Roman Polanski finally facing trial for the rape of a 13 year old has thrown up some remarkable defences alright, refuted here by Amanda Hess.
The 43 year old Polanski gave a 13 year old drugs and alcohol so he could use her body. I can’t even be bothered debating the issue – he pled guilty – and this is back in the 1970s, when rape conviction rates were even lower than now.
No, rather than whether Mr Polanksi deserves to face a court for the rape he’s admitted to, I’m more interested in the man whose home he raped in back then, Jack Nicholson.
Oscar winner for a great role in a great film, Jack played McMurphy in the Ken Kesey classic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It’s a film about social control – and the hero, McMurphy, is a man with several assault convictions whose most recent altercation with the justice system is over the statutory rape of a 15 year old.
McMurphy rebels against “the system” when he’s placed into psychiatric care, and though the film and book have rightly been criticised for overwhelming sexism, there are moments of heroism in McMurphy’s challenges to the frighteningly controlling environments that were mental institutions in the 1960s.
But Jack Nicholson in real life, as well as playing host to Polanski’s rape, has a history which includes out-of-court settlements to a woman working in prostitution, Christine Sheehan. He assaulted her after they had sex and he’d refused to pay.
I mention these two things because they have completely removed the possibility for me, of respecting Jack Nicholson.
I hate it when men for whom I could hold respect ruin it by choosing to be violent to women.
When Rita Marley wrote a book in 2004, revealing that husband Bob had raped her, I was devastated. Bob Marley is one of my musical and anti-racist heroes, preaching a message of inter-racial harmony and peace based on justice.
A woman I worked with in an inner-city Women’s Refuge in London was escaping a man she’d been with for two decades. A session musician who had played on most reggae albums of interest, she told stories of horrific violence within the reggae scene, from men who sang about peace and love, to their girlfriends, their wives, their more casual sexual partners. Turns out Rita was telling the truth.
I worked with this woman for a year, too scared to ask her about my favourite reggae artist. Finally I got up the courage to get over my hypocrisy, and checked out whether Peter Tosh had been violent to women.
“No,” she told me, “he really does mean the words he sings.”
Thank goodness. I really need some male heroes. We all do. And bashing or raping or helping other men bash and rape women counts them out in my book. Bring back Peter Tosh I say.