It's Not "Sex." It's "Rape."

 

I know you're shocked, shocked to learn that there are more allegations of sexual assault against our good pal Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a.k.a. DSK. The experts on sex crimes tell us that most men behave well—but very small number are serial offenders, assaulting regularly. The latest allegations, according to The New York Times, come from his involvement in that pimping ring in Lille. According to one of the women prostituted there, DSK wasn't content to just pay for sex; he also had to force her into "certain sexual acts without her consent.”

Gosh, that sure doesn't sound like someone who would force himself on a powerless housekeeper desperate to keep her job, does it? 

I have two good friends who, back when they were drug addicts (they're in "the programs" now), were prostituted by their boyfriends, more or less with their consent; drugs were expensive, they couldn't hold down jobs, and their self-respect was already in the toilet. But they've each, separately, mentioned that they were always terrified at the moment of entering a strange hotel room. The fear was that, this time, some man would decide that, just because they were already whores and beyond the social pale, he could do anything he wanted to them, however violent. And who would care? The police weren't exactly their friends. If it's true, I have only admiration for the Belgian woman who is taking the tremendous risk of reporting her experience. 

But here's what rankles me about The New York Times article: as I write this, the headline reads, "New Sex Allegations Against Strauss-Kahn."

Sexual assault isn't a "sex allegation." It's a rape allegation. No one cares if DSK is alleged to have had sex. Many, if not most, adult human beings have had sex. What we care about is whether he assaulted someone, sexually or otherwise. If someone is arrested for allegedly breaking into a jewelry store and stealing a Rolex, we don't call it a "shopping allegation." Sex is good. Assault is bad. Very, very bad. 

Sometimes accurate language is extremely important. Please, NYT copyeditors, get this right. 

 

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