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Not So Fast on Strauss-Kahn



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Almost everyone who has written about Strauss-Kahn has, quite correctly, used the adjective “allegedly” in relation to the charges against him, which are as yet unproven in a court of law.

But most of that earlier critique — prior to these new, equally unproven allegations about his accuser — was not predicated just on the factual question of whether sexual congress (and I do not think there has been any new evidence on the alleged finding of physical evidence to that fact) had been achieved through force. It had at least as much to do with the sordid spectacle of an IMF grandee and self-avowed socialist engaging in sexual acts with an immigrant maid in a $3,000-a-night New York luxury hotel room, the defendant already tagged with an apparent reputation for past sexual indiscretions.

Whether she proves to be a prostitute with a sordid past and a slick modus operandi, whether the mess hinges on arguments over money, whether Strauss-Kahn is released from all criminal liability due to proof of consent, or an absence of money exchanging hands, whether he is let go, Spitzer-style, with the finding that the end of a career trumps the trouble of filing misdemeanor charges of solicitation — what bothered most observers still remains:

First, we were given a rare glimpse of the otherwise discreet lifestyle of an aristocratic socialist, and we learned that the life he practices in no way approximates the ideology of equality of result that he embraces.

Second, European lectures about power imbalances, the corrupting influence of money and privilege, etc., do not exactly square with quickie sexual acts — even if mutually consensual, or paid for — in a luxury hotel room with a randomly met West African immigrant maid.

Third, we assume that the most powerful men on the planet, whether governors of New York and California, the president of the United States, or the head of the International Monetary Fund, have an obligation not to let their private lives intrude into their public ones, by reckless sexual behavior of the sort that lessens respect for the office and questions their judgement to such a degree that it affects the lives of those they are pledged to serve.

If the preponderance of evidence in the accuser’s past soon undermines her credibility to such an extent that her word cannot be used against Strauss-Kahn, then we will still be left with a controversy. It will simply be a matter, not of legality, but of Strauss-Kahn’s judgement, morality, and hypocrisy — as is usually the case in high-profile sexual scandals.

So, to recap: To prove his innocence, if the forensic evidence of a sex act turns up, Strauss-Kahn will either have to prove that a young maid he just met was quite willing, in ad hoc fashion in a few minutes between work, to have sex with an older, plump foreign stranger; or that he, in fact, paid money as he may have promised. Either way, I don’t see how that justifies the cries of vindication that we hear coming across from the Atlantic. And no need to mention, as feminists quite rightly remind us, that a past of prostitution, or sexual indiscretion, or some such skullduggery, does not ipsis factis, prove that in a moment of passion, sexual force was not used. 

So as these rumors continue to surface and are spun, we still await to learn whether DSK is guilty of a criminal act, or merely remains a fool and a hypocrite.



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