Hot Rabbits and Gallic Machismo

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Sixty-two-year-old Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, is IMF chief, the leader of France's Socialist Party and reputed to be a “hot rabbit” – literal translation.  Until his arrest in America, accused of the attempted rape of a chambermaid, he was the most likely to rival French President Nicholas Sarkozy in the 2012 elections.

He was, even before the current accusations, generally known as a sexual adventurer.  He had to apologise in 2008 for "an error of judgment" over an affair with IMF employee Piroska Nagy.

French political and media circles have been well aware of rumours of Strauss-Kahn's sexual exploits throughout.  Now French writer, Tristane Banon, is likely to make a complaint alleging that she was sexually assaulted  by him almost a decade ago.

Do French female voters give a euro about male politicians' sex lives? Do French females actually give a euro about sexual harassment? Unlikely.

Sarkozy's crumbling marriage was of little consequence. Chirac's alleged cheating on his wife was similarly ignored.  Former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was reputed to have an array of mistresses.  President François Mitterrand concealed a daughter born out of wedlock for years.

Sex and politics have always gone hand in hand in France, but the private lives of politicians have historically been kept secret by politicians and the media in a way that would never happen in the UK or USA.

He’s just French! has often been the explanation of the behaviour of their famous “hot rabbits”.

We know not whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn is innocent or guilty of the charge made against him. But the furore that has accompanied it seems to have even the French wondering about their global reputation and whether rabbits rampant are truly the best national emblem.

Patricia McLoughlin