Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland more than three decades after he was convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old girl prompted howls of protest from his defenders. France's Culture Minister said the filmmaker, who fled the U.S. in 1978, had been "thrown to the lions"; Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and Woody Allen, among others, signed a petition calling for his immediate release. Polanski had been railroaded by a biased judge, sympathizers argued; even his victim no longer wanted him imprisoned. The great auteur had suffered enough. And besides, it was a long time ago. News reports continue to describe Polanski's crime as "unlawful sex with a 13-year-old." But it wasn't just her age that made it unlawful. It was the fact that the sex was unwanted, that she repeatedly said no throughout the assault, that she had been drugged. Polanski isn't being hounded for behavior like homosexuality once thought to be deviant but now generally accepted as mainstream. In 2009, just as in the 1970s, it is considered a bad thing to rape a child and run from the law. And so will it be 30 years from now and 60 years from now. Even in Hollywood.
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