What Makes Powerful Men Behave Like Pigs?

Posted on May 25th, 2011 by Vina Tran

Tanya L. Domi, an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, offers the following thoughts on why some powerful and famous men behave like pigs (originally posted on The New Civil Rights Movement):








“Beyond Shakespeare!” That is what a colleague said in response to my question, “What do you think about DSK?”

DSK, aka, Dominique Strauss-​Kahn, is the 62 year-​old, once globally respected, now-​former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the leading French Socialist Party politician who was expected to beat Nicholas Sarkozy and become the next president of France. DSK was charged with sexual crimes of violence by New York City police for his alleged assault of a hotel maid while staying in a $3,000 a night luxurious suite at the Sofitel Hotel in downtown Manhattan, only to end up in infamous Riker’s Island, a prison for New York’s criminals.

My colleague, globally reknowned economist Padma Desai, was well worth asking. And she was spot-​on about the Shakespearian analogy.

The unseemly sexual dalliances and crimes of some powerful and/​or famous men appear to have reached a nadir of tawdry heights this past week, as reported by Time magazine’s deliciously titled, “Sex, Lies, Arrogance: What Makes Powerful Men Behave So Badly?

Dominique Strauss-​Kahn was charged with a criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment, and attempted rape, alleged to have forced an immigrant woman to perform oral sex on him after she entered his room to clean. In the days since his alleged crime, reports about DSK reveal him to be a transnational, equal opportunity sexual predator, leaving battered women in his wake.

Meanwhile, last week in California — on the same day DSK was arraigned for his crimes in Manhattan – actor and former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed a Los Angeles Times reporter’s question, “Did you father a child with a housekeeper who worked for your family for 20 years?

It took two generations of suffering Kennedy women to finally declare enough is enough when the Los Angeles Times finally got their man. But like many other wives of powerful men, Maria Shriver stood by her husband, vouched for his fidelity in 2003 when a series of articles (also by the Times that were published within days of the election,) that documented his long history of lechery and sexual violence, carried out with impunity on women who were within his literal grabbing range on movie sets. Despite solid reporting by the Los Angeles Times, Schwarzenegger was elected not once, but twice.

ABC News just reported that the Department of Justice has decided to seek prosecution of former Senator John Edwards, Democratic Party presidential candidate in 2008, for the illegal use of campaign funds used to conceal his extra-​marital affair with Rielle Hunter, who bore a child with Edwards. Edwards finally acknowledged paternity last year. His late wife, Elizabeth Edwards, was being treated for cancer when the affair with Hunter was reported and she eventually left him before dying last December.

What does it take to bring down powerful and famous men for sexual crimes of violence? Maybe an arrest? Maybe imprisonment? We shall see. But for Dominique Strauss-​Kahn, his grotesque behavior over the years did not prevent his rise to the top of one of the most important banks in the world, which raises more questions about the motives and actions of the enablerers who have surrounded him over the years.

There was no holding back “during a sex scandal” this time as the media, The New York Times included, joined hands in a 24/​7 rush to tell-​all, delivered by burgeoning social media platforms and a cable-​driven machine in overdrive, that may have just brought men to heel – the DSK –  Arnold hubris, may indeed be a break through cultural moment, by applying loads of public shaming, a time-​honored strategy used by human rights organizations to highlight the egregious human rights abuses of crimes carried out against innocent victims (more on human rights later.)

Without question, America’s patriarchal, heterosexist legal culture informs U.S. government policies and laws which have allowed unchecked crimes of murder, rape and the denigration of women and girls to continue unabated, including against women and men in uniform, despite U.S. rhetoric and its self-​created mythology that we are the model of democracy, holding ourselves out as an example to the world. Indeed, the facts belie this narrative.

The truth reveals on closer examination that American women and girls remain second-​class citizens, legally, economically, and politically, despite some advances generated since Betty Friedan’s 1963 Feminine Mystique and the adoption of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Legally, women’s rights enjoy only intermediate legal scrutiny before the federal courts. Economically, women still only earn about 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. Politically, elected women constitute only 17 percent of Congress, one of the lowest percentages in the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of France.

What is more, the abysmal state of the lives of women and girls around the world is not only shocking, but has propelled a series of major global initiatives led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (another woman famously humiliated by her famous, powerful, and reckless husband,) and also by the U.N., and its new lead agency UN Women, as well as millions of NGO advocates working on women’s issues around the world.


But a new generation of women leaders and their supporters have been galvanized, perhaps inspired by Hillary Clinton’s famous words delivered in Beijing in 1995 that “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” and are acting much more boldly to provide for women and girls’ human rights, outside our borders. The American women’s rights movement has been largely characterized by an abortion rights centric agenda that has remained unchanged for nearly 30 years, and I assert, has become largely ossified, with the exception of the Violence Against Women Acts adopted in the 1990s and the passage of the Lily Ledbetter Pay Equity Act in 2009.

Domestic violence and the crimes perpetrated against women and their families in the U.S. occur at significant levels. Perhaps no case illustrates the general failure of state and local police department to enforce court ordered restraining orders of protection better than that of the Jessica Gonzales v. United States of America case.


Caroline Bettinger-​Lopez, a University of Miami Law School professor, explains the tragic circumstances that Gonzales faced on the day her children were murdered by her then-​husband:

In June 1999, Jessica Gonzales’ estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, abducted her three young daughters — Leslie, 7, Katheryn, 8, and Rebecca, 10 — in violation of a domestic violence restraining order. Ms. Gonzales contacted the Castle Rock, Colorado Police Department (“CRPD”) repeatedly to report the incident. Her calls went unheeded, despite Colorado’s “mandatory arrest” law and the fact that Mr. Gonzales had seven run-​ins with the CRPD — many domestic violence-​related — in the preceding three months. Nearly 10 hours after Jessica Gonzales’ first call to the police, Simon Gonzales arrived at the police station and opened fire. The police shot and killed him, and then discovered the bodies of the three Gonzales children in his truck. No subsequent investigation into the girls’ deaths took place, despite Ms. Gonzales’ repeated requests.

The Supreme Court ruled that Gonzales had no constitutional right to police enforcement of the restraining order. Having exhausted all domestic remedies, Gonzales has sought redress through the Inter-​American Human Rights Commission, the highest international human rights body in this hemisphere which is expected to deliver a decision this summer, that will have profound consequences for Ms. Gonzales on a personal level. According to Bettinger-Lopez, it will also have the potential to expand international human rights norms and spur systemic reforms in U.S. law and policy.

READ: Military Victims of Sexual Assault Bipartisan Bill to Be Introduced

In another significant aspect of American life, women now constitute 15 percent of the Department of Defense (DOD) uniformed forces. While sex abuse of women in the military has been a documented problem for years within the services, having been engaged in three wars since 2001 has caused an escalating problem of sexual abuse in the military while serving in combat has come to the public’s attention, that is vastly underreported.

Men too, have been victims of sexual abuse. In an unprecedented legal action to address the widespread problem, several female and male survivors of sexual assault filed a class action law suit against the DOD on February 15th for violation of their constitutional rights.

This year’s 112th Congress marks a watershed moment in the relationship between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon – the once cozy, “wink, wink, boys will be boys,” is over — a relic of its sordid past.

Spurred on by the lawsuit, the Service Women’s Action Network (disclosure, I am a member of SWAN’s board of directors) followed in the legal complaint’s wake and has led a legislative advocacy and education effort on Capitol Hill resulting in a flurry of bill introductions, including the bi-​partisan Defense Sexual Trauma Response, Oversight and Good Governance Act (The Defense STRONG Act) in the U.S. House of Representatives; a reintroduction of the We Care Act this year and in the Senate, Support for Survivors Act, was introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) which would require the DoD to preserve documentary evidence in sexual assault and harassment cases for the lifetime of victim; establish a joint task force to review documents generated during an investigation and recommend appropriate policy changes to report back to Congress in one year, among other obligations. Many elements of these bills will hopefully be included in the final Defense Authorization bill when it hits the President’s desk later this year. SWAN has provided expertise on military sexual assault and violence is listed as expert contributors to the Violence Against Women National Online Resource Center.

As a lesbian and a woman, last week was an “ugh” moment. I look around at these ghastly often powerful and famous men and am grateful to be a lesbian and feel deep sympathy for my straight sisters.

The heterosexual conventional thinking is the false notion that lesbians hate men. Rather, heterosexual women are eroticized by men, love them and need them for emotional nurturance, therefore have every reason to hate them with every fiber of their beings when they are on the receiving end of men’s brutality and disregard. I see heterosexuality as not only a political construct, that according to the late lesbian thinker Monique Wittig, who wrote, “rests on the submission and the appropriation of women.” Wittig claims that the only thing to do is stand on one’s feet as an escapee from this system… as a lesbian. I have fled, happily to queerdom.


  1. Check out the new blog post from Prof. Tanya L. Domi on "What Makes Powerful Men Behave Like Pigs?" http://t.co/jiQ3iHC

  2. What Makes Powerful #Men Behave Like #Pigs? http://t.co/EycBDIC #DV #women #rape #p2 @gaycivilrights #humanrights

  3. Check out the new blog post from Prof. Tanya L. Domi on "What Makes Powerful Men Behave Like Pigs?" http://t.co/jiQ3iHC

  4. What a disgusting, ignorant article!

    “Without question, America’s patriarchal, heterosexist legal culture informs U.S. government policies and laws which have allowed unchecked crimes of murder, rape and the denigration of women and girls to continue unabated, including against women and men in uniform, despite U.S. rhetoric and its self-​created mythology that we are the model of democracy, holding ourselves out as an example to the world.”

    No, it’s a liberal culture which normalizes adultery, promiscuity, homosexuality, prostitution, and pornography that informs the attitudes and behaviors of these men. Your irresponsible stereotyping of sexual problems as heterosexual only is simply criminal.

    Homosexuals sexually harass people of the same sex (homo and hetero) just like heterosexuals do.

    Should we mention the case of all the homosexual monsters who abused hundreds of adolescents in the Catholic Church; of the lesbian who set her lover’s children on fire; of the homosexual slime who murdered his stepson, when the latter fought off being sexually abused; of all the lesbian and bisexual professors and assistants who sexually harass their female students; of the homosexual trio who sexually tortured their male guest to death; or the homosexual who adopted two black boys just so he could abuse them with impunity?

    You have no shame to try to cover all these cases up. And as if there weren’t millions of others.

  5. […] professor at Columbia University, with a major homosexual problem, writes of her twisted views of the DSK and Shawrzzy scandals. Tanya L. Domi, a retarded assistant professor, asks: What Makes […]

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