America has not changed all that much from the days when Hester Prynne won her letter. We are still the same nation of boobs and Babbitts and blue-nosed Puritans which nearly a century ago used to drive H.L. Mencken right up the wall.
Leftwing or rightwing, you’d think the typical member of the American commentariat just fell off the turnip truck and came stumbling down the highway pulling hayseeds out of his ears for all the weeping and wailing over the generation-ago naughtiness of Roman Polanski.
Both sides of the political spectrum are making the elementary error of confusing rape in the statutory sense resulting from the female being too young lawfully to provide consent with the kind of rape which is a grave crime of violence and a terrible violation of a person’s will and sovereignty of person.
Read the Grand Jury testimony (Part 1 — Part 2) of the young lady (whose current privacy I propose to respect by referring to her as Dolores Haze) and one can easily perceive that it is a version of events particularly uncomplimentary to Mr. Polanski, collaboratively achieved by the prosecuting attorney and the sullen and inarticulate young woman who is bringing a complaint against him, while trying to put the best possible light upon her own conduct.
It requires only reading a little between the lines and paying attention to details to note that Miss Haze and her mother obviously sought out Mr. Polanski’s acquaintance with the young lady’s career advancement in mind. Her mother readily gave permission for her daughter to meet and to pose in private for Mr. Polanski.
Gosh, when an attractive young woman harboring entertainment industry ambitions agrees to “pose” alone and in private for a famous Hollywood director, is it possible to imagine that anyone involved would suppose for a minute that such a meeting could lead to hanky panky?
The famous director and the nymphette met twice for photography sessions featuring the young lady disrobing. When Miss Haze went with Mr. Polanski to Jack Nicholson’s house for the second photo session, even the simple people back where I grew up would have observed that they were not getting together to say the rosary.
Ex post facto protestations of reluctance aside, the philosopher is obliged to note that Miss Haze seems far from innocent and her overall behavior the opposite of unwilling. She was not a virgin at the time of her sexual encounter with Mr. Polanski. She had disrobed in front of him in private on two occasions. She implicitly recognized the social and convivial aspects of that private meeting at Jack Nicholson’s house by willingly drinking champagne with Mr. Polanski, and by sharing a Quaalude with him (which she identified for the uncertain director, who even consulted her about its likely effects on him).
After which festivities, Miss Haze willingly took off all her clothes, and hopped naked into a jacuzzi. Sexual activity ensued.
In her Grand Jury testimony, Miss Haze makes some effort to portray herself as startled and frightened by Mr. Polanski’s completely unexpected advances. To believe her testimony to be literally true requires supposing that the social connection between these two people was unrelated to the well-known Hollywood casting couch and to believe that anyone might meet an older man alone, drink and do drugs with him, disrobe for him, and hop naked into a jacuzzi while having no intentions of granting greater intimacies. If any particular editorialist actually believes that, I can only say, in the Irish manner: May God preserve your innocence!
The more cynical among us tend to suspect that, had some substantive career assistance (or even an appropriate gift) been forthcoming, no statutory rape complaint would ever have been lodged. Consequently, I tend to view the Polanski affair, not as an authentic case of rape, but as a payment dispute in which one side is able to whistle up the assistance of the criminal law.
Polanski, of course, was behaving unethically, using his fame and worldly position to obtain the sexual services of an indecently young girl, whom he evidently couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be able to repay with his patronage.
There is no doubt that the relations between Roman Polanski and Dolores Haze were against the law.
But, the “he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl” narrative is wildly inaccurate and inflammatory. In reality, Polanski cynically had exploitative sex with a much younger girl when she made herself available, with dubious intentions of repaying her in the manner she expected. They drank and did drugs together. You can hardly accuse a man of drugging a victim into submission by sharing a drug with her.
The plea bargain arrangement made (Polanski would plead guilty unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and be let off with the 42 days he served under psychiatric evaluation) indicates pretty clearly that the prosecutor took the same view of the Polanski case at the time that I do now. Polanski broke the law, doing something fairly shameful he ought not to have done, but it was not really rape at all. He deserved some legal penalty, but he did not deserve the gravest possible punishment.
What happened back in the 1970s is exactly the same thing which has happened again 30 years later. America’s psycho-sexual insanity was provoked by the Polanski affair the way a bull is provoked by a red flag. All the Christers and the wowsers began howling for Polanski’s blood, writing misleading hysterical jeremiads about drugging and raping poor little 13 year old maidens, and the next thing you knew, Judge Rittenband, who was sensitive to public opinion, expressed the intention of throwing out Polanski’s plea bargain, while keeping his guilty plea. Facing an exemplary penalty, Polanski wisely fled into exile.
The only things that seem to have changed in 30 years are: Roman Polanski has become a very old man and the middle-aged Dolores Haze says she has forgiven him. The American obsession with striking poses of self-righteousness has not changed, nor our intelligentsia’s penchant for inflaming mob opinion with misleading narratives.