The obscene irony of the DSK rape case

Let’s review the of relevant facts:

DSK is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a major figure on the French center-left and, until last month, president of the IMF. He was accused of rape while in NYC a month ago. This forced him to resign from the IMF, and step back from his presidential bid in France. Thus, French politics was in a frenzy, since he was a main contender on the left, vying for president against the current (center-right) Sarkozy. Now it is appearing that the testimony from the hotel maid who accused him of raping her has a few holes in it. There was certainly sex between them (forensic tests have proven it), but was it actually rape? She, the maid, is a political refugee from the West African country of Guinea. (1)


Ironies Abounding

What are we to think when the head of the IMF – the predatory financial lending institution that ravishes the economies of poor nations – is accused of literalizing the metaphor? When the rich white financier is – literally – being tried for raping a poor, brown-skinned political refugee from a formerly colonized nation.

A Guinean maid…a political refugee…and former victim of political violence in Guinea (gdp ~$500/person)…of the kind engendered by the policies imposed and enforced by the West through institutionalized power… such as the IMF… where people make half a million a year… people like DSK… who are then entitled to rent hotel rooms at 3,000 dollars a night… and allegedly entitled to rape the hotel maid… who earns 23,000 dollars a year…

DSK was, when he had sex with the maid  – either violent or consensual or something in  between – the head of the IMF. This is the financial institution that regularly destroys local economies throughout the “developing world” in the name of private profits that invariably flow back to the “developed world.” Cases in point: Egypt, Algeria, Chile, Argentina, and on and on (and just this month, Greece). The image of the head of the IMF literally raping a refugee from a war-torn African region can only be seen as a kind of hypostacized metaphor, fully of bitter obscene irony.

The question making mad rounds today is about the kind of sex it was: consensual or not?

But of course, this very question, regarding the white male head of the IMF’s sexual penetration of an impoverished African political refugee… This merely offers new layers of irony, no matter how one tries to answer.

After all, the ravaging of national resources in developing countries at the hands of the IMF is by now legendary.

But it always arrives as something you would call “half-consensual.” On the brink of a total crisis – itself due to unequal market relations born out of a history of colonial violence – countries preyed upon by the West’s false-generosity are in not position not to sign on the bottom line, regardless of the fine print on the reverse side of the page.

It’s been called disaster capitalism…”The Shock Doctrine”… guinea pigs for neoliberal shock therapy…

So far – not a pretty track record, at least as far as human suffering is concerned (for mulitnational profits, it’s another story). See: Pinochet’s Chile, Argentina under before Kirchner; Egypt under Mubarak; Algeria under Chadli-Zeroual-Bouteflika. The bread lines all got longer even as the price of the loaf doubled, then tripled, then quadrupled, and more… But profits for the top 1% went up, and the whole thing gets sold as a huge success, because GDP looks good if you skew it just right. (2)

The fine print requires governments to drop all means of protecting the local economy from market practices, over-night opening small farmers and industries to competition with multinational giants. Suddenly cotton and rice farmers, for example, cannot sell their rice at their own village’s market; they go belly up and have to move to the city to look for a job, they end up living in slums in desperately poor conditions while their children become statistics in global poverty classes and Bill Gates tries to eradicate their polio or their hunger but not their poverty or their misery.

The list of countries where this has occurred is long indeed. The important factor, for the IMF, is to force open new markets (privatise everything), impose strict free-market principles (no tariffs),  and force governments to cut subsidies and welfare nets (no free health care, housing, or cheap food).

So now we’re back to DSK having (non)consensual sex with a female political refugee from Guinea, a war-torn country formerly colonized by the French, and left in a devastated condition when they withdrew.

An ultra-rich white male financier having sex with a brown-skinned female political refugee working as a hotel maid for 23,000/year… this obviously involves levels of such enormous differences in social power that it could probably never be considered truly “consensual,” as if the maid earning a mere 23k/year is to be understood as wielding full powers to say no to sexual advances by a head of the IMF. (3)


1) But it turns out that the maid’s testimony contains inconsistencies, and they have caught her in numerous lies. There may also be connections between her and drug money (although this is not yet clear). She appears to have accepted multiple cash deposits totaling 100k from a marijuana dealer. This is quite suspicious; although it may have nothing to do with whether or not she was violently coerced into sex. DSK all this time has been in house arrest in Manhattan; he is going to seek a more relaxed bail where he could travel freely within the US. He is 62. He resigned already from IMF on May 19. If charges against him are dropped, French politics could be thrown wide open again.

2) For further examples,  see Mike Davis’s Planet of the Slums or Laura Nader’s Plunder.

The Atlas of Global Inequality reports the following regarding Argentina’s relation to the IMF:

Argentina Economic Crisis of 2001

The Argentina crisis of 2001-2002 exemplifies the economic, social and political upheaval that can occur during a time of economic and financial crisis.  During the 1990’s Argentina was heralded as a successful in developing its economy.  Foreign investors poured billions of dollars into the country, inflation rates were lower than those in the U.S. at the same time, and the economy was one of fastest growing economies in Latin America.  Argentina was the darling of international financial lending, strictly adhering to the IMF advice.

But in 2001 the Argentine economy reached its breaking point. The government announced that its foreign debt could not be paid back and billions of dollars in government spending would be cut. This translated to government employees receiving a salary reduction of 13% (Pastor and Wise 2001).  While at the same time unemployment skyrocketed to nearly 20% (Stiglitz 2002).  In one year Buenos Aires fell from being the most expensive city in Latin America to the cheapest city (Latin Trade 2003).

3) On DSK’s income and lifestyle. DSK is married to a wealthy television star. They together own a $4million dollar home in Georgetown, USA; two separate Paris homes worth $2million each; and a nice getaway riad in Marrakech, Morrocco. See here and here and here.

Many are enraged at the cushy lifestyle of the same class of global financiers whose greed brought about the current global recession.

Details of DSK’s take-home pay for IMF work:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn will earn a tax-free salary of $420,930 and expense allowances of $75,350 per year. This is more than the earnings of the World Bank president ($493,940 tax-free), the US president ($450,000 taxed) and the UN secretary general ($403,958 tax-free). Only the general manager of the BIS makes more (about $750,000 plus unspecified allowances). Strauss-Kahn will also participate in the staff retirement plan, a defined-benefit pension scheme, which are strictly taboo for developing countries according to IMF advice.<>

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2 Responses to The obscene irony of the DSK rape case

  1. Andrea says:

    “Strauss-Kahn will also participate in the staff retirement plan, a defined-benefit pension scheme, which are strictly taboo for developing countries according to IMF advice” – how can such hypocrisy be justified?

    Very illuminating post – I hadn’t considered the “literalization of the metaphor”, but yes, precisely. The lines of what is “illegal and wrong” and “legal and right” are painfully blurred in this illustration of power distribution (and certainly many others like it). The question the media focuses on, “whether he used force or not” and what constitutes rape, are shown to be practically irrelevant in the consideration of whether his conduct is commendable or despicable.

  2. anita sands says:

    You are the only writer/ philosopher who caught the irony of his raping poor Africans with the IMF and the crime he finally got caught doing. Sharp!

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