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Rape is not in the same category as adultery

I have grown increasingly exasperated over the last couple of days, following news pieces like this one, in which it is suggested that because the IMF boss/presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of rape, the French media has committed a faux pas in not reporting on the sex lives of their politicians.

French privacy laws are among the strictest in the world, and the French have long prided themselves on not prying into what politicians get up to in the bedroom - unlike the British and the Americans.

Until now, most French people would have found it distasteful for journalists to report on politicians' extra-marital affairs.

For now, relatively few French commentators have been asking whether that will change in the wake of the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the man nicknamed the Great Seducer.

But the French media have been reporting comment in American and British newspapers on whether Mr Strauss-Kahn's behaviour might have been different if France didn't have a convention that politicians' sex lives are off-limits.

It seems thoroughly absurd to me. I have no opinion on the guilt question, but I find it absurd to put reporting on extra-marital affairs in the same box as rape. One is a serious crime; the other, while bad behaviour, isn't. One is a public matter which should lead to prosecution and reporting; the other is for his wife and her lawyers to deal with. Now, sexual harassment of and assault on female journalists (which I have seen reports about) are relevant; and if some misguided sense of privacy is keeping that under taps, then that is a problem. But that is again in the public category, surely; it should not be compared to Mitterand having a child with his mistress.

I am sure the reporting on this must be seen in the context of the current debate over privacy laws and superinjunctions in Britain, but someone seems to have mis-stepped quite badly.

Or I have completely misunderstood something. If so, feel free to enlighten me.
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Tor,  20.05.11 21:01

Rape is no more a private matter than murder or other serious crimes, while adultery is about broken promises to another person, and is not really a public matter*. However I'm not sure I agree with
a public matter which should lead to prosecution and reporting

In general, I feel the reporting should wait until after a person has been found guilty. Of course, in the case of the head of the IMF, people will probably notice that he is away from work, and it might be said to be in the public's interest to know why, so it's not quite as simple.

*Except possibly in cases of conservative congressmen being against gay marriage on grounds of "protecting the sanctity of marriage" or similar, and at the same time conducting one or more extramarital affairs.


Camilla,  20.05.11 21:05

There are cases where it would be in the public interest, as you say. But this, or the sexual escapades of French politicians in general, is not one of them.

And, like you, I am torn on the publication issue. The French seems to have laws similar to Norway's on this, and I tend to approve of them. It would of course be in the public interest if this dragged on into the election (it would be very bad for France if they were not aware that the guy they were voting for was on trial for rape).

But my point was that setting rape alongside adultery just will not do.