Hello. Were you hoping that I’d comment on the Roman Polanski rape thing? Because I swear to god I will pull this thing over and talk about the Roman Polanski rape thing right now, if you don’t stop hitting your sister.
Over at Bitch Ph.D., where I hang out on occasion, when I’m not obsessing over other internet things in an effort to avoid actual work, or over other things in general in an effort to avoid actual life, is a post about the Roman Polanski rape thing. In which post is postulated that the really really offensive thing about this particular rape is that the person who Roman Polanski raped was, at the time of the rape, only 13. While Mr. Polanski was 43.
Bitch Ph.D. writes,
I want to make it clear that I really think that the root reason why Polanski raped that girl, rather than just "had sex with" her, is that yes, she was 13 and he was 43. And I suspect that most people who feel firmly that Polanski was a bad man think the same thing--that it wasn't the alcohol, or the drugs, or even the "no" that are the salient issue, but that enormous, enormous age gap. Yes, it would have been rape if she was 40 and he was 43 and she'd said no--or been drunk/drugged--but I don't think we'd be quite as shocked that some folks want to give him the benefit of the doubt.
And in the comments:
Do you not think, though, that if they had been peers--say she was 40--and everything else had been the same, that while yeah (duh) that would also be rape and offensive and blah blah, that it would be somewhat less *outrageously* so?
Point taken. The age gap—that’s pretty outrageous, right? We should all be pretty disgusted by that. And we are, right?
But here’s the thing. I can’t help thinking that when we start placing value judgments on rape situations, we uphold this ideology that values some victims above others. Which totally happens—I get it! The 13-year-old girl is a more shocking victim than the 50-year-old widow. In fact, maybe we find the 50-year-old widow completely laughable as a victim, Right? I mean, she’s old! Who wants to have sex with an old? And anyway, shouldn’t she know better? Hey, lady: Try being more virginal and sympathetic next time, and then maybe society will give a shit!
So, okay. What we’re working with here is a system where the rape of a 13 year old is more shocking and abhorrent than the rape of a 50 year old. Probably, if we were thinking straight about this and not all mad, we could come up with some kind of chart rating the abhorrence level of the rape of various victims:
- Children under 14
- Children between 14 and 17
- Young blonde women (particularly if they’re good students)
- Non-English speakers
- Drug users
- Homeless women
- Gay women
- Gay men prostitutes
- Drug-addicted prostitutes
- Drug-addicted gay men homeless prostitutes
Or some such thing.
But, you see what I just did there? Thirteen-year-old rape victim: Cute as a button, innocent as all get out. Awful! I am shocked! And disturbed!
Forty-two-year-old alcoholic who sometimes lives with her sister, but lately has been living in her car unless she has enough money for a hotel room, who was raped by the night manager of the hotel: Well, that’s too bad, I guess.
Forty-year-old meth addict who sometimes lives with his sister, but lately has been sleeping in the park, who was raped by a guy who picked him up on the street after asking him for a blow job: Well, why the hell did he go with that guy? Why didn’t he fight him off? Didn’t he kind of deserve it? Guy? Raped? Come on!
What it comes down to, what we’re really creating with this value system of victimhood, is a society where it’s kinda-sorta okay to rape some people but not others. Now, am I arguing that it’s not supposed to be shocking when a 13 year old is raped by a 43 year old? Not at all. I just worry that once we decide that the rape of a 13-year-old girl is more horrifying and outrageous than other cases, then it necessarily follows that the rape of a 40-year-old woman does not offend our senses all that much, and so forth and so on.
Again, this is the system that we already have right now. And it sucks. People should be striving to do more for victims, be more compassionate towards all people who are raped, not arguing that the system where some rape is rape-rape and some rape is not really rape just makes good sense, when you think about it.
Some links, for further investigation:
In case you’re still wondering if it was really rape or just statutory rape, here’s the girl’s grand jury testimony.
In case you are under the impression that the girl looked older than 13, and thus Polanski didn’t do anything all that bad, here’s a photo.
In case you don’t know where the term “rape-rape” comes from, here’s the clip.
N.B.: I will stop all this infernal rape-blogging soon. Next post: Puppies—why are they mommy’s wittle baby? Yes they are! Yes they are!