A report of a woman's "brutal" but "consensual" encounter with Dominique Strauss-Kahn raises a crucial question
The latest allegation in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn saga has sex educators worried. Some fear it delivers a dangerous message about rough sex and consent.
The French weekly L’Express reports that Anne Mansouret — the mother of Tristane Banon, the journalist accusing the former IMF chief of attempted rape — told Parisian investigators that she had sex with DSK three years before the alleged incident with her daughter. (Cue classy quips about how IMF really “stands for International Mother F—er.”)
Mansouret, according to the newspaper, described to officials sex that was “consensual but clearly brutal.” L’Express reported that she told authorities Strauss-Kahn behaved like an “obscene” (or “lewd,” depending on your translation) soldier. The newspaper also claims that she “describes DSK as a predator who isn’t looking to please but to take, and behaves like an obscene boor. Sexual lust makes him want to dominate.”
Neither Mansouret nor Strauss-Kahn have responded to the L’Express article — and even if the reported details are true, they are also incredibly vague. So, a grain of salt. But beyond the DSK case, this story does raise questions about violence and sexual consent: How should rough (or “brutal”) sex be appropriately negotiated? What should we call an encounter where brutality and dominance is not requested, but also not objected to? Is it the responsibility of the aggressor to OK it with their partner, or is it the “receptive” partner’s responsibility to object if it’s undesirable?
“Too many people think, ‘I can take a step and if they don’t say no, I’ll take another step further,’” Susan Wright, a spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, told me. “You can’t assume consent. If you cross a line, you’re responsible.” Jaclyn Friedman, editor of the feminist anthology “Yes Means Yes,” which grapples with these same issues, agrees. “Especially if you’re with a new partner, you absolutely have to ask explicitly,” she says.
Of course, people are notoriously bad at actually communicating during sex — whether it’s outright stating what they want or asking what their partner wants. Friedman says there is a middle ground, though. “Even if people aren’t sitting down and talking about limits and safe words beforehand, there is a way to test limits where each partner feels empowered to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ at any time,” she explains. “You could try one thing and see what their response was and then try an elevated level of that, all while paying close attention to be sure that that’s turning them on instead of turning them off.”
That’s the thing about responsible kinksters: They are not only concerned with consent but also desire. Tristan Taormino, a wickedly smart sex educator, told me, “The person who does the roughing up, part of the pleasure they’re getting is that the person they’re roughing up is getting off on it,” she says. That isn’t what L’Express describes: “At least in the quotes that I’m reading in the press, she didn’t say, ‘It was brutal and I loved it’ or ‘It was brutal and I asked for it,’” says Taormino. “Once you have gotten into the realm of holding someone down, being forceful with them, doing something that could leave a mark on their body, you better hear a loud, enthusiastic and sober ‘yes.’”
OK, so what’s described by L’Express is clearly not the sort of rough sex that progressive sex educators stand behind — but is that at all relevant to the rape allegations against DSK? Taormino points out that “‘consensual rough sex gone wrong’ has been used as an excuse for a defense in other sexual assault cases” — and successfully. It’s plausible that Mansouret’s alleged claims could be used to support just such a defense.
More Related Stories
- I'm not achieving my dreams!
- The most popular Tumblr porn
- Slave descendants seek equal rights from Cherokee Nation
- Snapchat is secretly storing your photos
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Facebook's hate speech problem
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- When my home was destroyed
- Okla. mother's tearful reunion with her 8-year-old son
- New campaign compares gun control to anti-LGBT discrimination
- Study: Salt Lake City is gay parenting capital of the U.S.
- You are less beautiful than you think
- "Ghetto" tour lets you gawk at New York's poor
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Watch: Family emerges from storm shelter after tornado
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- My miscarriages made me question being pro-choice
- Why I tried to be a punk
- I'm terrified of the cicada onslaught
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- SAT's right answers are all wrong
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11