The Pedophilia Accusations Against Gore Vidal Remind Me That Anyone Can Be A Predator


Gore Vidal

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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.

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  • Emil

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this.

  • Cliff

    It sucks when an artist you admire turns out to be a bastard. It can be hard to separate the artist from the work. I loved Polanski’s films. When I became aware of the scandal I was confused. How could a pedophile rapist be a genius filmmaker? Well… The answer is of course he was both. As you say, these people are humans, just as capable of genius and sadism as anyone. I still find it hard to accept that I could know (perhaps even love and admire) someone who does terrible things behind closed doors. I think we can still admire his work. But in our own social circles we cant allow ourselves to be blinded by genius or to accept from an intelligent, talented person what would be an atrocity by anyone else. Genius is not synonymous with empathy or morality.

  • keelhaulrose

    When I was 20 I found out my former swim coach, and my sister’s current coach, was photographing girls in the locker room and sharing them. He seemed like a great guy, someone you would listen to, someone you’d go to if you had something weighing on your mind because he would honor your privacy. I’m now dreading putting my daughters in sports, because I know they eventually lead to a locker room. My 5 year old wants to start swimming. The team uses the same locker room I did in the winter. I’m so hesitant, but I know I’m going to have to get over it because it’s irrational.
    My husband was molested by a family member when he was young, and he’s still feeling with it, and the fact that no one took him seriously. These predators never think about their victims, as much as they claim to love them. They are the definition of heartless.

    • Frances Locke

      I’m sorry about the whole swim coach situation and also for your husband’s troubles, it can be really hard to get past. I hope the swim coach was punished properly at least, it sounds like he was caught.

    • keelhaulrose

      Caught, probation, lives less than a mile from me, and close to my daughter’s school.

    • Frances Locke

      Jeez. It always shocks me how little time these people get. Well, not shocking exactly. But disgusting.

    • Janok Place

      I was abused for 7 years, daily. I spent a year pleading with the police station to get a warrant for a phone tap and played the “Seven steps of forgiveness” and said I had found God and was looking for clarity so I could properly apologize for my sins. They had 4 recorded conversations and a confession. It took a year for the hearing. It took 6 months for sentencing. His employer held his job for him, he got a room in an institution and stayed their for 12 months, the last six months of which were entirely voluntary. I’m unwelcome in my home town because of the community. That’s just the way it is, my story isn’t special. Atleast I had a conviction, many don’t even get the satisfaction of that.

    • Pappy

      Sad but true. My friend was raped by her step-grandfather at 13. She has never gotten justice and her family will never admit it happened. She still has grandma phoning to ask her if she’s gotten over her “little problem” (with lying) yet. Nothing makes me more ragey than that BS.

    • Pappy

      I know one family in which the dad was found to have molested more than a dozen children. He got 18 months. When he got out and went to see his children (who he had also victimized) after being told repeatedly to stay away, his brother-in-law snapped and shot him in the head on the front driveway. He literally pulled up, stepped out of the truck, and BIL walked out the front door and shot him. BIL got 5 years.

      Now, I don’t think for a second that murder is a good way to deal with any problem but I think anyone can see how uneven that sentencing is. Destroy the lives of 12+ children and your family? Slap on the wrist. Shoot the guy who did it? F**k you, buddy, five years. I lost all faith in the so-called justice system after seeing that play out.

  • Innocent until proven, right?

    I think, until the full story is made public, that we should also remember than anyone can also be falsely accused of being a pedophile.

    • Frances Locke

      This is exactly why I made sure to mention that many of his friends say it’s untrue, and we won’t know the full truth unless someone can prove it. My point was more to point out that anyone can be a predator, and if this is true then it’s a good example of that.

      I do think it’s pretty telling that his own sister, with whom he was close to, if you can trust the many sources I’ve found online, would say these things.

    • Alex

      It’s also telling that his own sister is ALSO involved in a bitter estate battle on behalf of her son (Vidal’s nephew) for his assets and fortune, being written out of the will and all.

      If we believe that (ex) family will say and do anything in a custody dispute, why can we not believe that family will say and do anything in a dispute over property worth millions?

  • Madame Ovaries

    This is horrible to hear. I too am a huge Vidal fan; in fact just last summer when my son was a newborn, I used many of his nap times to reread Burr instead of sleeping like I should have been. On one hand, it is easy to accuse a dead guy of something so grotesque and Vidal isn’t here to defend himself. On the other hand, like you say, anyone can be a monster secretly.

  • etbmm

    Don’t know Gore Vidal (I mean, I recognize his name, but that’s about it…) but I 100% second what you have to say about CSA. I’m impressed and inspired by your willingness to speak so frankly and openly about your own experiences.

  • Janok Place

    In a family where women have gone through childhood sexual abuse for generations, I know how terrifying it can be for a mother. People who aren’t familiar seem to think their judgement is enough to protect their children, that you are inherently aware of these issues and you will know. I know my mother is a strong woman, she’s smart and sensible. She loves me to pieces, I’m her only child and she would have protected me with her life. She couldn’t see it, she loved her husband. I was too young to have any ideas about what I should do, I never thought anyone would believe me. Once I did I put the sorry SOB in jail, and she supported me… but many didn’t. It leaves me clutching my pearls for our baby girl. I love my husband, I think he’s a wonderful man, I trust him implicitly. However when I look at my mother, and my grandmother, and then look at myself I see women much stronger, much more intuitive, and more protective and serious about life then I could ever hope to be. What makes my judgement any more sound? I’ve learned this. Let nothing, no relationship be so concrete that you close your eyes. Don’t only teach your kids that abuse can happen, they HAVE to know it can happen from ANYONE, be SPECIFIC, they have to know you will BELIEVE them and they have to understand that it is never, ever, ever their fault. They need to feel, to their very core that you will protect them.

  • Rachel Sea

    It’s almost never the people you expect it to be. Jeffrey Dahmer was “that nice young man” except to his victims.

  • AE Vorro

    I’d like to know what his family’s motivation for suddenly coming forward about this is — I am not saying that they’re wrong or liars, I just always feel suspicious when allegations come forward after someone dies and loses the ability to come to their own defense, especially when no actual victims came forward during his lifetime as a writer and personality of note.

    Also, Gore is of the WWII generation and is a homosexual. It was long the case (and still is to some degree) that gay young men who are not yet legal often have to resort to sleeping with older men in order to have *any* sexual conduct. This is often still the case; young men who come out before the age of 18 are highly unlikely to know another gay teen their age, much less one they’re actually interested in. (Dan Savage talks about this all the time.)

    I am in no way justifying adults who engage in sexual conduct with underage children (I work on these issues in a professional capacity), but it is a complicating reality that must be acknowledged.

    And would someone, anyone, please explain to everyone on this blog, especially all the people who provide the content, that a pedophile is someone attracted to prepubescents children and specifically ONLY prepubescents. So, the allegations that Gore maybe, kinda had sexual contact with someone under the legal age doesn’t necessarily mean he’s pedophile — we need more information and we just don’t have it.

    Also… stop hating on Gore. You don’t know that he did anything wrong. He’s not comparable with Sandusky, given that we have zero facts here… just rumor. (Not to mention… W.F. Buckley is not a trusted source on Gore. At all.)