Beyond Seduction: Lessons Learned about Rape, Politics, and Power from Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Moshe Katsav
67 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2013 Last revised: 22 Oct 2018
Date Written: April 8, 2013
In the last decade, two influential international political figures, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, and Moshe Katsav, former President of Israel, were accused of engaging in extreme and ongoing patterns of sexual violence. The collection of formal charges against the two men included rape, forcible indecent assault, sexual harassment, and obstruction of justice. The respective narratives surrounding the allegations against Katsav and Strauss-Kahn have their own individual characteristics, and each of the cases unfolded in diverging ways. Yet, the actions of these two men taken together, and the corresponding response of the legal systems in France, Israel, and the United States, offer an opportunity to evaluate contemporary issues of rape and power from a comparative perspective. This Article begins by telling the stories of how Strauss-Kahn and Katsav engaged in systematic patterns of sexual violence. It provides important background and context against which the two men are evaluated, offering a comparative analysis of the laws under which they faced accusations, formal charges, and in some instances, convictions. It is difficult to understand the ways in which the legal system and even the media responded to these allegations of sexual violence. This Article considers the victimization of women by the politically powerful by utilizing a framework created originally by Norwegian sociologist Nils Christie that identifies a set of characteristics describing the “ideal victim.” It next examines some of the legal issues impacted by stereotypes of “ideal” victims that conflict with the reality of “real” victims, making recommendations for expanding Christie’s framework to include an equally comprehensive evaluation of perpetrators and more importantly, the power differential that exists between victim and perpetrator. Midway through this Article, I explore the connection between sexuality, seduction, and sexual violence, and argue for a disentangling of these constructs. Finally, this article concludes by considering how the allegations against these powerful international political figures might advance the conversation on the intersection of sexual violence and power.
Keywords: women, sexual violence, power, politics, rape, sexual harassment, Anita Hill, power
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