As much as I like cinema, and as much as I support my country’s football team in its quite desperate attempt not to look absolutely ridiculous in the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, there are certain things that even Great Men should not get away with that easily. One of which is sleeping with underage girls.
It would seem like it goes without saying, but judging from recent events in my native country of France, it is surprisingly not that obvious to a large number of people.
Six months ago, Roman Polanski, famous Polish film director, was arrested at Zurich and taken into custody on behalf of US authorities. Since 1977, Polanski had continuously managed to dodge American justice in a case of sexual abuse on a fourteen-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer. This time, fifteen years after the alleged assault, it seemed that, at last, Polanski would be put to trial.
Polanski’s arrest triggered a wave of indignation among the French intellectual and artistic elite. Actors and actresses, philosophers, writers and even the Minister for Culture voiced their anger on TV and on the radio, asserting that Polanski was a Great Man, a man of culture, a man of artistic convictions, and that it was obscene, really, and perfectly shocking, that fifteen years after sleeping with a fourteen-year-old he should be faced with the accusation of paedophilia and rape. Those, they said, were other times, and the event had to be re-contextualised; he was not a paedophile and not a rapist, she’d probably been up for it, even at fourteen you have ambiguous feelings, well anyway he’d made a mistake once, and what was it compared to the magna opera of his cinematographic genius?
Thankfully, some people (among which militant feminists) miraculously managed to speak into a microphone that wasn’t directly plugged into a pro-Polanski radio station to voice their own opinions. In virtue of which principle, they asked, was Polanski cleared of all charges simply because of his considerable skill as a film director? Why would a very apt plumber be thrown into prison immediately if he had raped a fourteen-year-old, while Polanski’s case had to be reconsidered given his close acquaintance with the Muses?
The debate raged on, but the pro- and anti-Polanski fight had started to get a bit quieter until, two weeks ago, it was discovered that our best football player, Franck Ribéry, and another two players of the French team, Sidney Govou and Karim Benzéma, had had paid sexual intercourse with an escort-girl named Zahia D. who was at the time underage.
This time the uproar among the rich and famous, but also among average football fans, is going beyond anything anyone with a slightly modernist conception of women rights could possibly imagine. Because footballers, like Polanski, are Great Men, they cannot possibly be arrested for sleeping with an underage girl, or, for all that matter, for hiring a prostitute (though prostitution is illegal in France). Even more incredibly, Zahia D.’s Facebook profile was hacked into, her photos stolen, and numerous fan pages of the escort subsequently created on Facebook. To give you an idea of the width of misogynistic reactions to this story, have a look at one of the photos with comments from ‘fans’ (click the image to go to Facebook):
The eighteen-year-old girl, in the comments, is defined seven times as a ‘grosse pute’ (fat whore), and once as a ‘grosse pute marocaine’ (fat Moroccan whore). The first commenter, with a spelling mistake, asserts: ‘I’d rape you too’. The second one informs her that he’ll ‘fuck her whatever her age’. Another one says : ‘All of you cunts who insult her would love to pay her for sex, she’s beautiful, she knows it and the men pay, simple and efficient, those who can’t pay can still jerk off on a picture of her’. Another one (a poet) metaphorically claims that he’d ‘gladly park his car in her garage or shoot his football in her goal’.
So the escort is hot, the footballers paid her for sex, and they’ll get away with it because come on, they’re Great Men, they need a bit of distraction, and seriously, when you look at her, who wouldn’t yield to temptation? Yes we know, prostitution’s really bad, and underage sex is bad, but it’s all much less bad when it’s famous men who did it.
It’s the second time in under a year that sex with an underage girl, through rape and/or prostitution, has been considered by both the average person and the intellectual elite as inconsequent and forgivable. It seems like, more than ever, we need to redefine in the minds of everyone what forced sexual intercourse or sexual intercourse for money represents for the thousands and thousands of young girls who do not have the privilege of being assaulted by Roman Polanski or by members of the French football team.