Sunday, September 18, 2011

Strauss-Kahn, Sexual Misconduct, and the Third Precept

 PARIS (AP) — Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, acknowledged Sunday his sexual encounter with a New York hotel maid was a “moral failing” on his part, but it didn’t involve violence, constraint or aggression.

In his first interview since his May 14 arrest over sexual-assault accusations, Mr. Strauss-Kahn told France’s TF1 television channel what happened between him and the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, “was not only an inappropriate relationship, but more than that, it was an error.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist politician who was widely considered a top contender in next year’s presidential race until the case broke, said that “it was a failing, a failing vis-a-vis my wife, my children and my friends, but also a failing vis-a-vis the French people, who had vested their hopes for change in me.

“I think it was a moral failing, and I am not proud of it. I regret it infinitely. I have regretted it every day for the past four months, and I think I’m not done regretting it,” he said at the start of the 20-minute interview. Much of the exchange came off as staged, with Mr. Strauss-Kahn appearing calm and unruffled throughout and not surprised by the questions.

The Practical Buddhist Responds
The Practical Buddhist thinks Mr. Strauss-Kahn has a lot to learn about responsibility and compassion. This wealthy white diplomat had sex with a poor chambermaid from a third-world country.  He lets himself off the hook by telling the world how bad he feels bad about it. He calls it nothing more than a “moral failing” against people who trusted him, or an “error.”  During the recent TV interview he often expressed anger toward Ms. Diallo. It was clear that he in fact felt attacked and ill-used by her.
Strauss-Kahn would have us believe the sex was “consensual,”  but I don’t see how any sex between a man so powerful and a woman so powerless can involve equal and free consent. Just because it was not a violent rape does not mean it wasn’t coercive. The Buddha (and most prophets) taught that the poor are to protect the weak and that sex belongs in committed relationships marked by love. He taught that sex should not be exploitive.  Strauss-Kahn speaks only of his embarrassment that his lust has come to light.  He has only anger for the woman who in some ways his victim.  

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s admissions of “moral failure” seemed scripted in insincere to reporters present. Still, the Practical Buddhist hopes that Mr. Strauss-Kahn will come to see beyond his own suffering (if indeed he is suffering at all) and find compassion for the poor and for victims of sexual aggression. Perhaps he will devote some of his considerable wealth to that cause. 
 The Practical Buddhist, however, is not holding his breath.
-The following version of the Third Precept (or Training)  is by Thich Nath Hanh (

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

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