Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

On defending Roman Polanski

The blog Shakesville periodically publishes material on the plight of Roman Polanski by guest bloggers or by one of their regular bloggers.  No matter who the blogger is on Shakesville you can be assured that Polanski always represents for them the ultimate societal enemy.  Anyone who deviates from their anti-Polanski party line is considered to be scum, to be a rape apologist.

So it is not surprising that their most recent anti-Polanski rant focuses on Johnny Depp who recently made some very public comments calling for the freeing of Roman Polanski.  And emerging out of the Shakesville closet is a blogger going under the name mschicklet.

mschicklet states-

Johnny Depp wants us all to know that Roman Polanski is no longer a threat. You see, Mr. Depp seems to think that Polanski is no longer capable of raping someone, because he is in his 70s and has a wife and children. So, there you go, nothing to worry about. We can all sit back, relax, and join the “Free Polanski” crowd.

Depp doesn’t say that Polanski is incapable of rape but for some 20 plus years he has been living a pretty sedate life- married with children and engaging in filmmaking and more filmmaking.  Such is the gist of Depp’s comments- that Polanski’s freedom does not represent a risk to society.

mschicklet continues-

Except, wait a minute. The second man who raped me had a wife and children. Every single day, I am blindsided by anxiety attacks brought on by the memory of his scent, his voice, even the sound of his name. Memory is a fickle thing, but I remember what he did to me. He raped me. While he was married. While his two young daughters were sleeping in the next bedroom.

But, Mr. Depp says there’s no way a man with a wife and children would do such a thing. No way someone who’s married for 20+ years, who kisses his daughters goodnight and tucks them into bed, could possibly rape anyone. So, does that mean my experience means nothing? Does that mean it really didn’t happen?

He doesn’t say that no married man with children could do such a thing, but dealing with Roman Polanski in a marital context, Depp says Roman Polanski has not done such a thing.

mschicklet continues-

I take issue with the fact that Johnny Depp is using his privilege to minimize and even deny the horrific events that so many victims have been forced to endure. And, after reading the Survivor Thread and listening to the stories of other rape victims in tear-filled counseling groups, I know my story isn’t all that rare.

Depp is using his privilege?  What privilege?  Speaking out for or against Polanski is not a privilege, it is a right.  He is no more privileged than the dankprofessor, and as far as I know my privileges are quite pesdestrian.  And Johnny Depp has not attempted to deny or minimize the horrors experienced by many victims of rape.

She continues-

Because, as we’ve learned, that’s the thing about rapists. They rape people. A wedding band doesn’t stop them, nor does the fact that they have children. Nor does their age. Denying this, as Mr. Depp is doing, silences rape victims. And, really, haven’t victims already been silenced enough?

Well, mschicklet attributes a whole lot of power to Depp.  He’s just an actor, mschicklet, he has the power to silence no one.  Now, maybe I am missing something, but mschicklet says that Depp is silencing rape victims and mschicklet is a rape victim and she has not been silenced.  OK, I know that victims of violence, rape or otherwise, respond differently to their victimage, but her prior paragraph she indicates that all rape victims respond in the same manner.  Note that I was more restrained, I said “many” rape victims.  But mschicklet stereotypes rape victims.  For example, not all rape victims want Polanski to be imprisoned.

She continues-

In addition to trying to be the final word on what a rapist is or is not, Johnny Depp also wants to know why Polanski was arrested. “Why now?” he asks. Why is this coming up now? Because Polanski fled the country for 30 years and refused to serve his time. By asking “Why now?” Mr. Depp is focusing responsibility on the wrong people – the people who want our justice system to do its job. Instead, he should be holding Polanski accountable. Mr. Depp’s words absolutely scream, “Poor him! Poor guy! Let him go! Leave him alone!” What sort of a society do we live in if so many people feel the need to defend and protect a rapist? If this isn’t rape culture, then I don’t know what is.

I do not believe that for a second that people who are defending Polanski are defending him because they have a need to protect a rapist.  I defend Polanski not out of some psychological need relating to rape but rather the belief that Polanski has been treated unfairly and he has been punished enough.  Whatever the circumstances were with with Samantha Geimer, Polanski cannot just be reduced to a rapist.  The complexities of this man are immense.  Few people in this world have gone thru the sort of horrific events that Roman Polanski has gone thru- a survivor of the Holocaust whose mother was gassed to death and a survivor of his wife’s mutilation and murder by the Manson gang.  mschicklet is distressed that people cannot open themselves to the horror associated with rape while at the same time she seems clueless as to the horrors experienced by Polanski.

And she continues-

And ever since the arrest of Polanski, that’s what I’ve seen from such a large portion of Hollywood and society in general. I’ve seen some of the most respected actors and filmmakers in Hollywood defend someone who doesn’t deserve it. Either they deny that he is a rapist, deny that he ever was a rapist, or blame us for not letting the rapist go. I wish Johnny Depp realized that by adding his name to the long list of rape apologists, he not helping the situation – he is hurting so many people who are now faced with the cold truth that one less person is on their side.

It must be nice to live in the fantasy world that Johnny Depp lives in. In fact, I remember when I had similar beliefs. Men with children are safe, I would think to myself, in large part because that’s what my mother taught me. It wasn’t until I was raped that I finally realized how wrong I had been. But it shouldn’t take something like that to “wake us up.” We shouldn’t have to wake up in the first place.

Unfortunately, mischicklet lives in a kind of fantasy world.  She rants on about rape victims, but if rape victims are so important to her she engages in a giant psychological feat when she never mentions Polanski’s so-called rape victim.  She must know that Samantha Geimer wants Polanski to go free; she must know at the latest judicial hearing Geimer was represented by an attorney who argued for Polanski’s freedom.  mschicklet chooses not to ACKNOWLEDGE a person she considers to be a rape victim.  What utter callousness!

And as for concern for safety which mschicklet mentions, I share her concern.  But my concern for safety entails being protected from persons such as mschicklet, persons who seem to embrace a form of vigilante justice, persons who give full vent to their anger, persons whose self-righteousness seem to know no limit.  And as for safety and Roman Polanski, I personally believe that those people who believe that Polanski represents a clear and present danger to society are in a state of delusion.

And as for her comment about our culture being a rape culture, such a notion has some merit.  But support for a rape culture has nothing to do with defending or opposing Roman Polanski.  Evidence that we are living in a rape culture is that “we” support sending persons to prison in which rape is often supported not only by inmates but also by prison guards.  The fact we can’t protect persons from rape who we send away to prison so we can be protected from being raped is quite damning!!

As for rape victims, speaking up in support of Polanski, click here and for a detailed account of the circumstances involved in the Geimer statutory rape, click here.

February 5, 2010 - Posted by | celebrities, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics, victimization, violence

10 Comments »

  1. Excellent article, Barry. These people are so blinded by their own apparent ordeal that they cannot see beyond others’ better knowledge of the man they know didn’t rape anyone. And Geimer had often enough declared in recent years he didn’t rape or harm her – after her original testimony was more than debunks over time by her very self, and already then by sheer medical evidence. But people seem to have missed that crucial part.

    Comment by Novalis Lore | February 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. As usual, I agree with your sharp scrutiny, Barry, and that of Novalis.

    Many rape survivors, emotionally burdened by their own trauma, attacking Polanski blindly, are incapable of avoiding to use their role as victim to view this case objectively, while at the same time bluntly ignoring the one person they in fact believe was his rape victim, who on the other hand wants him freed. No rape victim wants their rapist go free. But then of course, she isn’t a real rape victim to her own words, and therefore mischicklet can simply ignore her. Which in effect, would nullify her idea that Polanski in fact is a rapist, since no victim exists anymore in her world.

    These people put their personal experiences into the public eye as excuse to attack someone they simply believe a rapist for her very old testimony, not having a shred of concrete evidence to back it up. They believe their rape experience gives them the right and best defense, or rather attack strategy to nullify others’ support of Polanski, no longer in control of rational, critical analysis of the case in hand that doesn’t in fact concern them. Hers is the typical voice of pain striking out at someone the political climate has throw into the public arena for their lynching, and she wholeheartedly vents her anger at the one who cannot defend himself – engaging in a virtual, verbal killing of an politically generated monster.

    Comment by demoy | February 6, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hello,

    I have read you piece as well as the original Shakesville piece. Still gauging my views on the issue. But couldn’t we agree that this statement:

    “Depp doesn’t say that Polanski is incapable of rape but for some 20 plus years he has been living a pretty sedate life- married with children and engaging in filmmaking and more filmmaking.”

    this statement doesn’t rule out the possibility that Polanski, or any man so described, is a rapist? I did take note of what you said,

    “He doesn’t say that no married man with children could do such a thing…”

    So I know that we both agree that married men can be rapists.

    I will concede that nothing I’ve read/seen on the anti-Polanski arguments indicate evidence that he is still a practicing rapist. Yes, I just said we haven’t ruled out that possibility, but that is not the same as evidence or indication that he is doing it now.

    But perhaps those on the other side would feel better if they thought you knew the reality of rapists being nice guys, community heroes, married family men. I don’t have statistics, I wonder if you do. But nothing is more horrendous than a victim of domestic violence or rape feeling the disbelief of those around her because that man “couldn’t possibly do such a thing”. I think this is the priveldge that they speak of: the fact that certain men are put on pedalstals, and put their partially by their crowds and communities of admirers, that it becomes difficult if not impossible in the public mind to think that such a man is capable of rape. OJ Simpson was a heroic football star once to many eyes.

    I’d recommend reading the comments on the Shakesville piece. More stories of women being raped by family men. It could very well be true that these women are misusing their experiences and are seeing the situation here with non-objective eyes. But I’d recommend reading them. I’d also recommend not commenting back, but you do what you feel is right to promote necessary discourse.

    here is the shakesville piece: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/02/johnny-depp-rape-defender.html

    Comment by Harry834 | February 10, 2010 | Reply

    • You stated-
      “So I know that we both agree that married men can be rapists.
      I will concede that nothing I’ve read/seen on the anti-Polanski arguments indicate evidence that he is still a practicing rapist. Yes, I just said we haven’t ruled out that possibility, but that is not the same as evidence or indication that he is doing it now.”

      Yes, I agree with the above. But here is the problem- some persons believe that one must prove that one is not a rapist. Polanski and you and I must prove that we are not rapists. Of course, such is absurd unless you start out with the presumption of guilt.
      Of course, mschicklet appears to assume that Polanski is still a danger because she accepts the notion that once a rapist always a rapist. It will always be for her POLANSKI, THE RAPIST. The rape label is all encompassing and never changing. There is no escaping the label. There is no way out. There is no transcending the label or transcending ones past. You are what you are. In this view, people who claim to have changed are all con artists. This is cynicism to the nth degree. I am not arguing that the cynical may at times be right, but they are not right all of the time. I think that any person who has been around the block will end up being somewhat cynical, it is a matter of degree. mschicklet is like the cop who thinks all suspects are guilty, they are all playing a con game. Such is an easy way out. Harder to accept the fact that some suspects are con artists and some are not.

      You stated-
      “But perhaps those on the other side would feel better if they thought you knew the reality of rapists being nice guys, community heroes, married family men. I don’t have statistics, I wonder if you do. But nothing is more horrendous than a victim of domestic violence or rape feeling the disbelief of those around her because that man “couldn’t possibly do such a thing”. I think this is the priveldge that they speak of: the fact that certain men are put on pedalstals, and put their partially by their crowds and communities of admirers, that it becomes difficult if not impossible in the public mind to think that such a man is capable of rape. OJ Simpson was a heroic football star once to many eyes.”

      Of course, I know the reality that most rapists are so-called nice guys. Some how too many people have this idea that rapists and even criminals in general have a certain kind of look. If you feel that there is such a look, good luck to you when the guy in the suit with a briefcase and a laptop rips you off for a few million. Ted Bundy played off peoples stereotypes of what a serial killer looked like; he knew how vulnerable people were to bad guy stereotypes.

      You stated-
      “I’d recommend reading the comments on the Shakesville piece. More stories of women being raped by family men. It could very well be true that these women are misusing their experiences and are seeing the situation here with non-objective eyes.”

      I have read their comments and as a sociologist I have heard the words of many people who have gone thru terrible victimages. It’s not easy hearing their voices. I empathize with the rape victim, the Holocaust survivor, the parent whose child has been murdered, amongst many others. But I also know this- some victims of violence use their victimage to victimize others, to take revenge on others who then may end up as victims and sometimes as innocent victims. It may come down to this- ‘do unto others has as been done unto me’. The tragedy is, of course, that the victim may end up like the victimizer; the victimizer may end up recreating the victim in ones own image- hating and violating others. The key is how to get beyond said victimage; if you can’t get beyond it the victimizer or in the present case, the rapist has won. Such represents the tragic nature of the human condition.

      Comment by dankprofessor | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  4. I also think that we should be suspicious of the idea that friends and family will know when one of their members is a rapist. It does come down to how well you know, but then again, how much can we see?

    This must be balanced with the desire to not create suspicions where there is no indication for them. This is hard judgment call, and the public opinion is a crappy evaluator, but we need to stay vigilant, and that means recognizing that family and friends, rather than knowing better, are often the strongest deniers.

    Closeness has its advantages and disadvantages.

    Comment by Harry834 | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  5. “I will concede that nothing I’ve read/seen on the anti-Polanski arguments indicate evidence that he is still a practicing rapist.”

    Not I’ve done much reading on this issue. But where is the evidence that Polanski is a threat now?

    Comment by Harry834 | February 10, 2010 | Reply

    • That’s exactly the point – a ‘practising rapist’ is just that, a repeat offender. There’s no such thing a ‘one off rapist’ and he never was a ‘threat’, let alone now. What he did then wasn’t rape and no one ever had cried rape again – even the so called victim stated later herself she was the only one and that it wasn’t rape, so I doubt any self-obsessed Shakeville’s voice knows better.

      Comment by Novalis Lore | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  6. I’ve read your responses here and back on Shakesville, and I’ve read mouthyb’s. Not yet ready to determine what is what, but I am glad to be accomadated with the discourse.

    Comment by Harry834 | February 11, 2010 | Reply

  7. “Underaged sex” if the victim is under 14 is one of the most serious crimes in the entire justice system these days especially now because of the chelsey case and law. In fact it might me considered more serious than manslaughter but less serious than child rape (although more than adult rape).

    Comment by argod | August 29, 2010 | Reply

  8. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/30/omar-blas-pineda-gets-20_n_519014.html

    here is a guy who got 20 years for it.

    Comment by argod | August 30, 2010 | Reply


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