Carson Holloway, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, writes an excellent, insightful reflection on Hollywood’s strange indignation at the arrest and possible prosecution of Roman Polanski for raping a girl. Holloway explains that “the embrace of sexual liberation necessarily diminishes our horror for rape.” Since Hollywood has wholeheartedly embraced sexual liberation, they must now (logically) stand with Polanski lest they too be guilty:
If Polanski is guilty of some terribly immoral act, then Hollywood has itself been guilty of an unseemly (at least) moral complacency. And since there appears to be no way to deny that he actually committed the crime in question, Hollywood’s only way to maintain its sense of self-respect is to act as if what he did is not that serious—and accordingly to act as if an effort to prosecute him must be a monstrous injustice.
Our horror for rape depends to a large extent on a presupposition that was also the basis for the traditional sexual morality that authorized society to regulate even sexual acts between consenting adults: the sense that human sexuality possesses an intrinsic moral dignity—even a sanctity—that no one should degrade. More specifically, it was believed that sex was properly understood as a way of communicating life to new human beings and of communicating a permanent loving commitment between spouses in marriage. The belief in these lofty purposes was the core of the sense of the sanctity of human sexuality. And it was this sense of sanctity that justified both societal disapproval when consenting people wrongly degraded sex from such an act of love to a mere source of pleasure and society’s even greater horror for those who perverted sex so far as to turn it into a means of pleasure through violence.