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dimanche 18 septembre 2011
Nothing that is sexual can be considered criminal : hidden sexual violence in the DSK case
DANS LA MEME RUBRIQUE
Burkini Is a Feminist Issue Too
The notion that it’s ok for disabled men to pay for sex is rooted in misogyny and ableism
Egyptian doctor living in Zurich produces educational videos about health and sexuality for the Arab world
Amnesty International and Prostitution : Not in Our Name !
Open letter to rabble.ca - Support Meghan Murphy suffered a misogynist campaign by the sex industry lobby
"Insectual - The Secret of the Black Butterfly", by Barbara Sala
Canada’s New Sex Trade Law
Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism
“Harm reduction” is not enough to appropriately analyze prostitution
True Progressives Encourage Women’s Equality, Not Their Prostitution
Sexual mutilations outside Africa : new report and new denial except the Iraqi case
FGM slowing down ? The UN asserts it, the Indonesian case contradicts it
Prostitution, STRASS and the senator - When opacity becomes relevant
Is equating prostitution and rape ‘intolerable violence’ ? Really ?
Obama, Madonna and us
After Ontario Courts rule on Bedford : a rant
Comparing Sex Buyers and Non-Sex Buyers July 2011 (Boston)
Sex resistance in heterosexual arrangements
Abolitionists of the prostitution system : who we are, what we want !
Women Living Under Muslim Laws Statement on Libya
Prostitution is a Threat to Humanity
Prostitution - Call for Australia’s prostitution laws to be tightened
Violence - An Open Letter from Black Women to SlutWalk Organizers
The Truth about Global Sex Slavery – A Book by Lydia Cacho
Why reproductive rights and prostitution are not the same thing : A response to one decriminalization argument
Prostitution - The abolitionist project within the conference Women’s Worlds 2011
Montreal - The Turcotte jury got it wrong
Reasons I Will Not Go On the Slutwalk
International Sex Industries and their Accomplices Hamper the Autonomy of All Women
Ten Critical Reasons for getting rid of Harper’s Conservatives
Real solidarity with prostituted women is in the fight for abolition of prostitution
Decriminalize prostituted persons and criminalize those who exploit them (‘johns’ and pimps)
Polygamy in Canada Should Remain Illegal
My fears of the push for indoors prostitution
We cannot be satisfied with the simple harm-reduction model
The Native Women’s Association of Canada is Worried About Himel’s Judgement on Prostitution
Ontario Court Decision Abandons Aboriginal Women and Women of Colour to Pimps
Response to the VPD review in the cases of the Pickton Murders
Speech - The effects of globalization of political Islam on Women’s Rights, the question with polygamy, the Niqab and Honour Killing
Quebec Forges Enlightened Trail on Burkas
Breast Cancer a Disease, No a Marketing Opportunity
The International Campaign To Closedown Iranian Embassies
Violation of rights in Iran, a window from my experience to a broader picture
"Sex worker" ? Never met one !
The One Million Signatures Campaign has been awarded the prestigious Global Women’s Rights Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation
Prostitution - Feminist Perspectives, a book
Prostitution : Violating the Human Rights of Poor Women
More than 1 000 american historians call for equity in the stimulus package in open letter to Obama
Order of Canada Awarded to Dr. Morgentaler - Acts of intimidation should not rule Canada
Femaid report on Afghanistan, May 2008
Time for Quebecers to be more open : Bouchard-Taylor report
Canadian Bar Association supports strengthening equality in the Quebec Charter
Zero Tolerance for Johns : How the Government of Sweden Would Respond to Spitzer
Politicians are responsible for toxic, misogynist environment facing girls
Spitzer - The Myth of the Victimless Crime
Goodbye To All That (#2)
The freedom to never prostitute oneself
NO legalized brothels for the Olympics 2010 - Aboriginal women’s Action Network statement on prostitution
CLES says NO to the violence of prostitution
Does Porn Make the Man ?
A Trip Into the Absurd
Mothers File International Complaint Against United States
Prostitutes are victims, not criminals
Anthology of Québec Women’s Plays in English Translation, Volume I (1966-1986)
The Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle (CLES) intervene during the upcoming provincial election
Prostitution - Three Women and a Debate
Men Favour the Apolitical Discourse on Prostitution
The Whole Truth Must be Told : Sylviane’s testimony on her experience of prostitution
Democracy and Religious Obligations : an Impasse ?
What is liberation ? Feminism past, present and future
Books by Andrea Dworkin
Globalization, Militarism and Sex Trafficking
Muslim Groups Denounce the Cultural Relativism of a Certain Left
Canadian Muslim leader alleges her veil views sparked vandalism
Prostitution : CATW’S Post-World Cup Statement
NOW to denounce so-called parental alienation
Prostitution : for an Abolitionist Bill
The dimensions of trafficking for purposes of prostitution
"Charm is a Guise ; Batterers Belong in Jail, Expert Says"
Interview with Catherine MacKinnon : Are Women Human ?
Danish cartoons - Doing away with the Enlightenment ?
It’s happening next door : from incestuous girls to alienating mothers
Green Light for Pimps and Johns
Buying Sex is not a Sport
Prostitution is Violence Against Women
The Ideal Site for the Crime
Tell me, what does "gender" really mean ?
Gunilla Ekberg : « The best thing we can do for our sisters is to support them to get out of prostitution »
Interview with Catharine A. MacKinnon : « They haven’t crushed me yet. »
Decriminalizing prostitution, a magnet for pimps and johns
Declaration on Religious Arbitration in Family Law
Prostitution : Towards a Canadian policy of abolition
Prostitution inseparable of violence against women
The need for a public debate on prostitution and its social consequences
Prostitution of First Nations Women in Canada
270 000 $ granted to Stella for a four days event on sex work
IN MEMORIAM : Andrea Dworkin or The passion for justice
Decriminalizing prostitution will not improve the security of prostituted women
Dworkin - Taking Back the Night
Backlash and Whiplash : A Critique of Statistics Canada’s 1999 General Social Survey on Victimization
Helping the prostituted women or promoting prostitution ?
The Need for a Public Debate on Prostitution and its Social Consequences
The legalization of prostitution and its impact on trafficking in women and children
Prostitution Links, Women’s Justice Center
"If you don’t take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits"
Sweden Treating Prostitution as Violence Against Women
Forced marriage as crime
Why Women Must Get out of Men’s Laps
International Campaing Against Shari’a Court in Canada
Decriminalize prostituted women, not prostitution
Canada Contributes to the Sexual Trafficking of Women for Purposes of Prostitution
Fathers’ Rights Groups in Australia and their Engagement with Issues in Family Law
Women Rage Against ’Rape’ in Northeast India
Sexual domination in uniform : an american value
Tribunals Will Marginalize Canadian Muslin Women and Increase Privatization of Family Law
The sexual sadism of our culture, in peace and in war
Queer theory and violence against women
The Legalisation of Prostitution : A failed social experiment
Globalization and the Sex Trade : Trafficking and the Commodification of Women and Children
Will Paternal Paranoia Triumph ?
Ode to Survivors
Court confirms any woman’s human right to organize with peers
Program produces motherless kids
Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN Labour Organization (ILO) Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part One)
Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN International Labour Organization Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part Two)
Elisabeth Badinter distorts feminism the better to fight it
Prostitution : Rights of Women or Right to Women ?
The "Stolen Feminism" Hoax : Anti-Feminist Attack Based on Error-Filled Anecdotes
Hormone Replacement Therapy, the "Magic Bullet" Ricochets
For the sake of the children : the law, domestic violence and children contact in England
Friendships between women good for health
Children of divorce need our protection
Divorce Bill’s flaws inadvertently aid abusers
Problem isn’t little boys, it’s little minds
A report from Status of Women Canada about the discursive denial of gender inequalities
Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution
Poem for Peace
Peace Rally Speech of a 12 year old American Girl
Good clone, bad clone ?
Canadian Women’s Health Network
So hard to say goodbye
A crime is by definition something that goes against the victim’s wishes and is contrary to communal existence and acceptable social interaction. However, we presume that if something is sexual, it is desired by all the individuals involved, and constitutes one of the foundations of social interaction. To presume that rape is sexual, rather than sexist, undermines the very foundations of the criminal charges – something that is an everyday act cannot be considered a crime ; something that is desired cannot be denounced. These paradoxes cast an underlying suspicion on the credibility of victims.
In France, the presumed guilt of Ms. Diallo illustrates that the concept of “sex” negates that of crime. Sexist crimes are described as “sexual” in order to whitewash them.
1. Presumed guilt
On the 14th May 2011, Dominique Strauss Kahn, who was at that time the head of the IMF, was summoned to court by the prosecutor of New York for “a criminal sexual act in the first degree, attempted rape in the first degree, sexual assault in the first degree, unlawful imprisonment in the second degree, non-consensual molestation and sexual assault in the third degree” (1).
Nafissatou Diallo, the alleged victim, is a “racialized”, non-national, working-class woman employed in a female occupation.
Since the beginning of the trial, charges and forensic evidence have been revealed, and the prosecutor has staunchly defended the victim’s credibility. Despite that, we have seen an almost unanimous defence of DSK in France. Journalists, politicians and celebrities have come forward to explain away French “libertinism”, celebrated the ins and outs of male-female relations (love, eroticism and sexuality) and denounced the judicialization of “sexual affairs” and US “moralism”. These theories are more than simply unconnected, irrelevant points - they have become consolidated to the extent whereby they have replaced the initial “sex scandal” concept that lies at the heart of the trial.
The alleged crime has been inextricably linked to sexuality and dismissed as a matter of “private life”. While some said that it was simply sex, others – following the lead of DSK’s lawyers who said that they were “surprised that such an unattractive woman had come forward” (BFM TV, Monday 16th May) - said it could not even have happened. In any case, nobody spoke of a crime. This spontaneous defence was far from short-lived – it prefigured a general mystification of the affair. Indeed, from the beginning of the trial up to the announcement the possible dropping of charges (6-7 July), almost all those involved glossed over the forensic evidence of violence and focused on a single finding – the presence of semen.
Politicians and the media have ignored the vaginal bruising, the torn shoulder tendon, and the bites and scratches. On the 3rd July 2011, daily newspaper Metro summarized the case as a “jumble of versions linked by one single fact – sexual intercourse between Dominique Strauss-Khan and Nafissatou Diallo”. Only the presence of semen is considered a proven fact, so only one act seems to be established – that of sex. The facts used as evidence and which form the basis of the charges, therefore no longer relate to a crime (signs of violence and harm) but to sexuality. This process belies the idea of crime, even though it lies at the heart of the trial. How, therefore, can the investigation and the victim’s claims be justified ?
Why have the signs of violence been so easily “forgotten” ? Because their value as evidence has been disqualified. In the 11pm edition of BFMTV on the 23rd May, the journalist explained which physical signs of violence are proof that a sexual act has been forced : “Rape will leave signs of physical violence on the legs or sexual organs. After fellatio, the visible signs of beating or scratching can be linked to the act of sex”. We can see then, that when there is a presumption of sex rather than of crime, the evidence presented is back-to-front – rather than focusing initially on the signs of violence in order to determine whether the act was sexual or aggressive, we focus on acts that are presumed to be linked to sex (fellatio and anal or vaginal intercourse) in order to evaluate whether or not the signs of violence constitute evidence. If the crime is treated as sexual, signs of violence become evidence of sex. The victim’s credibility is therefore questioned - not regarding the reality of “sexual contact”, but regarding the abuse that she has suffered.
On the 2nd July 2011 in a broadcast by Ruth Elkrief on BFMTV, while a journalist insisted that there were signs of violence, the guests stubbornly maintained, “torn stockings ? That could just be part of a role-play”. “Forensic evidence of violence ?” they repeated. “That has not been proven”. What has not been proven ? Violence in the sense of unlawful personal injury. Accordingly, any evidence that could corroborate the crime theory was neutralised – as long as they related as much to sexual intercourse as to assault, they were no longer considered to be evidence.
In France, accusations of attempted rape or statements by journalists regarding DSK’s sexual attack have not shaken his defence. What has created this obstacle ? The presumption of innocence. Politicians and journalists are scandalised that he could be “treated like a criminal”.
On the 1st July a document by the prosecutor revealed that the alleged victim had lied to the immigration services, the tax services and the prosecutor in the DSK case. The only lie (which has since been contradicted) concerning the facts is this - initially, she said that she had gone directly to her supervisor to report what had happened. Then, on the 28th June, she claimed to have cleaned a room before going to her supervisor. She is also said to have covered up a phone call from her husband in prison – around 24 hours after the alleged crime, she told him what had happened to her, he asked her how she was, and she replied that he should not worry. “The guy has a lot of money”, she told him. “I know what I’m doing.”(2) This last sentence effectively destroyed her credibility. She had been found in a compromising position that transformed her from the alleged victim into the absolute manipulator – "the whore". On the 3rd July 2011, the New York Post started the rumour that Nafissatou Diallo was “accustomed to having paid sex with guests from the Sofitel”. The newspaper even alluded to a Guinean prostitution ring. Thanks to Nafissatou Diallo’s lies, DSK was released on parole on the 1st July.
A woman who reported a rape has gone from being a victim to the accused. This is a reversal that is once again based on dismissing evidence of violence, in this case mental violence. Studies on mental trauma can prove this – factual inaccuracies and certain types of behaviour can be symptoms of trauma (emotional numbness, disorientation, passivity linked to shock and depersonalisation, post-traumatic amnesia, a sense of unreality, etc) (3). These are then used against the victim. Pretending not to realise that rape can alter a person’s mind is simply another way of denying its seriousness. There will even be a sense of empathy verging on compassion for the accused - he was probably caught up in his "natural impulses" and driven to commit the "slip-up", or even to "subconscious political suicide" (J.A. Miller and others).
In France, no advocate of the presumption of innocence mentioned this when DSK’s lawyers said they wanted to take Nafissatou Diallo to court for false accusations. On the contrary, the media and politicians announced the end of the trial as soon as DSK was released on parole. Why did they think that they could nullify a rape charge by destroying the credibility of the alleged victim ? Moreover, why did they think that her credibility depended not on the evidence supporting her version of events, but on her morality and behaviour ? Because in France, that is how things are. In those rare cases where people are tried for rape, the majority are dismissed thanks to the same presumption of guilt that was launched against Ms. Diallo, and that has been denounced by feminist groups and Dr. Muriel Salmona (in "La nausée").
2. Qualifying the crime as "sexual" in order to neutralise evidence of violence
What is this practice of whitewashing sexist crime based on ? It is based on this - assuming that the acts are sexual. In reducing the acts at the heart of the trial to an everyday occurrence (sexual intercourse), only the behaviour of the victim is able to qualify them as criminal.
Unlike criminal acts, sexual acts can be desired. That is why the classification of an act is based on the idea of consent. Therefore, erasing any possible traces of the crime is easy – patriarchal definitions of sexuality give violence towards women an exceptional status, so that the signs of violence no longer indicate abuse. Indeed, for psychoanalysis, sexology (4) and pornography, sexuality is a natural form of violence that women desire. The porn industry is simply a neoliberal revival of this sexist dogma. It channels women’s demands for pleasure and liberty by creating a character who finds pleasure and liberty in subordination – the "slut". At the centre of its eroticism is rape (Andrea Dworkin, 1981 ; Diana Russell, 1998 ; Gail Dines, 2010).
Contrary to what pornographers claim, they do not present "raw", "technical", "unemotional" sexuality. They convey a remodelled vision of an emotion – hate ; primarily sexist hate, but also racist hate. All the scenes are directed in order to provoke contempt for women and incite a desire to violently abuse them. Pornography eroticises violence, using “deep-seated” female nature as a justification – the level of enjoyment desired by the "slut" is so degrading that she has to be taken by force. Pornography presents sexuality and the "slut" concept simultaneously. It defines women in terms of their degrading sexuality, and defines sexuality as something that degrades women. Female nature is therefore entirely contrary to human nature (5) - for "the Woman", freedom is synonymous with alienation, equality is found in submission, pleasure results from humiliation and desire leads to self-destruction. Female sexuality is also completely contrary to sexuality described by Foucault, which is synonymous with the “construction of the self”, identity and liberty. "The Woman" rejoices in all that would destroy, humiliate or dehumanise a Man – abdicating his desire, his dignity and freedom and delivering his body to the desires and actions of another.
This propaganda attacks our rights by undermining our credibility – how can we complain of so-called "sexual" violence if we allegedly enjoy the things that make human beings (i.e. men) suffer or feel degraded ? How can we be natural persons (in the legal sense of the word) when "female" subjectivity is inextricably linked to irresponsibility (we don’t know what we want, we say yes when we mean no, we want to self-destruct) ? How can we prove the damage caused by sexual violence when rape itself lies at the heart of dominant sexual norms ? Every sexist crime already has a “porno” profile. “The black woman who enjoys being raped and beaten by a white man while she cleans his bedroom” – it’s a ready-made porn scene. How can we denounce a crime or incite empathy when pornographic media corrupts the way policemen, magistrates and journalists perceive these crimes ?
3. Although it is sexual, no one has died
To mistakenly label a sexist crime "sexual" therefore holds serious implications in terms of the way evidence of violence is perceived. It turns this evidence into proof of sexuality. It is deemed sadomasochistic, according to ideas established by pornography. So signs of violence no longer prove violence in the sense of unlawful personal injury. Evidence of lack of consent (i.e. violence) is disqualified. What is more, the definition of "sexual" crime is changing – it is no longer a question of proving the overall damage done (traces of violence, psycho-traumatic after-effects) according the standard criteria for an attack against a human being. These criteria no longer apply to women when the acts are labelled "sexual", as sex-related violence is not supposed to damage a woman’s integrity. The legal question is not, as in the case of crime, "knowing what causes harm to a person, are the acts criminal ?" but, "what is it possible for a woman to consent to ?" In sexist crimes that are labelled “sexual", the line between the just and the unjust depends on prejudices regarding women’s sexuality.
Therefore, sexual logic prevails over criminal logic. If sexuality is classed as "good" violence since it is necessary, does this mean that the victim is complaining of being destroyed by acts that are inherently destructive ? No – she is complaining about something that could have been pleasant… had she consented to it. Is it really justice to make such acts public ? No – it is a scandal, whereby a woman exposes her own and another person’s sex life, and outrages the public by describing all the gory details. Is the attacker fully responsible ? No. The motive for the crime is presumed to be sexual, and the physical (rather than emotional) nature of male sexuality removes his responsibility. This undermines the notion of guilty intention, an important criterion in the accusation. J.A. Miller (follow link), for example, a renowned psychoanalyst, endows "martyrs" like DSK with a "natural impulse" and unconscious state - a mental and criminal aberration. These sexual impulsives should therefore be looked after, rather than locked up. Claude Hagège (9th June 2011, Ce soir ou jamais) assures us that "treatment [would] help DSK to overcome his impulses".
But above all, if traces of violence do not prove that any harm has been done, it is impossible to prove the crime. The truth can only emerge out of a confrontation - "one person’s word against another’s". The likelihood of acts having taken place therefore depends on how coherent one’s behaviour is with dominant ideas of the "good rape victim”. What is more, the victim’s credibility becomes a deciding factor. Destroying it destroys the entire basis of the accusation. What are the two sexist stereotypes that discredit all accusations of violence ? The "slut" and the "whore", since one takes pleasure in everything and nothing destroys her, and the other personifies the "woman sold", in both the economic and moral sense of the word (6). This is why any mention of S&M scenarios, prostitution or lies that do not support the facts provide sufficient cause to nullify the basis of rape charges.
According to French law, the alleged acts in the DSK case constitute a crime. Jack Lang (JT, 8pm on the 17th May 2011) said he could not understand why DSK had not been freed "since no one has died". When questioned by an economist who tried to explain that a person could not return to their political occupation after having been charged with a crime, Hagège (ibid.), a renowned linguist, argued, "Sexual crime ! It’s not a crime in the true sense of the word”. In fact, describing sexist violence as "sexual" negates the idea of crime. On one hand, a crime is by definition something that the victim does not want and which is contrary to communal existence and acceptable social interaction. Anything that is sexual is presumed to be desired by the individuals involved, and to be one of the foundations of social interaction. Presuming that rape is sexual rather than sexist undermines the very basis of rape charges – something so ordinary cannot be considered a crime ; something that is desired cannot be denounced. These paradoxes cast an underlying suspicion on the credibility of victims. On the other hand, a crime is an act of violence in the sense that it causes harm. Sexuality is defined as a fair, rather than harmful, form of violence, as it is natural and desired by its "victims". This concept of "natural violence" entirely contradicts the notion of crime. But in fact, let us consider what types of harm crime causes - pain, humiliation, dehumanization and objectification. All these types of violence can be found in pornography, where it is assumed that they bring women enjoyment.
4. Rape is not a "sexual" crime but a sexist crime
In the first few days of the trial, certain members of DSK’s defence cast doubt on the victim’s credibility by saying that he did not need to take by force what he could obtain through charm and riches. In this way, they established a continuum that ran from rape to reciprocal sex, via prostitution. According to this, sexuality in terms of human relationships – which is distinctive as it is based on mutual desire – is completely nullified.
The process is as misleading as creating a continuum from a single physical act – being held in the arms of another person. This would liken the embrace between friends to that between the French president and the president of a former colony, or to the embrace of two boxers preventing one another from throwing punches. This false continuum depends on removing the relationship factor, which is the only thing that can distinguish friendship from aggression. This strategy allows dominant parties to conceal violence towards the oppressed that they consider to be legitimate. In the case of the alleged rape in question, we of course saw this in the way men spontaneously came forward to support one of their own.
This reaction was endowed with a semblance of objectivity when, out of all the evidence of violence, the media focused exclusively on the presence of semen. Thanks to this one common factor, rape and sexual intercourse are classed as the same thing - "sexual contact". Again, the relationship factor is ignored in order to erase the link to aggression. The process is as misleading as associating a boxing match with a racist attack by a white man against an Arab under the premise of "sport". In both cases, fists and feet are used. We could choose to focus on only one factor – evidence of punches and kicks – which would indicate what, exactly ? A sporting event, since the rules of French boxing were respected. It would then be necessary to find out whether the victim had consented to the act. The racist attack could be labelled by the media as a "non-consensual act of sport", and by the courts as a “sport-related attack”. Where does this perception come from ? The attacker. He perceives the racist attack as a brief moment of entertainment or sport. According to him, he has not acted through racism ; he simply has his views on "Arabs" – they are exotic, different and impulsive ; they are his favoured boxing partners. He did not want to destroy his victim ; he knew that the "Arab" was simply asking for this. Fortunately, there is legal consensus on this matter – when there is evidence of punching and kicking, there is no presumption of sport. Signs of punching are, a priori, proof of illicit violence. When sport is used as an excuse, we call it an "attack". There is also a political consensus, established through the fight against racism – when difference is used as an excuse, we call it "racist". When a white man attacks an Arab, there is a presumption of a racist attack.
But when a man attacks a woman, there is a presumption of sexuality. Evidence of violence relates not to assault but to sex. The sexed nature of those involved does not bring to mind global inequalities, but Gender Differences. The targeted nature of the violence does not indicate sexist hatred, but sexual desire. In fact, a political crime reflects Nature. Rape is to sexism what lynching is to racism – motivated by stereotypes, the attacker targets its victim because of a single factor – the "natural mark" of his or her inferiority (gender or skin colour) (C. Guillaumin 1992 : 171-194).
1. "Les 7 chefs d’accusation retenus contre DSK", Le Parisien, 16 mai 2011.
CASALIS, Marie France ; MORBOIS, Catherine, L’aide aux victimes de viol, 2002.
Translation for Sisyphe : Emma Bale
On Sisyphe, September 18, 2011