In disgrace: Downfall could serve as lesson to others
Dominique Strauss-Kahn behaved appallingly because he believed he could
A policewoman stands guard in the courtroom before the start of a trial in the so-called Carlton Affair, in Lille, where 14 people including former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn stand accused of sex offences including the alleged procuring of prostitutes (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)
At an all-female birthday lunch-party a few weeks ago, I was sitting between two women who had worked in the city of London in the 1980s. Although they had enjoyed their jobs, they had changed careers when they decided they needed less stress and more sanity. Neither was avaricious, so taking a large drop in income didn't bother them.
"I saw The Wolf of Wall Street," I said. (For those of you who missed this, it's a rollicking tale of grossness and depravity). "Was London like that?"
"I got on fine with the blokes," said the woman on my right, "but many of them were out of control. You just had to stand up to them. Once, when I urgently needed information from another trader, I interrupted him when he was having a blow-job at his desk."
"How did he react?"
She laughed. "Gave me the figures. Didn't interrupt the blow-job."
I was reminded of that when reading last week of the trial of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (aka DSK), Christine Lagarde's predecessor as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, on a charge of "aggravated pimping" that carries penalties of heavy fines and up to 10 years in jail.
You may remember that, in May 2011, DSK hit a spot of bother in New York just as he was planning to leave the IMF and Washington and return to his native Paris where he was expected to be handed the Socialist Party's presidential nomination and walk the subsequent general election.
While the criminal charge against him for assaulting Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid, was dropped, he settled a civil suit with a sum rumoured to be over a million dollars. I'm pleased to report that Ms Diallo has now opened a restaurant in the Bronx.
The Socialist Party chose Francois Hollande instead.
If that was bad for DSK, much worse was to come. Even his loyal wife, Anne Sinclair, abandoned him after a torrent of public allegations of depraved sexual behaviour and the beginning of the police investigation that has landed him in a Lille court, accused of having been part of an international sex-ring.
Under French law, it's not illegal to have sex with prostitutes, but it is to procure them, even if you don't benefit financially. DSK is being tried with 13 others, who include a senior police chief, a high-profile lawyer, businessmen and a brothel-owner so proud of his profession that, in 2013, he published his memoirs under the title, Moi, Dodo la Saumure (Me, Dodo the Pimp).
Dodo is a bit of a prankster. Last year, he said he intended to give a new Belgian sex club what he thought was the "commercially brilliant" name 'DSKlub". After a legal threat from DSK, he reluctantly dropped the idea, but said he would name another Belgian sex club "Carlton" after the hotel in Lille where many of the admitted orgies took place.
DSK doesn't deny that he took part in orgies. He admits to a huge sexual appetite and a penchant for "libertine" parties. Prostitutes don't seem to have enjoyed his company much. One said the lunchtime sex parties were "classy", with men and women pairing off, but that one she attended with DSK was "carnage with a heap of mattresses on the floor". Other prostitutes have accused him of "brutal sex" and a "bestial act".
His defence against the charges is that he didn't know they were prostitutes. On Planet DSK, like the 32-year-old chambermaid - who was supposed to have been overcome by desire to give oral sex to a fat, naked, 60-something stranger - women are all gagging for it. A lot of rich and famous men delude themselves similarly. Sadly for them, few women are.
Before this case started, a poll in Le Parisian found DSK was thought "intelligent" by 84pc of respondents and "competent" by 78pc; 79pc believed he would have been a better president than Hollande. Though he was found "misogynistic" by 67pc and "immoral" by 66pc, 44pc want him back in public life.
One of his co-defendents, David Roquet, a businessman who admitted paying women after hotel lunch-parties, said he enjoyed spending "an afternoon with a man who was the second most-important person in the world and a future president of the Republic".
What is hard for some of us to grasp is why Roquet would have thought mass orgies were a reasonable pastime for a man with such ambitions. Yes, some French presidents have led rackety sex-lives, but as Hollande has found, there are limits even to the traditional omerta on revealing private lives.
It was a surprise to DSK to learn there were. As he told a French magazine after he was disgraced: "I thought I could lead my personal life as I wished. I was naive. What may be acceptable for a CEO, a sports star or a showbiz performer is not so for a politician."
What DSK got up to showed such contempt for women that it actually isn't acceptable for anyone.
Why did he do it? Because he was a sex addict in denial. And because, like The Wolf of Wall Street and the London trader, the footballers who help themselves to groupies and the soldiers who rape in war zones, because he could.
One hopes his downfall is a lesson to others.