Just like that, most of America can move on from any concern about the very existence of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The former head of the International Monetary Fund is a free man, proclaiming his innocence. But what about our innocence? It still seems to be missing.
In May, the once-potential French presidential candidate was accused of sexually assaulting a luxury-hotel maid, and arrested in New York -- dramatically taken from his Air France plane at JFK airport. The case would unravel for prosecutors, as his accuser was caught making false statements; it ended up being dismissed.
The New York Times described it thus: "All we know for sure is that they had a sexual moment. The physical evidence confirms that. But whether the encounter was forced or consensual, or something else entirely, remains a mystery."
Perhaps what little we now seem to know about the incident is best captured by Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute: "It's odd how fickle public opinion and media templates are: It seems that now that the highly desirable topos of 'Third World female of color being abused by white male European' has been discarded, DSK is portraying himself without any noticeable dissent as a vindicated innocent, as opposed to a squalid adulterer. That latter fact is just pushed out of sight, including, it would seem, by his beaming wife."
It's hard to make a cut-and-dried women's rights issue of this case because of the credibility issues of the accuser. Though the sisterhood did have some words to say. "This miscarriage of justice exhibits all the hallmarks of a society that tolerates sexual violence by blaming and shaming the survivors -- but the real shame belongs with the perpetrators and the prosecutors who allow them to walk off scot-free," National Organization of Women president Terry O'Neill said.
It's actually not at all clear where the blame lies. And will NOW take some responsibility for contributing to a culture in which men and women are always adversarial rather than complementary? Where sex is the ultimate expression of independence and power, rather than a beautiful, intimate, life-giving act of love and mutual respect and human dignity?
Whatever happened in that hotel room, it was not the latter.
The lesson of the story, according to Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, is: "You can engage in inappropriate behavior, perhaps. But that is much different than a crime."
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