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Why the powerful wife behind DSK is standing by her man

Anne Sinclair never wavered. Not once. Not when her husband Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused by a young journalist of attempted rape. Nor when his affair with IMF economist Piroska Nagy was revealed in 2008. So, she's not going to change now, even though the couple's dreams of power have been shattered as the man she loves stands trial for what has been called 'the rape case of the century'.

Why? Is it because she is 'deaf and blind', as commentators on the Paris Match website have claimed? Or is it because she has an open, honest relationship with her partner of almost 20 years and accepts him as he is? For many, Ms Sinclair remains an enigma and France is intrigued by this woman standing staunchly by her man.

As former French minister for culture and education Jack Lang has said: "She was an icon. She is still an icon." For more than 13 years, stretching from 1984 to 1997, Ms Sinclair was the most famous and brilliant female journalist in France. On her TV show Sept sur Sept, she interviewed figures such as François Mitterand, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Charles, as well as international stars, including Madonna, Paul McCartney and Woody Allen.

Ask a French person what they remember of Ms Sinclair from this period and many will recall her piercing blue eyes and clingy, mohair jumpers. A handsome woman, her face became the model for busts of Marianne, the warrior woman emblem of the French Republic, found in every town hall across the country.

Most people are also aware of her enormous wealth. The granddaughter and heiress of Paul Rosenberg, a prominent French art dealer, her collection includes works by Monet, Matisse and Fernand Leger.

It's easy to see why Dominique Strauss-Kahn fell for this woman back in the late '80s. Her devotion to him was, and is, total: she left her own profession as a journalist in 1997 to prevent any conflict of interest with his political career. They have been described by friends as "completely inseparable" and "symbiotic".

Given that she is an independent, successful woman in her own right, why is she choosing to support this man who has seemingly betrayed her on numerous occasions? It's likely because there has been no betrayal at all. Ms Sinclair has long been well aware of her husband's extra-marital activities -- how could she not be? The 2006 book Sexus Politicus by Christophe Dubois and Christophe Deloire, which focuses on the sexual habits and love stories of French leaders, links DSK to Paris swingers club Les Chandelles. A journalist from newspaper Liberation wrote in 2007 that Mr Strauss-Kahn's relationship with women "borders on harassment". Ms Sinclair accepts her husband despite this and her decision to stay married is a considered one.

The couple have a lot in common -- both are Jewish, highly successful in their careers and are intellectual equals. Their marriage seems to function even in the face of infidelity because of these shared passions and because they are honest with each other. DSK has never hidden his appetite for women.

This is Ms Sinclair's second marriage and DSK's third -- they are not naïve newlyweds and both know what they want out of the relationship. French first lady Carla Bruni has spoken about her favour for polyandry. While Ms Sinclair has not said as much, her actions speak louder than words.

Asked in a 2006 interview in the French magazine L'Express about her husband's reputation as a seducer, Ms Sinclair replied: "I'm rather proud. It's important to seduce, for a politician. As long as I seduce him and he seduces me, that's enough for me."

This attitude infuriates many French women. In the land where the late afternoon visit with one's mistress before returning home for dinner was once tolerated, the traditional scorn for 'anglo-saxon puritanism' has diminished.

Women are drawing a distinction between seduction, long lionised as a positive French attribute, and harassment or violent crime. Ms Sinclair has been widely criticised for not taking a more feminist stance and leaving DSK.

Yet their bond is, to her, worth more than anything. A friend of Ms Sinclair's described her in French Elle as "an unbelievable warrior. She is someone with amazing interior resources... the family clan is very tight-knit".

With her intelligence, wealth and fame, Ms Sinclair is anything but a submissive, docile wife. For her, it's all about choice. As their friend, journalist and political commentator Alain Duhamel has said: "Her choice has always been that of passionate solidarity with him."

For better or for worse.

Sunday Independent