original sin
Sex Abuse and the Hollywood Hierarchy
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    “Maybe, just maybe, the truth lies deeper than these critics of celibacy
    understood, and human beings of whatever belief system or power
    structure are just inclined to do bad things when they’re confident they
    can get away with them.” Exactly. You might have mentioned the BBC scandals. As Lord Acton remarked in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

    • rheddles

      All lesser men are bad men. Sometimes. The question is how often. As with the great.

      • Corlyss

        Not referring to pedophilia in context here, but larger questions of public good, for public figures the standard should be what good have they done for the public, the nation, not whether they are good men in the ethical or Christian sense. It is a lot harder to be both and whichever is chosen to dominate, the other will suffer. Case in point. Obama doesn’t want to do anything that would leave him open to criticism by those he admires and hopes to make his living circulating among when he is thankfully out of office. Carter was the same. They both wanted to be respected by their sliver of the public rather than admired by the nation as a whole for what they did for the nation. They can’t have it both ways. Governing requires making decisions one might not approve of in private but that are necessary to the health and well-being of the nation for which one is responsible. Another case in point: it was repugnant to American and British leaders to force repatriation of Russian prisoners of war, but in order to get their own back, they had to agree to it. It was equally repugnant on a different scale to secret Nazi war criminals that could benefit the west in the coming fight with the Russians and conceal them as citizens in some kind of witness protection program, but it was necessary for the coming fight with the Russians, who would have vacuumed up the same war criminals and used them against the west. Complex questions demand sophisticated evaluation that the public is not always capable of.

        • Jim__L

          Just curious, who belongs in the category of “Nazi war criminal”? I’m not even sure von Braun belongs there, quite.

          • Corlyss

            I wasn’t referring to Braun as a war criminal but I think he would have been in the dock for the number of civilians killed in the V-2 rocket strikes if he hadn’t been protected. Unlikely you’d know any of the names right off the top of your head unless you were a specialist in the area. Loftus wrote a series of books about the US government’s role in harboring future useful assets.

    • Jim__L

      Wow, another comment that doesn’t include the word “gay” or “homosexual”, despite its being directly applicable.

      So much for 1%-3%.

  • Jim__L

    I’m impressed that VM carried a story like this. I’m equally impressed, but not really in the same way, that they managed not to use the words “homosexual” or “gay” in it.

    • Corlyss

      Don’t think pedophiles and homosexuals are the same thing. That is to say, you probably won’t find a history of the latter in the former. Guys who have sex with children do so because the kids aren’t adults.

      • Curious Mayhem

        Sure. Most pedophiliacs are heterosexual. But that’s because most people are heterosexual. I don’t know what happens if you control for the fact that homosexuals are 1-3% of the population. I doubt if homosexuals are disproportionately represented among pedophilacs.

        The theory that sexual abuse was due to the celibacy of Catholic priests never had much evidence to support it. The abuse scandal has its origins in the early 1960s and essentially ended in the early 1990s, and Catholic priests have been required to be celibate for about a thousand years. The US Catholic Church, and to a limited extent the Church in other countries, was taken by the theory that young men with confused sexuality and homosexual tendencies could be “set straight” by inducting them as priests and telling them that it was OK to have the thoughts as long they didn’t act them on them. That was setting up these priests and the priesthood for disaster, something that Pope John Paul II realized in the 1990s and reversed course on.

        What is true about the Catholic Church is that it is secretive, authoritarian, and hierarchical bureaucracy, in a good position to cover up the crimes of its wayward priests. As with Watergate, the coverup was the real problem. Crimes committed by individual priests could just be reported to the police. Once the coverup started, however, the Church *as an insitution* became implicated in them. The Church did not have to cover them up.

        Also, in some of the parts of the world, the Church had a “free pass,” so to speak, from the secular authorities, who would turn a blind eye to abuses. That was very true, for example, in the Irish Catholic-dominated Boston and Massachusetts archdioceses. But it was not true is other parts of the US, where the archdioceses knew that they had no such “free pass” and acted quickly and much earlier (in the early 1990s) to cooperate with the police and other civil authorities on abuse cases.

        • Diws

          You doubt that more than 1-3% of pedophiles are homosexual? Did I read that right?

          • B-Sabre

            He said he doubted that pedophilia is more prevalent in homosexuals than it is in heterosexuals, so that the overall percentage of homosexual pedophiles in the population of pedophiles should track with the percentage of homosexuals in the total population.

            I agree with the problem for the Church being the cover-up. My initial reaction was that this would have been typical for any large, exclusive organization – first priority is to protect their own, before the actual victims. I don’t know if I would ascribe the same characteristics (“…secretive, authoritarian, and hierarchical…”) to Hollywood, but you could probably make an argument for “exclusive” at the very least.

            Hasn’t there been a former child actor who’s been complaining of Hollywood being a ring of pedophiles for years?

          • Diws

            So if 50% of pedophiles are homosexual, yet homosexuals make up 1-3% of the population, obviously it is in fact more prevalent amongst homosexuals. Though it is problematic to equate outright pedophilia with illicit underage predation of a teenager; there is a difference of at least degree there. In any case, though reliable statistics would be difficult to obtain given the fraught nature of the topic, and the high status of homosexuals in the victim hierarchy, I would be surprised if homosexuals did not make up more than half of all pedophiles. If this is in fact the case, then clearly homosexuals are in fact disproportionately prone to this status. Where combined with hierarchical, authoritarian, secretive organizations (in a sufficiently jaundiced eye, one could make the case for Hollywood being all three), we would have very fertile ground for such abuse.

          • Corlyss

            Where are you getting your numbers from? Pedophilia is one of the deepest and darkest subjects in our society, despite all the noise made by survivors. There’s very little reliable evidence on the nature and extent of the problem.

            One needs to remember that when Freud uncovered it in the subject that he subsequently invented the Electra complex (and probably the Oedipal complex too) term for, the professional community had a “come to Jesus” meeting with him and told him if he published his findings as pedophilia, he’d never eat lunch in Vienna again. In other words, the fix was in to cover up the true nature of the situation. So he labeled the condition a developmental phantasy of a sex-fevered brain.

          • Curious Mayhem

            The myth that Freud was forced to recant his discoveries about the sexual abuse his patients had endured is just that, a myth. There was a book in the 1980s by a British medical journalist or doctor (I can’t remember her name) who did careful documentary work and completely debunked this legend, which Freud invented to make himself look like a bold thinker and feminists later resurrected for their own reasons. By the time he published Studies in Hysteria in the 1890s, before he cooked up classical psychoanalysis, he had no opposition to stating the facts of his case studies. Read it yourself; translations are available on Amazon.

            Similarly, Freud pawned off the legend that Viennese doctors of the 1880s believed that only women could have “hysteria” (a form of post-traumatic or dissociative reaction) until Freud set them straight. In fact, the realization that “hysteria” was psychological and could occur in both men and women was already widespread by the time Freud became a doctor. For example, doctors saw the same symptoms in men who had suffered mental trauma in combat or industrial accidents.

            Freud rejected his earlier findings entirely on his own and invented the notion of childhood (pre-adolescent) sexual fantasies for his own, never entirely clear, reasons. It may have had something to do with his cocaine habit — chronic cocaine use leaves the user in a permanent manic state, and hypersexualized thinking is one form manic thoughts may take. (That is, the sex-fevered brain was Freud’s own.) In any case, while children can be exceptionally attached to one parent or another (in particular, boys to their mothers), this attachment is not sexual. Sexuality requires sexual hormones, which don’t kick in until adolescence — that is what adolescence is, in fact. Hormones were discovered in the 1910s, and this should have ended the Freudian nonsense of childhood sexuality.

            The strange thing — the opposite of the myth — is that it was Freud’s mature psychoanalytic theories of childhood sexuality that made him a pariah in Vienna, NOT his earlier reporting of cases of sexual abuse.

          • Corlyss

            “The myth that Freud was forced to recant his discoveries about the sexual abuse his patients had endured is just that, a myth.”

            Yeah, I watched that debate in real time. I ain’t buying the Freud camp’s explanation, period.

          • Jim__L

            One of the more awful ironies of the 19th century is that Freud was crazy.

          • Corlyss

            😉 Glad I didn’t say it . . . .

          • Curious Mayhem

            There are good numbers on pedophiliacs (I mean adults preying sexually on pre-adolescent children, the strict definition), and they are overwhelmingly heterosexual, the last time I read anything about it. I don’t know if it’s 97-99%. In this case, which is ephebophilia (preying on adolescents, by the strict definition), I don’t know the exact numbers either.

            The percentage question is interesting, although politically fraught. I assume it’s also changed over time — gone down — as being gay has become accepted as normal — in the same way that being gay doesn’t mean having to be compulsively promiscuous as it once did. And the same reason prostitution isn’t as common — it’s easier for men to get sex — the “underground,” so to speak, has shrunk.

          • Corlyss

            His figures are similar to those I’ve encountered among gays. The 10% figure gays toss around at every chance never had much evidentiary support. It came from Kinsey’s studies, which have been discredited by psychologists for several decades. In the popular mind, Kinsey still holds sway, but not among the professionals.

          • Curious Mayhem

            Yes — Kinsey started out by using convicts and 4-Fs (draft rejects) for his studies — hardly a representative sample. While his methods improved over time, he never came close to complying with scientific standards, even of his own time. These days, both his faulty inferences and his shady “human subject” ethics would get him into a deep bath of hot water.

            The most careful surveys I’ve seen have homosexuals at about 1-3% of the population, although it might be as high as 5%. But 10% is too high.

        • Jim__L

          In both cases, Tolerance is the problem.

          You’re tolerating something that should not be tolerated. It’s time that that stopped.

    • free_agent

      ‘Twould be interesting to see if there’s any difference in the ratio of boys vs. girls in youth that are targeted for nonconsensual sex and youth that are targeted for consensual sex. But I’ve never seen any data on either question. Certainly older men targeting teenage girls is well-known as an urge (if less common in practice because it’s outlawed). E.g., I’ve seen reprinted rumors that there’s no shortage of Catholic priests attempting to seduce teenage girls, but it causes less scandal because teenage girls generally consider it normal to be hit on by older men. (For whatever that’s worth.)

      • Curious Mayhem

        “Hit on,” subject to admiring glances — or subject to rape, blackmail, and forced secrecy? There’s a big difference.

  • Corlyss

    “article after article blamed priestly celibacy and oppressive Catholic sexual ethics for the abuse.”

    There looking at the result and finding a target that lets them discredit one of their favorite whipping boys, religion, and in particular, one of the last conservative holdouts against the rampant social modernism that have swallowed the mainstream Christian denominations whole and turned them into indistinguishable mush of Kumbaya happy-talk under the rubric of “inclusiveness.” In fact, back when the Church realized it had a problem with seminary enrollment, it did a deal with the devil to take in sexual perverts in return for their numbers. The celibacy and sexual ethics had nothing to do with creating the legions of pedophiles in the church.

    • Curious Mayhem

      Apart from the inflammatory language about gay men being “perverts,” I agree with your take. Back in the 1950s and 60s, declining seminary enrollments did play some role in this. But “enlightened” notions (of that time) about homosexuality being “curable” by going through the rigors of priestly celibacy surely also played a role.

      In those days, a gay young man, from a traditional community, would have had an impossible time understanding himself, except perhaps that he was possessed by evil thoughts that could somehow being “cured” by either medical or spiritual means. The notion of a legitimate erotic relationship between two men was just not imaginable by many people then. Some of this problem, then, was cognitive: “this kind of sexuality has no legitimate expression” => “only expressible by preying on the young” — a syllogism like that was at work: a logical conclusion from twisted premises.

      • Jim__L

        It’s not that hard for people to “understand themselves”. There are thoughts and urges that everyone gets that we should not act on. Part of the challenge of living is figuring out how to deal with that universal human condition in a positive way. I’ve known too many guys who abandoned women only after they lost the contest for one particular woman, and too many women that abandoned guys only after the same kind of situation, to think that heteronormative pressure is utterly unworkable.

        Besides, if they’re right about homosexuality being hereditary (which I suspect is so much nonsense, considering the absurdity of the idea that you inherit from your parents a tendency not to have children), then you’ve got to have a functional degree of acceptance of heteronormism in everyone, men at least.

  • AllanDale

    I can attest from direct personal knowledge in the 1980s, that sexual exploitation of teenaged males (and occasionally females) is not limited to Hollywood but is extensively practiced among Northern California sophisticates in and around San Francisco with the cooperation and sometimes participation of public officials and their representatives and personnel.

    • Corlyss

      The depth and breadth of sexual exploitation of children has not even begun to be scoped. There’s a serious problem in this country with leadership training and meaningful insights into the hazards that exist in any power relationship, whether it’s adult-child, spouse-spouse, religious leader-flock member, employer-employee, police-criminal, victor-vanquished, etc. The moral compass that used to give us a minimal assurance of what the society at large was taught has disappeared in the last 50-60 years. Even in those days before hedonism became the rule, a lot happened behind closed doors that we’ll never know about.

    • Curious Mayhem

      Once a resident of California, I heard indirectly stories about teen prostitution, both straight and gay, in San Francisco from as far back as the 1930s. Populated by runaways, no doubt.

      • AllanDale

        I can assure you that in the 1980s (at least), what was going on with exploited runaways in San Francisco involves every facet of so-called respectable society and goes as high up the food chain as you can imagine and extends to areas you probably cannot imagine.

        • Curious Mayhem

          Sugar daddy-dom, in other words. That facet was semi-open in the metro area where I grew up (east coast), if you had your ears and eyes open.

          My high school class has two cases. Both young men were over the legal age (16), and no coercion was used, as far as the rest of us knew. One offer was accepted, the other rejected. Nothing to report to the law, although we were a bit freaked out. I think a few of the teachers figured it out or heard about it. But otherwise, it was hushed up. One aspect that we didn’t think of is that, while of age, these young men were still minors, and their parents did not know. Can’t say what the law would have done.

          Parental acceptance of the gay teen’s sexuality was decisive. In the case where the teen turned down the offer, his parents knew he was gay, although it was still a family semi-secret — but he wasn’t rejected by his parents. In the other case, offer accepted, the teen was essentially thrown out of the house at 16, and he had nowhere else to go anyway.

          With teens, the issue consists more of mind games and emotional manipulation, not physical abuse, although drugs and alcohol also play a common role. It’s more like abusive relationships between adults, except most teens, if they’re isolated, are not prepared to cope with an onslaught of seduction, drugs, and abuse.

          Nastassia Kinski was 16 when she had her affair with Polanski. (The legal age in CA is 18.) If I remember correctly, she pressured her parents not to press charges, but the state did anyway, and he is still unable to return to the US. There was a string of other cases where he was accused of drugging and seducing teenage girls, and in at least one, he was convicted. Some in Hollywood still defend and work with him.

          However, I should point out that, these days, for cases that are exposed or reported (and they are a lot more reported now), prosecutors are much more likely to charge the older party than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Plus many states have raised their legal age in the last 50 years.

          • AllanDale

            Yes, it was the 1980s and the sexual anarchy of the 1970s was still in the air, but it was more daddy than sugar and the degree of participation by so-called societal authority (not just in looking the other way but in the procurement of illegal substances to facilitate cooperation) was truly astounding as was the extent of the networking involved in passing the best boys around.

          • Curious Mayhem

            Weren’t the 70s great? The things you could get away with then. If only the creepy adults of that era had left us alone, even if, generally, adults of that period were clueless.

            Not that the busybody Boomer parents these days are right. Instead of guiding their kids into adulthood, they’ve brainwashed and infantilized them. Keeps them from doing what their parents did at the same age. But the price is steep.

            Never saw the VD series — heard lots about it 🙂

  • free_agent

    Hollywood is a system that has huge disparities of power, and it also takes in a large number of young people (and particularly attractive ones at that) into the bottom rung of the system, so it’s not so surprising that sexual abuse is common.

    • Curious Mayhem

      Anyone who’s read about the old days in Hollywood knows about the “casting couch” treatment that, say, Marilyn Monroe was subjected to. Feminism and legal action ended that. So maybe the abusers just moved on to more vulnerable populations.

      Hollywood is also very self-absorbed, to the point of narcissism — the inability to distinguish between one’s own self and others, or between thoughts, desires, and reality. The classic depiction of this mentality is Humbert in Lolita — he’s a narcissistic monster who never gets the difference between Lolita, his fantasy, and Lolita, the girl. (Here, I mean the novel, not the movie, where Lolita is far less helpless.) Before Lolita, Nabokov had written novels of totalitarian dystopias, where the dictators were also narcissistic monsters and the victims were not single in number, but ran in the millions — again, just props in their fantasy worlds.

      • Corlyss

        Narcissism is right. My first brush with accepted pedophilia in Hollywood was in The Godfather. There was a lot to object to in the producer sequence. To this day I have never seen the scene with the horse’s head in bed with the producer – I’d heard about it and knew when it was coming up so I just shut my eyes. But I remember thinking at the time if the pedophilia could be shown so openly and unremarkably, it must be pretty uncontroversial in the film colony. I don’t recall a single mention of it in the buzz of the time but that was a long time ago.

        • Curious Mayhem

          I vaguely remember people commenting on the pedophiliac aspect. But it was swamped by the horror of the horse’s head — all just part of the criminality depicted. Many viewers did get a guilty pleasure out of watching the whole cess pool depicted in The Godfather movies, but I don’t think it implied approval. On the whole, people were a lot more naive about this stuff before the 1970s and 80s.

          The case of Roman Polanski is, I think, more on topic here. See the case of this actress, who is less forgiving than Nastassia Kinski was: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1278722/I-forgive-Polanski-Im-telling-truth-Roman-knows-Actress-Charlotte-Lewis-claims-abused-director-16.html. (I’m assuming her accusations are true, which we don’t know.)

          • Corlyss

            “On the whole, people were a lot more naive about this stuff before the 1970s and 80s.”
            No kidding! I thought it was an aberration. Come to find out it’s more prevalent than I would ever have believed possible without some kind of legal repercussions on the perps. The vagaries of sentencing for the crime are amazing. It’s a deeper darker secret than adultery, which is now pretty accepted as an amateur sport. Reminds me of Moynihan’s “dumbing deviancy down.” One of the reasons I am so adamant about Freud’s fraud is the first book I read solely on the subject of forensic science began with the story of a young girl whose body was found in pieces floating in pasteboard boxes in the Danube at the turn of the century. I got the impression from the account that it was rampant in Vienna among the lower classes where it often ended up in the death of a child and there were fewer resources for concealing the act.

          • Curious Mayhem

            It may have been rampant in the Viennese lower classes. Freud certainly had no opposition from his reporting of his case studies at medical meetings in the 1880s. His clientele was mainly middle to upper-middle class; majority Jewish, but not entirely; with an occasional aristocrat thrown in. His medical audiences might have been shocked by the cases, but they didn’t tell Freud to clam up. They probably were aware of what went on in poorer neighborhoods, but shocked to find out similar things were going on elsewhere.

            It would not have been easy for the police do anything about abuse, unless there had been some widespread awareness of what was going on and a willingness to report and press charges. Isolation and secrecy help abusers. The Viennese police did if a case was reported with credible evidence. A famous early Expressionist painter, Egon Schiele, ran off with his 15-year-old girlfriend, who became his lover and artistic subject. By the time the case was reported, she was 16 and refused to press charges. So the police dropped the case. This happened during World War One, I believe.

          • Corlyss

            I don’t think sexual abuse of children was even recognized as a crime in those days, was it? Child care facilities were largely charities and I believe there were few if any state resources devoted to protecting children. Chattel comes to mind.

          • Curious Mayhem

            No, there were laws on the books in Western countries outlawing sexual contact with underage children. Certainly by the late 19th century, most countries had child welfare laws of that type in place, including age-of-consent laws for sex and taking a job, for example, usually age 16, or age 18 in some places. They did not have much active governmental social welfare intervention, if that’s what you mean — that was private. These laws were simply there in case someone wanted to prosecute. Someone had to bring a case to the police and a judge. It wasn’t yet activist “social welfare” in the 20th-century sense.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.