Rape is not in the same category as adultery
I have grown increasingly exasperated over the last couple of days, following news pieces like this one
, in which it is suggested that because the IMF boss/presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of rape, the French media has committed a faux pas in not reporting on the sex lives of their politicians. French privacy laws are among the strictest in the world, and the French have long prided themselves on not prying into what politicians get up to in the bedroom - unlike the British and the Americans.
Until now, most French people would have found it distasteful for journalists to report on politicians' extra-marital affairs.
For now, relatively few French commentators have been asking whether that will change in the wake of the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the man nicknamed the Great Seducer.
But the French media have been reporting comment in American and British newspapers on whether Mr Strauss-Kahn's behaviour might have been different if France didn't have a convention that politicians' sex lives are off-limits.
It seems thoroughly absurd to me. I have no opinion on the guilt question, but I find it absurd to put reporting on extra-marital affairs in the same box as rape. One is a serious crime; the other, while bad behaviour, isn't. One is a public matter which should lead to prosecution and reporting; the other is for his wife and her lawyers to deal with. Now, sexual harassment of and assault on female journalists (which I have seen reports
relevant; and if some misguided sense of privacy is keeping that under taps, then that is a problem. But that is again in the public category, surely; it should not be compared to Mitterand having a child with his mistress.
I am sure the reporting on this must be seen in the context of the current debate over privacy laws and superinjunctions in Britain, but someone seems to have mis-stepped quite badly.
Or I have completely misunderstood something. If so, feel free to enlighten me.