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Polanski Is Not the Only Party to Blame

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Focusing only on Polanski seems hypocritical in a society that celebrates and exploits teen sexuality.

Roman Polanski, brook shields, miley cyrus

Jennifer Ginsberg: In the aftermath of child rapist Roman Polanski being taken into custody after trying to enter Switzerland on Saturday, questions about culpability, morality, and teen sexuality have arisen. The Academy Award-winning director pled guilty in 1977 to a single count of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, acknowledging he had sex with a 13-year-old girl, but fled the United States before he could be sentenced. It is alleged that in addition to raping the child, he also drugged and sodomized her after her mother dropped her off at Jack Nicholson's home for a supposed photo shoot with Polanski.

While I wholeheartedly believe that Polanski should be held 100% responsible for his egregious crime, I also feel that only focusing disproportionately on him seems hypocritical in a society that all too often celebrates and exploits teen sexuality. Everywhere we turn, we see splashy images of sexy young girls -- and often times their parents and other adults condone their exploitation.

A few days ago, I met with the photographer I hired for my stepdaughter's Bat Mitzvah. While we were discussing packages and options, he showed me the book of a 13-year-old girl's Bat Mitzvah that he had recently shot. In the opening photograph, I saw a provocative photo of a girl (who could have been anywhere from 13 to 30) with glowy makeup, blown-out hair, and a strapless mini-dress and silver stiletto heels. I was aghast.

I asked the photographer, "How could her mother let her wear that dress? For her Bat Mitzvah, no less?"

He replied, "All the young girls dress like this now -- their moms think they look cute."

"Cute" was not exactly the word that came to my mind. I found the photos disturbing and repulsive. How can this child's mother not know that she has made her daughter into a juicy target for pedophiles and other creepy people who hide in the shadows waiting for ripe opportunities and easy targets to present themselves?

This dilemma was illuminated again recently after Miley Cyrus performed her "pole dancing" routine on the top of an ice cream truck at the Teen Choice Awards. The overarching question was, "Is it appropriate for a 16-year-old girl to be sexualized in such a blatant manner?" There were those who were quick to condemn the act as exploitative and unacceptable, and others who felt that her display was no different than previous incidents of glorified teen sexuality, ranging from Brooke Shields' provocative ads when she was not yet an adult to Britney Spears' seductive schoolgirl routine in the music video, "Oops! ... I Did It Again." The glamorization of the sexy teenage girl has coincided with the growth of an industry punishing men for acting on their attraction to teenagers.

My point is certainly not that it is okay for a grown man to heaven forbid rape an underage girl. But while we rightly condemn these men who act on their imperious urges, what about the other adults who enable these teen girls to be sexualized so freely? Did anyone arrest Brooke Shields' mother, Teri, or demonize her as a sexual predator? And someone had to provide Miley with that pole. Was that person held accountable? And shouldn't these moms who dress up their children like junior hookers and drop them off at grown men's homes be held responsible as well?

Perhaps if we were more honest in our discussion of how we all contribute to the sexual exploitation of young girls, whether we are parents who think it is cute to dress them up provocatively or TV execs who provide them with stripper poles, we could remember that the finger we are so quick to point at Polanski also needs to be pointed back at ourselves.


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31 comments so far | Post a comment now
birdsfly October 6, 2009, 5:18 AM

Miley Cyrus was not pole dancing. All she did was hold on to the thing to keep from falling off the chart when they wheeled it around.

Dee October 6, 2009, 8:11 AM

Agree with the previous comment. It was not a pole dance. The perverted media promoted it as a pole dance to create a controversy and the gullible public ate up every bit of the lie.

Duncan Northrop October 6, 2009, 8:49 AM

Though I heartily agree with much of this article, I think we Americans have gone way too far with much of our sexual condemnations. The mentioned Bat Mitzvah ceremony, correct me if I am wrong, but is this not a ceremony to initiate a young woman into adulthood? In many cultures, there are accepted ceremonies to initiate teenagers into adult hood. Realistically this is because they have reached the age at which they are able to conceive. Understand that though I don’t condone predation upon our youth, there are many circumstances, and yes people it happens all the time, under which young women, and men for that matter, enter into relationships with much older partners ( Celine Dion ) which are overlooked by society because the families involved are OK with the coupling. To be absolutely honest, most of the rest of the world view young women as marriable, and therefore mateable on the occasion of their first menses. It is only hyper-conservative societies such as our own, that find this offensive. Also, should a 19 year old man be labeled a predator for life if he engages in consentual sex with a 17 year old girl and her dad doesn’t approve? This miscarriage of justice is all too real, and life destroying for the young man. Rape is rape, and is a horrible and destructive thing, but the determination needs to be reserved to being initiated by the alledged victim, and not by societal considerations.

Sanity Injection October 6, 2009, 8:50 AM

This is very well said. It is hypocritical for our culture to eagerly sexualize young girls on the one hand and on the other hand act shocked when they are subsequently not only viewed but acted upon as sex objects.

As we all know, teenage girls are very vulnerable to peer pressure. Time was when a girl who dressed provocatively would have been shunned and sneered at by her peers. Now it’s like a contest to see who can be the most shocking - fueled by the wallets of clueless parents, and perhaps in some cases by mothers trying to vicariously re-live their own teen years.

The only solution is for parents to instill the right values in their children from an early age, and make them understand that there is a difference between the way a member of their family is expected to behave, and what they see in movies on and on TV.

The marine October 6, 2009, 9:07 AM

Polanski drugged and sodomized a 13 year old girl in 1977. it’s just like a liberal “bleeding heart” to blame society. The reality is that Polanski should he publicly executed for a crime against a child.

Anonymous October 6, 2009, 10:20 AM

So what’s your solution then? Just stop prosecuting people and forget child protection laws? Brilliant article…why did you write it again?

MattyMat October 6, 2009, 10:30 AM

I agree with your article— for the most part. Years ago, when I was in the army in Tennessee, we would go to parties outside the base— and there were 13 yr olds running around who you would swear were 25— and the culture didn’t seem to have a problem with it. I think Polanski comes from a different culture— but the law is the law— and 18 yrs old is a consenting adult in this country— not 13 yrs. 17 yrs old and younger are still considered naive, amiable children in the United States— and it should stay that way. Anyone breaking the law should pay the consequences of thier actions— regardless of notoriety and fame. Also— if Polanski is such a genius— why is he raping 13 yr old girls?? Sounds pretty stupid to me!!

Mike Mitchell October 6, 2009, 10:32 AM

It’s quite simple. Americans are the world’s worst hypocrites. Puritans, prurience, creationism, mixed in with motherhood, apple pie and the vilest pornography the world has to offer. That’s America! I love Stephen King and Mark Twain, but where America is at right now is in some kind of fascist-lite twilight before EVERYone is put away for some crime or other. Be careful that you don’t end up with one massive concentration camp run by Republicans.

Survivor October 6, 2009, 10:35 AM

This man admittedly assaulted a child and this writer chooses this story to point fingers at society and parents. Be more considerate of the survivor. I am a survivor and appauled that she decided to use this horrible act as a stepping stone for her attack. I agree that children are sexualized and exploited but this was not the way to discuss it.

Shocked October 6, 2009, 10:47 AM

Polansky IS the only party to blame. You can’t blame society and parents for what he did. Morally wrong and illegal are not the same. No matter what she was wearing, he violated her and he alone did this.

VaibhavShah October 6, 2009, 11:07 AM

There are different views and different perspectives.
Some of the comments above say you are ignoring the crime by Polanski. But as I read, you have mentioned clearly that you are not saying he is innocent.
I agree with your view. I am not an American, and have never been to America. And why should I? The America is exported to each and every country on this planet, through Coca-cola, Hamburger (fatty food) and MTV. And more than anything else, the ads and movies - they all use young girls as someone who is selling something. They all just “USE” young girls as tools for attraction, be it on billboards or a TV ads. Pornography happens in every country, including Arabs. But showing teenage girls in provocative dresses is nothing less than showing the predators “hey, look, here is your food. It’s attractive, go get it!”
It’s like packaging a chocolate in an attractive pack, and trying to protect from children (after actually showing them).
And yes, if girls start menstruating, it does not mean they ALL are ready for conceiving a baby. A biological process starts, a mental preparedness is on its way and a social preparedness is not sure (for the next 10 years - even people marrying after 5 affairs in 6 years, fail to raise/educate their own children - just like those moms seeing “cuteness” in their stripless dressed daughter’s profile photos). So such girls, even after their biological “adulthood” are not yet ready for “exploitation.” They should be given a lot of education and care before giving them the responsibility that a sexual relationship brings in. It’s just NOT so easy as Bat Mitzvah celebration and selecting a photography package-deal.

Good article!

PS: Would like to add some more comments so that people don’t take it otherwise. Many people think you are against the girls, which is just the opposite of the truth. You’re against the society and the parents.

Anonymous October 6, 2009, 11:49 AM

I’d recomend getting a better proofreader. The Britney Spears Video you are refering to is “…Baby One More Time”, not “Oops!… I did it again”. This lack of attention to detail to me emphasizes the fact that you ignore the intent behind the examples that you use, which contextualise what they’re all about. Thank you though for specifying what he’s been convicted of as opposed to what he’s alleged to have done.

ame i. October 6, 2009, 12:16 PM

Let’s not let this girl’s mother off the hook entirely. I was born in 68 and would have been around this girl’s age.
What the hell was her mother thinking? No biggie, let Roman take her minor child off on a photo shoot? Like hell my parents would have let me go without one of them.

Tryllyam October 6, 2009, 1:06 PM

My biggest concern, that everyone keeps sidestepping in the whole thing, is that Mr. Polanski was found guilty of a crime and fled. It doesn’t so much matter what the crime is now, but that he fled the country to avoid being held accountable and accepting the consequences of his actions. The fact that he’s still an in-demand and honored director just makes it worse. He not only fled, but then flaunted his continued freedom.

He’s already been found guilty for what he did with that poor girl back in ‘77. That’s no longer the issue.

And we do, as a society, sexualize our children way to young. Fortunately, my kids never demanded the latest in kiddie hooker styles when little and aren’t comfortable with it now.

Rob October 6, 2009, 1:41 PM

Today’s female teens ( as well as male) are very exploited. But in 1977 society did not do to teens what it does today. Roman Polanski had SEX with a 13 YEAR OLD GIRL. That is a CRIME exploited or not. He fleed the country so he would not have to serve his time in prision (another crime). Don’t feel sorry for this criminal he deserves what ever happens to him!!

Mike Mitchell October 6, 2009, 1:45 PM

And here’s another thing I’d like to remind good old America of: Child beauty pageants. Yeah, those weird shows in which toddlers, almost, are dressed up to look like street walkers then get to prance around a stage and win a prize. In the yukkiness stakes, that really takes some beating, and it’s all American, folks!

Like I said, total hypocrisy. Those Calvin Klein ads with Brooke Shields pouting to the camera? Bah!

Anonymous October 6, 2009, 3:06 PM

Thank You For Writing That! Child beauty pageants all throughout the south are super guilty of that as well. I hate predatory perverts and have some pretty dictatorial ideas for what to do with them but these mothers need to be exposed just as much.

Harlan Letterman October 6, 2009, 3:50 PM

Focus lady. Roman Polanski had a mother, like you, drop off her little girl, probably thinking she hit the jackpot, at Jack Nicholson’s house!! Then, he gave her a Rufee and fcked her in the azz. She was 13. 13, get it?
There is no time in history when fckging a 13 year old girl in the azz, is acceptable.

All the ‘what about this and that’ is simply something of a collective subject matter that you should put on paper, roll, and stuff in your azz. Then, while you are stuffed, go visit a rape clinic.

You make stupid look like a state of higher education.

You are cut in the mold of the do-gooders of the past 30 years who fcked Americans’ in the azz because you push your fcked up values through the courts. Now we all suffer from political correctness and numbed to life.

Harlan Letterman October 6, 2009, 3:51 PM

Focus lady. Roman Polanski had a mother, like you, drop off her little girl, probably thinking she hit the jackpot, at Jack Nicholson’s house!! Then, he gave her a Rufee and fcked her in the azz. She was 13. 13, get it?
There is no time in history when fckging a 13 year old girl in the azz, is acceptable.

All the ‘what about this and that’ is simply something of a collective subject matter that you should put on paper, roll, and stuff in your azz. Then, while you are stuffed, go visit a rape clinic.

You make stupid look like a state of higher education.

You are cut in the mold of the do-gooders of the past 30 years who fcked Americans’ in the azz because you push your fcked up values through the courts. Now we all suffer from political correctness and numbed to life.

Sarah Mae October 6, 2009, 4:13 PM

I agree with you completely and applaud you for writing this article!

If you have daughters, please please please protect them and nurture their innocence. Thongs, low-riders, and tight cleavage showing shirts aren’t “cute.”


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