Why Woody Allen's Thing for Younger Women Doesn't Make Him a Pedophile

Gays Know Danger of Being Branded by Mainstream

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By Jay MIchaelson

Published February 10, 2014.
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Hopefully, Woody Allen Fatigue has now settled in. Every major newspaper in the country has run op-eds on this horrible situation, some by family members themselves. This publication has published four: one demanding that we “stand up for Dylan Farrow,” one likening the pursuit of Allen to a “lynch mob,” and two professing ambivalence about the case.

News cycles being what they are, this one is probably drawing to a close, barring any new revelations or investigations by the authorities. But before it does, let’s not forget to look in the mirror. The image isn’t pretty.

First, as a queer activist, I found it deeply disturbing how many pundits elided the distinction between a somewhat creepy, consensual relationship between two adults (i.e. Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn) and child molestation. Indeed, even when the relationship wasn’t mentioned explicitly, it seemed to hover in the background.

Woody Allen’s a letch. He likes young girls. What do you expect?

While this attitude may seem reasonable at first, upon close reflection it is outrageous. There are plenty of relationships that plenty of people find creepy — mine and my partner’s included.

Yet creepy is not the same as criminal. Nor is “liking young girls” (and I’ll include Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan and Soon-Yi Previn in real life in that category) the same as pedophilia. The former is a predilection, the latter a pathology. The former can be expressed consensually and morally, the latter cannot. The former may be victimless, the latter scars victims for life.

In this case, there has never been any evidence — or even accusation — that this relationship began when Previn was a minor. And, as Allen’s defenders have pointed out, the two lived in different homes, and Previn’s father (and father-figure) was Andre Previn not Woody Allen. Again, we may be creeped out by the whole thing, and that’s fine, but an age-discordant relationship is a completely different matter from an accusation of child molestation.

For this reason, admitting the Allen-Previn relationship into ‘evidence’ is no different from accusing gay men of pedophilia, a slander that LGBT people have had to endure for decades. It is irresponsible and shameful.

Second, the media’s rush to philosophize and politicize the case is likewise deeply problematic. Whether one believed Dylan Farrow quickly became a referendum on whether one opposes rape culture.


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