Feminist Friday: Public Service Announcement

To the extent this complaint is about anyone in particular, they might even know who they are. But I just want to take a moment and remind everyone that if you are a feminist who badgers people into sex, or attempts to extort people into sex, or confuses sex with affection or believes oneself to be “owed” sex, then you are not only a bad feminist but an active participant in “the rape culture”, as it were.

This goes doubly for people who continue to apologize for Roman Polanski, either in that it wasn’t “rape rape” (which implies date rape, of which Polanski’s incident is a textbook example, somehow isn’t rape); or that he has suffered enough (which implies either that “suffering” constitutes living lavishly abroad for decades while critical praise is heaped upon the art he continues to produce, or that conscientious guilt is sufficiently equivalent either to suffering or to criminal justice even in egregious cases); or that his victim has “forgiven” him (which, even if it were true, would suggest that any criminal can be absolved from prosecution if he badgers and harrasses the victim into dropping the charges).

A few weeks ago, Joe Jervis reported on Polanski’s arrest on his gay news aggregator blog, Joe My God, with the following editorial commentary (emphasis mine):

Thirty years after he fled the United States to avoid prison for having sex with a 13 year-old girl, yesterday Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski was arrested entering Switzerland….

Polanski’s victim filed court papers with California earlier this year, saying she no longer wanted him prosecuted. Many years ago she successfully sued Polanski and received an undisclosed settlement. Switzerland has placed Polanski under “provisional detention” until it can be determined whether he can be extradited to the United States.

In his defense, Jervis later put the entry under a “child abuse” tag and claims to have boycotted Polanski’s films for his behavior. But this account nonetheless omits the fact that Polanski drugged said girl into a stupor before the act occurred, clearly constituting nonconsensual sex even if we assume 13-year-olds are competent to consent to sex with someone Polanski’s age. As a result, the commentary on JoeMyGod drifted into predictable areas of backlash, equivocation and nostalgia about “illicit” or “transgressive” child sexuality, not unlike prior commentary from the peanut gallery in the High Line/Standard Hotel exhibitionism fracas.

I made the mistake of commenting on the situation on someone else’s personal LiveJournal, causing Jervis to comment on her blog berating me directly for being unfamiliar with his stance on Polanski, given information he only provided to me in that moment:

“True to form”? There are three original sentences in my post, none of which express any opinion on Polanski. And for the record, I’ve boycotted his and Woody Allen’s films for decades due to their shared predilection.

Regardless of whether those statements frame Polanski in a state of relative guilt or innocence given his actual behavior, I was sufficiently unclear in whether I was referring to Jervis per se or the commenters and discussion on the JoeMyGod site itself that he saw fit to seek out and respond to my criticism in a third-party comment on someone else’s blog entirely. So for my lack of clarity, I apologize. I was responding to the commentary on the site and not to what Joe Jervis may or may not think about Roman Polanski. It’s really not about you, Joe – it’s about the people on your blog that you’re not shouting down for their sexual entitlement complex and indifferent solipsism towards rape.

The most charitable thing I can say about a feminist that attempts to justify this kind of complex, or for that matter rape or assault, is that this kind of behavior is solipsistic or dissociative at best. I’d like to think that these people know who they are, but we can never be quite sure. Such is the nature of things.

Update: I’d also like to apologize for not addressing a salient point that cumaeansibyl, owner of the aforementioned third-party blog, makes in comments:

I feel compelled to note that you left out the part a lot of people leave out, the most important part: she said no. She begged, no. She pleaded, no. She sobbed, no. She cried out in pain and fear, no. Every time Polanski came up with a new way of violating her, he asked permission and she said no and he went ahead anyway.

Update 2: Econoblogger laudre mentions the inappropriateness even of comparing Polanski to Woody Allen, in that Allen

was actively pursued by a young woman who was nonetheless above the age of consent (she was 22 at the time!); furthermore, while, yes, Soon-Yi Previn was Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, and there is something unsettling about the fact that he had long been involved with Previn’s mother before he became involved with Previn herself, no laws were broken that we know of (though the judge in the custody hearings didn’t much like the situation). Previn and Allen have been married for twelve years now, and have two adopted children.

Again, it suggests Jervis et al. are having a very hard time separating rape from merely transgressive sex. I think male privilege has a lot to do with this; while gay men may not feel particularly privileged, many of us do have as much of a habit of acting entitled to sex as other men do. “Creepy” does not rape make, and rape should not be compared to merely “creepy” sex.

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~ by J.D. Hammond on October 23, 2009.

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