Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, October 12, 2009

Does the Polanski Case Reveal Anything about a Change in U.S. Attitude

A New York Times article on October 11 states that the Polanksi case reveals how much American attitudes have changed regarding sexual relationships between adults and teenagers.  Is this true? 

The article then refers to the movie Manhattan and its depiction of a relationship between an older man and a 17-year-old girl.  The author suggests that the public would be less tolerant today of the view implied in the film that the relationship was not socially objectionable.  Indeed, an executive who was involved in the purchase of Manhattan by United Artists, is quoted as saying that it's unclear whether such a movie could be made today.

It would seem that an instance of sexual contact between an adult male and a 13-year-old girl allegedly involving drugs and alcohol might be perceived to be significantly different from (as depicted in Manhattan) a relationship of some duration between an adult and a girl of 17.  But it may be that as a society we have learned more about the frequency and emotional costs of sexual contact between adults and teenagers.



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Interesting. I just read a blog post in response to the NYT article ( that suggests that the Polanski case is more about society's views toward rape than toward adult-teenager sexual contact. ( But, I tend to agree that, in fact, the taboo in Polanski's case is certainly about adult-teenager sexual relationships, which are considered horrifying these days. The reasons could be many: women today are expected to be more independent of older men "combined father/husband" figures, parents are more tuned into their teenagers and would attack any adult sexual figure in their lives, etc.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Oct 12, 2009 9:44:55 AM

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