Independent on Sunday, 4 December 2011
It could happen to anyone, surely? You walk naked from the bathroom of your hotel suite and encounter a cleaner, who gives your genitals a seductive look. In a moment, and without a word being spoken, the two of you are at it like rabbits. The whole thing’s over in six minutes and you put on your clothes, ready to enjoy an agreeable lunch on your way to the airport. Then you board your plane, first-class of course, heading for Paris and Berlin where you have important meetings.
If this sounds like a fantasy from a 1970s lads’ mag, you may be surprised to learn it’s what’s supposed to have happened to the former director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in a New York hotel. In real life, DSK’s pleasant day in Manhattan – shower, blow-job, lunch – was rudely terminated by the arrival of the NYPD, who removed him from his plane seat on suspicion of attempted rape.
Yet it was all an unfortunate misunderstanding, according to Michel Taubmann, DSK’s biographer, whose book on the furore has just been published. The politician’s friends might think the last thing he needs is more publicity; it’s only a couple of months since French prosecutors decided there was evidence that DSK committed a sexual assault on a journalist in 2003, and declined to proceed only because it fell outside the three-year statutory limit. But Taubmann says he talked to DSK half a dozen times, and he offers a version of events that prompted a pithy headline in New York magazine: “Ladies Look at DSK and Instantly Want to Do Sex, Says DSK Biography”.
The book repeats the claim that DSK was the victim of an international conspiracy to prevent him becoming the Socialist party’s residential candidate, a theory that has also been given space in the New York Review of Books. But the most startling passage in Taubmann’s book refers to the moment when DSK emerged naked from the shower to find Nafissatou Diallo in his suite and is said to have concluded, although he didn’t speak to her, that she wanted to have sex with him: “The flesh is weak. Dominique Strauss-Kahn saw a proposition. The situation amuses him. Rarely in his life has he refused a moment of pleasure. He does not resist the temptation to receive oral sex. The act is fast, very fast.”
Ms Diallo’s lawyers dismiss the notion that she consented to DSK’s “violent and abusive sexual acts”, along with Taubmann’s claim that she stole his BlackBerry. Elsewhere, Taubmann discusses DSK’s alleged involvement in what’s become known as the Carlton affair, a French plice investigation into claims that a prostitution ring existed at the luxury Carlton Hotel in Lille. Taubmann says DSK admits to having enjoyed “libertine gatherings” but denies paying “even one cent” for sex, fleshing out his portrait of a man who is irresistibly attractive to women.
That isn’t the picture that’s emerged since DSK’s arrest. Though charges in New York were dropped, the politician looks more and more like a figure from a previous age. Feminism and gender equality have passed him by, leaving a man who behaves more like an 18th-century rake than a progressive politician.
Two days ago, DSK started to distance himself from Taubmann’s book, but his insight comes a little late. In the modern world, there isn’t much sympathy for men who appear to attribute such improbable pulling power to the penis.
A woman’s place is off the pitch, is it?
The insidious bit excuses the ‘experts’ and places the blame firmly on the public
The Independent, Thursday 1 December 2011
Imagine the scene at the BBC. There they are, busily collecting nominations from sports editors for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, when someone notices that most of the names belong to men. I mean, how on earth did that happen? Especially after they went out of their way to create a “level playing field” – I think that’s the requisite cliché – by seeking nominations from such admirably gender-neutral publications as Nuts and Zoo. Sick as parrots all round!
As I’m sure you know by now, this year’s 10-man shortlist is exactly that: no Rebecca Adlington, no Jessica Ennis and no Jill Scott (plays football for England, in case you didn’t know). And someone said, as someone was bound to do, that “you shouldn’t include a woman just for the sake of it”, as though there are so few women involved in sport at the top level that they couldn’t possibly get on the shortlist on merit.
The thing about most lists, whether they are of sports stars, chefs or public intellectuals, is that they’re more likely than not to display a (mostly) unconscious male bias. What comes next is a series of rationalisations as the people responsible try to argue themselves out of a hole, claiming that it’s not their fault – they just canvassed “expert”
opinion – and that, anyway, women simply haven’t got to the same level as men.
This is usually “bollocks”, to use a technical term, but it chimes with the prejudices that excluded half the population in the first place. For all the sour claims that women run
everything these days – enough to get you a documentary slot on TV if not a mini-series on Radio 4 – it’s still the case in most professions that men confer authority on other men. It’s not so much a matter of disliking women (though some do) as the simple fact of not seeing us in the same way. Andy Murray is always more likely to get on a list of top sports people than Rebecca Adlington.
Now we come to the really insidious bit, which ecuses the professional commentators and places the blame firmly on the ublic. Sorry, guv, the argument runs, but your verage viewer isn’t interested i women’s sport, and it won’t get anything like the same coverage unless and util that changes. Of course, this sidesteps the question of who makes the
decisions that shape public taste in the first place; it’s pretty obvious that people can’t watch sports that aren’t shown on television, no matter how interesting they might find them.
This year’s Sports Personality of the Year shortlist includes three golfers. If it was up to the lads at Zoo, it would also feature a snooker player. That’s all you need to know about the assumptions of the people who helped compile it, and I have a timely piece of
advice for the BBC. Next year, ask Vogue.