You, like me, have probably been reading a lot of news this week about the managing director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested for sexually assaulting a hotel maid. It's a huge story, and one that's precipitated a number of interesting discussions on wealth, class, rape, French people, and a whole host of other mysteries. One of the things that seems to keep popping up, however, and one that's been bugging me, is the overwhelming number of people comparing infidelity and rape.
The New York Times, like a lot of other publications (especially when they're dealing with a breaking story), re-runs some of the 'background' paragraphs in articles about the same topic. I noticed, because I've come across this paragraph like eight times.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn's extramarital affairs have long been considered an open secret. But the legal charges against him — which include attempted rape, forced oral sex and an effort to sequester another person against her will — are of an entirely different magnitude, even in France and elsewhere in continental Europe where voters have generally shown more lenience than Americans toward the sexual behavior of prominent politicians.
While saying nothing explicitly, this paragraph has the same weird implication that I've seen in a bunch of other places. French people are chill about infidelity. We impeached Bill Clinton; they would have given him a rugged slap on the back. That's cool, and I agree. It also has nothing to do with rape.
The fact that this dude went to prostitutes and cheated on his wife proves nothing except that he's an ordinary man with a functioning libido. More than half of people admit to cheating on their partners at some point, and lots of people pay for sex. That might not make them stellar boyfriends, but it also doesn't make them criminals. Saying violent rape is of a "different magnitude" makes it sound like one's six and one's an eight on some weird French Richter scale of sex.
Not cool. They are fundamentally different acts, with radically different motivation and consequences. Everyone who's ever happily toyed with non-monogamy should be pissed off.