We don’t yet know what actually happened in the $3,000-a-night hotel suite in which the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is alleged to have sexually assaulted a hotel maid in what’s described as a frenzied, bestial attack . So far we’ve learned that the maid, an African immigrant and mother of a teenager daughter, has a spotless employment record and that her neighbors report she is a quiet, pleasant woman. We also learn that Strauss-Kahn has a reputation as an obsessive womanizer, and is accused of various attempted assaults and abuse. There is the young, French journalist who several years ago came to interview him and ended up almost getting raped . A French member of parliament, Aurelie Filipetti, a Socialist like Strauss-Kahn, has now come forward to say he groped her. The IMF also reprimanded Strauss-Kahn for an affair with a staffer. Interestingly, a report about the affair, which found he made an error in judgment but did not abuse his power, merited a dissent from his paramour. What she described was a campaign of harassment and pressure by her boss to have sex with him, and she wrote he was “a man with a problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command.” Some of Strauss-Kahn’s defenders say that he is a lover of women, not a rapist, but there’s no reason he can’t be both. Sure, he gets off on seduction. But if the accounts of his more brutal techniques are true, he also has a sociopathic urge to see women submit to him in abject terror.
Given the gravity of the charges, there is something off in the defenses mounted by those speaking out on behalf of Strauss-Kahn. The New York Times reports that the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, at an IMF meeting, defended his “good friend” and said, “I didn’t like the pictures I saw on the TV this morning. It was deeply sad and traumatic. But Mr. Strauss-Kahn is in the hands of the American justice.” We know Europeans believe American justice puts people on death row for parking infractions. But there was no report of Mr. Juncker expressing regard for the trauma of the victim; it’s just so American to arrest important men with important business for trying to rape peons. A biographer of Strauss-Kahn says he doesn’t believe the charges. He thinks Strauss-Kahn is the one who’s the victim of women because he’s seen political groupies try to get his attention. No doubt there are women who want to be seduced by the great seducer, but that doesn’t mean that the great seducer doesn’t enjoy a spot of coercion now and again. And then there is Bernard-Henri Levy, the French intellectual, chest hair standing on end in outrage, coming to Strauss-Kahn’s defense. He essentially says Strauss-Kahn’s accusers are liars. But what if the evidence is overwhelming that their description of “this monster”is true? Well, perhaps the sophisticated European view is that women should be honored to be attacked by one so eminent.