didn’t break any ground here. I didn’t uncover any news. I didn’t turn a phrase so exquisite it will be studied in lit classes in 100 years. I just called a fugitive child rapist a fugitive child rapist.

And it turns out a whole lot of people were waiting to hear someone say just that, straight-up, unencumbered by a bunch of bullshit about the importance of his work, his artistic genius, his age, whether his victim looked 13 or not, the judicial misconduct that marred his case or, most gallingly, the “punishment” he’s already “suffered” by spending more than 30 years in “exile.” (If being wealthy, successful and almost completely free to roam Europe counts as exile, sign me up.) A whole lot of people really just wanted to hear someone in the media say, “He raped a child. He fled the country. He damn well should have been arrested, he should be extradited, and it really shouldn’t have taken three fucking decades to make that happen. The end.” But very few people in the media did.

Why is that? Why have so few journalists stated the obvious? Why have I only heard about three people in the film industry (Kevin Smith, Luc Besson and Greg Grunberg) saying, in essence, “He fucking drugged and raped a kid, and he’s not above the law,” while hundreds of celebrities are signing petitions demanding his release, wearing “Free Polanski” buttons and trying to spin his arrest as an attack on artistic freedom? Why am I suddenly a freakin’ darling of the right, while a bunch of liberals argue it’s been such a long time, he’s suffered so much, he’s so old, he survived the Holocaust, his wife was murdered, and oh yeah, did you see Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired? JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT! JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT! (Let me be clear: Judicial misconduct sucks, and there does seem to have been some here. Polanski and his lawyers have every right to vigorously protest that. But whether he raped a child was never at issue — only his sentencing for it — and also, HE FLED THE FUCKING COUNTRY instead of pursuing his concerns through the legal system.) As Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery tweeted earlier today, “Seriously, all it takes for smart lefties to believe Polanski [should] not be punished for child rape is agitprop documentary? Pathetic.”

Pathetic indeed. And yet.

The overwhelming response to my posts is as heartening as it is head-embiggening. Far more people than I could have imagined were thrilled that someone came along and stated the obvious. But still, “Roman Polanski raped a child, end of fucking story” is far from the dominant media narrative about the case right now. Still, people are endlessly debating whether it was appropriate to arrest a fugitive child rapist.

Why do you suppose that is?

199 thoughts on “On Polanski”

  1. Kate, please do not say “all I did is state the truth”. You have done far more than that. Your writing is incredible, awesome, and ass kicking. What needs to be said is all you did was write the best article on this topic. Eugene Robinson is by no means a slouch. Pulitzer prize winning, liberal, Washington Post editorial writer said much of what you did. And you kicked his ass. Blogs I read that love Robinson and link to him all the time linked to your piece today and not his.

    So while I completely agree that the media narrative on this has been awful if your piece had not been written so incredibly well then it never would have gotten the attention it has. Your head ought to be big because you have well earned it.

  2. There are so many reasons I love Kevin Smith (he did portray God as a women…), and I’m glad to have one more.

    Being talented and famous doesn’t give anyone license to rape a child.

    I do wonder, though – Kate, how do you feel about the victim saying that she wants charges dropped?

  3. That so many people who should know better are rushing to his defense makes me want to vomit. And I don’t think I can even read the signatories on that petition.

    He pled guilty, so he shouldn’t be sentenced, why? Because he got to hang out in Europe for 30 years?

    Good for Kevin Smith, Luc Besson and Greg Grunberg. I will seek out and support their films.

  4. I do wonder, though – Kate, how do you feel about the victim saying that she wants charges dropped?

    I’m not a criminal lawyer, but I’m not even sure that she could even have any influence on the proceedings at this point, for two reasons:

    1) He pled guilty already, and that guilty plea has been entered;

    2) He took a runner, which is a separate crime in and of itself, and even if she wanted the charges relating to what happened to her dropped in retrospect, he committed that second crime after he’d already pled guilty to raping her.

    And since I didn’t say it earlier, Kate: fantastic piece. “Crapweasel” is my new favorite word.

  5. I do wonder, though – Kate, how do you feel about the victim saying that she wants charges dropped?

    I feel very sorry that she’s being further victimized by all this attention, but A) I believe the blame for that lies solely with Roman Polanski, and B) in a criminal case, the victim’s desires should be considered, but they aren’t the be-all and end-all (nor are they necessarily legally relevant). The state has an interest in prosecuting Polanski that goes beyond getting justice for her personally. (Especially since he has yet to be prosecuted for the separate crime of jumping bail and taking off for 30 years.)

  6. I just want to thank you for stating the obvious.
    but in such a brilliant way, don;t underestimate the power of being able to form some really clear salient points around something that everyone seems to be taking personally

    I only discovered your blog about 2 weeks ago and now i think you are even more awesome than ever.

  7. I would very much like Debra Winger to explain just how many free rape cards Hitchcock and Kurowawa racked up in their film careers. Or maybe Martin Scorsese, who signed the petition in Polanski’s favor, could explain how many children he’s entitled to rape in exchange for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull

  8. Your piece was one of the most amazing things, um, ever. I agree that it packed a powerful punch hearing such an excoriation of Polanski come from a Salon writer — particularly on the heels of that absurd HuffPo apologist piece and the WaPo editorial, and after seeing Katrina vanden Heuvel tout Wanted and Desired as all the proof we’ll ever need to just let this whole thing pass under the radar.

    It’s irritating (to say the least) to hear anyone blow off the drugging and raping of a thirteen year old girl. It’s especially saddening to hear it coming from people and institutions of whom you have such higher hopes.

    So thank you again for writing it. (And, as an aside, super props to the three gentlemen Hollywood sorts calling Polanski for what he is.)

  9. Let’s hear it for big heads that are full of ideas, instead of just hot air.

    Big-studio directors stick together. (And yeah, Woody Allen is a big-studio director; he’s got the distribution, and that’s what counts.) They’re a fraternity. And I do mean fraternity; almost no women are permitted through their doors, despite the preponderance of female ADs (assistant directors). One of them could commit an actual on-camera assassination and they’d still defend the guy to the death, because that’s what they do. They are gods. They didn’t get into this business to be told “no.” And especially not by women.

    The tighty-righties getting all exercised about this, I understand. Polanski is one of those furriners who didn’t belong here, someone who escaped to France to avoid getting sentenced. France! That’s all you have to say to those people and they start foaming at the mouth. If it was Limbaugh, or someone else they considered one of their own, they couldn’t bend over backwards fast enough to excuse it.

    What I can’t believe — but I supposed I shouldn’t be surprised at by now — are how the fauxgressives on sites like FDL are dismissing your concerns as hysterical-wimmin crap. She wanted it! She was just doing what her mom told her to! He thought she was 16! He blew town because he was going to be sentenced as if he was Joe Blow from Kokomo instead of getting the rich-guy discount, the poor thing! It makes me nervous, very nervous, about ever being alone in a room with any of those guys, for any reason. After all, he didn’t do anything they wouldn’t do, right? I hope that if they have daughters, that those girls have really big, strong muscles, because their fathers obviously aren’t going to do squat for them if they ever get in trouble.

  10. I hate this argument that he shouldn’t go to jail because he’s an amazing director, blah, blah, blah…

    I just wish people would instead make the argument that watching his movies is ok, because you can separate the art from the asshole. That would at least make sense, but to me their argument instead is like saying Hitler (and this is obviously hyperbole) was a really good artist so let’s ignore all the horrible things he did. Besides didn’t he suffer enough? He has terrible and constant gas, was a vegetarian for God’s sake, had one ball and he killed himself. What more do you people want?!?!

    That was an amazing article, Kate. The writers on this site are fucking awe inspiring, seriously.

    On a side note, YAY Kevin Smith, could he possibly rock any harder? Him, John Waters and Quentin Tarantino are my director heroes, and I always love finding more reasons to love any one of them.

  11. I only just signed on to Twitter yesterday, when all of this BLEW UP. But I’m definitely one of the THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE who linked your article. It really was incredibly well-written, and it said what needed to be said. And that’s true, regardless of any head-embiggening it may produce.

  12. Omg! My husband was just telling me about how he encountered this kick-ass rebuke of Polanski-love, and how he hadn’t even noticed the author until after he read the whole thing and was super-impressed with the writing, and how it turned out that the author was none other than that Kate Harding lady I’m always paraphrasing to our fatphobic peeps! I’m so jealous that he got to read it first!

    Your head should be big right now. I know mine would be.

  13. Kate, seriously. I just read your first Salon piece on this through Shakesville and.. Every time I think I couldn’t be more proud to know (of) you, you do something like this. THANK you.

    I felt so frustrated reading about the fucking idiot Hollywood “liberals” who’d signed that stupid fucking petition, and I couldn’t think of a single useful thing I could do about it. But knowing that the truth of what’s happening here is making its way out into the world, and that so many people are hearing it, is making it a little bit better. It gives me hope.

    And as Amy says, it didn’t just happen because someone spoke the truth, it happened because you wrote it. You do righteous outrage like nobody else, and it was what people needed to hear. Well played.

  14. Kate, I appreciate your articles on the subject and I’m so glad you have written them – and that others have bolstered your position via articles, re-tweets, etc.

    I am raising a daughter and son. I am tired of our rape culture and rape apologists.

  15. Wow, Kate!!! People have been posting links to your article on Fb — I read it w/out knowing it was you, but sensed that the clear, smart, no bullshit straight to the f-ing point style was totally familiar. Soooooo proud of you and glad that the world is getting to recognize your amazing talent. Kudos.

  16. Above all, I want to see him punished for running away. He wouldn’t have been able to do that without multiple privileges: his money, his fame, and his nationality. Polanski needs to be made an example of to teach all rich, famous criminals that they can’t escape the consequences of their actions just by fleeing to a country that’s willing to protect him or to a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

  17. I’m not a very astute reader, and often get carried away with popular sentiment. Thank you for the succinct and riveting anecdote to the spin around this case.

    Love your website, best thing on the internet.

  18. Like everyone else has said, that was an amazing article you wrote, and thanks for writing it.

    Also, I have this mad (but rational) urge to go buy a lot of Kevin Smith movies. And maybe see if I even like any Luc Besson films . . .

  19. You honed in unerringly on the most crucial element: the rape of the child.
    I think your article received such an overwhelming response because it served as a reminder of the basic decency that both liberal feminists and right wing dudes (and right wing dudettes, for that matter) share.

  20. I feel like I should reiterate that I completely agree that Polanski needs to take responsibility and be punished for raping a child and then running away from his sentence.

  21. I’d say you turned a few phrases there pretty deliciously, Kate. That post didn’t just explode across the Internet because you were saying something that needed to be said; It took the Internet by storm because you said it fearlessly, and boldly, and well.

  22. I loved your article and was very pleased when Deceiver linked to it.

    I really really really wish people would stop dragging politics into this. I understand why it’s being done, it’s easy to see where the lines are being drawn, but I feel that by dragging politics into it we’re forgetting the *issue*.

    The issue is really really important and when politics get involved it turns into “Those evil righties/lefties did this and that and that’s why they’re invalid now!” I was actually shocked by a comment left on your article by someone telling you, “A change of heart? Welcome to the dark side!” When all I’ve seen you write is exactly what you wrote today. I don’t understand why people decide “This is what my party believes so I believe it too!” instead of “This is what I believe and it happens to match this party *for this moment*”

    I think that’s why people appreciated your article. Not only did it tell the raw truth (and your details that started it off were enough to make me and my boyfriend squirm in our seats) but it helped remind people why he was on trial to begin with. People forget that she said no. As Whoopie tried to put it “It wasn’t RAPE-rape!” (But it WAS RAPE-rape!) Your article also didn’t bother with all of the politics people are trying to connect to it and that was refreshing also.

  23. Kate, the piece you wrote was very powerful. You have a gift with words. Plus, it’s very straight forward. I feel like so many people (especially me) are so used to journalists just hemming and hawing over stuff like this (see: any time a woman has accused a semi-well-known athlete of rape).

    Comments on this post are also why I wish I had more female friends (well, I don’t know that all or most of you commenting are female, actually, so maybe I should just say “more friends with differing view points”).

    I know this is anecdotal, but guys I know who otherwise identify themselves as feminists and woman-friendly seem to take the accused/admitted rapist’s side when it comes to issues like these. I don’t know if they identify with them and fear being in a situation where they really had no intention of rape but are accused anyway or what, but it’s really pissing me off.

    Also, Kevin Smith and Luc Besson are two directors I really like, so yay for them!

  24. Kate, your article on Salon was right on. I kept saying “thank you!” while I was reading this. I was molested as a kid-twice. And this burns my ass like nothing else does. HE RAPED A KID. How do some people NOT SEE THAT?! It doesn’t matter if he “thought” she was 16 (Age of consent in CA is 18 YEARS OLD. Not 13, not 16. 18.) or whatever. He pled guilty and took off for France. He’s not only a felon, he’s a fugitive, and the US government is just doing THEIR JOB.
    As for these assholes (and that’s what they are, ASSHOLES) signing this petition, that’s OK-I don’t watch fictional movies and I haven’t since 2000-and what REALLY pisses me off is that the director of one of my favorite movies, Jonathan Demme SIGNED that thing. WTF are you thinking?
    Sorry for the caps and the profanity, but this pisses me off, especially the people kissing his child raping ass.

  25. To add another thought to Zuzu and Kate: while it’s hugely important that the survivor’s control of the situation needs to be in some way affirmed, I still can’t help thinking that the thirty intervening years, in which this woman has no doubt been tormented more than Mr. Polanski (by others and by herself), and the current publicity situation (my guess is that she doesn’t like the role of the arthero-Polanski’s antagonist that these celebrity petitions necessarily paint her into), have conspired to further take away her agency in deciding whether to not to prosecute. I’m not saying that this woman doesn’t have agency or that we shouldn’t take her seriously when she requests that charges be dropped, but to at least consider what sort of pressure she’s under and has been under to request that, and perhaps in doing so to allow her space to truly choose what she thinks best. Which sounds patronizing. This structuralist shit is tricky. Which is, I suppose, why we have laws. But, while we’re speculating, it seems as if we do need to consider what pressures the survivor feels she is under and to remove them as much as possible. Is that fair?

  26. You totally deserve the recognition, and not just for the amazing writing you consistently deliver.

    Taking a stand against rabid stupidity is hard. I know that you probably don’t realize how hard it is for most people to dot his, because you do it all the time on various issues. (I also do, but really only with the stupid people on the train who wont get out of my fucking way, HELLOO THERE ARE LIKE 50 PEOPLE HERE WHY DO YOU GET 3FT OF PERSONAL SPACE.)

    I truly think that if we could get enough people to publicly state that the sky was actually red, and talk about its redness we could get 90% of the American people to agree with them. That’s not because they are bad people, necessarily, I think it is because they are afraid of being wrong, or of not fitting in, and this causes them to be stupid, to follow instead of thinking. (I bet if we tried we could at least get an article on CNN like “iReport: The Red Blue Debate – Which side are you on”)

    Anyway having the ovaries to be all “What he did was Rape” or “Fat people deserve dignity” is a huge thing, especially when the rest of society doesn’t seem to agree with you. It is not something everyone can do. And the world needs awesome people like you (and your always amazing co bloggers) to stick up for the truth, and to not deal with bullshit just because everyone else in the world is wallowing in it.

    Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but you give me hope for humanity.

  27. You do deserve the praise because it was an amazing piece.

    I was sickened today when I read your second article about the celebrities that are supporting him. I’m so disgusted with Hollywood right now, even more so than usual.

    It needs to be repeated until it sinks in: justice needs to be served. I don’t care who he is or what good he’s done, he doesn’t get to escape justice for raping a child and then fleeing the country.

    If he was just an average guy with no Hollywood connection, this wouldn’t be up for debate. Celebrity worship in this country has just gone too damn far.

  28. I don’t expect anything better from Hollywood at large. After all, it’s an industry that still grapples with the idea that women (or anyone female) are, you know, people. Let every shitbag celebrity come out of the woodwork to trumpet their own shittiness. Gawd sometimes I’m so happy I don’t share a common culture with hearing people.

    Come on out you rape apologist actors and directors, you screenwriters and J. Random makeup people. Sign petitions, I want to know who you are and what studio you work for so I can avoid ever, ever, ever giving you money.

    (I also love Kevin Smith more now. Still Kev, three words: Ben Afleck. Why?)

  29. I still can’t help thinking that the thirty intervening years, in which this woman has no doubt been tormented more than Mr. Polanski (by others and by herself), and the current publicity situation […] have conspired to further take away her agency in deciding whether to not to prosecute.

    She doesn’t have that agency anymore, is what Kate and Zuzu are saying. I’m not trying to ignore her feelings or disappear her, because I know she does want the charges dropped and what has happened and is happening to her is completely shit in every way. But he plead guilty to a felony and then committed (what I understand to be) a further felony in fleeing justice. The state is going to prosecute those crimes; the decision about it is not hers to make.

  30. Both articles were boffo. Sometimes, big heads are justified.

    @Stephanie, I’ve not seen Besson’s recent films, but I’m fond of ‘Leon’ (US: ‘The Professional’) and ‘The Fifth Element.’ I liked ‘La Femme Nikita’ when it came out too, but I don’t know if it would hold up.

  31. As to the victim wanting the charges dropped, I completely understand. So completely.

    However he didn’t just commit a crime that hurt her. When you rape a kid, know you’re guilty, and then evade the legal system (and have support) because you happen to be influential, you’re hurting the system that says every person who has been prayed upon deserves their quest for justice, without regard to status.

  32. Kate, you have this way of cutting right through the bullshit and not getting distracted by superfluous crap. Other writers would feel (and did feel) like they had to at least pay lip service to the whole judicial-misconduct-the-victim-wants-it-dropped business (let alone all the GREAT ARTIST noise) when all that is simply not relevant to the core issue: he raped a child and fled the country. You have never had trouble looking us in the (virtual) eyes and saying, “This is bullshit and here’s why…”! You do it all the time with The Obesity Epidemic ™ and all the attendant booga booga. It’s why we love you with all our fat little hearts!
    I’m going to start taking bets on how long before you win a major writing award. C’mon people, what’s the over/under on a Pulitzer?

  33. So, on my way to choir practice, I chanced to hear an NPR report on the victim’s wishes. It was a mostly sane report that included an interview with a lawyer and former rape victim who expressed sympathy for the victim while explaining that her wishes are, in a legal sense, irrelevant.

    But what really bugged me was the way the NPR reporter repeatedly said “HAD SEX WITH” instead of, you know, RAPE. Like, how hard is that, exactly? How do you say “He had sex with her (a 13 year old girl) several times while she begged to go home” with any credibility? As if there’s any ambiguity over what this actually was.

    And I think Dalcynne has a great point: what do you think would be happening to the poor woman if she was publicly demanding that Polanski’s ass be thrown in jail? I can’t imagine that it would be pretty.

    And Liss has a great post up about this at Shakesville.

  34. You deserve an enormous head for this, Kate. Just because you’re reiterating the facts doesn’t mean you didn’t make a tremendous contribution! This whole debate has become ugly precisely because the facts of the case have been obscured by celebrity, time, and a shocking disregard for the rule of law.

  35. Kate: Breathe. Keep breathing.

    Yes, on some level it sucks ass that something you see as OBVIOUS is being lauded as A Huge Step Forward. That’s because you cut through 30 years of Polanski trying to get people to see things his way — which was that he “seduced” her, that he was irresistible, that he can walk away from the law. If he didn’t think what he did was okay, he wouldn’t have done it.

    Maybe this doesn’t make you the World’s Greatest Writer, but it does make you a GOOD one, because you focused on the facts.

    I know something of the roller coaster you’re riding right now. You done good. You won’t always be able to hit them out of the park, and I’m sure you’ll have people pointing out when you do screw up — but that’s okay. Pet your pups, hug Al, and hang on.

  36. First of all, Kate, hearty full-on congratulations. Your writing is always thoughtful and truthful, and I’m so glad that even more people can benefit from it now. Having found your blog was certainly a huge milestone for me, in terms of finding body acceptance and also real validation of what feminism actually is.

    As for Mr. Polanski, Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby are two of my favorite movies ever, but that doesn’t change the fact that he raped a child. In fact, it boggles my mind how the same person who made Repulsion, which is a really sensitive portrayal of gradual psychosis as a result of sexual abuse, could later rape a child and take no accountability for it whatsoever. I seriously don’t get it. I just pretend that Brian DePalma made Rosemary’s Baby now.

    How’s this for horrifying defense of Polanski- my mother and I were railing against him for raping a child, and my father had the freaking nerve to suggest, “Well, Roman Polanski was in the Holocaust as a child.” Um, what? So that entitles him to rape a child thirty-odd years later? “I’m just saying… he was in the Holocaust…” Wow. No. Wrong answer, Dad.

  37. Kate, you have a gift. So there’s that.

    Most people are afraid to speak out. Like you said, “a whole lot of people were WAITING to hear just that.” You just were brave enough to actually say it.

  38. That piece was the best thing I have read in a very long time. And I read a lot. You said it straight and that doesn’t happen too often these days. If there is some sort of award for that sort of writing, you should totally get it. You deserve every bit of praise and professional commedation you are getting for this. The piece was awesome.

    Now going to read the Jezebel piece…

  39. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being brave enough to speak the truth!

    It’s amazing to me that the central fact that Roman Polanski is a CHILD RAPIST does not seem to be the main focus of mainstream media coverage on this issue. How is that even possible? The fact that he drugged and raped (in every way imaginable, by the way) a 13 year old girl seems to be a footnote in most coverage of his recent arrest.

    God, what kind of world do we live in? Is this really acceptable? Are people really making excuses for his behaviour by citing the Holocaust? Or the murder of his wife? Really???!!!! So, by that logic major traumatic events entitle the survivor to one heinous, felonious sexual assault on a minor child? Is that what people really think? Aaaaaarggggh!!!!!!

    As the mother of a little girl, I have to thank you for speaking the truth. It’s sad that we live in a world in which that is considered revolutionary. Thanks for being you, Kate- you make the world better and you should be proud!

  40. Kate, I know I’ve said this before, but you totally rock my face off. I don’t care how big your head gets, as long as it’s full of truth and common sense like “Polanski is a child rapist and should go to jail.” and “Fat people are people who deserve to not be treated like crap.”

    Thank you for being brave.

  41. I have to admit that I find myself torn between cheering and cringing when I see news about Polanski’s arrest.

    On the one hand I think Polanski deserves the worst punishment possible for what he did (and, frankly, the “worst punishment possible” for rape in this country isn’t even close to what he actually deserves. I live for the day that we actually punish rapists with the severity they deserve). Moreover, the fact that anyone is supporting Polanski on the basis of his status as an artist, his celebrity, his age, or the supposed punishment of his “exile” makes me ill.

    On the other hand, the circumstances of his extradition still bother me. Polanski had good reason to believe that he wouldn’t be arrested in Switzerland. While, I’m disgusted that evil men like Polanski (or Pinochet) are allowed to enjoy their “exiles” without paying for their crimes, the same neutrality and extradition laws/agreements that protect them also protect a number of legitimate political exiles. Our arrest of Polanski in Switzerland could potentially weaken the ability to refuse extradition for other people who are convicted of crimes in other countries, including some people who really shouldn’t be sent back to their home countries.

    In the end, I’ll celebrate the long overdue arrest of a child rapist but not without keeping an eye out for what kind of precedent this arrest sets in future extradition arguments.


    I thought I was going mad, but now I can see that other people have noticed the teensy detail that this man is a fugitive child rapist.

    Thank you so much for a brilliantly written article.

  43. As a Polish citizen, I’m deeply ashamed for the things many politicians and artists from my country say in Polanski’s defense. In addition to it being presented as an attack on the creative/artistic community they’re trying to make it a political issue, him being a Pole and all. Some of them reacted very properly, though – like our Prime Minister, who stated he wouldn’t make such a national fuss about it just because Mr. Polanski is a world-famous filmmaker. I have to adore him for those words. I know he has strong views on the whole paedophile and rape issues and he stands to them no matter what, as opposed to many oh so catholic politicians.
    The most ironic thing is, that just a couple of days ago they passed a bill about chemically castrating convicted paedophiles and everyone was cheering how great it was.
    I can’t stop thinking particularly about another Polish filmmaker, Zanussi, who called the girl “an underage prostitute” on national TV. Among all the disgusting statements made about this case, this was one of the most striking.

  44. Bless you and well done. The worst part of this Polanski mess is what people I’d assumed to be reasonable and good have revealed about themselves by their reactions to the case. Your posts have been an excellent one-stop shop stocked full of This Is Why You’re Wrong.

  45. I was absolutely gob-smacked by all the celebrities leaping to the defence of Polanski and wondered if I was the only one who was thinking “WTF?” He had admitted committing a serious crime and then skipped the country to avoid punishment. Your article, Kate, enunciated so clearly what so many people were thinking and feeling but didn’t have the confidence or maybe even the words to say – but they recognised and appreciated it when you did.

    Re: your newly up-sized head; I’m sure some of us can track down sources of plus-sized head gear for you. Hell, if we can find plus-size dresses and jeans and sexy tops, a plus-size hat should be easy.

  46. Absolutely epic articles, Kate. I am so damn happy to see you getting recognition for this amongst the constant wangst of “But he’s such a treasure of Western civilizaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaation!!!”

  47. I agree, he raped a child, he should go to prison.
    One wonders if there would be as many supporters of Polanski if he had committed a financial crime or fraud.
    We seem to value money more than life these days.

    It doesn’t help that the child/woman in question is in support of him in the media and wants to drop charges etc.
    What message does that send out to all the other victims of abuse?

    If she his happy to forgive that’s fine, but do it quietly.

  48. If she his happy to forgive that’s fine, but do it quietly.

    I think she’s doing it as quietly as she can, given that the media keeping knocking on her door.

    If she says nothing they’re just going to hang around and pester her (and interfere with her family life), if she says something about how she’s still upset with him they’re going to ask her lots of questions about the rape again and still be interfering with her family life.

    But when she just answers with “I wish they would stop pursuing him so I could get on with my life” there isn’t much more they can do with that. I don’t begrudge her saying the least sensationalistic thing she possibly could in the circumstances.

  49. Word. Although I’m a little unsure of the emphasis on his being a “child” rapist, since she was post-pubescent. But, who gives a fuck, it was still rape, she was underage, and certainly not old enough for even consensual sex in those circs.

    Just a note: the links to Amy Sullivan and Time are incorrect.

  50. Kate, your head deserves to be embiggened. You not only told the truth, you served it straight up and without weaseling. You said it well and you said it RIGHT. Keep doing what you do, babe.

  51. I don’t get it. If he’s such a great freaking artist (which is debatable) why can’t he create in jail? He might even be “greater” without all the distractions of his frivolous lifestyle. Prison has a way of focusing energies like nothing else can.

    He had really really bad stuff happen to him? Okay. Everyone who has ever committed a crime and had really bad stuff happen to them, get in line. We’re letting you go. Then we’re paying you and/or your family restitution for locking your poor sad ass up. Being a victim cancels out the fact that you made other people victims.

    Somebody please give me one small crumb of a break.

  52. Kate Harding, you are full of awesomeness. Like if you were a Rolo, you would have an awesomeness center. Your writing is amazing and deserving of recognition, enjoy the kudos :)

  53. In some cultures, people are adults when they reach puberty. That is true.

    In the culture this girl lived in, she was not legally or socially an adult. She was not fully grown, she was not allowed to decide whether or not to go to school, not allowed to drive, drink alcohol, maybe not allowed to buy cigarettes (not sure on their local laws on that 30 years ago), and not legally able to consent to sex.

    So yeah, I think that makes her a child.


  54. I was listening to the Michael Smirkanish (?) show on the conservative station here in Boston 96.9, and he was talking about Polanski and all of a sudden he said “and there’s this article on Salon.com by Kate Harding…” and he proceed to read a bunch of it and agreed with it. I was thinking “oh, my gosh, what a weird mix of people, but how cool that her stuff is being read on his syndicated show.”

  55. I’m a little unsure of the emphasis on his being a “child” rapist, since she was post-pubescent

    A) What Ailbhe said.
    B) You know, when I was 13, I had hips, I menstruated, I wore a D-cup. I was frequently told I looked at least 16 or 17. I was also smart and, by all accounts, emotionally mature for my age. And I am quite comfortable with saying I was still a child then, especially when I was being hit on by older men. (Fortunately, none ever got beyond the hitting-on stage.) I sure as shit wasn’t an adult.

    Thanks for telling me about the misplaced link — fixed.

  56. Someone up above hit the nail on the head: “You do righteous outrage like nobody else.”

    That, combined with righteously outrageous writing skills, equals epic win.

    I’m very proud of you.

  57. When I read the piece on Salon I wished that everybody would see it. Especially as the things I was reading elsewhere seemed to ignore the, uh, he raped a child and fled aspect.

    So, I’m thrilled that so many people are seeing the piece and I’m beyond thrilled that you, Kate, are beginning to get your due.

  58. *hands Kate a bottle to hold all that lightning she just captured*

    I’d like to ask all the Hollywood folks who are signing the petition if they’ll be as supportive of the pool guy who was in their house and drugged and raped their 13 year old daughter. Since apparently a bad childhood and making a contribution to their emotional lives is all that it takes to not only excuse the crime but keep doing it 30 years later while the guy has evaded justice.


    Also, legally the “charges” can’t be dropped by the victim in a criminal case, only by a DA, I believe. And when Polanski was convicted of the crime that was pretty much the end of that – he’s been declared guilty, pled guilty, in a court of law. There shouldn’t be a discussion about whether he’s guilty, that’s a matter of record**. It’s also a matter of record that he fled before sentencing, which is a whole additional crime.

    ** – of course, in our culture, a court conviction of rape doesn’t mean the dude is actually guilty, because “it was probably just a misunderstanding/she changed her mind/she was out to get him/etc.” And famous guys can always count on a lot of people including the media to do everything they can to find them wiggle room for a defense.


  59. You deserve the praise, Kate.

    And seriously, I could not have been happier when I saw Greg Grunberg’s tweets the other day. He has always struck me as an earnestly good guy (and seriously, in my head Weiss & Grunny are the SAME PERSON).


  60. (not sure on their local laws on that 30 years ago)

    Since I grew up here in California – I was 19 in 1977 – I can answer this. At 13, it was (as it remains) illegal to smoke, drink, have sex, marry (even with parental consent), skip school, or sign a legal document without co-sign of parent or guardian. And laws aside, you would also have been considered very much a child, irrespective of your reproductive status; back then, the social transition from ‘child’ to ‘teenager’ didn’t really occur until about age 15.

    It doesn’t help that the child/woman in question is in support of him in the media and wants to drop charges etc.
    What message does that send out to all the other victims of abuse?

    It’s not our call. However she copes with what happened to her, she is not obligated to do so in ways that might make it easier or less uncomfortable for anyone else. She’s a woman, not a billboard. We can carry our own water.

  61. Your piece on the Polanski case was everything I’ve thought but have never written down. If I hear one more time about what a great director he is!$)(&*!!! I don’t care about Picasso’s art if he burned his ‘lover’ with a lit cigarette. I don’t care about Peter Yarrow’s music if he raped a child. Polanski, the coward, and all of his ilk need to be brought down.

  62. Excellent post, I don’t have anything else to add, except:

    This is just another reason to love Greg Grunberg.

  63. First of all, kudos of course for this ass-kicking article, but many people have said that much better than I could.

    Second, I want to bring up a point from the link at the end of the article, and see if I am going crazy: I am a Steelers fan, and I am JUST finding out about the Ben Roethlisburger rape case. This upsets me for a couple reasons: I like to think of myself as a reasonably informed person, especially about local news (which in my case, involves anything concerning Ben Roethlisberger), and I didn’t find out about this. In addition, I have been busting my friend’s chops about being an Eagles fan because of Michael Vick. Don’t get me wrong, I am upset about Vick’s actions, but let’s take a look here: Michael Vick abused animals, went to jail for it, and got a job when he got out of jail, and people are pissed at him. I think he is, to use Kate’s excellent phrase, a “debased crapweasel.” But Ben is being charged with RAPING A WOMAN, and women are, last time I checked, PEOPLE. Where is the media outrage? How can we summon all of this anger over Vick (which is not necessarily inappropriate) and have so little attention paid to this woman’s charge against Roethlisberger? Did I miss some huge inquiry into Roethlisberger’s actions? I am really hoping that I am just severely misinformed, and that you guys can send me all kinds of links showing me that the case is getting the attention it deserves (i.e.: at least as much as Vick’s).

    Example: a Google search of Ben Roethlisberger shows the seventh hit as the first hit that mentions the rape. Michael Vick has hit number four mentioning dog fights. (I didn’t include Wikipedia entries here). I guess that’s what rape culture looks like.

  64. Kate, I’m a frequent reader of your blog but have never commented before because I feel that the best thing I can do as an ally for fat acceptance is to shut up and listen. But this time I had to, because I had to thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    The last few days I’ve felt like an absolute trainwreck to the point where I can’t read anything about this case anymore. I’m a rape survivor. I was the age of the girl in this case the first time I was raped. It took me almost 10 years to be able to say that, because my rapist, over twice my age, groomed me. I am still dealing with the emotional fallout. My rapist wasn’t famous, or a great artist, or anything like that. Which is why there was no outcry from anyone when he went to jail. To hear all these people that I’ve respected and admired come out in favor of this other, famous child rapist, has devastated me. To hear such an overwhelming propping up of our rape culture by seemingly everyone in the media has made me feel like I’m crazy. It’s making me think of all the things people told me back then, and why I kept my second rape at age 16 by a different predator a secret. So thank you Kate, for reminding me that I’m not crazy. It’s this sick culture that hates women and girls, demonizes victims and celebrates their predators that is crazy. Thank you so much. Your Salon piece was like an oasis in a horrible desert when I read it yesterday.

    By the way, the Jezebel thing is especially relevant considering one of their editors wrote this giant essay a while back essentially defending Polanski (I believe this is around when the documentary came out) and pissed off a fair portion of the readership, self included, then basically brushed off reader concerns. I was floored to see your followup piece on there.

  65. @Rhea

    I don’t care about Peter Yarrow’s music if he raped a child.

    I think you are subconsciously conflating Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary with John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas.

    John Phillips allegedly made a habit of giving his adult daughter drugs and then raping her while she was passed out.

    Peter Yarrow, to the best of my knowledge, has never been accused of sexual misconduct of any kind.

  66. Purely awesome.

    As a lawyer, let me say, you nailed the arguments. She said, “No.” He was under an obligation to know how old she was and the age of consent at the time was 16. She was not able to consent legally and furthermore she did not consent in fact either.

    Law professor and rape survivor Susan Estrich hammered home the point on NPR last night that by checking out of the justice system, he also committed an almost equally serious crime.

    His body of film work and his sad personal life are not relevant, until he appears in court.

  67. Just piling on one more “fuckin’ A, Kate!” Seriously, it was a thing of beauty.

    As for the victim’s desires about the “charges”, I completely understand why she’d just want to put this behind her and move on with her life and wishes it hadn’t come up again. However, what DRST said is correct. Charges are only charges up until there is a resolution in the case and this case is resolved. The charges can’t be dropped because he is no longer “charged” with anything (though he may end up charged with other stuff for running away, but that has nothing to do with the original victim). He’s convicted. He fled before sentencing, but the court case is over. The US could choose not to seek extradition, but most jurisdictions don’t like setting precedent that they won’t try to get fugitive felons back (not sure what the implications would be, but precedent is a tricky thing in the law).

    I actually find it very strange that some of the French media are saying he’s “suffered” in exile. Does that mean they think that living in France sucks?

  68. It doesn’t help that the child/woman in question is in support of him in the media and wants to drop charges etc.
    What message does that send out to all the other victims of abuse?

    If she his [sic] happy to forgive that’s fine, but do it quietly.

    It sends the message that making a big media ruckus re-traumatizes the victim in cases like this and maybe people should think about the pain she went through instead of trumpeting how “talented” Polanski is. I can’t remember if the victim outed herself or was outed unwillingly (since rape victims’ names are generally kept private) but this kind of attention on her is exactly why I’m nervous to go forward with prosecution after being sexually harassed (despite the fact that, no, whomever is doing this to me is likely not a famous director and it would get far less media coverage).

  69. @meems She did choose to identify herself publicly once she was an adult, but of course that’s no excuse for the media to hound her. I’m so sorry you were harassed and are struggling with those very understandable fears.

  70. Thank you so much for writing this. My room mate and I were having a discussion on this yesterday; we were both appalled at how it was being handled. So I just sent her the link to your article with the subject line of “Bomb-ass analysis of the Roman Polanski controversy.”

  71. I saw a comment somewhere (wish I could remember where) that said this case is another huge example of the differences between rich and poor in the legal system. Another one said that if he were John Smith and fled the country, the same celebrities who now support Polanski, would instead be having fundraisers to have him extradited to face his crime.

    Thanks Kate, for rocking so hard.

  72. @Cassi — As far as I can tell, Polanski wasn’t convicted and there hasn’t been a trial. He pled guilty to certain charges (undoubtedly, much lower than what he was accused of, as is usually the case in a plea deal), and fled before he was sentenced. My understanding is that he can withdraw that plea and demand a trial on the original charges, as well the flight. So the court case isn’t really closed.

    That the victim would prefer not to have the prosecution move forward makes me wonder whether she’d agree to testify or could be compelled to testify should this go to trial. Without her co-operation, the rape charges might be tough to make stick. I don’t know whether prosecutors could introduce the rescinded plea as evidence of a confession. But as for his fleeing before the sentencing, I don’t see how he could argue his way out of a conviction on that.

    I think that often when cases get politicized and “activist-ized,” we can easily lose sight of the underlying truth that a crime was committed and that people are injured or dead because of a person’s actions. While we might consider mitigating punishment because of circumstances like childhood experiences or subsequent evidence of rehabilitation, none of that changes the reality of what they’ve done.

    Kate, your Broadsheet piece was a million kids of awesome, because it forces Polanski apologists to at least acknowledge that he did something wrong. However old she may have looked, however old she was — she said “no,” over and over and over again. It’s sad that we haven’t moved beyond the “blame the victim” mentality.

  73. It doesn’t help that the child/woman in question is in support of him in the media and wants to drop charges etc.

    I wouldn’t say that she’s “in support” of him. Everything I’ve read indicates that she just wants this all to end, because every time there’s a new development, she and her family get harassed by the media and she gets to relive it all over again.

    Wanting something to go away is not the same thing as being in support.

  74. What did Kevin Smith/Luc Besson actually say? I searched the web but I couldn’t find it. Smith normally comes out with some kick-ass quotes.

  75. Jmars: there’s a lot of grand jury testimony available if there’s to be a trial. Plus the fact that he admitted raping her.

    But pretty much, he gets nailed on the fugitive business. And there’s not likely to be a lot of sympathy on the part of jurors that he suffered during his flight, what with winning and Oscar and living in France and all.

  76. That the victim would prefer not to have the prosecution move forward makes me wonder whether she’d agree to testify or could be compelled to testify should this go to trial. Without her co-operation, the rape charges might be tough to make stick

    Her extremely graphic grand jury testimony ought to be plenty.

    Wanting something to go away is not the same thing as being in support.

    This. A thousand times this.

  77. @Kate, that’s what I thought, but I wasn’t sure.

    The problem with cases in which a suspect (or convicted felon in this instance) is someone famous and well respected in other areas is that people trample over the rights and emotions of the victim without even realizing what they’re doing.

    This is slightly off topic, but I worry that our legal system doesn’t do enough to protect victims from being perpetually re-victimized through media attention, frivolous lawsuits (on the part of a harasser), and light sentences for serious crimes.

    @Jmars, he’s already been convicted, so I think compelling her to testify is probably a moot point.

  78. Oh, also (this might have come up upthread, can’t recall, sorry), I’ve hesitated to say this in posts, since it’s pure speculation, but it is not uncommon for big cash settlements to involve an agreement that the plaintiff will never publicly talk shit about the defendant. For all we know, the settlement she got from Polanski was contingent on her keeping her real feelings on the matter to herself. There’s no way of knowing if anything like that is the case, of course. All we can do is take her word for it that these ARE her real feelings — and I’d certainly imagine the “I wish this would all go away” part is quite genuine. But there’s no way of knowing she’s NOT bound by the settlement terms, either, which is one more reason why her stated desire not to see the rape case followed through or see him prosecuted for the separate crime of fleeing the country is not legally relevant.

    Speaking of which, even though CHILD RAPE is clearly the most appalling crime here, I am getting so fucking sick of people glossing over the part where he took off. Or justifying it, because he was afraid the judge was going to change his sentencing deal. Oh, OK, that clearly makes skipping town something other than AN ENORMOUS CRIME, completely separate from the rape. And one he was continuing to commit until last week.

  79. This may sound like a back handed compliment, but thanks for stating the obvious KH.

    I was reading all the coverage about the arrest, possibility of the extradition, and the petitions, and kept wondering if I missed part of the 30 year story. Like maybe he had been coerced, or something. But no, the story hadn’t changed. Still a child rapist. And people we still defending him.

    And re: the conservative versus liberal common ground, we’ll just call this the little common sense and decency square foot of sod.

  80. Wow, Kate. That was a really powerfully written piece, and I agree with you wholeheartedly and I hope your head gets so big people start calling you a “professional fat-head” instead of a “professional fat-ass”. You deserve it.

    One thing I haven’t heard mentioned is the power of professional image consultants. You can bet your life savings that Polanski has spent lots of money on people whose job it is to make journalists believe he was shafted. Such bottom-feeder work has recently been highlighted here in Toronto where a former Attorney General killed a bicyclist in a road rage incident (whether or not he’s guilty of a crime is up to the courts, but his car ran over the guy). He hired a team of reputation-repair consultants and suddenly all the news articles are about how threatened he must have felt and how self-defence is such an important issue. Journalists should be trained much better in how to ignore any self-serving information they are spoon fed.

  81. Kate,


    Srrsly, srrsly awesome and deserved.

    I apologize if someone mentioned this upthread, and I missed it, but this is SO bad for the Left, the Hollywood rape-apologist people and their crazy justifications.

    Because the Right is always dismissing celebrities involved in really fabulous and important causes (environmental, social, etc.) as being out of touch with reality and not representative of the interests of common folk.

    And now the celebrities willing to excuse child rape because someone made a few cool movies are giving the Right lots of ammo that it is true.

    So, they are not just bringing disrepute on themselves, but creating a huge ripple effect that reinforces the Right’s arguments that celeb’s are so deluded and out of touch that any causes they champion should just be dismissed outright (except for Chuck Norris, et. al.).

    This means that in addition to all the disgust and horror I feel about the actual CHILD RAPE and RAPE APOLOGISTS, there is going to be a disturbing ripple effect that hurts lots of other important causes, which also perturbs me.

  82. I typically skim your blog – but the article about Polanski came through on a different section of my RSS feeds, and I really thought it was the best take on this as I have ever seen. My husband felt the same. You really hit it on the head.

    I do wish that the politics would be left out of it, because it’s not a matter of right or left, conservative or liberal – this is a matter of right and wrong, a matter of justice. My husband and I both identify as conservative, but our happiness that he has been caught has nothing to do with Polanski’s background or nationality (I wasn’t even aware of it until it was mentioned in a post above), it has to do with the fact that he did something wrong and something illegal and tried to run from it. There is no excuse or validation for his actions.

    You got it right, in every aspect.

  83. How’s this for horrifying defense of Polanski- my mother and I were railing against him for raping a child, and my father had the freaking nerve to suggest, “Well, Roman Polanski was in the Holocaust as a child.” Um, what? So that entitles him to rape a child thirty-odd years later? “I’m just saying… he was in the Holocaust…” Wow. No. Wrong answer, Dad.

    You know, I think this is an excellent object lesson on something we often discuss (with varying degrees of success) here: the intersection of privileges. Privileged people often get defensive about their privilege — the most common case I’ve seen is white people going “but I can’t have white privilege, because I’ve had problems too! I grew up [poor / gay / female / whatever].” Well, here is an excellent demonstration of how having privilege in one area isn’t actually canceled out by suffering even the most extraordinary oppression in another. Polanski survived the Holocaust; this is the ultimate experience of dehumanization in contemporary history. However, it does not cancel out the fact that when he committed a heinous crime, his privileges allowed him to escape the law: wealth, fame, social connections. He’s a rich, famous, powerful man who had the worst “problems” we can possibly imagine, and he still has immense privilege. That’s how it works.

  84. Also, the glib answer to “He survived the Holocaust so of course he raped someone” is pointing to other survivors, many of whom are also great artists but who did not go around raping children: Elie Wiesel, anyone? Paul Celan?

  85. Forgot to add: Thank you, thank you for both posts. Rape is rape. A convicted felon is not the same as an artist facing persecution for his work. A film festival is not a state function with diplomatic immunity.

    These things should be obvious, and therefore shouldn’t have to be said. But since they are apparently not obvious, and therefore do need to be said, thank you for stepping up to the plate and saying them. If it were easy, everyone would do it. You have drawn well-deserved notice and gratitude because they’re not.

  86. @jmars – As far as I can tell, Polanski wasn’t convicted and there hasn’t been a trial. He pled guilty to certain charges (undoubtedly, much lower than what he was accused of, as is usually the case in a plea deal), and fled before he was sentenced.

    We obvs have different understandings of the case and I don’t have access to a law database to look it up (and don’t trust the press for shit on this issue). Yes there was a plea bargain, but one can only “plead guilty” in court (up until that day you’re only planning to do so). Sentencing also can’t happen until after one has gone to court and been convicted (plead or been found guilty). If he was on his way to enter his plea when he fled, they wouldn’t keep calling the thing he skipped on a sentencing hearing. Also, the current talk of pending charges for fleeing “before sentencing” would, I think, be worded differently if he had jumped bail pre-trial rather than post-conviction, pre-sentencing.

    Like I say, that’s only my understanding (based mostly on memories from the original incident and the carefully worded news stories) and I could be wrong, but all the evidence I’ve seen points to the guilty plea already having been entered.

  87. Suzanne, that’s been my experience too — MANY MANY of my Facebook friends (at least the ones who haven’t been hidden from my feed for being assholes) are sharing Kate’s piece. Thank fucking God. Brava, Kate.

    Fuck this talent excuse. You know, I have absolutely LOADS of talent and that’s only sometimes saved me from getting talked over and underestimated and ignored, and that’s only from sexism; I also enjoy the protective effects of lots of kinds of privilege. But riiiiight, it’s about creative genius. Creative genuis PLUS lots of different kinds of privilege PLUS powerful friends means you shouldn’t be tried for a crime you committed; but creative genius PLUS not being a powerful white dude means your ass is grass. Seems the “creative genius” term drops out. Right? Math people?

    I am SO disappointred in Tilda Swinton.

  88. @BrieCS:

    I agree with you: this shouldn’t be politicized and it is absolutely about right and wrong. Several of my loved ones are Conservative (though I am obviously not), and I love and respect them, although we disagree on certain issues.

    I might have expressed my feelings clumsily.

    It’s just that there are issues important to me personally, such as climate change, and I’m pretty sure that when some Leftie celeb brings up moral issues about said topic (how climate change devastates poor and indigenous peoples, how it causes the suffering of sentient beings other than humans, etc.), some
    Rightie politician will say, “How dare that celeb bring up morality–these are the same group of people that think child rape is OK if you’re a celeb!”

    And let me add that plenty of Leftist politicians engage in the same unnuanced and destructive kind of rhetoric.

    So, it’s not my intent to politicize Polanski’s appalling crimes, nor alienate Conservatives.

  89. From what I can piece together from the Times archive, Polanski was originally indited on 6 charges. During a hearing in September of ’77, 5 of those were dropped and he plead guilty to one. In October the judge ordered him jailed for up 3 months of psychological testing beginning on December 19th (he asked for and was granted time to complete a film before going in, which is why he didn’t have to go in October… nice, eh?). The judge intended to sentence him after he got the psych reports. It was during the time after the testing ended and before the sentencing hearing that Polanski (then out of jail) heard the judge might not honor the “time served” sentence the DA had asked for and fled. Unless I’m reading it wrong, or the Times got it wrong back in ’77 he is already convicted.

  90. One thing I haven’t heard mentioned is the power of professional image consultants

    This is particularly important because Polanski and his allies had an entire apologist documentary made that aired I think on HBO a few years back basically propagandizing that the case was trumped up, etc. Many of the rebuttals coming out in his defense now are, as I understand it, coming from that thing. Unfortunately I don’t know the title off the top of my head, or I’d link.

    Cassi Sentencing also can’t happen until after one has gone to court and been convicted (plead or been found guilty). Thank you. That was how I understood it as well.


  91. @Cassi, Kate , Zuzu, Meems — thanks and sorry. I was misunderstanding the status. I thought he was trying to rescind the plea agreement and go to trial after all, but it seems that he’s attempting to do appeal the conviction on the grounds of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. I feel kind of the same way re: the press as you on this. The stories I read (even in “papers of record”) seem so cagily worded that it’s hard to understand where this all actually stands.

  92. Unfortunately I don’t know the title off the top of my head, or I’d link.

    Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. I linked to a Bill Wyman article about it on Salon in the post.

  93. Thank you, Kate. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

    The satisfaction I received from reading your articles is sadly equaled only by the disgust I’ve felt lately seeing how many people view rape as a less-than-serious matter, and how society at large supports that view.

  94. Good points about a possible payoff and use of image consultants.

    I don’t meant to change the subject, but it’s interesting is that we went through a somewhat similar debate after Ted Kennedy’s death.

    That was another situation where I felt totally out of step with the reactions of the rest of the country or at least those reactions as reported by media.

  95. Caitlyn,

    Kevin Smith: “Look, I dig ROSEMARY’S BABY; but rape’s rape. Do the crime, do the time.” http://twitter.com/ThatKEvinSmith

    Luc Besson: “This is a man who I love a lot and know a little bit,” Mr. Besson said in a radio interview with RTL Soir. “Our daughters are good friends. But there is one justice, and that should be the same for everyone. I will let justice happen.” He added, “I don’t have any opinion on this, but I have a daughter, 13 years old. And if she was violated, nothing would be the same, even 30 years later.”

  96. I thought Melissa over at Shakesville responded quite well to the “but the victim wants this all to go away” nonsense people are bringing up in a post titled “Her Reasons are Not Yours.”


    “The simple answer for that is because justice doesn’t operate on the principle of what’s best for the victim; it operates on the principle of what’s best for the community. (That’s why prosecutors represent “the people.”) Particularly in a case of sexual assault of a minor, there is additional pressure to prosecute, even if the victim(s) don’t support the prosecution, because interviews of convicted/admitted child rapists in prisons suggest that the rapist who only rapes once and never again has about as much supporting evidence for his existence as does the unicorn. (To wit: Roman Polanski’s ensuing relationship with then-15-year-old Nastassja Kinski.) Some of those who understand this principle nonetheless argue that Polanski is now an “old man,” as if old men don’t rape. Unfortunately, they can and they do.”

  97. i heart you, Kate. This was a fantastic post.

    It seems paradoxical to me that actually Holocaust prosecutions are a classic case where people are frequently extradited decades after the fact to answer for crimes they ran away from — including men much older than Polanski is now. I wonder if all of the people clamoring for this to be dropped because it happened so long ago would find it acceptable to drop ongoing Holocaust prosecutions because it happened so long ago and the perpetrators are so old?

  98. I read your post on Salon last night and was thrilled by what you said. I had no idea about this side of Roman Polanski until he was arrested since everything happened when I was about 3 years old and I guess I don’t roll in the circles where it would ever come up.

    I do not understand the reactions of Hollywood and many on the left who defend Polanski. So what if he’s an artist and an amazing director? I saw The Pianist and wept through much of it. It was brutal and powerful. So what? That does not change the fact that he raped a child and HE ADMITTED IT. Whether or not she looked 13 had nothing to do with it! The fact that he drugged her and raped her as she said no is what matters. Even if he hadn’t drugged her, that word “no” is all that matters.

    I know I’m just reiterating what you have already said so much more eloquently, but I am just astounded that this basic argument isn’t swaying so many people.

    Thank you so much for saying the truth, Kate! Now I’m going to go read your Jezebel post.

  99. I would just like point out that although it is awful that the rape survivor was 13, it would be no less despicable of a crime to have drugged and raped an 18 year old, a 24 year old, a 32 year old etc etc etc

    Drugging and raping ANYONE of any age, gender identification or sexual orientation is simply not acceptable and it is a crime.

    If Polanski’s victim has been an adult, he should still be held accountable for his crime – which include fleeing the county and “suffering” exile in Europe as a millionaire filmmaker for 32 years.

    Also, Kate & co here ar Shapely Prose are FUCKING AWESOME and I love you all!

  100. The thing that really frosts my shorts (aside from, you know, the CHILD RAPE part) is that everyone’s totally ignoring the FUGITIVE part. No matter what the judge did or didn’t do, or even what the original crime was – the dude FLED BEFORE SENTENCING. Are the Free Polanski people really okay with that? So the next time some drug dealer is arrested and convicted, he can be like “I heard the judge was gonna fuck me, so I ran off to Mexico. That’s cool, right?”

    Do these folks really have no respect for the judicial process? Because, uh, we have some major issues if so many people really think you should just be able to say “screw you” to the court when they don’t like some aspect of your case.

    Even if the original crime was using the wrong postage, you can’t RUN AWAY IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR CASE, HELLO. We have an appeals process for a reason, dude.

    That said, Kate, both pieces were awesome. The Salon article, particularly, I re-read every time someone linked to it. It was that good.

  101. Um, when I said ” everyone’s totally ignoring the FUGITIVE part” I meant Free Polanski people, not Kate & Co. I know YOU’VE touched on it. Just to clarify.

  102. If Polanski’s victim has been an adult, he should still be held accountable for his crime

    Oh, completely — but the fact that she wasn’t means that even the usual she said/he said rape apologism doesn’t apply, because a grown man cannot legally have sex with a 13-year-old. So even if it’s not Whoopi-approved rape-rape, it’s still legally rape.

  103. My partner just mentioned that there’s this great article on Salon, which just says, right, that – “You mean the one about him being a fugitive child rapist?” yes, that one – “That’s Kate Harding.”


  104. @jmars, I don’t think the cagey writing is an accident. The more obscure and abstract they can make the reality of what he did, the more they can focus on the vagaries of the deal and the unfair system and the ‘fame-seeking’ judge, the less they hope they’ll sound like scumbags who are trying to help a child rapist escape justice. That’s really why what Kate wrote is so important… because it’s not about all the layers of crap on top of what he did. It’s about what he did. Kate deftly and forcefully stripped away all the junk and got right to the heart of the matter. I say again, a thing of beauty.

  105. re: I Blame The Patriarchy. I’m a feminist. I’m not a radical feminist, and this blog pretty much explains why. *shrug*

  106. Another win for the radical feminist idea that women are not things! Pretending that Roman Polanski committed a crime functionally equivalent to breaking a vase is incredibly dehumanizing for all women.

    I am so happy to see how many people do understand that on a visceral level. Even the right-wing talk show types.

  107. @tigtog – Peter Yarrow both was convicted of a sex offense and did time, later being pardoned by Jimmy Carter, but he did not rape the child. She was 14, her sister 17, and they found his room to get an autograph; he answered the door naked (and when I first heard the story it was suggested he was either stoned/drunk), and hit on them. While naked.

    From my experience hippie nudity was en vogue, the constant naturalist movement, so his nudity doesn’t strike me as necessarily sexual in content – but he did hit on her.

    It didn’t get as far as intercourse; she said no. I haven’t been able to find the actual case, but reports suggest they weren’t involved in sexual touching.

    He did 3 months and then probation, and has publicly said his comments were reprehensible. I wouldn’t class his offense as reported and convicted on the same plane as Polanski – or John Phillips – but he did cross a line.

  108. Thank you. The whole world seems have to gone fucking nuts signing petitions to save a child rapist from justice.

    Loving your work!

  109. I may be a little dim, but I just don’t understand why the rape of a child should be a dividing point for conservatives and liberals. Since when do liberals, as a group, condone this?

    Maybe I need to turn in my liberal card. (Nah, never, never!)

  110. “I don’t think the cagey writing is an accident. The more obscure and abstract they can make the reality of what he did, the more they can focus on the vagaries of the deal and the unfair system and the ‘fame-seeking’ judge, the less they hope they’ll sound like scumbags who are trying to help a child rapist escape justice”

    @Cassi – Back in 77 many newspapers would not state exactly what he did. I recall statements like “seduced a 13-year-old”. The beauty of now is Salon was willing to give Kate’s bald-facts summary a platform, and the victim’s grand jury testimony is online for anyone who wants to read it.

  111. I linked to your piece all over the place yesterday, Kate, and got numerous “Right on!” and “Excellent article” responses. You rawk, plain and simple.

    I wonder how many of Polanski’s supporters have read the victim’s grand jury testimony? I’d think that would sway them away from the Dark Side, but it may be asking too much for them to actually read and care about what Polanski’s victim experienced. Grrr.

  112. I was one of those people waiting for someone to say these words, wondering if the world had gone made. Thank you for being the voice for all of us thinking this. I’ve been a huge fan of the fat acceptance stuff, but you just earned my lifelong

    devotion with this. I was that 13-year-old girl once—and I was never the same. Thank you for defending me, Samantha Geimer and every other woman in this country.

  113. Outrage expressed succinctly is not exactly a failure of writing skill. In fact, sometimes it is EXACTLY an exquisitely turned phrase.

    You did good, Kate. Let the head swelling proceed.

    And thank you.

  114. Also on my lifelong devotion list? Kevin Smith, Luc Besson and Greg Grunberg (and my husband who refused to watch a Polanski movie with me several years ago.) Thank you for renewing my faith that some men get it.

  115. @Sticky – internet hugs from a stranger if you want ’em

    Kate, everyone else has said it, but you’re awesome. And wow. Someone published an article about rape that actually has the word rape in it. Astonishingly and wrongly rare, for god’s sake, but thank fuck someone said it and someone was willing to support it. If I never read another headline about someone “having sex with” a minor child I will die happy.

    (Well, no, probably not happy, but 0.00000001% less-ragey).

    And this petition is sort of like truck nutz and pro-rape tshirts, to my mind. Now I know exactly who to avoid. I’m completely creeped out by some of those names, though.

  116. Since when do liberals, as a group, condone this?

    My personal opinion: I think there’s a swath of fauxgressives who don’t so much actually believe in other people’s rights to do what they want with their own bodies and lives, as they like to fancy themselves people of taste. While it’s true that these days being a person of taste involves paying lip service to some things that sound vaguely progressive, for fauxgressives it’s really all about demonizing “those people” and protecting one’s own set. Witness hipster racism and rape apologists. I mean, Christianity has done this like whoa; so it’s not surprising to me that progressive ideals could be fodder for violence too.

    Hey, has anyone else heard the criticism that feminism failed here because we SO demonized rapists and sexual harassers that most people are unable to think of a rapist/harasser as a real person… so when someone whom they think of as a real person DOES commit sexual assault, they say, “Oh, but he can’t be a RAPIST. He’s human. Rapists are subhuman!”

    Because my thoughts on that are: 1) Uh, no, feminists are actually the ONLY people I even fucking HEAR talking about the “Not my Nigel!” phenomenon; and 2) If fucking ONLY our culture provided rapists with that much social penalty, but it fucking doesn’t. The other day there was an article in the South Bend Tribune about a 14 year old rape victim, and OF COURSE the comments had things like, “Stupid girl. She should have learned early on the lesson that she shouldn’t go back to a guy’s car.” Let’s see, was that lesson taught the same day as the lesson that she’s not entitled to refuse to do things that men tell her to do? And oh, when were the MALE children supposed to have grasped the lesson that it’s NOT FUCKING ACCEPTABLE TO RAPE PEOPLE? Let’s secure the humanity of women in people’s minds first, and then maybe we’ll have time to deal with rapists feeling butthurt that now they’re being typecast and pigeonholed. Or maybe not.

  117. @lucizoe: yes, I want them and thank you. I’ve been near tears ever since this started, and it means so much to me to know that other people get it and will speak out. Love everyone here at SP!

  118. Let’s secure the humanity of women in people’s minds first, and then maybe we’ll have time to deal with rapists feeling butthurt that now they’re being typecast and pigeonholed. Or maybe not.

    Thank you.

  119. A Sarah, I’ve definitely heard people (feminists) argue that rapists aren’t monsters, but just people. When I’ve seen it, it’s generally been less about sparing the rapists poor widdle feewings and more about keeping in mind that anyone, even friends and family, even people who seem nice, and have good manners, and are otherwise good people can be rapists too.
    I would argue that demonizing rapists predates feminism… feminism, if anything, has opened up the scope of what constitutes rape beyond violent stranger rape. Rape by normal dudes counts now.

  120. @A Sarah – I had one relative who spent time in prison. When I was about 11, he mentioned that a kiddie-diddler in prison would have to watch his back because things would not go well for him. I told him that I found this comforting, and he suggested I shouldn’t – it’s because someone was fucking with someone else’s most *sacred* property.
    I have no idea whether that’s true or not. I do know there weren’t many feminists in my relative’s cell block. Including himself.

    (Man: with my many moons of queer stories, my hippie commune stories, and the prison stories, I must sound like I was raised on a very special Oprah episode. Suffice it to say my mom, before she found herself and her own FA, was attracted to rather alarming men, but had wonderful taste in friends.)

  121. @Arwen,

    @tigtog – Peter Yarrow both was convicted of a sex offense and did time, later being pardoned by Jimmy Carter, but he did not rape the child. She was 14, her sister 17, and they found his room to get an autograph; he answered the door naked (and when I first heard the story it was suggested he was either stoned/drunk), and hit on them. While naked.

    Thanks for the info. I had never ever heard of that case. I’m glad for my childhood memories that it appears that he honoured her “no” and there was no actual touching involved.


    It appears I was wrong about Yarrow never being party to any sexual misconduct. There may still have been some conflation going on in your statement, in that it’s very hard to describe Yarrow’s actions as rape, while Phillip’s actions definitely were.

  122. Yours was the story I chose to link to when I wrote my own blog post, because it’s so simple and succint. All the yammering about what a great artist Polanski is and all the terrible things that happened early in his life and blah blah blah completely misses the point that HE RAPED A CHILD. My own mother is one of those people who can’t seem to reconcile the art he’s contributed to the world with the fact that he’s a CHILD RAPIST. Newsflash: Some artists were/are TERRIBLE PEOPLE. You can still like Chinatown while thinking the director should be in prison.

    Anyway, congrats on the article.

  123. I first read the Salon piece without noticing the author. I was thinking “brilliant, sensible, yes, finally, it’s about time” and making spasmodic fist pumping gestures. I was also beginning to wonder who the author of the article was but was so engrossed that I did not want to scroll up and check. And then I saw the word “crapweasel,” and I thought, ah, it is Kate Harding, as indeed it was. Thank you for your good sense and good writing.

  124. @Takver, re. Ben Roethlisberger, the Post Gazette has covered the story of the accusation: http://bit.ly/W1Z2v
    Myself, I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m usually inclined to believe the victim (or alleged victim, or however one words it), but since we haven’t even gotten testimony yet, it’s hard to know who to believe based on leaks from all the lawyers. It’s a weird deal.

  125. A Sarah: “Let’s secure the humanity of women in people’s minds first, and then maybe we’ll have time to deal with rapists feeling butthurt that now they’re being typecast and pigeonholed. Or maybe not.”

    I just got the worst blog-crush on you. :-)

  126. Thanks, SM! The Ben story is kinda a tangent here, but it is interesting reading.

    As for Polanski, what everyone else said. Times infinity.

  127. Cowsharky,

    There IS testimony–done in 1977, when the case originally went to trial. A google search will produce it, and a few folks have linked to it in the comment thread here. It’s incredibly graphic and disturbing, and Polansky pled guilty.

    [Uhk, I wrote this and THEN realized you might mean testimony re: trial misconduct. If that’s the case, oops! Sorry.]

  128. Oh geez. Cowsharky, you were talking about another case. Mm, kay. I need to go take a nap, apparently :P

  129. Kate, great post, I agree completely.
    Also, forgive me if this has already been mentioned, but it occurs to me that having Woody Allen defend Polanski for child rape is somewhat akin to John Wayne Gacy defending Jeffrey Dahmer. After all, wasn’t Woody Allen the guy who had an affair with and married his adopted daughter/step-daughter? Birds of a feather…

  130. You know, I’m going to agree with you that all you did was state the truth. Because that’s what you did. But at least you had an outlet where many people could read what you said and allow it to sink in.

    On a good dozen forums the last few days, TONS of us have been saying many of the things you did. Easily 100 people that I saw, and assuredly more on forums I don’t go to, have been repeating that Polanski’s plea deal was never set in stone, that he fled justice instead of using his great resources to appeal within the law, that it wasn’t a matter of Americans being “prudes” about teens having sex. But no one really listened because all they heard were a bunch of single voices, easily dismissable.

    Which really irks me, to be honest, but that’s how people are. I’m just thankful you, a good writer with an audience, had a platform in which to state the blindingly obvious to people who weren’t getting it.

    Speaking of people who don’t get it… as a film blogger and a huge film buff, I’ve gotten the chills more than once reading these lists of people who support Polanski. It’s really hard for me not to just hate all of humanity right now.

  131. I posted the link to the Salon article on my facebook, and it got SO MUCH love. This is why we love you, Kate: you tell things as they are, and so few people do that these days.

  132. @Annitspurple, yeah, I was talking about the Ben Roethlisberger case. The Rapist Polanski case is not remotely ambiguous.

  133. Thank you so much for your articles. I had Sky News on when the story broke that Polanski had been arrested and I was pleased that he would finally face justice. Then, almost immediately all these calls of support came in from France, Poland and Hollywood and my husband and I were sickened. When I heard Debra Winger’s speech I wanted to reach into my telly and slap her about the face several times. I think that your first piece would change alot of peoples views because you have stated EXCACTLY what acts Polanski committed on that child. As fucked up as that may seem to many of us, I think that when people see it written down exactly what he did they might start realising exactly what went on. I think they need to be shocked like that to realise.

    I see in todays news that France have dropped there support for Polanski and the Polish government have been told to pipe down in their support. I like to think that’s your doing Kate.

    I would also like to add a yay for Kevin Smith. I will so be watching Clerks tonight.

  134. A red meat conservative?


    ETA: Actually, rereading that comment, I think they’re being sarcastic. Not very clearly sarcastic, mind you, but still.

  135. Kate: I just have to say I am so excited for you that you wrote the most successful blog post of your career, and that you are getting the recognition that you deserve! I could not have agreed with you more on this issue.

    Regarding that weird “dissent of the day” at Andrew Sullivan’s place, I totally didn’t get the sarcasm either. I had to write to him, and have one of his “under-bloggers” tell me it was sarcastic. Then I felt really embaressed! I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one that didn’t get it on the first read. ;)

  136. Dear shapely prose, LEARN TO SARCASM


    Chiming in late to say, Kate, whatever the reason people are recognizing your awesomeness, it feels great to know that your voice is being heard. As a fellow writer, I can see where you may think it’s weird that one particular post broke through the noise, but don’t forget that you’ve had similar breakthrough posts outside the mainstream. (Notably, “The Fantasy of Being Thin.”) So it is just the latest example of your ability to cut through a ton of BS to reveal the truth and resonate with a larger-than-expected audience.

  137. Kate – as a survivor of rape and sexual abuse and a member of a program on that topic, you are big news and everyone I have spoken to is immensely grateful for your very frank words. So from all of us, I say, “thank you!”

  138. Late to the party, oh well. Thanks for a clearly written article.

    I think the Hollywood protection ring is due to our tendency to tribalism, we are good, our tribe is good, so a member of our tribe can’t possibly have done something *that* bad. It takes a strong person to stand up for right in the face of the tribe.

    I do have to dissent slightly though. While fleeing justice is a bad thing, and should be punished; hurting a child, raping a child, is humongously a worse offense to my moral sense. I don’t know about the actual legal differences in degree or sentencing; but I could forgive someone fleeing justice.

  139. About the “being lumped in with conservatives” cognitive dissonance: I feel it, too. In fact, I’m starting to understand them a little from a through-the-looking-glass kind of perspective. Seeing this heinous pro-Polanski petition that so many big stars and directors have signed has my head spinning, and I’m thinking, “Really? Do they really think they know better just because they’re frickin’ artistes and whatnot? Degenerate Hollywood sassa-frassa-frass….” {incoherent mumbling}. It’s easy to forget that many, if not most, people in the public eye don’t think too well for themselves, and that it’s not because they’re so-called “elites”; it’s just because they’re human and thus susceptible to acting like morons.

    Also, I don’t think many of those people have read the young plaintiff’s testimony as it was recorded at the time of the trial. I know I hadn’t until a couple of years ago, and I was shocked that it was so clearly rape, leaving aside the question of “statutory” (as Whoopi, for one, wants to). As Kate says in the article, she said “no”and he did it anyway. If and when the “Free Polanski” crowd do fully inform themselves, I would hope that they would have the morals to regret having signed the petition.

    Still, of course, it’s been well known since the Enlightenment that awards ceremonies and film festivals are sanctuaries akin to churches, so let’s not forget that. (lol/barf)

  140. Kate, I did not get a chance to comment on your Broadsheet piece at Salon; so I will do it here.

    You almost always think and write very well. There are not many people who do that. Yes, your article on Polanski was really good; but almost everything you write is. This one really made it; congratulations! It was very likely that it would happen sometime, but you never know. I hope it leads to more.

  141. If I was in the survivor’s shoes, I’d want to staple raw steaks to Polanski and throw him in a shark tank at feeding time. One wonders if his defenders would insist that those wishes be respected.

    If his defenders think her wishes should be respected, they should understand WHY she wants this dropped–she’s been slut baited, her mother’s been slandered, and these so-called libertines have faulted her for not demonstrating proper Victorian morals and modesty (not a virgin? Unrapeable!). So if they’re serious, they can apologize for each and every victim-blaming statement they made, disavow them, stop making them, and come down HARD like a ton of fucking BRICKS on anyone else who does make them. Oddly enough, I’m not seeing that.

  142. Wow, just wow. About everything.

    I loved the article when I read it. It also made me incredibly angry. More and more it seems we live in a world where the risk that the consequences of rape might ruin a man’s life! far outstrips the right of children (and women, and men) not to be raped in the first place.

    I am glad this is getting so much attention, because it’s something we all, apparently, damn well need to hear: it is not okay to rape.

    It doesn’t matter who you are; it doesn’t matter how long ago it was; it doesn’t matter if the victim now claims to have forgiven you or not. Rape is wrong, and there are legal standards to be enforced.

    Please keep saying it, Kate, however many times it takes.

  143. kate, so glad that your great work is reaching out to so many people. i know that you wish that there
    was not a circumstance that required the work, but, still, you are helping so many people with the
    message. thank you so very much.

  144. More and more it seems we live in a world where the risk that the consequences of rape might ruin a man’s life! far outstrips the right of children (and women, and men) not to be raped in the first place.

    Reminds me of the scene in Hard Candy when Patrick Wilson’s character says that his career will be ruined if people find out he’s a sexual predator, and Ellen Page’s character replies, “Didn’t Roman Polanski just win an Oscar?”

  145. Chinatown was a long time ago and it’s embarrassing how folks are clinging to past achievements to excuse some appalling behavior. What I liked best about your piece was it went into unflinching detail about the specifics of the assault. I think it takes a lot of cheek to read that piece and still come away a Polanski apologist. What he did was despicable, violent and he deserves to go to jail for it. Thanks for the great article, Kate!

  146. It was a terrific piece, Kate. Well written and very straightforward, clear arguments.

    Can someone remind me about a point of detail on the case, please? I can’t seem to find the answer online, amid all the other thousands of posts and articles about Polanski. It’s almost too much information.

    Firstly, I understand from Kate’s article that the victim testified it was all without her consent but I seem to recall that she changed her story. Is that correct?

    Secondly, in Polanski’s guilty plea, was he actually admitting to forcing the girl to have sex without her consent? Or was he admitting to statutory rape because she was 13 but claiming it was consensual.

    Now, I do realise that the age of consent means that in legal terms a 13-year-old cannot give consent. I get that. And I am in no way condoning sex with a 13-year-old even if the girl does say she wants it. Nor am I condoning fleeing the country and living as a fugitive to escape justice. The answer to this question makes very little difference to the question of whether he should be brought back for sentencing (or retrial, or whatever happens next). I agree with Kate that he should be.

    But it certainly makes a difference in terms of my own personal feelings about Polanski and whether or not I would see his films, for example. (Though I have, in fact, seen a few of his films in the past).

    Even if the girl saying yes or no isn’t an issue in legal terms because of her age, it’s still an issue to me. Having sex with a 13-year-old who says she wants it is wrong. Forcing sex upon a 13-year-old who says no and begs him to stop is unforgivable.

    Was this ever firmly established?

  147. “Reminds me of the scene in Hard Candy when Patrick Wilson’s character says that his career will be ruined if people find out he’s a sexual predator, and Ellen Page’s character replies, “Didn’t Roman Polanski just win an Oscar?””

    Considering the pictures on (Wilson’s) wall, the age that (Page) was supposed to be, the fact that he was supposed to take pictures of her, and the manner in which she initially turned the tables, I’m pretty certain that the references to Polanski in that movie were deliberately multi-layered.

    *ponders rewatching Hard Candy as a catharsis for all the crap Ive heard in the last few days*

    I’m not the only one that adores that movie and doesn’t feel at all guilty about it, right?

    *crickets chirp*

  148. @Caitlin: My understanding from Random Internet Lawyer was that part of the plea bargain was Polanski signed off on her testimony. Plus, he settled with her in the civil suit out of court and she still publicaly claims non-consent, which according to some other Random Internet Lawyer suggests that he doesn’t dispute it enough to ask that her public story (that it was statutory) be part of the settlement. Polanski has never disagreed with her testimony, from what I can tell.

    Regardless of age, quaaludes, and alcohol definitely happened and changes the consent picture. Polanski definitely said afterward was that the reason why this was “such a big deal” was because everyone wanted to f*** young girls.

    Frankly, even if she was too fucked up with life, fear, drugs, or her thought she had to do this for her career to say no, it’s a violent crime. Her ability to decide was blown by age *and* by inebriation.

    But there’s nothing suggesting controversy about her testimony. It was mainly that she had had sex with her boyfriend before, and in those days (and even still) if you’d slept with someone once you were open season, really.

    …. Also, does anyone else get as wigged by the “but her mom knew” argument? Well, sure, but if her mom was a pimp that still doesn’t make the rape OKAY. Damn. If I hire a hit, both I am guilty *and* the hitman is guilty, you know?

  149. Also, does anyone else get as wigged by the “but her mom knew” argument?

    I too am pretty wigged out by it. If her mom knew and “pimped” her daughter out, that just deepens the layers of victimization this girl went through. Has nothing to do with Polanski though. It would just make him one more predator on a list of predators, including her mother. Just like it wasn’t him but his friend who got 15 year old Natassja Kinski intoxicated and “sprawled out” the first time Polanski raped her (“sex” with intoxicated girls is rape, even if you have a “relationship” afterward), he’s just another predator on the list.

    But the real reason I am upset with that argument is the complete and utter baselessness of it, and the fact that it’s just another way to slam the victim (because now they’re going after her mama on top of everything else). There is absolutely no evidence at all that her mother knew this was going to happen. In the grand jury testimony, I think it’s clear the mother didn’t even know Polanski had driven the girl to the “party”, and when Polanski called to let the mom know they’d “be late”, she asked if she should come pick her daughter up. The biggest thing to me is that it wasn’t long after the rape that the girl went to the police, with her whole family in tow, and pressed charges.

    So that says a lot of things to me. First of all, I am really impressed with the strength of this victim. Her story has been inspiring me for a while now. She reminds me that “victim” is not a dirty word. Reading her testimony I am struck by how much this young girl tried to hold on to whatever power and agency she had, even though a drunk and drugged haze. Repeatedly telling him “no”, repeatedly trying to get away from him, and then telling her family within days of being assaulted. I must clarify that this is no judgment against victims who have responded in other ways, it’s just that I remember being a hurt 13 year old girl, and I’ve survived much, but damn she was and is strong.

    In addition, I’m rather heartened by the immediate response of her family. I think she told her sister first, who wanted to go right on down to the station. Then she told her mother and aunts (I think, going by memory at the moment), and together they supported her.

    I read an interview transcript where she talked about the media attention and the bullying she faced at school (which indicates to me that her name was known in Hollywood at the time, and not just something that came out later), and how her mother helped her get through that. She knew she’d have no career in modelling and acting, and there are no indications her mother tried to force her like some wicked stage mom. Trusting your daughter with someone as famous and charming as Roman Polanski isn’t the same as letting her go off with some back alley photographer who’s “gonna make he famous”, even if some might judge it as naive.

    So reading these vile accusations against her mother hurts my heart. THIS is why she wants it to “go away” (whatever one thinks that means). The way she and her family have been turned into the criminals in all this is disgusting. Roman Polanski raped a child. Why are women being blamed (again) for yet another rape?

  150. If you can stand the spastic caps and bad grammar, go follow Kirstie Alley on Twitter. She’s one of the few celebs taking the child rapist to task.

    Just for that, I’m willing to forgive her the whole, whole, Jenny Craig thing.

    Maybe she’s just one of the few speaking common sense because she’s not running scared for her job. I wonder how many celebrities are being threatened by directors, studios, or their agents into joining the free Polanski mob. Unless some celebrity comes out and says so though, it’s just speculation. Still, Natalie Portman, what’s up with that?

  151. Firstly, I understand from Kate’s article that the victim testified it was all without her consent but I seem to recall that she changed her story. Is that correct?

    No, as far as I know. She has since said she’s forgiven him, and she doesn’t want to see him prosecuted (mostly because she’s sick of the media circus and wants to be left alone), but she has not recanted her testimony. She also brought a civil suit against him a while back and won a settlement. So as far as I know (and this would be huge news, so I feel pretty confident saying it’s not out there) she has never, ever said it was consensual. She’s only said she’s moved beyond it and wishes everyone else would, too. And that she forgives him — which, in itself, implies she still believes he did something bad.

    Secondly, in Polanski’s guilty plea, was he actually admitting to forcing the girl to have sex without her consent? Or was he admitting to statutory rape because she was 13 but claiming it was consensual.

    He only admitted to statutory rape and has claimed it was consensual. He was originally charged with 5 or 6 other crimes, but he pled down to unlawful sex with a minor. So no, he has neither pled to nor been found guilty of what Whoopi would call “rape-rape,” but since there was hard evidence of the champagne, the quaalude, and intercourse with a 13-year-old, I don’t think you even need her testimony to safely say that this was not consensual sex. If you read her testimony and believe what she said under oath, that just makes it more unimaginably vile.

  152. Just for everybody’s information, here’s the raped woman’s own description of what happened as she sees it in recent years, taken from a transcript of an interview on The Larry King Show in 2003:

    KING: In your own words, Samantha, what happened?

    GEIMER: Well, I tried to take a girlfriend along because I was feeling uncomfortable. But he kind of at the last minute asked her not to go.

    So actually when I left, my mom didn’t realize I was going alone…


    KING: Was any one there but you and him?

    GEIMER: Just he and I, and no one else.

    KING: No assistant photographer? No lighting person?

    GEIMER: There was some kind of housekeeper or somebody who left. So then we were alone.


    CALLER: Samantha, I want to say it is very noble and generous of you to say that the film should be judged on its own merits. I’ve seen the film and I think it is a great picture. The cinematography and editing is amazing.

    But my question for you is, how have you resolved your feelings about what happened for yourself and how do you feel about Roman Polanski as a man and what he did to you 25 years ago?

    GEIMER: Well, I got over it a long time ago. I mean, it’s been a long time. And I wasn’t prepared to carry a lot of bad feelings with me and further damage my life and continue, you know, the — just the trauma of all of it. And today, I mean, I don’t know him. He’s a stranger to me. I’m not going to tell you he’s a nice guy or he’s not but…

    KING: He wouldn’t recognize you.

    GEIMER: Well, he probably would now.

    KING: He’s probably watching.

    SILVER: But, I have no hard feelings, no sympathy, I don’t know him. You know, I’m okay so…


    CALLER: Yes. I was wondering what — how a mother rationalizes sending a daughter off in a car with someone that may or may not like to have sex with young girls? She herself is an actress. He’s a director. It looked like maybe there was an agenda there.

    How do you feel about that?

    GEIMER: That’s just totally untrue. We trusted him. We had no reason not to. He was a celebrity. No one had any idea that anything like this would happen and there is no reason we would have thought that.

    SILVER: I think also, Samantha’s mom thought that a girlfriend was going to go with them.

    GEIMER: That’s true.

    SILVER: And until later that evening, she really didn’t know.

    KING: She thought a girlfriend went with her.

    SILVER: That’s correct.

    KING: How did he stop the girlfriend from going?

    GEIMER: He said, No, I don’t think that’s a good idea outside by the car after my mom went inside.

    KING: So, the girlfriend left.

    GEIMER: The girlfriend left. My mom didn’t realize I was alone.


    CALLER: If he came back now and you’re grown, would you testify against him?

    GEIMER: I would hope I wouldn’t have to. I’m not quite sure how that works.

    KING: There is nothing he can be charged with.

    SILVER: Right. All the charges — the only thing is the guilty plea to the unlawful sexual intercourse. There wouldn’t be a trial.

    KING: So if he came back tonight in Los Angeles, what would happen to him? He’s at the airport. Would somebody grab him?

    SILVER: I would think so.

    KING: And for what? Bring him into the plea agreement? Or the judge never — the judge is dead and the judge never sentenced him. So he is a non-sentenced person.

    SILVER: He is a non-sentenced person. There is a warrant out for his arrest for being a fugitive. And he is subject to being arrested and receiving the sentence that he would have or should have gotten 25 years ago.


    KING: There was a grand jury indictment, right?

    SILVER: I believe so, yes.

    KING: Because your client testified — or you testified.

    GEIMER: Right.

    KING: What was that like for you?

    GEIMER: That was also very scary. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to talk to anybody or tell anyone.

    KING: You were reluctant.

    GEIMER: I mean, I just felt forced to continually tell this story. I was just so angry about it. It was like wasn’t what happened bad enough, now we’ve got to go through it every single day of my life.


    KING: Maybe it’s because of the years, but neither of you feel particularly angry at Roman Polanski.

    GEIMER: No. Not anymore. Not even then. I mean, it just…

    KING: No?

    GEIMER: Well, yes, I was angry because he was the cause of the publicity and the publicity was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

    KING: But not angry that he had sex with you.

    GEIMER: The publicity was so terrible, that — and so immediate that it just overshadowed everything that happened that night.

    KING: What’s your mother’s feelings?

    GEIMER: She’s, you know — he feels horrible and guilty and is traumatized and will probably never get over it, you know, ever.

    KING: And you feel you understand the mother, right, Lawrence?

    SILVER: I think so. I think so. She made a choice at the time. Roman Polanski was a highly respected actor as well as director. He was well regarded in this community, just lost his wife to a murder. There was no really reason at the time — at least that she was aware of, to suspect he might engage in inappropriate behavior.

  153. If the child rapist had just shown up for sentencing, perhaps the victim could have had a life in which the gossip ended, she could grow up in peace, and no one would be publicly calling her mom a pimp or her a baby whore (which charming phrase came from one of the Hollywood types who have recently spoken up for Polanski; I can’t remember which one, and I’m frankly too sickened to want to.) The rape has been a never-ending ordeal for this woman, and for that, I think Polanski should be held accountable, independent of his other crimes.

  154. Thanks @Arwen and @Kate. Sorry I had to ask – but there is just so much opinion out there online and not all that many facts. And most people base their opinion on the mythology that has sprung up since the trial, rather than the case itself. I’d definitely heard things about her changing her story but that could well just be obfuscation by Polanski apologists.

    @Arwen said: “Also, does anyone else get as wigged by the “but her mom knew” argument? Well, sure, but if her mom was a pimp that still doesn’t make the rape OKAY.”

    So true. It would just add to the betrayal.

  155. I would very much like Debra Winger to explain just how many free rape cards Hitchcock and Kurowawa racked up in their film careers.

    Kind of off topic, but there are a lot of stories about Hitchcock being appallingly abusive to actresses. Up to and including the one actress he continually emotionally abused during shooting so that she could believably “act” like an emotionally abused wife. And he’s not the only one who does and did things like that to women and children. Look up the “enforced method acting” category on TVTropes sometime, but only if you have a strong stomach.

    So, yeah, directors get free cards for an unbelievable amount of abusive and inhumane behavior, not just rape. This is one reason why I have so much trouble consuming anything from “Hollywood” these days. Having a career in that environment apparently means, for women, that you can be abused and assaulted in just about any way and be powerless to get justice for it if you want your career to continue.

  156. Sorry, my mistake, the actress playing an abused wife was Shelly Duvall in The Shining, and Stanley Kubrick abused her. Hitchcock was still an abusive ass, though.

  157. Kate, you’re right that you just state public record with a common sense judgment on punishment, but your piece was such a gorgeous example of that. I’m a somewhat recent journalism grad and your piece buoyed my faith in journalists’ ability to still say something worthwhile (and say it vigorously).

    Also, I wanted to throw another kudos on the pile from the guys’ side. On Talk of the Nation this week it seemed like every male caller was whining about being victimized on web forums for thinking Polanski was a victim. It’d be extremely pitiful if it wasn’t so disturbing.

  158. Reply to kristinc: I agree completely. For any Star Trek fans out there, did you ever wonder what happened to Yeoman Janice Rand (played by Grace Lee Whitney)? In her autobiography she details how a Paramount exec raped her orally after a cast party. The next day she was fired and her career died. Her spirit in the book is very inspiring.

  159. I’m a somewhat recent journalism grad and your piece buoyed my faith in journalists’ ability to still say something worthwhile (and say it vigorously

    Don’t get your hopes up; I’m totally not a real journalist. :) (Thank you.)

  160. @theladyinspiring – Do you have a verifiable source for the story of what happened with Kinski? For some reason that relationship has never sat right with me, not just in the obvious hey she was only 15 sense – things she said later made me suspicious that it might not have been consensual at all. I wrote an article about this and wanted to mention that, but didn’t have any actual evidence that something sketchy beyond the obvious “hey creepy old man, stop pursuing teenagers” went on there, just a wierd gut feeling based on Kinski’s later statements.

    Also a clever editor stuck a copy of the movie poster for Repulsion in my article and…has everyone seen that poster? Or the movie for that matter? It’s always bothered me that so many people claim that movie shows brilliant insight into the minds of young girls, because to me it reads like straight-up pervy old guy projection about what he THINKS is in the minds of young girls. If I was a lawyer for the state I’d be tempted to show that movie to a jury.

  161. Also on the directors abusing actresses in order to get a more believable performance front…Winona Ryder, on the set of Dracula. Coppola was apparently screaming “whore” at her in one scene. Thankfully she had enough emotional strength (and industry clout) that she told him to SFTU, but you have to wonder how many other actresses wouldn’t feel able to speak up.

    Or there’s Mickey Rourke actually hitting Carre Otis on a movie set, not pretending to hit her, supposedly to help her “get more in character”. And then they ended up dating.

    It’s a nasty industry, people.

  162. Debra Winger doesn’t surprise me at all – I remember her as the poster child for late 80’s antifeminism – though Whoopie definitely did. And gads – Terry Gilliam and – Almodovar? I am so sick of people whom you’d think should know better being glib about rape. I’m wondering, though, why it is that I ever thought they’d know better. Plenty of liberal men out there just don’t get it or even care. Women too.

    I keep wondering where all the obvious anti-feminists in Hollywood are on this petition. Perhaps even they know that defending such an act is horrible and, I don’t know, makes one look bad – or should make one look bad.

    The thing that gets me the most is the horrible minimizing obscurantist language – the “had sex with” to describe rape. They’ve also been doing that with the McKenzie Phillips case – the HuffPost headline claimed she “had sex with” her father. Um, nooo. That is not what “having sex” looks like.

    Damn, it’s been a bad two weeks for stories like this. Turns my stomach.

  163. Also a clever editor stuck a copy of the movie poster for Repulsion in my article and…has everyone seen that poster? Or the movie for that matter? It’s always bothered me that so many people claim that movie shows brilliant insight into the minds of young girls, because to me it reads like straight-up pervy old guy projection about what he THINKS is in the minds of young girls.

    Like I said way, way, way, WAY upthread, I actually really love Repulsion. But not because it’s brilliant insight into “the minds of young girls.” I think it’s brilliant insight into the mind of someone going slowly insane when she’s all alone with her terrifying and self-destructive thoughts. Even though it’s never spoken out loud in the movie, it’s pretty apparent that Carol has somehow been sexually traumatized and she’s never been able to talk about it, so it just dulls her everyday existence and haunts her in these awful hallucinations of being attacked at every turn. (Apropos of nothing, ever since I saw that movie, I always make sure to turn down my bed before I shut the light out.) And clearly it’s made her mistrustful, no, even phobic of men; she can barely speak to her sister’s boyfriend, who treats her almost paternally and seems to care more about her than even her sister does. And by the time her psychosis has really come to a head, she must kill any man who comes near her, whether he’s actually trying to sexually harm her (like her landlord) or whether he just wants to see if she’s all right and comfort her (like her boyfriend). Of course, it’s not reflective of ALL sexual trauma, but it’s a pretty psychologically sound depiction of one manifestation of it. Not to mention that at the time it was made, it was pretty daring to broach the subject of a woman’s psychological trauma from her subjective point of view, especially trauma that was so sexual in nature. (Well, Carnival of Souls kind of did it too, but that was a low-budget horror movie and not “great art,” so it “didn’t count.”)

    All that said, though, the fact that I love Repulsion doesn’t change my repulsion (haw) at the fact that Polanski raped a 13-year-old. And also like I said upthread, it’s almost incongruous to me that the same person did both. Having made Repulsion, you’d naïvely think that Polanski really understood the long-term effects of sexual abuse and assault on a woman’s psyche. So why didn’t he remember that twelve years later when he was raping a 13-year-old child? It’s mind-boggling. Similar to what Kate wrote in the Hounddog piece, it’s almost like we’re more willing to applaud fictional movie understanding of how bad sexual trauma is, but it’s too much to ask of people to expect it in real life. Gawd.

  164. I especially liked how you touched on the alleged “victimization” Polanski’s “suffered” after fleeing America. If living in fabulous European homes with roaring fireplaces and velvet drapes, marrying a model-turned-actress, and being feted by cultural societies for my work is “victimization”…PLEASE, sign me up!

    As an American, I have a deep, basic distaste for the way Polanski ditching sentencing. Of course he would have found acclaim in any country, as his work as a director (and to a lesser degree, an actor) is superlative. But it was America that engineered his most remarkable successes, funding “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby”. He married an American, who gave him what he described as “the only happiness [he] has ever known.” How can one reap so much from a country, then abandon it when the going gets tough? It’s not like we were a country threatening to cut off his hands (or worse) for his admitted crime; should sentencing have exceeded the terms of his plea bargain, he was free to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial, which (with his means) he could have appealed and appealed and appealed. But he took off.

    As to the wishes of his victim to have the case simply go away (which I can understand and sympathize with, theoretically), I think this is more an issue having to do with the media rather than the accusations being properly processed by our legal system. It is unfortunate that the two issues are entwined, but they do not have to be.

  165. “All I did was state the truth”. Yes, and thank you for doing so. For a few days I thought the entire world had gone mad. It was like living in an episode of the Twilight Zone. I felt SO MUCH BETTER after reading your column.

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