The Sexist

Roman Polanski Defense: Rapists Are People, Too

French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévi is back to explain why Roman Polanski ought to be released from prison already. Add this one to the long list of Polanski defenses: Polanski is a human!

Lévi writes for the Huffington Post:

Time is passing. And Roman Polanski is still in prison, goes to bed and wakes up in prison, sees his wife one hour a week in the visiting room of a prison—all while his 11 and 16-year-old children, when they have the courage to go to school, have to confront the gaze of friends who have heard at home that the dad of the little Polanskis, the man everyone fluttered around vicariously via their children, the parent of a student that they were exhilarated to recognize on TV the night of the Césars, was ultimately a criminal, a rapist, a sodomite, a pedophile.

Roman Polanski, the argument goes, is just like you and me. He has a life! A wife! Children! A César award! Okay—maybe Roman Polanski isn't the ideal stand-in for the Rapist Everyman. But film accolades aside, Lévi's point is that Polanski has been a very visible and productive member of society in both his professional and personal life. The implication is that happily married men can't simultaneously be criminals, good fathers can't also be rapists, and international award-winners can't find the time to prey on children.

Our tendency to strictly separate the categories of "rapist" and "human" is something we're going to have to deal with again and again once we really start dealing with sexual assaults and the people who commit most of them—people with lives, wives, and children, if not Polanski's fame and fortune. It's not going to be easy to expand our idea of "rapist" to encompass otherwise upstanding members of society, but I think the continued media attention on Polanski's case will help us get there. If the public is willing to believe that one of the most celebrated film directors in the world is capable of rape, maybe they'll also be willing to consider less sensationalized rape cases with an open mind.

Photo via Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary, Wikipedia Commons

  • Michelle

    Wow! I don't know what is up with the French but those from France speaking out are quite sick. Someone forgot to tell the French that we aren't them. We have laws in this country and we don't brown nose an artist and let him commit crimes because he's talented. As per the article: NO, POLANSKI ISN'T LIKE ME... I don't rape little girls and then run like a coward. Polanski is a pedophile and belongs in prison. It is nice to see him sitting in jail right now. I wonder how many of those french people defending polanski have children and if so how they'd feel if a man in their 40's was hopping on their barely teen daughter. If they don't mind, then they belong in prison too. Just because Polanski has never been caught AGAIN doesn't mean he hasn't raped AGAIN. Someone forgot to educate these defenders... 9 out of 10 rapes go unreported!

  • Magnetic Crow

    Far too many AMERICAN people are ALSO defending Polanski. Devaluing women is a problem prevalent throughout the world, not just France. And just because this particular quote is from a French man defending Polanski, that doesn't mean that all French people feel that way, nor are his most vociferous defenders among the French.
    So maybe tone it down with the xenophobia a bit?

  • Katie

    ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH thank you for writing about this, this is about the 85th ridiculous defense by this guy that trusty HuffPo has posted and I am getting so sick of it I could pull out my hair.

  • Katie

    I also enjoy (read: vomit at) the part about how Levi can totally empathize with Polanski's children, but NOT the child who Polanski raped.

  • Amanda Hess

    This is the problem with the Huffington Post giving blog keys to anyone with a recognizable name.

  • Marwan

    Henri-Levi has always been more of a media hound than a genuine intellectual or writer. Coming from him this doesn't surprise me.

  • Don Heckers

    Not just French people protect Roman Polanski.
    I'm from The Netherlands , and i can asure you that
    Roman Polanski will recieve a standing ovation once
    he's out of jail.
    Most Dutch people find Americans HYPOCRITICAL and
    Mandy Dutch people , famous or not , have signed the
    petition for Roman Polanski's release.
    The reason why we do this is because we hate the fact
    that "The King Of Pop" could get away with all
    bad habits although he was guilty as hell.
    That's the reason , so it's a principal reason and
    not because we feel sorry for him , he was wrong.
    It's just not fair dat Polanski has to deal with his
    crime and people like OJ Simpson can even get away
    with murdering his beautiful wife , Nicole.
    That's justice of the worst kind !

  • Amanda Hess

    Wait: The Dutch support Roman Polanski because of Michael Jackson?

  • Jeremiah

    Last time I looked, MJ had at least one criminal trial under his to speak....

  • Don Heckers

    YES Amanda Hess , they feel that way and here's the
    reason that most Dutch people give on various Dutch
    websites :
    Why should Michael Jackson get away with kinky stuff
    that can't stand the daylight because it's illegal ,
    and Roman Polanski can't ?
    I Know (and all Dutch people know) that Polanski's
    behaviour ís dead wrong , but American Justice is
    equally dead wrong if they think that they have the
    right to prosicute a man over a case that happened
    on march 10 , 1977 (when even Elvis Presley was still
    It doesn't help anybody.
    The victim wants Polanski to be released.
    And people are never responsible for other people's
    I'll give you an example :
    In America they say that Roman Polanski should be
    send to prison to set an example to other victims.
    Imagine this : My brother rapes the woman next door
    and i have to go to jail for his crime.
    That's not reality.
    I'm not responsible for my brother's crime.
    Therefor Roman polanski can only be punished for HIS
    CRIME on Samantha Geimer.
    All the other girls that were raped in America , were
    NOT raped by Roman Polanski.
    And that IS REALITY.
    I Gave you this long letter because i think you really
    DESERVE an honest answer from me.
    You're a nice girl and probably a big Michael Jackson
    fan , and that is your good right.
    But Dutch people have negative opinion on the so-
    called "innocence" of Michael Jackson.
    And Dutch people are not the only people who think
    that Michael was doing bad things to underage kids.
    You can find those people ALL OVER THE WORLD.
    Believe me , I did not wanna hurt your feelings.
    SORRY if that's indeed what i did.

  • Jeremiah

    Amanda nailed it in a previous post:

    "This is why the “date rape drug” myth arose hand-in-hand with public awareness of acquaintance rape. While society has begun to recognize rapes against wives, girlfriends, friends, and co-workers as serious crimes, it has failed to embrace the idea that husbands, boyfriends, trusted friends, the guys in your office, and other seemingly normal men can be rapists. We’re still much more comfortable thinking of rapists as men who lurk in the shadows, guys who only emerge in polite society in order to secure another rape victim. The news that most rapists aren’t easily-identifiable as villains—men hunch-backed from crouching in the bushes, their hands caked with sedatives—has failed to inspire solutions aimed at preventing men from raping."

    It's really difficult for people to look at their significant other/spouse or a close family member (brother) and imagine a potential rapist or pedophile. We've made a serious psychological investment in the Markers of Normalcy (job, family, professional accolades) - you can see this framing constantly as people defend Polanski - as well as an investment in "othering" (in the form of demonization) people we don't like. (See: sex offenders living under bridges)

    As Amanda pointed out, the investment in "rapist" vs. "non-rapist", although entirely stupid, is our dominant model. People (myself included on some days) are loathe to abandon the Markers of Normalcy, not because they've served us so well, but they require the least amount of mental investment. The "payoff" is: I don't have to consider unpleasant things.


  • Shane Gericke

    I am a politically liberal author of crime fiction, and find myself outraged at the widespred defense of Roman Polanski. He is a self-admitted, child-molesting rapist who needs to spend time in our fine American prisons, taking it as that poor girl did. He deserves every bit of demonizing we can muster.

  • jf1

    Well, I for one thought that Polanski was in trouble for having sex with a 13 year old girl.

    Somewhat consensual sex. In the sense of "statutory rape".

    The details seem a bit more than that, once revealed...I think his only defense at this point is that he deserves a fair trial. This is, fairly clearly, nothing more than a fugitive from the law running around Europe, between France and wherever, whatever country doesn't have an extradition treaty to the US, hiding from his day in court. For what? 40 years?

    Now why would he do that if he's so innocent of the accusation?

  • jf1 other words I think that his "defenders" are ignorant of the allegations behind the charge. But the fact is that he isn't the first "older man" to give a "young girl" a drug of some sort in order to "lower her inhibitions" and he definitely won't be the last. And the ongoing question is what to do about *that*.
    Because no matter what happens to Polanski, it's hardly going to be any sort of deterrent or solace to victims of similar acts in the rest of the world. I mean, we do business on a regular basis with companies in countries where men sell their daughters essentially for sex and servitude, not to mention their own wives now. We foster this abuse and turn a blind eye to it. The issue does become hypocrisy at some point.

  • Em

    Wait: American = avid Michael Jackson fan?

    What has our media done to us? I'm an American and I don't think anyone should get away with raping a child...including any celebrity. Pretty sure I'm not in the minority, too. Sorry, dude, you're making some pretty gross generalizations.

  • jf1

    "What has our media done to us?"

    Don't even bother to ask that question. The media merely puts out stories. It's the public that leaps to conclusions. In that regard the media is just a mirror for the public, feeding the beast, so to speak.

    The real issue is why are the Dutch all worked up about Michael Jackson instead of worrying about why Amsterdam is no longer a haven for druggies and hookers? Oh: because it looks bad and is bad for tourism? I see. I guess they're not making as much money off the drug and sex trades as they used to.

  • Fuchsia

    Eh-hem. I have a feeling I don't really need to point this out, but nevertheless: I live in the Netherlands and I have no idea what Don Heckers is going on about. He certainly is not speaking for all Dutch people.

  • Typical DC BS


    Is Don Heckers an alias for Bernard-Henri Levi?

  • Don Heckers

    No , Fuchsia , Don Heckers is exactly who he says he
    is , Don Heckers.
    And i don't live in Amsterdam either.
    For the very last time i'll try to explain my view on
    the Polanski matter.
    In the 1960s Roman Polanski came to Hollywood and fell
    in love with Sharon Tate.
    They got married in january 1968.
    Unfortunately , there was a murderer walking free in
    the streets of California named Charles Manson.
    He had a cult-following named "The family".
    They were a wild bunch of losers that lived with their
    leader , Manson.
    In august 1969 Manson send his family out on a murder
    spree , and among the victims was Sharon Tate , eight
    months pregnant with roman Polanski's baby.
    Polanski's life destroyed - sometimes he was so
    depressed that he said to his friends "I was better
    off i was murdered too".
    Roman Polanski tried to survive , but nobody could
    really replace Sharon Tate in his heart.
    And then he made the worst mistake of his life : sex
    with a minor.
    So , to cut a long story short , if Manson was either
    in jail or at least somewhere far away from California
    Sharon Tate would lived , there would be a baby-boy
    and Roman Polanski would finally have had a happy life.
    Rape is completely out of the question.
    There would be no rape-case in 1977.
    There would be no escape from the justice department.
    And so , my opinion is that AN AMERICAN MAN ruined
    Roman Polanski's life , so it is only natural that
    America owes Roman Polanski something.
    I don't know exactly what that "something" is , but
    i'm hoping and praying for Polanski's freedom.
    And i mean TOTAL FREEDOM , which makes it possible
    for him to visit the grave of his murdered sweetheart
    Sharon Tate-Polanski.
    I'm sure that Sharon's sisters would love to see that
    Next year i'm visiting the USA to see Graceland and
    i'll go to Sharon Tate's grave.
    But i'm visiting her grave for Roman Polanski , i do
    that because I love Sharon very much.
    And now i won't write another letter because i'm
    gonna start to GET A LIFE.
    Everybody should do that , it can be beautiful if
    you're VERY , VERY LUCKY , unlike Roman Polanski.
    All he's ever got in life were traumas...
    By the way - in a previous letter i WASN'T talking
    in the name of the whole Dutch nation , ONLY for the
    people who always understood the Polanski-case.
    We don't like what he did in the least bit , it was
    extremely STUPID , but we can't turn back the clock.
    The damage is done , UNFORTUNATELY , and do care very
    much for the victim Samantha Geimer.
    I wish everybody in the USA a happy life.
    I Try to do the same in Holland.

  • Rick Mangus

    I seen a report the other day about Polanski on CNN on how the French are upset that he is being held by the Swiss and that the US wants him back. This guy is a COVICTED CRIMINAL for Christ sake!. This comes from a country that thinks Jerry Lewis is a comic genius, and just figured out that Scientology is for nut cases, go figure.

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  • Mona

    I live in France and can attest that most French are not defending him and believe he should stand trial. In fact, many are irritated with members of the arts, govt and intelligentsia who have been defending him. Can we please stop with the broad, ignorant characterizations of other countries' morals and standards?

  • Qui

    I think that Don Heckers is trying to say that the Dutch are big time racists.

  • Rick Mangus

    Hey!, Mona!, NEWS FLASH!, he was already went to trail and was convected. Go shave you're arm pits!

  • Rick Mangus

    REVISION, (minus five glasses of wine)

    Hey!, Mona!, NEWS FLASH!, he already went to trial and was convicted. Go shave your arm pits!

  • Some Guy

    I think it's wrong to focus soley on the mysogynistic overtones of Polanski's defenders. Almost all of Polanski's major supporters have been hysterical Jews, convinced that his arrest is another manifestation of the Dreyfus Affair. Their main objective here is freeing "Little Roman" from the grasp of the Gentile brutes. "What is good for the Jews" is more important to many of these people than any (largely) Christian notions of right and wrong.

  • Don Heckers

    Some Guy is Some Ass.

    I'm not a Jew (besides , what's that got to do with
    anything ?)
    I Work in a musicstore where saw how remarkable it is
    that the bad reputation that Roman polanski has does
    the opposite with the sales of Polanski's DVDs.

    It is true : Scandals make artists sell more of their
    Polanski sells better than ever.
    You think we are hysterical ?
    Hysterical are all the people who act as if Roman
    Polanski raped THEIR daughter.
    That's really hysterical.
    This website reminds me of the Jerry Springer Show.
    Everybody's calling each other names and saying nasty
    things about Roman Polanski and forget what they should
    really be affraid of - OSAMA BIN LADEN.
    Everybody talks about the 13 year old girl that was
    raped by polanski and NOBODY talks about the twin towers
    How many victims did Bin Laden make ?
    So it is better if you kill people then rape them ?
    Can you believe your opinions ?
    Put your thinkingcaps on !