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June 23, 2008
We Hate Pedophiles!
(Unless They’re Famous, Or They Abuse Girls)
Americans hate child molesters. Right?
mock them when they’re ensnared by Chris Hanson on To Catch a
Predator. We watch Bill O’Reilly and Nancy Grace scream with outrage
when they’re let out of jail and we howl with (understandable) anger
about pedophile priests. In a culture in which just about any crime,
short of murder, can be forgiven if enough time passes, child
molestation appears to be one of the few crimes that most people just
plain can’t let slide.
why is R. Kelly still a huge star? And why do so many in America clamor
for the return of Roman Polanski?
Two events in recent weeks – HBO’s airing of a documentary about
Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski and the acquittal of R&B
superstar R. Kelly on child pornography charges – have gotten me
thinking about something I first noticed a few years ago. A double
standard, or rather two of them.
This most unforgivable of crimes can be forgiven much more easily if the
person committing it is 1) a celebrity, and 2) accused of molesting
underage girls, and not boys.
Our culture seems to have a sharp, night-and-day double standard when it
comes to accusations of pedophilia, pederasty and other sexual abuse of
children and underage teenagers. If the male defendant is accused of
victimizing a boy, that is considered an unpardonable, disgusting crime
that makes that person an unemployable pariah. But a similar crime
against a girl is considered quite a bit more forgivable. Look, for
instance, at the difference in the public reactions to Kelly and Michael
Both Polanski and Kelly have records in regard to their taste for young
girls that go back, literally, decades.
Polanski, as the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
shows, was convicted in 1977 of having sex with, and providing drugs
for, a then-13-year-old girl. After a circus of a trial in which it
appeared a judge was going to give him a stiff sentence, Polanski fled
the country for France, and has not returned in the 30 years since.
Polanski resumed his career, even winning an Academy Award for Best
Director a few years ago, and is thought by many, in Hollywood and out
of it, to have been railroaded by the justice system. He garners some
sympathy from many for several mitigating factors – his past as a
Holocaust survivor and the husband of Manson Family victim Sharon Tate;
his status as director of such classics as Chinatown and
Rosemary’s Baby; and the belief by the victim that it’s time to
forgive and forget.
Kelly, Slate reported last week, has paid at least four
settlements to underage girls who have accused him of sexual misconduct,
and a videotape of a man looking very much like Kelly having sex with a
young girl was widely disseminated years ago, and became such a part of
the culture that Dave Chappelle parodied it.
Yes, after a trial delayed more than five years, Kelly was acquitted,
but all evidence in the public record – including his 1990s marriage to
then-15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah – suggests his proclivities in this
matter are in little doubt.
But despite all that, the numerous charges, allegations, videotapes and
trials do not appear to have negative impacted Kelly’s career one iota.
The other major pop star accused of child molestation in recent years?
That would be Michael Jackson, who is almost universally seen as a
creepy, scary wacko whose career has been ruined by the accusations
against him – even though he, too, was acquitted in both of his
Polanski is still a movie director who won an Academy Award recently. R.
Kelly has sold millions upon millions of albums, and it’s likely his
next release will open at number one.
just fail to understand why those who victimize children in such a way
are not shunned across the board, whether they’re pop superstars or
anonymous Chris Hanson-snared predators, or victimizers of boys or
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