Point of View Columns

Sex In The City – Sex In The Country

Sex and sexism are never too far from the surface of public discourse and private discussion. And then there are times when these issues come to the forefront and simply cannot be ignored.

The media has worked itself into an absolute frenzy over the latest developments in the sexual assault case of Dominque Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund. For those of you who have been on the Planet Incommunicado for the past two months, Mr. Strauss-Kahn has been indicted on charges related to his having been accused of sexually assaulting a chamber maid in a $3000 per night suite in the posh Hotel Sofitel Hotel in New York City.

Rape and sexual assault cases are never genteel or pleasant. The charges in this case more unpleasant than the unfortunate norm. Mr. Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting a domestic worker while he was nude in his suite. Torn clothing, coerced sexual acts and physical injuries consistent with a sexual attack led to DSK, as he is now known globally, being pulled out of a first class Air France cabin and arrested just before his departure for Paris.

Now the Manhattan District Attorney has issued information regarding facts that presumably cast doubts on the credibility of the accuser in this case. It now appears that the accuser may have misrepresented facts on her visa application in coming from her native Guinea to the United States, including fabricating a tale of having been gang-raped (turns out that she may have only been raped by an individual). There is also information about lying on tax returns and sources of income other than her salary at the Hotel Sofitel.

Somehow we are being led to the conclusion that, if a woman lies about a visa application or a financial statement that she cannot be a credible rape victim. If only blameless individuals could be credible crime victims the prisons would be virtually empty.

While the credibility of any witness is important in a criminal (or civil) matter, it would seem that the alleged female victim of a sexual assault has to have a pristine reputation and be possessed of a cloak of eternal virtue in order to be believed.

That the accused DSK is nicknamed “The Great Seducer” is somehow of little or no import given that his accuser may have misrepresented facts on her tax returns. Charges of unwanted sexual advances have followed The Great Seducer around for years seem to evaporate in the heated glare of inquiry over false statements on a visa application.

It would seem that in the delicate balance of “he said, she said”, “she” almost has to walk on water in order to be believed. And, at least in L’Affaire DSK, “he” can track the mud of sordid behavior through the courtroom and into the light of freedom without a care in the world.

And this is not the first case where a female that is the victim of an alleged sexual assault may not be believed – not because her version of the events is not credible, but because her “overall credibility” or “reputation” denies her the right to be able to accuse a man of sexual misdeeds. And this is unfair. And this is wrong.

Meanwhile, there are advocates of women in politics who, while not supporting Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, are complaining that they are receiving unfair treatment as they stalk and stomp their way through the political countryside. While it is certainly true that women are treated unfairly in many situations, it is hard to understand how Congresswoman Bachmann and former Governor Palin fall into the category of the aggrieved.

If anything, they both seem to be getting deferential treatment, perhaps in part because they are women. Consider – if a male candidate for national office could not name a single book, magazine or newspaper that they read on a regular basis they would justifiably be greeted with eternal hoots and catcalls. Sarah Palin revels in her ignorance and deflects any criticism of her limited intellectual capabilities as the fault of the “lame stream media”.

Michelle Bachmann has loudly proclaimed that God “told her” to run for President of the United States. Really? Can we really imagine Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty being credible presidential candidates if either of them stated that they had a mandate from God to run for president? But Michelle Bachmann and her rapture roll on as if she is some latter day Joan of Arc, conversing with God in the morning, and giving us the Word in the afternoon.

Perhaps they really are getting deferential treatment after all.