Roman Polanski And The Child Abuse Apologists…All Of Them…
Like many people I suppose, I’m following the story of Roman Polanski reluctantly…drawn into it against my better judgment. It’s an ugly affair but there is far more ugliness in the public chatter surrounding it. In 1977, the year he was arrested and tried, I had just tentatively begun to come out to my circle of friends and I had my own issues with human sexuality. I wasn’t all that interested in the sexual trials and tribulations of a 44 year old Hollywood glitterati, other then how it re-enforced my perceptions of the heterosexual double standard. Had his thirteen year old victim been a boy I had little doubt his film making career would have been over instantly and his name would be poison in the film industry. But Hollywood seemed perfectly willing to forgive him his use of a thirteen year old girl as sexual junk food. Probably because it was something practiced among the Hollywood rich and powerful all the time. His crime it seemed, if any, was that he had allowed it to make headlines.
So now it’s back in the headlines again, and I’m watching the stories fly across my Google News page with the same sense of irritable astonishment. Hello…look at all the people who were outraged at the way the Catholic church aided and abetted child molesting priests, coming to Polanski’s defense. I have to wonder in retrospect how much of that outrage was because they took sexual advantage of kids at the same time they’re preaching about sexual purity, or because they were homosexuals and the victims were boys. How much ink would have been spilled on the scandal had the victims been girls instead? But this passage from Polanski’s victim, now an adult who just wants to not have to deal with it anymore, struck me…
She spoke with People magazine in 1997. After her mother went to police, "all hell broke loose," Geimer said. The European media compared her to Lolita, the young seductress in fiction.
"The fallout was worse than what had happened that night," she told People. "It was on the evening news every night. Reporters and photographers came to my school and put my picture in a European tabloid with the caption Little Lolita. They were all saying, ‘Poor Roman Polanski, entrapped by a 13-year-old temptress.’ I had a good friend who came from a good Catholic family, and her father wouldn’t let her come to my house anymore."
Against that backdrop, the plea deal was struck.
Afterward, Geimer shut down emotionally and rebelled, she told People on the 20th anniversary of the crime.
"I was this sweet 13-year-old girl, and then all of a sudden I turned into this pissed-off 14-year-old,’ Geimer said. I was mad at my attorney; I was mad at my mom. I never blamed her for what happened, but I was mad that she had called the police and that we had to go through this ordeal. Now I realize she went through hell trying to handle things as best she could."
Geimer dropped out of school, got pregnant at 18 and married at 19. She divorced and moved with her family to Hawaii. She later married a carpenter, with whom she had two more children.
This reminded me of something I’d read a couple years ago in a New York Times story about a gay kid and the family who loved and accepted him just as he was…
Cindy and Dan O’Connor were very worried about Zach. Though bright, he was doing poorly at school. At home, he would pick fights, slam doors, explode for no reason. They wondered how their two children could be so different; Matt, a year and a half younger, was easygoing and happy. Zach was miserable.
The Times story is as heartwarming as the tale of Roman Polanski is grotesque. Zach’s parents loved their gay kid, and tried their level best to make sure he knew it, even as the kid struggled with terrible fears and doubts about himself. But both stories contain this little nugget of fact: both kids turned from sweet little dears into sullen, angry, and self destructive shells of their former selves almost in an instant. And it wasn’t simply a case of raging adolescent hormones that did it. They had both been sexually abused. Geimer directly and physically. O’Connor, though his parents tried their absolute best to protect him from it, by the culture of anti-gay hate he was growing up in.
The misery Zach caused was minor compared with the misery he felt. He says he knew he was different by kindergarten, but he had no name for it, so he would stay to himself. He tried sports, but, he says, “It didn’t work out well.” He couldn’t remember the rules. In fifth grade, when boys at recess were talking about girls they had crushes on, Zach did not have someone to name.
By sixth grade, he knew what “gay” meant, but didn’t associate it with himself. That year, he says: “I had a crush on one particular eighth-grade boy, a very straight jock. I knew whatever I was feeling I shouldn’t talk about it.” He considered himself a broken version of a human being. “I did think about suicide,” he says.
Though I never hated myself for being gay, I know something of the misery that kid was going through. I wrote about it Here…
That was so me. And looking back on it after mom retired, I never really appreciated how bad I was. Then when mom passed away, I inherited her diaries. And I saw it all then. It was very painful reading…
Bruce came home in a very bad mood. Stomped into the bedroom… So I called up J*** & went over to her place for the rest of the evening. He had my stomach just tied up in knots…Oh how I wish he would turn back to the Lord & become like the little boy I once knew, kind, thoughtful, & love for all…
But I wasn’t her little boy anymore, let alone bloody likely to walk back into a church where I would be demonized as an abomination in the sight of God. I was a young man with a young man’s needs and doubts and heartbreaks, all the more confusing and difficult to deal with not so much because I was gay, as that I couldn’t talk to the one person in my life who by all rights should have known me better then anyone, and who might have been able to give me some guidance, but mostly just love, when I needed it most. And love she Did give me…but it had, or so I felt, strings attached. Strings I was terrified to break.
She absolutely positively didn’t want me to come out to her. Every time I even went near the subject of my sexual orientation she would get cold and angry herself and throw up a wall. So I just accepted the fact that we could never talk about it, and I always had to keep that part of me inside when I was in the house. So when my first love left me, and then my second try went very bad on me, and then my third, and I was a miserable desolate wreak inside, I had to keep it inside. I grew increasingly sullen and angry.
Even my friends back then, who were mostly straight, saw it. It was a time before the Internet, and easy access to information about the greater gay community beyond my doorstep. I only knew of a few seedy bars downtown, where I really didn’t want to be. To get my weekly copy of the Washington D.C. gay paper, The Blade, or the Advocate, I had to venture down to this really squalid adult bookstore in nearby Wheaton. Gay kids nowadays will, thankfully, never know how alone and isolated it felt to be gay back then. Most of my friends were straight kids I knew from my high school days, and I really couldn’t talk much to them either, as counter-cultural tolerant as they were (though some of them not so much really). But none of them could have given me what mom might have been able to, had we both lived in a different world.
If only I’d had a chance to open up to her about what was going on in my life, if only I’d had her to talk to then, I might have been a lot less angry, a lot less miserable. My temper was always flaring. I would storm into my room and sulk for hours. I knew I was having "anger management" issues back then, but in retrospect I never thought I was as bad as I was, until I read her diaries.
It isn’t just Roman Polanski’s apologists who are hypocrites here. The deeper, uglier hypocrisy hangs around all the sexual moralists now venting at Polanski’s apologists, who themselves see nothing wrong with sexually brutalizing children. From clergy thumping their pulpits that god considers homosexuality an abomination, to right wing pundits and politicians raging against the homosexual menace, to the hostile hate filled mobs that pack school board meetings to rage against anti-bullying rules that protect gay kids, to the child abusers in every ex-gay ministry that teach gay kids to fear their bodies and hate themselves, the only difference in kind between them all and Roman Polanski is that Polanski, as near as I can determine, never said he boozed up and raped that girl because he loved her and wanted to bring her closer to God.
It’s not just gay kids who suffer at the hands of these human hating thugs. Read this blog post about the criminalization of teenage sexuality and try not to cry. As Ed Brayton writes on Dispatches From The Culture Wars…
The age at which the most people are convicted of "sexual assault" is fourteen. Fourteen. And no doubt some of those were actual sexual assaults. But the vast majority of them were not. The vast majority of them were kids convicted of statutory rape. And they are then, in most states, considered sex offenders for the rest of their lives. A taste of why this essay is so important, first on how easy it is to become one of those statistics:
It takes so little for this happen to a child. A girl in school has oral sex with a boy in school. She becomes a sex offender for the rest of her life. Streaking a school event, as a practical joke, becomes a sex crime in the new America. Two kids "moon" a passerby and are incarcerated in jail as sex offenders, where they may well learn a lesson or two about rape. A teenager, who takes a sexy of photo of him, or herself, is paraded around the community as a "child pornographer" for the rest of his or her life…
If you think this was an unintended result of the past couple decades of right wing hysteria over child sexual abuse, you are not paying attention. This is exactly what they wanted to accomplish. Not the persecution of child molesters, but of children. Because they must hate their bodies. Because they must hate themselves, all of them, gay and straight alike. They must hate themselves. And most of all, they must fear joy.
This isn’t rocket science. Our children are our future. The way we treat them is the judgment we pronounce every day upon the human race. When you see someone treating them like crap you have to wonder if that’s not because they think the human race is crap and doesn’t deserve to survive. And many do. If you think child molesting louts like Polanski are the bottom of the human gutter you haven’t looked down into it very far and I can’t say I blame you. Nietzsche was right about gazing for too long into an abyss…
To Polanski’s defenders I can only say this: No means No. That simply should not even be an arguable thing. I understand the reflex to push back against American sexual hypocrisy. But: No means No. Furthermore, if you are a grown adult and the person whose pants you’re trying to get into is a kid, Yes means No too. They may come onto you. They may think they get it. But they don’t. Not the way you do. Your job is to set an example, to show them what it is to be the grownup they ache to become. How often do you bellyache about corporate greed and political avarice? How often do you rail against the coarseness of American culture, the casual off-handed brutality of a might-makes-right morality? Did you ever blast the cigarette companies for pushing their health damaging addictive wares onto kids? You take sexual advantage of a kid, and for sure that kid will grow up with an understanding that taking advantage of someone weaker and more vulnerable then them for your own greedy pleasures isn’t so wrong after all. Is that what you want?
You need to be the kind of person you want that kid to grow up to be. You need to live the kind of life you want the world of tomorrow to become. Yes, sex is wonderful. Sex is one of this life’s perfect joys. But only where No means No and grownups don’t take advantage of naive youngsters, itching to grow up quickly. If you want kids to grow up strong and proud and beautiful and unafraid of their sexual selves, then adults who take advantage of them must be held accountable. For the sake of all those strong, proud, beautiful kids and the tomorrow they represent.
As for the voices from the kook pews now crying hypocrite at Polanski’s defenders: If sex, as your kind is so fond of saying, is for making babies, then hating human sexuality is also a way of hating the future, hating the human race. You warp a kid emotionally to the point they are incapable of having a healthy sexual relationship with anyone, and you are damaging not only that kid, but everyone that kid takes into their arms, and whatever children they might bear. I am perfectly aware that this is fine with you.
You teach them abstinence not to keep them healthy and strong but because you know perfectly well that teenage girls will get pregnant, that kids who don’t know how to protect themselves from STDs will get horribly sick and you believe that motherhood, sickness and death are just punishments for enjoying sex for its own sake, just punishments for living life for its own sake. Didn’t the bible say that Eve’s punishment for disobeying god was to bear the pain of childbirth? Children should be afraid of joy as you are. They should loath their human bodies as you do. They should hate their flesh and blood life and this good earth and all of human existence as much as you will until the day you die. Your problem with Roman Polanski is that he took pleasure in sex, not that he raped a young girl. Women are supposed to submit to the authority of men aren’t they? Were Polanski a moral man he would have broken that kid’s heart without taking any physical pleasure from it.
The next time a case of child sexual abuse hits the headlines, please kindly shut the fuck up, because you are no better then that criminal is. Wait…let me amend that. You are worse.