What makes Dominique Strauss-Kahn so sexy?
Many American women may think that question is oxymoronic. And some would take off the oxy. But the French politician known for weeks on the front pages of New York tabloids as “Le Perv,” after a chambermaid in a Manhattan hotel accused him of trying to rape her and forcing her to perform oral sex, has a reputation in France as a “great seducer.”
Now, for the first time, we have a woman on the record (or almost) testifying to his animal magnetism. That she also has a West African background, like alleged victim Nafissatou Diallo, only makes her testimony more piquant. Her account also offers some interesting insights into the political ambitions as well as the sexual predilections of this former director of the International Monetary Fund, who was touted as the leading contender to be the next president of France.
The woman extensively photographed but identified only as Marie-Victorine M. in the current issue of the Swiss magazine L’illustré, was a 23-year-old law student when she met the 47-year-old Strauss-Kahn in 1997. He was married then, and still is, to heiress and television interviewer Anne Sinclair. DSK, as he was called even then, was the Socialist mayor of Sarcelles, a town north of Paris with large immigrant communities, and M’s Congolese-born father was active in the Socialist Party.
M told the Swiss magazine that such was the power of attraction she and Strauss-Kahn felt for each other that he stopped for a few moments in the middle of a speech he was giving when he first saw her. A few hours later, they were in bed together. The affair, says M, went on for several months, but grew more difficult when DSK became France’s minister of finance. It ended in October 1997, “just after Yom Kippur,” she said. Four months later, according to pages from a letter M wrote to her father, she was so distraught that she attempted suicide.
M said in the magazine that she has taken a phone call from Diallo’s lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, who asked questions “that were really salacious, surgical.” She told the magazine that she refused to answer the question of whether she’d had an abortion, much less whether DSK had forced her to do so. “He never forced me to do anything at all,” she says she told Thompson. (Strauss-Kahn’s American attorneys declined to comment on the story.)
As to the question of whether DSK could be violent, M was philosophical. “What’s violence?” she asked rhetorically. “A man who pins you against the wall and kisses you, is that violent? There’s violence and there’s violence. To me, he wasn’t violent.” She said she couldn’t tell how he would have reacted if she’d resisted, since she never did.
But when M first heard of DSK’s arrest, some of the maid’s account published in the press sounded familiar to her. “Yes, it’s incredible,” she says she told confidantes, “but at the same time he is who he is.”
“When I read the first articles in the American press containing for example the detail that he was supposed to have taken his presumed victim from behind, that encouraged me to believe this woman,” M said.
“I think he’s a man who loves sex, who has a big sexual appetite, so, actually, maybe he went a little too far—a lot too far,” M told the Swiss magazine. “And I am convinced that in his heart he’s deeply persuaded that he’s not guilty.”
Asked to speculate about what happened to Diallo, on the basis of her own experience, M told the magazine, “Frankly, I think that there was a relation between the two, a forced relation. I don’t know if it was about a rape. This is a man who is physical, so it’s altogether possible that he grabbed this woman in a brusque or brutal manner.”
M goes even a little further, raising a question that some of Strauss-Kahn’s intimates raised in private conversations even before the scandal broke. “He was on the road to success and he sabotaged all his chances,” she said. “But deep inside him, I am not certain that he really wanted to be president of the [French] Republic.”