Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

WEB NEWS

Concerns grow as hobby drone use increases

Read more

WEB NEWS

Buffalo residents share stunning images of the snowstorm

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Senegalese photographer's flashbacks to Africans throughout history

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Hollande photographed with Julie Gayet on Elysée Palace balcony

Read more

REVISITED

Is Beirut still haunted by ghosts of the civil war?

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Band Aid 30 - Hit or Miss? Bob Geldof in Hot Water over Ebola Single

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Deal or No Deal with Iran? Home Stretch to Reach Historic Agreement

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Football scandals: The ugly side of the beautiful game

Read more

#THE 51%

Ending violence against women: The dangers of trial by Twitter

Read more

France

Strauss-Kahn’s sex crime allegations: What’s so funny?

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2011-05-19

Women’s rights campaigners in France are protesting against what they describe as “a torrent of sexist jokes” concerning the accusation that Dominique Strauss-Kahn trapped, sexually assaulted, and tried to rape a hotel maid in New York last weekend.

When the news broke that IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of attempting to rape a chamber maid, the sorry tale didn’t get through the French press without a touch of humour.

Metro: Sexually aroused
The most blatant laugh came from the free daily, Metro, which splashed “La débandade” across its front page. Literally meaning “stampede” or “disarray”, it is also a play on the word “bander”, which means “to be sexually aroused”.
 
But compared with what was about to be unfurled online, that was nothing.  
 
On Twitter, tweets about DSK’s “doomed erection” were endless: “DSK preferred erection to election”, “It’s all gone wrong for DSK’s erection”, “An erection too far”… Even lawyer and influential blogger Maître Eolas tweeted: "DSK still favourite for the presidential erection". 
 
Then came the tongue-in-cheek comparisons to Arnold Schwarzenegger (who admitted to fathering a child with one of his employees Tuesday), a minute of silence for the “death of DSK’s political career”… and eventually, giggles over the fact that the alleged victim may live in housing reserved for HIV-carriers. “Strauss-Kahn is really unlucky – he might have AIDS!” screeched one.
 
A young people’s forum listed a number of videos parodying the scandal, four out of five of which were voted “LOL” (laugh-out-loud) by readers. 
 
A pretend game, entitled “Maid Catcher”, showed a naked Strauss-Kahn edging his way closer to a cartoon character dressed as a French maid in high heels, and an old woman with a duster.
 
A round-up of cheap jokes was also being passed around, among them: “Strauss-Kahn mixed up foreplay (préliminaires) with primaries (primaires). We all make mistakes!”
 
Meanwhile, a popular pun mocking the incident was coined. “J’la force tranquille”, or “I force her effortlessly”, is a play on former president François Mitterand’s 1981 election slogan, La force tranquille (quiet strength). The pun resulted in a Photoshopped version of the original poster and its own Facebook page, which quickly attracted more than 18,000 followers, and an endless stream of jokes about the chamber maid herself attesting to DSK’s “seduction” methods.
 
A laughing matter?
 
French feminists were outraged by the jokes. “We are not talking about a libido problem,” Thalia Breton of the “Osez le féminisme” movement told FRANCE 24. “Whether Strauss-Kahn is guilty or not, we are talking about a serious crime. You cannot joke about that.”
 
With the number of sexual violence victims in France who actually press charges against their aggressors at a measly 10%, Breton argued that they could do without mockery. “The reaction to this affair will send a very dangerous message to victims of sexual violence,” Breton said. “They’re going to think that as soon as they speak out, their ordeal will be put under scrutiny and joked about.
 
“People need to be educated on this issue,” she continued. “They need to realise that sexual violence is not a laughing matter.”
 
French historian Georges Vigarello, author of “A History of Rape: Sexual Violence in France,” described in the book how the French have come to realise, after centuries of misunderstanding, that sexual violence is “the worst crime of all,” which causes “the shattering of identity,” and even “psychic death”.
 
But in terms of justice, the reality is far less impressive. It is estimated that only 2% of rapists are convicted and sentenced in France.
 
As Breton points out, “There is a long way to go when it comes to raising awareness on this issue. The jokes that have arisen from this story only show that violence against women is simply not taken seriously enough.”
 

 

Date created : 2011-05-19

  • JUSTICE

    Plaintiff in Strauss-Kahn case to deny consensual sex claim

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Strauss-Kahn was set up, French say

    Read more

  • JUSTICE

    Hotel maid had 'no idea' who Strauss-Kahn was

    Read more

COMMENT(S)