Roman Polanski Says the Pill Killed Romance, Women Say it Gave Them Control Over Their Lives


Director Roman Polanski made headlines this weekend at the Cannes Film Festival, where he was debuting his new film Venus in Fur. The movie, which is based on a play by David Ives and stars Polanski’s wife, focuses on the relationship between a feminine actress and the macho director who she slowly begins to control. Discussing the film’s themes of gender and gender roles, Polanski told the press that he is not pleased with how the sexes act with one another today. “I think that now offering flowers to a lady becomes indecent, that’s how I feel about it. I think to level the genders—it’s purely idiotic,” he said. “I think it’s a result of progress in medicine. I think that the Pill has changed greatly the woman of our times, ‘masculinizing’ her. I think that it chases away the romance from our lives and that’s a great pity.”

Polanski, who is now 79, is famous for having directed award-winning movies such as Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby. In 1971, his wife Sharon Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family at Polanksi’s home outside Los Angeles. A few years later, he dated actress Natasha Kinski while she was starring in his movie—Kinski was 15 years old when the relationship started. His infamy, however, comes from having evaded punishment in a 1977 statutory rape case. He was arrested for having sex with a 13-year-old girl after allegedly drugging her and plying her with alcohol.

He was originally indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molestation, and sodomy.  He accepted a deal by which he plead guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in exchange for the other charges being dropped and a sentence that was most likely going to be probation. Before final sentencing, however, he fled the country and returned to his native France out of fear that the judge would send him to prison. As a French citizen, he could not extradited to the United States. It looked like Polanski might come back to the United States to face sentencing in 2010 when he was living in Switzerland and officials in the United States asked Swiss officials to begin extradition procedures. Though the Swiss temporarily held him under house arrest, they ultimately denied the request. Polanski now travels freely between Switzerland and France but is restricted from going elsewhere because of an Interpol warrant that is recognized by 188 countries.

Obviously, this is not a man from whom anyone should be taking advice on romance. In fact, I hesitated to even write this story, as I feel he is unworthy of our attention. However, he continues to be a famous and even well-regarded filmmaker, and his comments were re-printed by numerous news outlets, including the Associated Press. Though most of the articles pointed out his past behavior, which should serve to discredit his opinion, few actually pointed out how sexist and asinine the comments themselves really were.

I started to respond to Polanski’s “masculinizing” remark by pointing out that the pill is made out of estrogen and progesterone (female hormones), not testosterone. But he wasn’t talking biology; he was talking sociology.

In some ways Polanksi is actually right. The pill did “change the place of women in our times.” The introduction of the pill in the 1960s coincides with shifts in sexual behavior and gender roles. Though simple cause and effect can never be proven, and it is possible that these changes would have occurred without the pill, many people believe that the new form of birth control was a big player in the shifting cultural norms.

One theory is that the pill allowed women to separate sex from procreation, which not only changed how they viewed sex (it was now less risky and therefore more personally acceptable), it also changed how they planned their lives. Being able to control their own fertility and time the births of their future children was one of the things that drove women into the workforce or allowed them to stay there long-term. Women were able to take control of their sexuality, advance their careers, and become more productive members of society.

While most of us see this as a great advance for women’s rights, Polanski seems to believe that it just made women more masculine and, perhaps worse, equal to men. Polanski seems to believe that power and privilege should be unique to those with penises. I would find that offensive coming from anyone, but it is even worse from someone with his history of drugging and raping a young teenager and refusing to accept punishment for it.

As for the flower comment: I like my birth control pills, I like my career, and I like that I am far more in control of my reproductive health than the generations that came before the pill. Also, I love it when my husband brings me flowers.

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  • Joan Garrity

    Right-on commentary — power, independence, control, career and flowers…why yes!

  • Arakiba

    Yeah Roman, isn’t it so sad when you find out the girl you’ve drugged and raped was on the pill at the time? That just totally killed the romance for you, right?

  • Deb B.

    Seriously? Who cares what a pedophile has to say about gender politics. Ick.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Kuperberg/698603245 Jonathan Kuperberg

      Just remember who defended him when the story last flared up three years ago (ultra-liberals, particularly Hollywood ones and European ones.) When he raped a girl in the 1970s, (who was 13 not 15- see comments above) the same intellectuals who were most in favour of the sexual freedom and secularism you push [Foucault, Derrida, and the French post-structuralist set, much of the New Left, the new critical scholars of psychology, law and family dynamics, and the early queer liberation movement] were defending paedophilia and incest. Even mainstream groups such as the ACLU and its European equivalents believed child pornography should be legal until the late 80′s.

      The middle-aged women and men now coming forward to police about their abuse in those decades at the hands of men willing to believe and act upon such nonsense know who was to blame. If it hadn’t been for the New Right and its pesky moral absolutes, and legions of parents who didn’t want their children to be at the mercy of perverts no matter how many psychologists said that 10-year-olds could consent to sex or that the incest taboo was now an outdated social construct, there may not now be any laws on the books to convict their rapists.

      • HeilMary1

        Liar, you have everything ass backwards and you know it. Liberals never supported pedophilia, but you adulterous GOP fascists and anti-choice pedophile priests have decades of criminal cover-ups in your skeleton closets.

        • Sayna

          Some liberals did support Roman Polanski but they didn’t do it because they supported pedophilia or rape. They did it because they knew the man personally and were fans of his work so they refused to believe he would do such a horrible thing. They accused the victim of lying or blamed her for what he did. That’s not a liberal or conservative phenomenon. Famous and popular men often get away with rape by having their fans and friends defend their character. People assume that the victim must be lying because that guy is their friend/exceptionally talented/a good guy and she’s just some girl. They assume that they know the guy and that he can’t have done anything like that.

          It’s because we still think of rape as something that monsters and strangers do to random innocent women. In reality, most rapes are committed by someone that the victim knew. And they’re good at hiding it and lying about it. They seem like just normal guys.

          • HeilMary1

            Very good points about the complexity of friendships with talented, charming psychopaths and misogynists.

          • Jonathan Kuperberg

            If they honestly believe it didn’t happen because they trust the word of their friend over the evidence that’s one thing. If they “blamed her for what he did”, then that *is* rape apologism, regardless of their motivation in doing so

          • canaduck

            Of course it is, but that has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative. The “nice” thing about misogyny is that it easily crosses political lines.

        • Jonathan Kuperberg

          If I said that liberals supported pedophilia NOW I would be a liar, as no one widely accepted in liberal circles has said such things for at least 20 years. But that’s NOT what I said. I made the true statement that at the time Polanski raped a teenage girl- and the decades in which many sex crimes by powerful men against minors which have recently came to light were perpetrated- those sentiments were prevalent on the hard left, particularly the intellectual and creative elite who saw themselves as the vanguard who would end the remaining “sources of oppression” after the rapid-fire successes of the civil rights, women’s, sexual liberation, peace and other movements. IT IS ALL DOCUMENTED. Denying it is just as futile as denying some leftists sympathised with Communists in the 50s, or were eugenicist racists in the 20s and 30s. Just because it’s not part of liberal ideology now doesn’t make it any less relevant to events that actually happened in the 70s, such as the one under discussion.

          See what “children’s liberationists” back then had to say about “child protectionists”, a term they applied to the New Right and Silent Majority along with all pedophile opponents. The pioneer of the anti-Christian “crunchy” wing of homeschooling, John Holt, was for assessing adult/child relationships “individually” and was not persuaded they were generally harmful. See his colleague Richard Farson, now 86 and still working with west coast ultra-liberals. In his ’70s book on children’s needs and rights he proposed legalising pedophilia based on the child’s “right” to sexual self-determination; when asked, he stated that children between 7 and 10 may have capacity to consent to sex with a grown man. He has never repented of this, or his membership in the pro-one world goverment WFA, or working with the ASCD/NEA 60s radicals on their proposal that three-quarters of the elementary school day be affective education to prepare children for the far-left [if not outright communist] one world government to come.

          See how people then respected on the left (Allen Ginsberg and Harry Hay most famously, but many more) supported NAMBLA’s goal of legalising pedophilia. See how many of the early and radical pro-gay manifestos included a plank opposing the concept of an age of consent- they were very different from present-day LGBT activists who want gays marrying, in the military and the ministry. The trailblazers preferred advocating for no-one marrying, no more wars or armies and no organised religion. The nascent queer studies movement was not exactly disapproving of sex with children either. NAMBLA was not officially dropped from the gay March on Washington until 1994. Many of the abusive Catholic priests were not the sort who would attack abortion and gay sex from the pulpit- or anywhere else- but progressive “trendies” who saw various radical causes including Marxist regimes as the future and the “traddies”, as they called their theologically and morally orthodox rivals, as hopelessly out of touch with the times. They came close to controlling the major seminaries.

          See some of the pieces in mainstream psychology and psychotherapy journals exploring incest and pedophilia in the 60s, 70s and 80s. All written by liberals. Not a conservative or a traditionalist religious person to be seen among the many leaders in their fields at the time who saw age limits for sex to be unnecessary and incest taboos outdated in an age of contraception, abortion, infinitely varying family structures, the possibility of ending authoritarian power relations and secularist approval of sexual pleasure for its own sake.

          See the letter signed by Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida and dozens of other European new left intellectuals- who were influencing US academia and the fashionable affluent groups, including movie stars- asking for the release of some of their liberal elite friends who had sexual relationships with minors, and petitioning the French government to abandon the age of consent (then, and now, 15).

          • Arekushieru

            See, I don’t see ANYTHING wrong with incest. The same reason I don’t see anything wrong with that is the same reason I OPPOSE rape and bestiality. I don’t see ANYTHING wrong with Communism, Marxism, etc…. What was popularly conceived of as Communism and Marxism back in the day, had no resemblance to the REALITY. Just like those who accuse Canada (my country) of being a socialist country, have no idea what socialism is, for that very reason.

            I DO see things wrong with pedophilia. However, the priests of the time who were ACTUALLY practicing pedophilia also tended to oppose abortion. But, even opposing pedophilia would have shed light on their nastiness, which, of course, is why they didn’t do so. But, opposing or supporting pedophilia doesn’t mark someone as being more likely a conservative or more likely a liberal, anyways (not like opposing or supporting abortion does, not like supporting or opposing birth control does, etc…). The reasons, however sickening they are, do. You named them, yourself: liberals sought to ‘liberalize’ pedophilia because of what they believed was the child’s ‘right’ to self-determination. And, very little was known of early childhood, at that time. Except through quacks such as Freud. That’s why I think the Liberals believed they were doing ‘good’. Conservative supporters of conservative priests, on the other hand, swept it under the rug, even AS they knew it was wrong, as I noted above, preferring instead to focus on those immoral women who had abortions. But, do not kid yourself, that this was about the ‘rights’ of the unborn, either. After all, ‘liberalizing’ pedophilia was not about taking rights away from one to give them to another (as it was with abortion), even though that is what it did, in effect. To clarify, if it were a conservative attempting to ‘liberalize’ pedophilia, you would see them do it on the basis of the ADULTS’ rights to sex, in other words, GROUP rights: yes, groups rights being those very same ‘rights’ that take away rights from one and give them to another. In actuality, that is what conservatives have been supporting for hundreds of years. They just try to do it in hiding, when they can, because they KNOW they are in the wrong. (And, why wouldn’t they? Especially when one looks at the way conservatives seem to seek to limit government control but at the same time increase majority control.) I don’t know, doing it DESPITE that fact, makes at least the INTENT far more heinous (although the EFFECTS are no less egregious and sickening), than doing it because you think you are doing ‘good’.

          • Arekushieru

            I would like to remind that my previous post is derived from something you, yourself said, so, please, do not accuse me of the fallacy of false attribution.

        • Melooley

          HeilMary1, I’ve been a huge fan of your comments for about as long as I’ve been reading this blog, but I did some googling and found some scary evidence that some historic liberals were opposed to age-of-consent laws because they opposed any laws regulating sexual interactions. Even today, it’s not too hard to find people arguing that, say, computer-generated images of child abuse should be legal, and these people tend to call themselves liberals.

          I have no idea about his claims about the Right championing anti-pedophilia laws, but at least some of what this guy is saying is–sadly–not actually a backwards lie. It might be more accurate to say that liberals were arguing that young people could consent to sexual activity (rather than saying they were “defending pedophiles,”) but dismissing his claims offhand might not be totally accurate, either. Sigh. Part of the, ahem, joy, of liberalism is acknowledging and researching the truth–dismissing everything we don’t like as a lie seems more conservative than I’ve come to expect from you, HeilMary ;)

          • Arekushieru

            I think you are misinterpreting something. Just because some liberals don’t support age of consent laws does not mean that it’s necessarily a liberal position. But, even if it was, mainstream culture can and does infiltrate everything, most especially as a liberal ideal that originates from the conservative-type thinking and policy side of things.

            Doesn’t mean there is any less of a need to acknowledge and research the truth, then confront it, just that it can be difficult to battle something all the time, especially if you have to do it from within, at the same time, while still being inundated with patriarchal standards from without.

      • Arekushieru

        Yes, your opposition to consensual acts overrides any ‘concern’ you have displayed for rape victims, especially given your extremely obvious attempts to paint conservative moral principles in such an obviously false light.

        • Jonathan Kuperberg

          Why the scare quotes? You think only the Godless free-love brigade can have actual concern about rape?

          • Arekushieru

            Godless? I am Christian. Being atheist does not mean you are ‘Godless’, anyways. No, what I took exception to as you’ll note in my post above, is that you were trying to paint conservatives as the good, instead of the more evil they actually were.

          • Jonathan Kuperberg

            Well no-one can be literally Godless in the sense of not “having” a God because God is supreme over all men, believers and non, in all countries on Earth- and His jurisdiction covers the high seas and outer space too! God is no personal possession in the sense someone is penniless if they do not “have” money; however, being atheist means that one DENIES this Truth which is why they are called Godless: not in the sense of not “having” a God but in denying Him and living unholy lives. Surely this is not a difficult concept?

      • patchbran

        do you really think it’s wise for someone whose party is rife w/ perverts should weigh on w/ a political opinion? two words: catholic church. spare us. please.

        • Jonathan Kuperberg

          Freedom of speech… for both of us, nevertheless I’d appreciate it if you chose to “Spare” ME your anti-Catholicism.
          I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: just like those who would rant over and over again about Muslim child-grooming or C&P quotes from a site detailing inner-city gangs at the first and each subsequent mention of Black people, any liberals who mention abuse time and time again as an aggressive humiliating “shutter-upper” of Catholic voices is NOTHING but a BIGOT who compounds his error by only bashing CONSERVATIVE Catholics. See white liberals who bash Blacks like Clarence Thomas and Michael Steele… Ben Carson wasn’t all right but he had a lil’bit right.

          Funny that the “pedo this, priest that, pervert the other” squad do not try to shut down Michael Moore when he speaks about sex, abortion and gays. He’s a Catholic!! Why does no-one ever say that just by being a member of the RCC he is a guilty-by-association rape enabler who SUPPORTS pedophilic priest abuse.

          The foul-mouthed Vatican vituperators avoided venting vitriol when Lawrence O’Donnell and Maureen Dowd push their hard-left view of the church and sophisticated East Coast bourgeois urbanite view of sexuality- see O’Donnell on The Last Word saying the Clinton marriage is pro-family while fidelity is a wider, more complex concept than “sexual exclusivity” (I’m not shitting you- HE SAID THIS. On MS-DNC, of course.) But they are Catholics.

          No-one has told Catholics for Choice leader Jon O’Brien- or Dignity and other groups which oppose traditional morality- that they should shut the fuck up and stop running their fithy priest-rapey Papist mouths. No-one ordered Joe Biden out of the debate on contraception because he’s from the Church of “evil closeted old men in dresses and child fuckers” – AND RIGHTLY SO!!! This sort of is unhinged poison with no place in the conversation.

          So liberals are using this as an ESPECIALLY sick and twisted way of bashing social conservatives. I won’t have it. I will carry on talking over your type. The solution to your rage-inducing attempt to gag me is not to limit anti-Catholic free speech, of course, but for people like me to counter it with more speech and better speech. I expect you will be familiar with that concept…

      • patchbran

        but @ least you got the pesky label correct.

  • VeggieTart

    A child rapist twice over–a 30-something male dating a 15-year-old girl is a RAPIST–ought not talk about romance and male-female relations.

  • Everybodhi

    79 years old. If only they would die off, but, they are passing their misogyny down to young men who are eating it up like candy.
    Evolution is so slow.
    We need another revolution.

    • patchbran

      or better frontal lobes. yeesh!

  • Jamila Okantah

    women should have control over their reproductive rights. however, women who choose to stay home and have children should also be considered productive members of society. Women shouldn’t have to prove they are strong by doing everything men do, when we are already strong in our own right. We have to power to carry life within is. That is amazing and the biggest contribution to society that there is.

    • Sayna

      That’s real nice and all (Except for your implication that having a baby is the most important thing a woman can do. I’m sure infertile and childfree women love being told that they’re not contributing as much as they can. I’m sure mothers who make important contributions to society feel more satisfied cleaning up poopy than saving the world and stuff.) but what does it have to do with the article?

      We’re currently talking about a man who raped a child saying that female autonomy ruined sex. Nobody is shaming stay-at-home moms here.

  • Makabit

    I can’t even think of something funny to say about Roman Polanski presuming to discuss what is romantic and what is not. Roman Polanski can drop dead.

    • 141park

      Agreed. He’s a pedophile. Case closed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/barbararuth Barbara Saunders

      Why would he even think it’s a good idea for him to enter the discourse on romance?

  • REM

    Such a role model for romance this Roman. And anyone who ever stated that girls and women experiencing freedom of their own sexuality by avoiding early child birth, and thereby poverty, is a “great pity”. Boys and men need to be seriously educated !

    • HeilMary1

      You can be sure that roming Roman would cheat on and divorce any child bride ruined by smelly obstetric fistulas!

  • http://mrda.wordpress.com MRDA

    “Though most of the articles pointed out his past behavior, which should serve to discredit his opinion…”

    This is bad logic.

    • http://twitter.com/JenGStarr Jennifer Starr

      it would only be bad logic if his past crimes weren’t of a sexual nature. Someone who rapes a thirteen year old girl is hardly the one to be talking about ‘romance’.

  • canaduck

    Roman Polanski is human garbage.

  • http://twitter.com/maggiepinknose Maggie

    It baffles me that anyone thinks an unrepentant child rapist can be so easily forgiven because he made some ‘important’ works.

    Would also like to add that not all men have penises and not all people with penises are men.

  • Geo

    Thank you for informing us. Polanski’s comments are offensive to men, too. At least I find them offensive. But, hey, I’m extremely grateful for the Pill, and the freedoms it has afforded so many women! I’m confident that the world would be much worse off without the contributions of strong women with greater freedom.

    It does seem that people are homogenizing, but not just along gender lines. The future will be very boring if everyone aims for the same objective instead of appreciating each other’s differences.

    It would be interesting to paint a more complete picture of Polanski though. What he did to those girls is horrific, and there is no justification for it. However, those atrocities followed the brutal, senseless murder of his wife and unborn child at the hands of the Manson Family. Manson’s ‘family’ consisted mostly of *young* women who served him and other men in the group. It is sad that someone as intelligent as Polanski could not learn from Manson’s advances on girls, and instead took advantage of them.

    I really hope that I can learn from my father’s mistreatment of my mother, and treat my (possible) future wife better than he has treated my mom. However, I don’t expect it to be easy as my parent’s marriage is the marriage that has likely influenced me the most.

    Aside: Sharon Tate was murdered in 1969 by members of the Manson Family who were *convicted* in 1971.

  • koffeewitch

    As a feminist, I have some problems with the tone of this. (Not about polanski being a class A, douche bag, no argument there). It’s the idea that women are only seen as productive members of society if they ingest potentially harmful drugs that can cause major side-effects because society has no place for innately female cyclical bodies. There is ample evidence that women in the pre-Christian era had considerable control over their fertility. They had a number of effective herbs, barrier devices and methods to deal with ovulation and unwanted pregnancies…all without handing money to Big Pharma corporations that use dangerous progestins instead of natural progesterone. (Natural progesteone actually prevents many diseases and is cheaper, but cannot be patented and offers no profits for pharmaceutical companies). Eventually women who used this concraceptive knowledge or taught it to other women were intimidated and/or charged as witches. Now I’m not advocating to take away anyone’s pills or IUDs…I just am skeptical about the Pill being such a great boon to the feminist cause. as we generally credit it.

    • Arekushieru

      I think you’ll notice that this board does quite often rage about the hormones found in synthetic birth control. However, there is some controversy, as well, about whether these herbs with natural progesterone were as harmless or as effective as one might think.

  • Cathy Hetzel

    I can’t stand Roman Polanski but to say he can’t die soon enough is evil. He will pay for his acts of deprivation, I believe that whole heartily!

  • Cathy Hetzel

    Please understand I know he is an evil pedophile! He will rot in hell!