Gore Vidal has long been one of my personal heroes. He was everything I wanted to be as an angsty, wannabe teen writer; witty, intelligent, deep thinking. Which makes the recent news that he had perhaps raped young boys even harder for me to process, especially as a survivor was child molestation myself. While long before this my feelings about Vidal had evolved from awe to something closer to disgust, hearing that he might not just a rape apologist, but also a pedohile is still shocking. And it just goes to show that anyone, even people you respect and adore, could be predators.
Hidden on the second page of a style article on Vidal, in the New York Times, were quotes from his half sister Nina Straight and his nephew Burr Steers, that suggested he might have been sexually involved with underage boys. According to Steers, in a discussion on Vidal’s well-known feud with columnist William F. Buckley, Vidal was “terrified that Mr. Buckley had evidence that Mr. Vidal had sex with underage men.” Nina Straight cut to the chase when talking about her brother’s alleged predilections, saying Vidal performed “Jerry Sandusky acts.”
I can’t say that this is a complete surprise to me. Gore Vidal was no stranger to controversy. Back in 2009 Vidal referred to Roman Polanski‘s rape victim Samantha Geimer as a “young hooker,” which infuriated me at the time. I had already had my doubts about Vidal at that point, but calling a 13-year-old rape survivor a hooker was the final straw when it came to my adoration of the writer.
Now, to be fair, the Times article does make frequent mention of the fact that many of Vidal’s other friends doubted that he was a pedophile. Still, the accusation is damning. Unless someone comes out with proof of these charges, we might never know what really happened. I’m sure there are people who will think there is no way Vidal could do the things he’s being accused of. He was a well-respected author, playwright and screenwriter, to name but a few of his accomplishments. Here’s the thing though; anyone can be a pedophile and a predator. Anyone.
From the ages of seven to 12 I was molested by someone in my family. He was a well-respected professional with publications used as college textbooks and an esteemed career in the military before that. He was someone people inherently trusted. And he was a pedophile. The people who are most likely to hurt kids aren’t the seedy looking random weirdos on the street (though I’m not saying you should hire them to babysit) but people close to them. A teacher, a parent, a grandparent, a pastor. Anyone. And nothing has scared me more as a mother.