A Modest Proposal for Hotel Chains, Post-DSK

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 24 2011 6:46 PM

Things We’d Rather Not Have Learned from the DSK Case

With Tuesday’s news that a judge dismissed all criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the high-profile rape case against the former IMF chief ended in anticlimax. The same, it seems, can’t be said for the hotel stays of a number of male guests who inhabited that $3,000-a-night Sofitel suite before him. As the New York Times’ City Room blog pointed out, the district attorney’s request to dismiss the case included a piece of information that could change the way you look at even the poshest of hotel rooms. To be blunt: They’re covered in dried semen. ("Historical DNA" was the singular euphemism employed by the forensic science expert the Times quoted.)

Surely this isn’t the first time that uncomfortable possibility has crossed the minds of frequent travelers. But it may mark the first time that the Times’ news section has deemed it fit to print. Accordingly, the PR organs of the nation’s better hotel chains may find themselves eager for a simple, clear way to put to rest customers’ apprehensions that their floors, furniture, bedding, and yes, even wallpaper may be similarly tainted. A well-conceived advertising campaign could even turn a given property’s spotless status into a selling point. After all, where hotel rooms were once pungent with the residue of cigarette smoke, "no smoking" symbols now inform a customer at a glance that her given apartment is innocent of the odor—and that she is not to light up inside. Below is our attempt at a similarly helpful icon for sperm-free rooms, aimed at those travelers whose idea of a happy ending is a good night’s sleep in a clean bed. Think you can improve on it? Or have an idea for an ad slogan that hotels could use to tout their sanitary standards? Feel free to send your own suggestions via email to browbeatslate@gmail.com.

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Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.