Translated from GegenStandpunkt 3-11
Swiss TV weatherman Jörg Kachelmann and French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn in court for rape
Prominent men fuck no-name women
— what does the law say?
This is of great interest to humanity in its role as a spectator of real life. The similarly filed legal cases offer the public truly spectacular images: rich, powerful, popular men in handcuffs and prison cells, female plaintiffs of dubious credibility and, in addition, lots of dirty laundry aired by a press committed to its readers. The affairs offer people today what classic drama once offered: entertainment and moral edification.
Both sexual escapades find an audience of millions — unlike the violent family man in the neighborhood or the pestering come-ons among friends — because they are about celebrities: people who are where others would like to be, far ahead of the crowd, in, say, the international “Who’s Who,” on the main program on evening television, or at the control centers of international politics. The positions they have reached mark them as superior people. They must possess qualities and skills that guarantee the success in work and life that everyone strives for: Jörg Kachelmann, who has turned the weather forecast into a show, displays “a well-versed instinct for what an audience likes to see”; Dominique Strauss-Kahn ranks even higher: he is the elite man par excellence, “a symbol of this country and a product of excellence of elite French education. Highly intelligent, witty, charming, ambitious, smooth, assertive, cultivated, jovial, powerful, wealthy and yet somewhat brutish — what more could you ask for? If the French were allowed to elect their president last Saturday, they would have put their cross next to Strauss-Kahn.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung [SZ], July 1/2, 2011) With each one of these marvelous human traits, he is a role model for the youth and object of envy of the elders who never are able to demonstrate such impressive assertiveness, such riches, such demonstrative superiority combined with effortless appearance, no matter how much they try to imitate him as their status allows: they all want to be successful types in all fields of everyday competition.
Even more interesting than the masterful and glamorous appearances of celebrities are, of course, their missteps. The world looks a little closer at its role models. When they do something that is not really proper, then it has to be decided whether these exceptional people are allowed to do things that are not appropriate for Mr. Average (Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi — as the Latin says: what is permissible for Jove is not permissible for a bull). Or, conversely, whether the role model is abusing the bonus given to him by the world, and therefore is doubly condemned and deserves to be ostracized. A democratic fan base is entitled to make the decision about this in a just manner: free people decide for themselves who they want to adore and imitate. And as strong as their need is to pull themselves up in their imaginary familiarity with the rich and beautiful, just as strong is their need to pull the objects of their worship down to their own level and drag them to face the egalitarian judge’s bench of their moral understanding of human nature. The honored media audience is now sitting on the bench — but what is the verdict?
Apart from the question that even the courts can’t clear up, namely, what exactly happened in the various bedrooms, police investigators and journalistic snoopers bring to light some indisputable facts about the accused: the admired celebs share the opinion of their admirers about themselves, infer their excellence from the office and status they have achieved, and consider themselves to be precisely the surefire, winning, and attractive personalities that the world admires them as. They act with corresponding self-confidence toward subordinates and strangers, assuming that no one will turn down any desire and stand in the way of their demands. Of course, this also applies to the women they cast an eye on. They consider themselves to be irresistible not only as financial gurus [à la Stauss-Kahn] or meteorologists [à la Kachelmann], but simply as men who are entitled to take whoever they please: for the not few women who they indulge in outside of their public work, the interest that such extraordinary persons take in them must be an honor anyway.
To a large extent, the women they come across seem to see things the same way: money and power makes men sexy — and TV celebrity all the more. To bind and commit a real celeb, even if only a little bit, lifts the self-worth and perhaps also the market value of women who aspire to something higher. Such men are the target of their longing, which is unfortunately often disappointed, so that they feel somehow abused in their yearning. So it is no coincidence that “love is a funny thing”: male celebrities make women submissive; and they compete with everything they have to offer to share a little bit in the glamorous lives of their Don Juans. This is what the much-admired conquering and being conquered looks like in the lives of the rich and beautiful, which the less glamorous majority copy to the best of their ability.
This stuff fills the magazines and is psychologically and morally perfectly acceptable until a woman feels that the exchange is no longer worthwhile (or not worthwhile enough), but the irresistible lecher won’t stop. Then the idyll of love turns into a criminal offense. For even the most intimate area of life is regulated by statute. No one considers this to be modern barbarism, let alone a symptom of societal barbarism, but rather the advance of freedom and respect in gender relations; how else would consideration find its way into love if inconsideration were not forbidden? The legal protection of the sexes from each other is, however, a tricky matter: the elements of the offense of rape are not fulfilled if the conqueror only pressures and overcomes a hesitant female resistance with persistence in order to reach his goal; even a woman acting coyly or being overcome with qualms is not enough. What is required is an unmistakable declaration of intent that this contact took place against the will of one of the legal persons involved. Then, and only then, does the enlightened law of our day not see any pleasure. Apart from that, everything is allowed in matters of sex as far as the state is concerned. The law no longer sees any perversion; even violence against a sexual partner in the S&M circus is legally unobjectionable, provided two legally competent wills voluntarily engage with each other. Only when this declaration of intent on the part of legally competent adults does not exist are sex practices considered to be punishable and morally taboo, i.e., rape and pornography or sex with children. Modern law — that is the content of sexual liberation relevant to the state — abstains from morally judging citizens’ sexual preferences and limits supervision to its liberal core. As if it wanted to rehabilitate Kant's brutally unsentimental, always rejected definition of marriage as a “contract for the reciprocal use of the sexual organs,” the law today takes the entire (including non-marital) love life to be an interaction and reciprocal utilization of potentially opposing wills whose freedom is threatened by this contact and needs the state as its guardian.
The state’s protection of the freedom of the individual in the intimate sphere will then, of course, turn out to be disappointing. For in the event of a dispute, the blessing that even the comfy old bed is accessible to the law has to face the curse of the burden of proof: in this area, neither documented declarations of intent nor witnesses are customary. Confronted with little clear evidence and two conflicting statements by the parties involved, the courts are not often in a position to clarify the facts of the matter in accordance with the rules of the criminal procedure code. Thus the possible rapist goes unpunished, but also the possibly malicious slanderer. That is the other side of the allegation of rape, which is difficult to prove, but also difficult to refute: it is well suited for the vendettas of discarded playmates. The image of the treacherous celebrity will be ruined in any case. But an accusation may even serve as an instrument for enrichment and political intrigue.
The inability of the judiciary to ascertain guilt or innocence does not, of course, prevent public morality from speaking its verdict — pluralistically, as it should be. The moral experts with their opposing judgments agree on one thing: they don't care whether the defendants are guilty in the strict sense of the law. They are concerned with higher things — in which the celebrities who the public is so keenly interested in are only of interest as allegorical figures, as personifications of social dos and don’ts. The journalistic educators of the people judge and condemn moral sentiments that they see in action in the cases brought before the courts — regardless of whether they have even taken place.
For the formidable moralist Franz Josef Wagner, writing in the German tabloid Bild, Kachelmann is guilty anyway. Although he may not have raped his ex-lover in the literal sense of the word, what he did is no less serious: he raped the most beautiful sentence in the world.
“‘Doing the Kachelmann’ means promising all women true love so that you can screw them. Those women weren't sluts that let everyone in. They were women who believed in love, in marriage. In children … I don't know how much pain this Don Juan, this seducer, has caused women. I don't know how many women he told: ‘I love you’ … Kachelmann raped this sentence.” (bild.de, May 30, 2011)
The oh-so-respectable Süddeutsche Zeitung, with its more factual tone, makes the identical judgment:
“The judge could not stop himself from speaking plainly about Kachelmann's dealings with women. The court had been able to form ‘a comprehensive picture’ of the defendant's ‘manipulative abilities,’ Seidling said. Claudia D. had every reason to believe in the seriousness of Kachelmann's intentions, while he ‘deliberately wanted to give the impression’ that the woman with whom he had constantly talked about the desire for having children and a home together was only interested in a sexual relationship.” (SZ, June 1/2, 2011)
Judges and journalists know their way around the bourgeois soul. Men who are “interested in a sexual relationship” sometimes do not meet the same interest from the women they are trying to attract; that’s bad luck. But the fact that this is not the end of the story, but rather the real starting point, is nothing that would surprise or repel moral experts. They find the asymmetry in the choice of partner self-evident: what a man wants and what a woman wants is not the same. If he wants to win her over, he has to give something, and she can demand something for her favor. And if she doesn’t immediately demand marriage and saves herself until the legally binding oath, then she is even more entitled to expect marriage, children, etc. to be promised. The experts therefore know the drivel that men purr into women’s ears to open all doors — and they accuse Kachelmann of abusing these effective key words. Their cynical use by the seducer is a dirty trick; the woman’s calculating affection, however, deserves respect and protection: the half or whole promises of marriage with which she lets herself be sweet-talked into bed deserve to be redeemed. The lover really and seriously has to commit himself and pay the due price for his pleasure. Only sluts, as the Bild knows, love without planning for the future.
The only alternative to the rapist and cynical womanizer that the Bild knows and accepts is the mendacious image of the hardworking “little guy” and father who sacrifices himself for his family and gets nothing for it; except, of course, the daily tits on page one that the Bild gives him as compensation.
“Not all men are Kachelmann. Maybe these men are boring, but they're loyal. They may have a beer belly, but when it comes down to it, they stand there like an oak tree. These men are not famous, they work their asses off, they work for their families, for their children.” (bild.de, May 31, 2011)
The repulsive seducer-charm of the likes of Kachelmann is considered by the proletarian mass-circulation newspaper to be a perfect opportunity to intone the Song of Songs for all-round selflessness in the family. Such opportunities do not come around often: normally, the special interest of Bild is directed at crime reports from the wonderful sphere in which one person — often down to the last detail — insists on the selflessness of the other.
Female moral experts are less inclined to give three cheers for old marriage idylls; they look at the rape affairs from the point of view of the modern woman, feminism. In each case, their statements testify in their own to what the former criticism of social conditions that condemned women to being dependent “reproductive assistants” of men has meanwhile led them to. Alice Schwarzer condemns Kachelmann as a representative of an outdated, but unfortunately still virulent, male right.
“It was not until 1997 that the law came into force which made rape in marriage a crime. Until then, the fulfillment of ‘marital duty’ was a male right. And people thought the same was true of marriage-like relationships, of course. Relationships like that of Jörg Kachelmann with his ex-girlfriend, who accuses him of raping her… fourteen years, that's not much time. What is still haunting many minds as a male right is a violation of a human right… It was and also is about the relation of our society to sexual violence. Is it just a slip-up — or a crime?” (Alice Schwarzer, bild.de, May 30, 2011)
For Germany’s super-feminist, anti-women social conditions — at least in the meantime — are nothing more than wrong, discriminatory legislation. Ever since that was fixed, rape was banned in marriage, and full equality was decreed, Ms Schwarzer has in principle seen her objective realized — and in fact by the state. The legal practice in courts dominated by men and against male defendants, however, is still not in line with the letter of the law, which itself is progressive because it was won by female legislators. Schwarzer sees the fact that a rape charge must be proven to the satisfaction of the court, the shame of the plaintiff’s embarrassing questioning, and the uncertain chances of a conviction as documenting a macho mentality that continues to have an effect on both sides of the bar. The state still does not consistently suppress macho men who learn too slowly, so that despite all the successes of feminism, women remain victims of male privileges that are in fact only imaginary but still effective.
The continuation of the old criticism of male domination reaps a sharp objection from female journalists who insist, contrary to the success of feminism that the state has not completed, on the completed, subjective success of feminism. Modern, fully emancipated career women cannot stand members of their sex being portrayed as victims of male supremacy in need of protection. They do not need state support in the private sector; they stand their ground all on their own. The representatives of the contemporary image of women won’t let the victim of a seducer get away with the role of victim.
“Viola S. is an intelligent woman of 32 years of age… Shall we believe that all these years she hasn’t noticed anything of the character of the man she was with? And all the other women who publicly presented themselves as Kachelmann victims and threw mud at the weatherman in exchange for money — are they the victims of this man? Or have they merely fallen prey to their own blindness? … Kachelmann’s methods may have been reprehensible — they were not impossible to see through. That's why the Kachelmann trail reveals not only a lot about the lifestyle of a screen character, but also about the female readiness to self-deception… But self-determination also means taking responsibility for one’s own life — for what happens to you, and for what you put up with… Do women want to lead people on the one hand and at the same time behave in matters of love like little children who still believe the most far-fetched things they are told? … Who wants to take such women seriously? Alice Schwarzer does. The spirited champion of the women’s movement has become a nasty grandmother who shows solidarity with people who act without dignity and turn their most intimate experiences into money.” (Sabine Rückert, Zeit, April 7, 2011)
Ms Rückert addresses loathsome aspects of modern “relationships” — the womanizing methods of a TV guy, the female willingness to delude oneself, the obsession with making money out of celeb affairs and the matching experiences — but to her all this is not worth thinking about. This is “reality” — and modern women have to cope with it in a self-determined way. The scandal she denounces is that women fall for guys like that and then start complaining, instead of being ashamed of their stupidity and keeping their mouths shut. They are a disgrace to their sex, whose members today feel called to leadership, commanding and controlling men as well. Modern women are committed to competing in business, society, and in the private domain: committed to the fact that the advantage of one is always achieved over the other, that the only ones who advance leave others behind, and that what’s important overall is asserting oneself. Sexually liberated, self-reliant women are not surprised at ruthless exploitation by their partners. They feel up to the war of the sexes, they want to wage it on an equal footing. Only whining is undignified.
All the journalists snooping around in the Kachelmann scandal presume the conflicts of bourgeois love life — and teach their readers how to behave properly with them. They serve and make use of their readers’ intrinsically vulgar craving for sensation only to raise their moral level. Humankind is getting better and better from this kind of reading material.
In France, it is not just about humanity, but about France. There, the crime against a New York chambermaid that Strauss-Kahn may not have committed as far as the charge specifies provokes a critical comparison of transatlantic sex and legal cultures: will the European way of life and joie de vivre be directly criminalized in the case of Strauss-Kahn by American puritans who in reality make matters even worse — as witnessed by draconian punishments? But who do that with a guilty conscience and hypocritical denial. Even worse than the sexual practices are the legal practices of the world power that are rather foreign to “us”: the New York judiciary humiliates and publicly destroys a high-ranking man of honor by dragging him in handcuffs in front of the television cameras on the basis of unproven accusations. The European presumption of innocence and the discretion of law enforcement authorities are likely to be completely unknown in the land of the death penalty and lynch law. And this nation wants to tell us Europeans what’s right?
On the other hand, there are voices emerging in France who do not really find it right that representatives of the male elite grope and get it on with subordinates.
“[The French newspaper] Libération quotes a sitting minister who wants to remain anonymous as saying, ‘If everyone who mixes power and sex would be held accountable, half of our political leaders would be in trouble.’ … ‘philandering after domestics’ … Other influential men are trembling in the face of revelations. … Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno, for example, complains that she no longer dares to enter the National Assembly in her skirt for fear of harassment. Other women talk about politicians who indecently assault female staffers or journalists as a matter of course. The assistants of legislators are said to be particularly at risk. … Phallocracy” (SZ, June 8, 2011)
That sounds like criticism, but only a little bit: the opinion leaders on both sides of the Rhine find it much more interesting to take the assaults that Strauss-Kahn stands for as an expression of national identity and culture and to ask at this level, firstly whether, and secondly why, such behavior suits France and its elite.
“France's rulers reside in palaces, day after day, year after year. It may happen that appearances determine consciousness and some civil servants get the feeling that the state actually serves them. Is it the men of power — for it is almost all men who have worked their way up in these palaces — who are to blame when they become presumptuous? If they lose their feeling for the people and for what befits a democracy? If they live by the rules of a royal court including its intrigues, affairs, mistresses?” (SZ, May 21/22, 2011)
Are the perpetrators themselves victims — for instance, of the buildings in which they practice their important professions? Or of history?
“This is how, mosaic tile on mosaic tile, the picture emerges of a country called Macho-istan that seems to be dominated by frivolous fauna. As exaggerated as this picture is, it becomes clear that the sultry climate of the royal court at Versailles continues to effect the republic. Some powerful people still presume a kind of jus primae noctis [Lat.: right of the first night]; and too many French people still look at their leaders with a shuddering fascination which makes monitoring them more difficult.” (SZ, June 8, 2011)
Is that bad, or is that French? Some of the contributions to the discussion lean toward the first, especially because they see the damage caused by the frivolous faunas reaching far beyond the harassed women:
“In the course of the Strauss-Kahn affair, it becomes clear that in the country of égalité it is not possible to speak of equal rights … Only 18.5 percent of legislators are women. The number of women on the boards of directors of large corporations is close to 15 percent. The questions posed by France extend beyond the relation between sex and power” (SZ, June 8, 2011)
The victim of the lecherous men’s league is égalité itself, the republic, the state. As long as the scandal lasts, Europe wonders whether the French political class is even a true democracy or is stuck in the ancien regime. Oral sex in a New York hotel is also good for debates about cultural imperialism and raising doubts about the democratic qualification of the national elite.