Photo via International Monetary Fund
This has been a busy week for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and not in a good way.
On Monday, he was put under preliminary investigation (basically the same as being charged) for “aggravated pimping in an organized gang.” DSK never made money off of prostitutes, as the word pimp would suggest, but he did attend “libertine soirees” where he enjoyed their company. These soirees were paid for by two businessmen who were friends of DSK, allegedly out of company funds. The big dispute in this case is just how involved DSK was with planning and organizing these parties, and how much he knew about their financing. He says he didn’t even know that any of the women were prostitutes, but investigators theorize that he was involved enough to be considered part of the conspiracy. The good news is that he was not (knock on wood) charged with receiving embezzled funds.
His lawyer, Richard Malka, criticized the decision, saying:
“No one could understand the application of the notion of pimping in his situation…On the basis of his behavior alone, which should concern only himself and those close to him, Monsieur Strauss-Kahn finds himself here in large part due to his renown, thrown on the pyre. Colossal police and judicial means were deployed to crack and dissect his private life to an infinite degree, with the only goal being to invent and then castigate what can be considered a crime of lust.”
Another lawyer for DSK, Henri Leclerc, added:
“Certainly Dominique Strauss-Kahn has attended a certain number of parties with women, libertine parties with female friends and women who were friends of his friends…They are trying to ban a sort of crime of lust. He’s being attacked over his libertine behaviour.”
And Club DSK, a (semi-official?) group of Strauss-Kahn supporters, made a great point in their press release:
“We are worried about the dangerous drift for public liberty of the unbelievable decision to want at any cost to inculpate a man on the sole grounds of having practiced free trade without asking for prior authorization from a judge. Since there is no shadow of a criminal infraction in the behavior of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a private soiree between free and consenting adults, one can be astonished at the willingness of the judge to want to institute a police of morals and to advocate a return of the moral order which constitutes a dangerous slide in the protection of public liberties for each citizen! Liberties of morals and religion constitute one of the pillars of our secular and republican society.“
Yesterday, DSK was supposed to give a speech at the European Parliament in Belgium, but he was forced to cancel it. At first I thought he had caved in to lawmakers who demanded that he be barred from speaking. But it turns out that he actually couldn’t go, as under his bail conditions, he is not allowed to leave France. I suspect DSK knew significantly in advance that the decision about whether to charge him was going to be announced Monday, and he probably had an inkling of what the decision was going to be.
Today, a motion hearing took place in DSK’s civil case in New York. As you may remember, hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo accused him of sexual assault last May, but the criminal case was dismissed because she lied numerous times and there wasn’t enough evidence. She is now suing him for damages. His legal team argued today that the case should be thrown out because, as the director of the International Monetary Fund at the time, he has diplomatic immunity. Unfortunately for him, according to news reports, the judge sounded skeptical of this argument, but he did not make a ruling yet. DSK’s lawyer, William Taylor, said that he was “in good spirits.” I hope that’s true, as he still has a long legal road ahead of him, and I hope he can emerge from it with some sort of vindication.
While his two legal cases wind through the courts, the media is being as merciless as ever to Strauss-Kahn. Le Monde released a transcript of DSK’s interrogation in the prostitution case last month, which purportedly show his “disrespect” for women. The transcripts also show that he and his legal team have a consistent defense to the charges, but the media, naturally, doesn’t devote too many lines to that. He is filing a complaint against Le Monde for selectively quoting him.
Also on the topic of media, a special mention must go to Beatrice Legrain and Dominique Alderweireld, the reputed bosses of a prostitution ring that DSK is accused of patronizing. They recently gave one of the trashiest interviews I have ever seen or read (which I am not going to dignify by linking to it) in which they disparaged DSK and shared intimate details of his sex life. Shame on them for gratuitously insulting and invading the privacy of a man whose reputation is already in tatters.
My take on DSK’s latest legal developments:
First of all, the laws about prostitution in France are confusing and conflicted. Prostitution itself is legal, as is being a customer, but soliciting, directing prostitutes in an organized enterprise, and making money off of prostitutes are all illegal. It seems that by banning so many prostitution-related activities, the legal system is trying to get rid of prostitution, but without criminalizing it per se. Personally, I support legalizing all of these activities, as long as they are consensual, but in any case, the laws as they are now seem to be too unclear, to have too many gray areas, and to make it too difficult to tell whether a given action is legal or not. It certainly seems to be a stretch to call DSK a “pimp” when he was nothing more than a client, and possibly an unknowing one at that.
Ultimately, it seems that DSK is being persecuted for his sexuality by the media, by protesters at Cambridge University and the European Parliament who have tried to use intimidation to prevent him from speaking, by former allies who turned their backs, and by the legal systems of both the United States and France. There is no evidence that DSK sexually coerced anyone into doing anything they did not want to do – the New York case was (correctly) thrown out, and a separate case in France was thrown out due to the statute of limitations (although as I explained in an earlier post, there was really no evidence in that case either). He hasn’t been charged with corruption or embezzlement. So all that he has done is engaged in various consensual sexual encounters (some possibly paid, some not) with various women. And because of that, the majority of people seem to consider him unfit for any type of political, economic, or public speaking career.
That is un-libertarian. As long as no acts of aggression are committed, a person’s private sexual life is not anyone’s business. It’s wrong to discriminate against gay people for their sexual orientation, so why is it considered any better to discriminate against a person who chooses a libertine lifestyle instead of being monogamous? DSK’s critics are also anti-feminist. Those who condemn the practice of “slut-shaming” are often the very same people who actively condemn DSK for being…well…a slut. (Or whatever the male equivalent of that is.) Feminism is about equal treatment of men and women, and this double standard is the opposite of feminism. If you want to help the cause of women’s rights, it would make a lot more sense to actually advocate against sexist policies than to bully men whose sexual behavior you happen to disapprove of.
It saddens me that, if his legal woes had ended with the New York criminal case, DSK’s story could have been the perfect victory for defendants’ rights, and the perfect example of a wrongful conviction in the court of public opinion. But alas, his trials and tribulations go on. Good luck, DSK; I have a feeling you’re going to need it.