Political Animal


March 27, 2012 4:49 PM The Libertine Defense

By Ed Kilgore

You may have heard yesterday that former IMF chieftain and French Socialist Party poohbah Dominque Strauss-Kahn has been charged with “aggravated pimping” in connection with his admitted habit of attending “sex parties,” at which, the government argues, prostitutes were in regular attendence.

Strauss-Kahn claims he didn’t know prostitutes were at these parties, insofar as nobody was much wearing clothes and everyone was, you know, having sex. But the interesting thing is Strauss-Kahn’s more fundamental argument, as explained by his attorney in a BBC report:

“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.
“You can say what you like about that on the moral level, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not against the criminal law. They are trying to ban a sort of crime of lust. He’s being attacked over his libertine behaviour.”

My first reaction was to think that the French really do have different ways of looking at things. If Strauss-Kahn were an American pol, he would have already checked himself into Dr. Drew’s clinic as a “sex addict” in need of treatment and sympathy.

And indeed, some republishings of the BBC story I quoted from above have in the headline: “I Am A Sex Addict.” But there’s no use of the term by Strauss-Kahn or his attorney in the body of the story—just the “libertine defense.”

Perhaps the “sex addiction” defense is being held in reserve in case Strauss-Kahn needs it if he’s ever allowed in the U.S. again. As you may recall, he has not kept his “libertine lifestyle” to his side of the Atlantic—or necessarily to consenting partners. Criminal charges involving his alleged sexual assault against hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo may have been dropped in New York because of questions about her credibility, but now she’s exploring a civil suit.

Clearly the guy needs to keep his hands to himself.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • kindness on March 27, 2012 5:16 PM:

    I'm not so sure going to swing parties classifies one as a sex addict.

  • schtick on March 27, 2012 5:19 PM:

    If he were a member of the American Taliban, all he would have to say is he found Jesus and all would be forgiven.

    crapcha....This sinend....doubt it ever will

  • Peter C on March 27, 2012 5:21 PM:


    This seems to me to fall in the 'none of my business' category.

  • mellowjohn on March 27, 2012 5:22 PM:

    "If Strauss-Kahn were an American pol, he would have already checked himself into Dr. Drew’s clinic as a 'sex addict' in need of treatment and sympathy."

    unless, of course, he was a senator from louisiana. then he'd run for re-election.

  • Ron Byers on March 27, 2012 5:23 PM:

    "Clearly the guy needs to keep his hands to himself."

    Now that is funny, right there. :)

  • cthulhu on March 27, 2012 5:31 PM:

    @kindness: Yeah there's definitely a thriving swingers sub-culture in the US like Europe. I guess the main difference is that US pols and celebrities generally stay away from such things. Now that I think about it though, we perhaps have Obama today because at least one pol couldn't stay away.

  • matt on March 27, 2012 6:19 PM:

    I'll be honest, its kind of refreshing for someone to say "go to hell, puritan". Its not behavior I would engage in, but at the same time, he is right on a given level. If its not illegal (surely not certain if prostitutes were involved) then he can choose to engage or not, weighing the social risks himself. We see this at play with Trayvon Martin as well. Trying to tarnish his reputation, and then convict him due to a bad reputation, rather than facts.

  • bdop4 on March 27, 2012 7:04 PM:

    "the French really do have different ways of looking at things. If Strauss-Kahn were an American pol, he would have already checked himself into Dr. Drew’s clinic as a “sex addict” in need of treatment and sympathy."

    That's because we're a nation founded by puritanical fanatics and our politics is still governed by their twisted standards. If an elected official delivers as promised in governance, what he does consensually in his private life is no concern of mine.

  • rrk1 on March 27, 2012 8:18 PM:

    Fortunately, the French do see things differently. They are adults when it comes to sex, not perpetual juveniles, unlike Americans.

  • Colin Day on March 27, 2012 8:32 PM:

    Clearly the guy needs to keep his hands to himself.

    It's not his hands that are the problem.

  • boatboy_srq on March 28, 2012 9:11 AM:

    In Europe, greed is suspicious, but sex is normal and natural.

    In the US, greed is a sign of virtue, but sex is scandalous and immoral (unless specifically for procreation, and then only with one's spouse).

    It's no wonder the reichwing is suspcious of Europe if all their moral foundations are called into question by a successful society.

    @Peter C: perhaps, but only if EVERYONE at those parties were willing, happy participants; the moment even ONE partner says no, everything changes. And in case you forgot, according to Tealiban and fundievangelists, it may not be any of YOUR business, but it's plenty of THEIRS - and thus righteously the business of the gubmint: that's the ONE place that government intervention seems not only welcome but necessary in their philosophy. We can never forget that, according to them, all of society will crumble into socialism and anarchy unless they (through the police, healthcare system and neighborhood watch busybodies) can peek into every bedroom and watch over every pregnancy to make sure nobody's sinning.

  • Bob M on March 28, 2012 9:17 AM:

    Ben Franklin didn't keep his hands to himself in France and no one complained. It all depends on how you do it.

  • Rabbler on March 28, 2012 10:37 AM:

    Rumor has it the original Statue of Liberty was a nude.

  • james on March 28, 2012 11:58 AM:

    Well, I think DSK is creepy and partly because of his sexploits. Europeans attitudes may be different, but this man held a position of international responsibility and stature. It shows poor judgement to, ahem, expose himself in this way. As a politician, he had enemies, and to give them this kind of weapon to use against him was foolish.

  • merl on March 28, 2012 12:52 PM:

    What's wrong with it? The rest of the world aren't uptight prudes about sex the way Americans are. We love violence and think sex is icky. The French are the other way around