May 17, 2011— -- Amid charges of sexual abuse and rape, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's ladies' man reputation may be working against him.
Nicknamed "the Great Seducer," the International Monetary Fund chief has spoken publicly about his affinity for women and his infidelity. And while flirting and cheating are a far cry from the current allegations, some experts say they fall onto the same spectrum of sexual inappropriateness.
"A lot of people flirt inappropriately, but flirtation is on a continuum with these more extreme problems," said Dr. Gail Wyatt, psychologist, sex therapist and director of the University of California, Los Angeles Sexual Health Program. "People say, 'he's a player,' or 'he's a ladies' man.' But I think these are red flags, not societal markers of being a macho man."
Strauss-Kahn stands accused of forcing a housekeeper at Manhattan's Sofitel Hotel to perform oral sex and submit to anal sex after emerging naked from his suite's bathroom. The married father of four is being held without bail on two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, one count of attempted rape, sexual abuse in the first degree, unlawful imprisonment, sexual abuse in the third degree and forcible touching.
Strauss-Kahn has denied the charges and plans to plead not guilty, according to his lawyer, Ben Brafman.
The charges follow earlier allegations by French journalist Tristane Banon that Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her like a "rutting chimpanzee" during an interview nine years ago. Banon said Strauss-Kahn insisted she hold his hand during the interview and made sexual advances that grew violent.
"I kicked him several times, he unbuttoned my bra ... and tried to unzip my jeans," Banon said in an interview broadcast on the French cable TV channel Paris Première in February 2007.
Banon, now 31, decided not to press charges at the time because her mother, a Socialist Party official, advised against it. But Banon's lawyer David Koubbi told RTL radio Monday that she's likely to file an official complaint now.
As IMF head and a possible contender for the French presidency, Strauss-Kahn joins a long list of high-profile politicians, actors and athletes accused of sexual indiscretions that shattered their careers and marriages. And while one might ask, "What were they thinking?" experts say they might not have been thinking at all.
"Intellect and emotions run on different tracks," said Dr. Rob Weiss, founder and director of Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles. "These people aren't thinking of the consequences at the time. They're so aroused by what they're going to do that, for a few minutes, they're lost in that experience."
For some, Weiss said, sex is like a high. And like a drug addict looking for a fix, sex addicts are oblivious to the consequences of their behavior.
"The whole point is to lose yourself," Weiss said. "The goal is to be in a state of adrenaline high, which sort of screens out everything else."
Weiss, who said he has treated more than 1,000 sex addicts, said the behavior often stems from a feeling of entitlement. Men who work long hours in stressful positions, for example, might feel as if they deserve a sexual encounter they know to be inappropriate.
"They'll work to convince themselves that a situation is OK when it's not," he said.
And while sex addiction and violence need not go hand in hand, the "high" that addicts feel during the pursuit of sex can skew their perception of reality, making them think something is consensual when it isn't.
"They can mistake intensity for intimacy," Weiss said.
Weiss said sexual behavior is considered abnormal if a person feels the need to lie about it, or is "living a double life." But most sex addicts will keep it up until they get caught, he said, adding that of the 995 of the 1,000 people that have sought his help did so because they got in trouble.
"As long as a person thinks they can get away with it, they'll keep doing it and they won't seek help," he said.
Weiss said Strauss-Kahn's past transgressions and two failed marriages could hint at a sexual disorder. But Strauss-Kahn's third wife, French journalist Anne Sinclair, is standing by her husband despite his affair with a Hungarian economist Piroska Nagy.
"I do not believe for a single second the accusations leveled against my husband," she said in a statement translated from French.
Although the 2008 affair was consensual, Nagy reportedly felt coerced because of Strauss-Kahn's power, the New York Times reported Monday. In a letter to the IMF board that investigated the affair, Nagy wrote, "I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't," the Times reported. She also wrote that Strauss-Kahn was "a man with a problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command."