Two VIPs (very important penises) got into world-class trouble this week.
And amid the shocking allegations by a New York hotel chambermaid of sexual assault against the now former leader of the International Monetary Fund, and the far less surprising news that Arnold (Who's Your Daddy?) Schwarzenegger had fathered a child with his housekeeper right under his wife Maria Shriver's nose, came the familiar theories, including the classic "powerful men behaving badly" as well as a new "Europig" twist.
In France there was outrage about American "perp-walk" justice, but also a growing uneasiness about whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who had been widely viewed to be a contender for the French presidency, might have gotten away with sexual harassment in high places for years.
And in the United States, there were glowing testimonials to a justice system that could allow a modest chambermaid, an African immigrant and mother of a teenage daughter, to accuse a powerful man of a violent and terrifying assault. (But also an uneasiness in some quarters that he has not enjoyed a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.)
In both cases, four women - two rich, attractive and accomplished wives; two more vulnerable domestic workers - became, as a New York Times article pointed out, "collateral damage" as prurient interest in them skyrocketed.
Did Patti the housekeeper pursue Ahnold? And weren't those Facebook pics of her a trifle blowsy? I mean, compared to Maria? Please!
And are you sure that the 32-year-old hotel chambermaid, whose name is legally not publishable in North America, is on the level? I mean, she could be part of an international set-up, or maybe just savvy enough to have ensnared a man whose sexual appetites were bound to trip him up sooner or later.
There was one common thread running through the middle of these two very different cases, and that was the thread of denial.
First of all, the allegedly sexually predatory behaviour of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, vigorous, smart, handsome and privileged, has been so well rumoured in France that a comedian once joked that women would begin wearing "burkas" when he entered the office.
Why was there no attempt by the IMF to keep this man in line? Women are now coming forward to say they were harassed or pressured into sex by Mr. Strauss-Kahn. That's not sly, "on the side" sexual behaviour. If true, it is an illegal use of power.
Whether or not he is found guilty of sexual assault, Mr. Strauss-Kahn's workplace behaviour should have been stopped long ago.
In Mr. Schwarzenegger's case, his wife started the denial ball rolling years ago when her husband, first running for governor of California, was rumoured to have been an out-of-control groper. No, no, protested Ms. Shriver in a now famous television interview, her husband was an "A-1 person."
Partly because his smart, feminist wife, a member of the Kennedy family, steadfastly defended him, Mr. Schwarzenegger went on to an enormously successful political career.
Yet, as Jacob Bernstein of The Daily Beast writes, there had been stories for years that on his movie sets, his behaviour was groping and crass. It sounds as if he assumed anything he wanted was there for the taking, a not uncommon stance for a big macho male movie star, surrounded by people there to do his bidding.
Much of the time, women - and less exalted men for that matter - don't stand up to this behaviour; they don't publicly condemn it. Instead, fearful of the repercussions of challenging an alpha male - they'll lose their jobs, he'll seek revenge - they turn quietly away.
So powerful men continue to assume they can get away with it - because of course they can.
It's even regarded as, you know, testicularly thrilling in many power chambers of business and politics, where certain men push the limits by "working hard and playing hard." And where we are acculturated to regarding their illicit sexual behaviour as far more dashing and sexy than a handsome, powerful man who keeps it in his pants and remains faithful to his wife.
We can't seem to make monogamy sexy, even though statistics show that more than half of men don't stray, let alone shtup the housekeeper and get her pregnant about the same time as you impregnate your wife.
So that's another kind of denial. Many real men, even many successful men, don't address their own needs at any cost, they don't cheat. But try getting that message to hold our attention as much as an Ashley Madison billboard that says c'mon, you know you want to have an affair, let's do it! They make adultery seem like a club you can't afford not to join.
Which brings me to the ultimate in denial: Mr. Strauss-Kahn, vigorously denying the charges against him, issued a statement when he resigned, saying in part, "I think at this time first of my wife - whom I love more than anything …"
He's kidding, right? If even one of those hot-pursuit-of-other-women anecdotes is true, Mr. Strauss-Kahn has shown very little true respect or love for his journalist wife, Anne Sinclair. But then again, she doesn't, "for a single second," believe the charges anyway.
And when news of his separation from his wife of 25 years broke, Mr. Schwarzenegger issued a similar statement saying: "We love each other very much."
No, Arnold, you're wrong. No man who really loves his wife would humiliate her like this.
Denial, denial, as far as the eye can see.Report Typo/Error
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