Wednesday, October 14, 2009

That Was Then...

The New York Times front-paged these thoughts about Roman Polanski a few days ago:

At the end of "Manhattan," the celebrated movie romance from 1979, a teenager played by Mariel Hemingway delivers some good news to the 42-year-old television writer, portrayed by Woody Allen, with whom she has had a long-running sexual affair.

"Guess what, I turned 18 the other day," said Ms. Hemingway, in what was framed as a poignant encounter. "I'm legal, but I'm still a kid."

That was then.

Roman Polanski's arrest on Sept. 26 to face a decades-old charge of having sex with a 13-year-old girl stirred global furor over both Mr. Polanski's original misdeed and the way the authorities have handled it — along with some sharp reminders that, when it comes to adult sex with the under age, things have changed.

Manners, mores and law enforcement have become far less forgiving of sex crimes involving minors in the 31 years since Mr. Polanski was charged with both rape and sodomy involving drugs. He fled rather than face what was to have been a 48-day sentence after he pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor.

But if he is extradited from Switzerland, Mr. Polanski could face a more severe punishment than he did in the 1970s, as a vigorous victims' rights movement, a family-values revival and revelations of child abuse by clergy members have all helped change the moral and legal framework regarding sex with the young.

This is the beginning of an article on the Polanski case by Michael Cieply. It's a little bit startling, and if you didn't find it so, read it again. Cieply starts by giving us a scene from a Woody Allen movie, a love story between a very young girl and Woody Allen (of course). He then compares this with the rape-and-sodomy charges Polanski faced in the 1970s and sorta concludes that the two are basically the same thing! Rape and sodomy charges are just like "sex with the young!" Or at least they were that in the 1970s. Except that Polanski was charged with rape and sodomy 31 years ago, not yesterday, and rape of thirteen-year olds was not A-OK even in the 1970s.