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Sex and Surveillance

NEW YORK – It is impossible to hear about sexual or sex-crime scandals nowadays – whether that involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn or those of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, or the half-dozen United States congressmen whose careers have ended in the past couple of years – without considering how they were exposed. What does it mean to live in a society in which surveillance is omnipresent?

Like the heat beneath the proverbial boiling frogs, the level of surveillance in Western democracies has been ratcheted up slowly – but far faster than citizens can respond. In the US, for example, President George W. Bush’s Patriot Act is being extended, following a series of backroom deals. Americans do not want it, and they were not consulted when it was enacted by their representatives under the pressure of a government that demanded more power in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That does not seem to matter.