(WOMENSENEWS)--Is talent, commitment to art or popularity an excuse for getting away with sexual harassment or even rape?
But as many in Hollywood go out of their way to keep Roman Polanski, a convicted rapist, away from justice and treat David Letterman's confessed serial sexual affairs with young women who work for him as joking matters, their answer seems to be "yes."
The night of Letterman's second public confession--the one where he apologized to his wife--comedian Steve Martin appeared and opened with a long "too-bad-you-got-yourself-into-this" look. But after a few jokes the show moved on.
And then there was Woody Allen, whose name topped the petition signed by numerous Hollywood heavies, including Martin Scorsese and John Landis, asking for special treatment for Polanski.
"The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance . . . opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects… Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom," the petition reads.
No kidding. And having Allen's name lead this petition is akin to having Clyde Barrow defending John Dillinger or Bernie Madoff defending Allen Stanford.
Not "Real" Rape?
Last week on the TV show "The View," Oscar-winning comic Whoopi Goldberg also chimed in, saying she didn't believe the original charges against Polanski were for "rape-rape"--meaning, in other words, the real thing.
A 42-year-old man sticking his penis in the anus and vagina of a 13-year-old girl he'd drugged expressly for that purpose, according to her deposition, and doing so against her will, isn't rape?
Letterman and Polanski are different people in different types of moral, perhaps legal, quandaries.
But they are both big kings of the entertainment world and that gives them a lot in common in an industry where the casting couch is well-worn with stories of young women trading sexual favors for potential fame and fortune.
Polanski invited his 13-year-old victim on a "photo shoot," and at least one of Letterman's women made it from his office lair to the "Late Night" screen.
Letting powerful Hollywood men sexually abuse or even casually exploit young women is part of the double standard by which showbiz people seem to say their crowd is exempt from everyday life and laws.
Let's face it: Hollywood heavies would be up in arms if Polanski were a Catholic priest or a Republican senator instead of an Oscar-winning director.
Most rapists of 13-year-olds get registered as sex offenders. But apparently that doesn't apply if you've been on the cover of "Cahiers du Cinema."
Last week, the National Organization for Women weighed in on the Letterman scandal, saying it "raised serious issues about the abuse of power leading to an inappropriate, if not hostile, workplace environment for women and employees."
A few individuals in Hollywood have made similar comments.
Kirstie Alley, for instance, wrote on Twitter "JUST FOR THE RECORD . . . .RAPE IS RAPE . . . this is one HOLLYWOOD STAR who does not CELEBRATE or DEFEND Roman Polanski … his ART did not RAPE her."
Former child actor Paul Petersen, who played son Jeff Stone on "The Donna Reed Show," told CNN that many in the industry who would like to speak up against the support Polanski has received feel that they can't. "They are afraid of the Hollywood power structure that is tilted distinctly to the left and plays favorites," Petersen said.
In a 1979 interview with Martin Amis, collected in Amis's book "Visiting Mrs. Nabokov," Polanski, who had just fled to Paris, laid out his defense.
"If I had killed somebody, it wouldn't have had so much appeal to the press, you see?" he said. "But . . . judges want to (bleep) young girls. Juries want to (bleep) young girls. Everyone wants to (bleep) young girls!"
A disgusting, misogynist statement, yet 30 years later it may help explain Hollywood's silence.
Sandra Kobrin is a Los Angeles-based writer and columnist.
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