When comparing the public support that Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Roman Polanski enjoyed, with the backlash that designer John Galliano and Dutch politician Geert Wilders suffered, it appears that committing a sex offence is less shocking that proffering verbal attacks.
In 2009, when film director Roman Polanski was taken into custody in Switzerland and faced extradition to the US for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977, the press, Hollywood and even the French government were quick to rally around him.
The French writer, Bernard Henry Lévy, was quick to form a new cabal which aim was to defend and support the cineaste. Lévy was thus joined by Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, Neil Jordan, Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Huppert, Mike Nichols, Diane von Furstenberg, and Paul Auster, among others as they gathered forces to sign a petition asking for his release.
The French film industry association SACD also launched its own petition and some of the most important persons in the industry joined in, including Pedro Almodovar, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Monica Bellucci, Stephen Frears, Tilda Swinton Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and Woody Allen.
Whoopi Goldberg famously said: "I know it wasn't rape-rape. It was something else but I don't believe it was rape-rape. He went to jail and and when they let him out he was like, 'You know what, this guy's going to give me a hundred years in jail. I'm not staying.' So that's why he left.", "We're a different kind of society, we see things differently.
Also, French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterand said that Mr. Polanski was being "thrown to the lions for an old story that doesn't really make any sense" and that he was "astonished" by the arrest. Polanski was subsequently freed and the press celebrated his release.
Interestingly, When Strauss-Kahn was arrested in May this year, politicians in France were also very cautious and many rejected the allegations of rape.
The corps of French journalists appeared horrified by the fact that, in America, his accuser's name and face were kept hidden from public view while he himself was humiliatingly photographed in handcuffs and subjected to "pitiless media pressure," as Le Nouvel Observateur put it. "What do we know about the chambermaid?" read a suspicious headline in the respected daily Le Monde.
Not one to let his friends down, Bernard Henry Lévy, who previously supported Polanski, was quick to declare that claimed that the ex-IMF boss had been "thrown to the dogs", and even Strauss-Kahn's his political opponents remained shockingly restrained.
Christine Boutin a UMP Politician said that he might be the victim of a honey trap while former justice Minister Elizabeth Guigou said that publishing such photos is illegal in France, thanks to a law passed on her watch.
Mrs Guigou, a Socialist like Strauss-Kahn, judged them "of an unheard-of brutality and cruelty".
While Strauss-Kahn is still waiting for his trial to be resumed in September and has denied all charges, it is impossible to now, for now, if the politician is guilty of sexual assault.
However Polanski acknowledged he had sex with the victim when knowing she had yet to turn 14.
It is disturbing to see how both men enjoyed the support from very important public personalities when the accusations held against them are so serious. What is however even more puzzling his how violently John Galliano was recently bashed by the fashion industry before being unceremoniously sacked from his position at famous Fashion House Christian Dior. Friends have distanced themselves from him, he is still seen as a persona non-grata and many wonder whether he will one day be able to have his career back.
Soon after the incident was reported to the press, actress Natalie Portman, who was at the time working as the face of Dior for its perfume, Miss Dior Cherie issued a statement warning:
I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano's comments that surfaced today,' Natalie said in a statement.
'In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.
'I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.'
Sidney Toledano, Dior's president and chief executive officer, referred to Galliano's "odious behavior" and issued a brief statement on Tuesday: "I condemn most firmly the statements made by John Galliano which are a total contradiction with the essential values that have always been defended by the House of Christian Dior."
"Dior affirms with the utmost conviction its policy of zero tolerance towards any anti-Semitic or racist words or behaviour,' a spokesman for the company said. 'Pending the results of the inquiry, Christian Dior has suspended John Galliano from his responsibilities.'
In another case, Geert Wilders, who today was acquitted, had been charged with "hate speech" and the case against him involved 21 pages of quotes drawn from interviews, newspaper articles, websites and a description of Wilder's anti-Islam film Fitna. It was initially dismissed by the public prosecutor's office which saw no chance of winning a conviction. The prosecutor's office consulted with its own expert think-tank on discrimination and two independent professors. All recommended against prosecution, stating that Wilders' public statements would prove insufficient to win a conviction, but the Dutch politician was still brought to trial.
It is highly disturbing to see as public personalities and politicians find it much easier to support the people they consider as part of the club when they are charge with sex charges. What is dangerous when looking at the Strauss-Kahn and Polanski cases is that somehow people seem to imply that there is a rational reason behind the crimes tah were committed. Suddenly going to justice for sexual assault is compared with being thrown to the dogs, and a paedophile act is being legitimised by the relaxed atmosphere of the 70's. Being racist however is still very offensive and anyone guilty of a such act can be thrown to the lion without any guilt. Rape and sex with under-age children are charges that should be taken seriously and should not be condoned in the name of creativity or power.