A Portrait of the Artist as a Predator

How can anyone see the work of J.D. Salinger, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski the same way once you know of their predilection for young girls?

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From left: Joel Ryan / Invision / AP; Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images; AP

From left: Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and J.D. Salinger

I’ll never read “For Esmé — With Love and Squalor” the same way again, having just found out from a new biography that J.D. Salinger told one of his lovers, Jean Miller, that he could not have written that famous short story had he not met her, which would seem like a sweet, endearing thing to say were it not for the fact that Salinger met Miller when she was 14 years old. Salinger was 30.

(MORE: A Fresh Look at J.D. Salinger’s Life)

In the story, an American soldier in England befriends a precocious girl whom he first glances while she is practicing in a church choir. “Listening, I scanned all the children’s faces but watched one in particular, that of the child nearest me, on the end seat in the front row. She was about 13, with straight ash-blond hair of earlobe length, an exquisite forehead and blasé eyes that, I thought, might very possibly have counted the house.” Esmé and the narrator become nothing more than pen pals, but Miller was another story. After years of elaborate yet chaste seduction, Salinger slept with and then dumped her when it became clear, which it did within 24 hours, that she would interfere with his writing, which was the only thing that was important to him.

Modern literature has no shortage of writers who misuse their women for their own artistic gain: F. Scott Fitzgerald, of course, James Joyce (read the biography of his daughter Lucia, which is frightening), Philip Roth — all of whom still garner my respect and readership. (I’ve never cottoned to Norman Mailer.) But for me, taking advantage of underage girls tips the balance between artistic license and morality. What do I make of the revelations about Salinger now, having read and fallen in love with his work when I was not much older than 14 myself? Do I cast my Bantam paperback of Nine Stories with the brown squares on the cover from my shelf, if I can even find it, and throw in Raise High the Roof Beam for good measure?

It was easier with Woody Allen. When Mia Farrow discovered in 1992 that he had taken nude photos of her adopted daughter Soon-Yi, with whom he began a sexual relationship and later married, I vowed to never see one of his movies again, although I broke that vow once by watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona on DVD. Yes, Soon-Yi was 19 (although no one knows for sure her age, since South Korean officials randomly picked her birthday for her passport), but she was also his daughter, although not legally speaking. Clearly, Allen and Farrow’s own biological son Ronan feels the same way, since last year he sarcastically tweeted, “Happy father’s day, or as they call it in my family, happy brother-in-law’s day.” It didn’t help Allen’s case that he cast 16-year-old Mariel Hemingway as his own lover in Manhattan, and Hemingway later revealed that the filmmaker was the first person she ever kissed and that she was “way too young” for that role.

(MORE: Sorry Spitzer, I’m Not Ready to Forgive You)

And yet I have no such interdiction against Roman Polanski, who was yet again in the news this week after his rape victim, Samantha Geimer, went public with her own memoir, The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman PolanskiI went to see Bitter Moon in the theater in 1992, long after Polanski fled Los Angeles after the judge in his case rescinded a plea-bargain deal that would have limited his sentence to time already served. I enjoyed his Death and the Maiden and was reduced to a sodden mess by The Pianist. In part I blame my inconsistency on a sociology professor whose class I took in college and who gave an entire exam consisted of watching Chinatown four times and dissecting its brilliance.

As that professor taught me, in our secular society, we no longer have clear definitions of what is transgressive and what’s not. We make laws, but the age of consent still varies by jurisdiction (not that Geimer, then 13, ever consented; this much is clear from her book). It gets more complicated, however, when even Geimer herself argues that we should separate the work from its creator. When Polanski was nominated for an Academy Award for best director for The Pianist in 2003 and a controversy predictably erupted, Geimer wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times titled “Judge the movie, not the man.”

“I believe that Mr. Polanski and his film should be honored according to the quality of the work. What he does for a living and how good he is at it have nothing to do with me or what he did to me. I don’t think it would be fair to take past events into consideration. I think that the academy members should vote for the movies they feel deserve it.”

Perhaps, if I had a teenage daughter, I would feel more strongly about banning Polanski. Others certainly do. “My refusal to watch the films of Roman Polanski won’t stop him from making films, but as the father of daughters, I’m not going to help him,” writer Fuzz Hogan said in a piece yesterday. He has a good point, and yet one of the many things I learned from reading Geimer’s nuanced memoir is that it’s unfair to accuse her of being a Polanski apologist. “I am not apologizing for him, and I don’t think his art somehow makes up for what he did,” she wrote. As she had suggested in her op-ed, perhaps I am paying too much attention to the wrong thing altogether.

“The one thing that bothers me is that what happened to me in 1977 continues to happen to girls every day, yet people are interested in me because Mr. Polanski is a celebrity. That just never seems right to me. It makes me feel guilty that this attention is directed at me, when there are certainly others out there who could really use it.”

121 comments
TaraKing
TaraKing

I think it very shallow to put an immediate parallel between Allen and Polanski. While celebrity culture is obviously the sore point, Polanski’s case is hardly as severe. It could be argued that: 1) He acted out due to himself being a victim of child sex abuse, and 2) His victim did drop the charges. While not advocating underage sex, a young girl could be conscious – and willing – of what she’s doing sexually. Finally, Polanski has gone a long way and is remorseful. His films are also cathartic, full of torment - not the lighthearted narcissistic Allen blabber.

AnnaMarieRaven
AnnaMarieRaven

@TaraKing Polanski raped his victim. It was not consensual in any sense of the word. And I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but I do not go around raping or molesting anyone. There is no excuse for rape. Period. Perhaps if people like you who do not know what you are talking about would keep quiet instead of making excuses, there would be punishment for abusers/rapists instead of blame for their victims.

IndigoV
IndigoV

When these criminals don't end up in prison (which is where they belong), and they go about moving in privileged spaces, doing their work and receiving accolades, the very least that could be done to them is to relentlessly call them out publicly at every opportunity, in every venue, consistently and persistently. Violence against women and child sexual abuse must be eradicated and the perpetrators held accountable.

DeanCris
DeanCris

These are men who pray on vulnerable young people as surely as a corrupted priest does!? What are you people on the fence for!? John Galliano is evil because he called a woman ugly Jew face but people whomrape children must be respected when they are Jewish? I don't get it?! It's so corrupt,to protect a pedophile just because he is a member of your religion. Shame on anyone who does so. A pox on your houses.

DeanCris
DeanCris

What lousy reasoning! Mel Gibson, John , Rick Sanchez and Lars Von Trier careers just ended when they dared to make alleged antisemitic remarks....but 3 Jewish men - Salinger, Allen and Polanski must be forgiven and respected and given work despite child sex abuse?! Why? Because they are just so brilliant?! Allen makes the same movie over and over again and casts new actors in the role of menche which he used to play. I just threw up in my mouth. Indeed! These three yutz are protected by their brethren for reasons that have nada to do with brilliance. Hollywood is a cabal as corrupt as the Vatican. Joel Schumaker is soon to be accused of raping Corey Haim - using him and essentially destroying him. But as a Jewish man - he like Jeffrey Epstein is completely immune to prosecution. Disgusting.

the_associate
the_associate

The two figures who are often conveniently overlooked due to the strength of their work are Simone de Beauvoir and David Foster Wallace. It is deeply frustrating to see de Beauvoir's work quoted by feminist publications when it is well documented that she was a sexual predator who abused her own high-school aged students. She often passed on the girls to Sartre.

David Foster Wallace - according to D.T. Max's recent biography - was a (statutory, if it matters) rapist, making the fact that he is so often painted as a martyr-victim figure and a great humanist particularly frustrating (and I write that as someone who finds it very difficult to dismiss Wallace's work).

Regarding a man whose work I do not respect... Jeremy Kyle had sexual relations with a 16-year-old work experience girl who worked under him, who has - in interview - said she felt used and exploited.

Having had a relationship with a 16/ 17 year-old, I cannot condemn Kyle too thoroughly... however, I was a few years older than my partner. Kyle was middle-aged. He shames the people on his show for much, much less.

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

Frankly speaking, this tendency to have children after prime childbearing years is going to eventually destroy the human race through an accumulation of mutations.

Autism is way up. ADHD is way up. Tourette's, homicide, anger, depression, all way up. These things are caused by mutations, both genetic and epigenetic, in the chromosomes of their parents. Those mutations become more likely with time, and are passed down through the children to all of their descendants evermore.

Maybe science will save us and we can all live in the feminist fantasy world where every woman gets a chance to become a well rounded and successful individual before anyone is allowed to touch her. If it doesn't, you are digging your own graves by pushing us that way.

gertmorton
gertmorton

@XiraArien1Wow, you are incredibly misinformed - and misogynistic! 

These mutations are linked to older PARENTS, not just mothers. Men as "young" as 35 who become fathers increase the risk of genetic mutation in their offspring.


The "feminist fantasy world" or which you speak is merely enabling 50% of the human population to have a quality of life that includes dignity , security, and opportunity - now and for perpetuity. You are basically saying that it's best to prevent women from becoming self-realized so that men can, now and in the future. 

The lives of the females currently in the world are more important than perpetuating a violent world view such as yours, so if the human race dies out because of it, so much the better.

gertmorton
gertmorton

@XiraArien1 A "war on men," is it? ;) More like "blowback." 

You are a minority, and hate speech is becoming a bore. I feel sorry for you.

GreenFields
GreenFields

@XiraArien1 Your frontal lobe should be fully developed  by about 23. This is the area of the brain where judgement is established. Any adult over that age who looks at a 13 year old and sees an appropriate reciprocal for their ejaculate or believes a 13 year old will be a shoulder of superior wisdom, to cry on, is psychologically defective. Something didn't develop properly, in the head. Human judgement capacity is part of The Natural World, too.

Also, this article is focusing on pre-pubescent and teenage people. What can a 40 year old gain from being allowed to "touch" a 13 year old, that they can't gain from touching a 20 year old?

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@gertmorton @XiraArien1 How am I misogynistic to point out a few politically incorrect facts about biology? Sorry, but men and women are not interchangeable and completely equal in all ways!

Where did I say anything about it just being women, I said PEOPLE, thanks. Men shouldn't be having kids much after 30 either!

As for your snarky comment about 'destroying the human race', well, you may succeed in destroying America but other countries will be happy to take our land when we denigrate into drooling imbeciles. You'll have all the 'violence' you ever wanted at that point!

Sorry, your reply makes me think you are are a man-hating gynofem who likes to put words into people's mouths.

http://llltexas.com <- my blog, there's even a section "war on men"

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@GreenFields @XiraArien1 As near as I can tell, this article was about post-pubescent and teenage people. AKA the ideal age for breeding. If you want the best baby, you should have your children between the ages of 16 and 23 (both man and woman should be that age).

40 year olds shouldn't be breeding. I can't really think of anything they 'should' be doing with 13 year olds.

My point (in a different post that I think was deleted) was that you aren't going to knock the human instinct to seek out the ideal breeding age in terms of appearance, and that a 13 year old looks close enough to a 16 year old (again, with modern nutrition and all the hormones in our food supply helping) that it's perfectly 'natural' to want to be with them.

GreenFields
GreenFields

@XiraArien1 @GreenFields You are uninformed. The ideal age for females to "breed" is actually between 22 - 24. If you are attracted to 16 year olds at 40, it's because you are not an ideal man to "breed" with. Viable men should be strongly attracted to young but fully developed women. 

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@GreenFields @XiraArien1 Most 13 year olds are not fully formed yet (tho some are), but most 16 year olds are close enough to pass that you can't tell the difference at a glance. There's no visible difference between a slightly underdeveloped 20 year old and a slightly overdeveloped 16 year old.

Again, because of all the hormones, chemicals, and extra nutrition in our modern food supply. It used to be different, and our laws tend to be based on the past and how we 'wish things were'. Being attracted to a 16 year old is on the perfectly normal side of things, but we should prevent older men from impregnating younger women because that produces bad babies. (and prevent older women from having babies, for the same reason)

As for your number 22-24, I would like to see where you got that please. Everything I have read puts the best ages for having children at 16-23, which is not actually that different from your number. I suspect that whoever came up with your number merely chopped off what they felt was the 'inappropriately young' tail of their findings for political correctness purposes...

FreonSandoz
FreonSandoz

It is common for girls in their early teens to marry older males in many cultures. It was also common in Western civilization in earlier times. The attraction of adult males to teenage girls seems completely normal to me. It's different from true pedophilia, which is an attraction to sexually immature children. We have simply made a decision as a society that men should not act on attractions to girls younger than a certain age because those girls need time to complete their education and development into well-rounded adults who can do more than just bear children. I don't think that men who are attracted to teenage girls, but who wait until those girls reach the age of consent before beginning a sexual relationship, should be labeled "predators" or "pedophiles."

gertmorton
gertmorton

@FreonSandoz What is common in many cultures, or historically, is patriarchy, in which the female is the object of the male. Waiting until a girl completes education and becomes a well-rounded adult who can do more than near children is merely an adjustment to the standards of objectification which men view females. 

I and many others do not think it is normal for men to be attracted to teenage girls. To my thinking, and to that of many in psychological profession, such an attraction is an egoic deficiency in the male. So rather than men waiting for girls to grow up, it's actually the case that adult men need to grow up and realize that people are human beings and not objects.

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@gertmorton @FreonSandoz Liking teenage girls is not objectification or demeaning in any way. It's instinct.

You have an instinct to see that your children get the best mother you can manage, one who will be active and involved in their upbringing and will not be senile by the time they have grandkids.

Same reason women like to hit on the hunky alpha-males, genes and instinct. You don't see us beta men demanding that the government make it illegal to only sleep with the alphas, do you?

Maybe that would make things better. Force the women to spread it around. Make it a requirement for a woman to give it up to one beta for every 2 alphas she sleeps with.

This demand by your type that men only go after the old bags who can no longer reproduce or care for their progeny properly is going to doom the human race to a slow degeneration of our genetic code. We weren't built to wait until 32 and a successful career to have the first baby.

gertmorton
gertmorton

@XiraArien1 @gertmorton @FreonSandoz Um, no... Women don't prefer to hit on alpha males, sorry to disappoint you. Study after study has shown that women look for education and income over appearance in a partner. 

(Tip: misogyny isn't attractive to women!)

GreenFields
GreenFields

@FreonSandoz Abuse, objectification and violence towards women and girls, is pretty common around The World; civilized societies find this socially unacceptable, even if it still happens, uncivilized societies embrace it.

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@gertmorton @XiraArien1 @FreonSandoz I said 'hit on' not 'life partner'. Study after study has shown that women go after the hunky alpha males for their sex needs, especially during the periods when they are most fertile.

After they have the baby, THEN they look for education and income to settle down with, so that their baby by the hunky alpha male can get the best start in life.

While having a _LOT_ of money can help you find a girl who does not conform to that standard and keep her, that is what most women want.

DLH2
DLH2

@XiraArien1 @gertmorton @FreonSandoz  Nothing like getting lectured to by a misogynistic pissant about the kind of men women are attracted to - more like the kind of men he thinks we should be attracted to. (Women did not make overstuffed couches like Stallone and Schwarzenegger into stars; men did.) Most women I know do not go for alphas, who are the most likely to be overbearing, slow-witted and lousy in bed (that's why some of them are afraid to sleep with grown-ups.) And women who do have casual sex with sad lummoxes like that generally make damn sure they do not get pregnant by the Cro-Mags. Our evolution has brought with it longer life spans, changes in fertility, and most importantly, advancements in society. Anyone with any intelligence knows a teen girl is the worst possible candidate for motherhood (just as a "non-misogynist" who refers to all older women as "old bags" is the worst possible candidate for a sexual partner.) Anyone who tries to use biology to justify the action of self-important pervs is clearly a perv himself. gertmorton, appreciate your comments, but they are too intelligent for someone who spends most of his time jacking off to Nickelodeon.

gertmorton
gertmorton

THANK YOU for this article. For years I have boycotted the art of sexual abusers and misogynists. When people gush about the latest exhibit or film by such men I simply state why I haven't and won't attend - and am met with incredulous stares, even accused of being "close-minded" or "uninformed." 

Art is both a personal and universal expression, and there are some messages to which I simply will not give my attention or regard.

LifeWatch
LifeWatch

Let's face the facts, Polanski, when in his 40's, sodomized a 13 year old girl. An event he pre-meditated. According to the records, she was so stressed in the time before this happened, that she told him she was having an asthma attack and asked him to get her mother to come and collect her. But he sodomized her anyway.  I'm stunned that any self respecting actor or actress, let alone ones who have children, will work with him.  

FreonSandoz
FreonSandoz

@LifeWatch You forgot to mention that he also gave her drugs before sodomizing her. I agree, Polanski is by far the worst of the bunch. The others, as far as I am aware, waited until the girls reached the age of consent before beginning a sexual relationship.

LppLpp
LppLpp

Exactly, and what is the difference between men being attracted to young girls...but that same media that promotes, instead of decries, the derth and lack of morals in the country + ALL THE SHORT SHORTS, SKIRTS, SHOWING off apps, etc that we can provide them. What about parent's that "let it be okay" and television shows that PROMOTE promiscuity and under age sex? Sick problems, but then again, if you continually expose a dog to eating fish, eventually that dog is going to WANT to eat fish. It's called classical conditioning and the more "in your face" half-nude (and nude) teeny girls today's men see, the more incidents of pedophilia we'll have.

dynamicifiction
dynamicifiction

99% of beauty is youth - an attitude that is a societal construct. Grow up, Society...grow up. Beauty is contained within a person's charity and mercy. True beauty is ageless and held within the personality.

FreonSandoz
FreonSandoz

@dynamicifiction Right, it's just a "societal construct." There is absolutely no chance that humans have any instinctive preference for young, healthy mates who are more likely to successfully bear children and provide care for those children for many years into the future.

GreenFields
GreenFields

@FreonSandoz @dynamicifiction ...but interestingly, very young girls --- pre-teens and teenagers --- have more chance of experiencing complications during pregnancy and childbirth, than older but still young, women. Actually, the ideal fertility range for women, is 21 - 25. And new mothers from 25 - 35, actually fare physically better, than 11-20 year olds. So if you're trying to use biological directives to establish ideal, female fertility, get the ages right. 

Therefore, a viable, fully developed, adult male, should consider a 22 year old woman an ideally fertile mate, per biology --- not a 13-year old. 

Openminded1
Openminded1

@dynamicifiction very nice sentiment but not realistic and most usually said by unattractive people and or parents of not so cute kids. 

Juliett13
Juliett13

OK  so the media wants to label these men as "Predators" because they were prone to pedophilia, and thats true, any grown man that can look at an undeveloped child as a sex object has an illness and needs serious help. BUT....The same media outlets that would prosecute these men as pedophiles have no problem making every excuse in the book for Islam men who do the exact same crime on a regular basis. So I ask anyone with decent human intelligence, what is the difference? Is there really ANY excuse for pedophilia?