The Libertine Defense

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

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.