March 1, 2021


'Readers want the victims' stories': the writers exposing sexual abuse in France (Fleur Macdonald,  25 Feb 2021, The guardian)

France has long had a reputation for having a more relaxed attitude towards sexuality. From the Marquis de Sade to Michel Foucault, sex has often been viewed in intellectual circles as a matter of personal freedom. Matzneff and Springora's mother are part of the "soixante-huitards", a generation born from the protests of May 1968 who relished the freedoms of the sexual revolution. In the 70s, intellectuals including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Roland Barthes and Bernard Kouchner signed petitions calling for a lowering of the age of sexual majority to 13. And while it is illegal in France for an adult to have sex with a minor under the age of 15, there is no age of consent; if there is no evidence of threats or violence, the adult will not be charged with rape. In 2018, after an outcry over the case that disgusted Springora, ministers proposed introducing an age of consent, which has yet to pass. A recent poll estimated that one in 10 French people have been the victim of sexual abuse within the family as children.

The initial response to #MeToo in France was unenthusiastic. In 2018, 100 women, including actor Catherine Deneuve, signed a letter published in Le Monde calling the movement "puritanical". Sandra Muller, the woman who started the French hashtag #BalanceTonPorc ("Rat on your pig") was sued for defamation by the man she accused. Journalists and public intellectuals railed against cancel culture and online witch-hunts. "The reaction was timid," says Dr Muriel Salmona, a psychologist, campaigner and founder of the support group Association Mémoire Traumatique et Victimologie. "Victims felt undermined."

But a wave of books have given fresh momentum to the movement in France, exposing underage sexual abuse at the highest levels of society. In 2016, the TV presenter Flavie Flament wrote The Consolation, an autobiographical novel about the rape of a 13-year-old girl. She then accused British photographer David Hamilton of raping her in 1987, prompting other women to come forward with allegations of their own. Hamilton, then 83, denied everything, then killed himself weeks after the book was published.

In 2018, Adelaide Bon published The Little Girl on the Ice Floe, a memoir about being raped at the age of nine and subsequent years of trauma-induced memory loss. Last year, France's figure-skating champion Sarah Abitbol revealed in her autobiography Un si long silence (Such a Long Silence) that her coach Gilles Beyer had sexually abused her when she was 15 and he was in his 30s. Beyer admitted to "intimate relations" with Abitbol and apologised, which she refused.

The rape accusations against the former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011 were more pivotal in France than #MeToo, Spingora says: "It was the beginning of the inversion of domination." "I resent the notion that #MeToo liberated women's speech," says Bon, who also finished her manuscript before the #MeToo movement took off. "There have always been books about it [sexual abuse], people have always spoken about it."

But #MeToo may have been crucial for readers. Bon's book has sold 40,000 copies and been translated into seven languages; Consent has sold 200,000 copies and has published in more than 22 languages. Caroline Laurent, an editor at publisher JC Lattes who wrote an op-ed in support of Springora's book, isn't surprised by their success. "In the #MeToo era, readers want the victims' stories," she says. "Not those of their tormentors. All these stories hold up a mirror to our civilisation and force us to look at ourselves with lucidity and courage, in order to make things better."

Springora has received hundreds of letters from women and men who wanted to share their experiences, many for the first time. "I became, inadvertently, the ambassador for all those silences," she says. "They gave me a glimpse of the extent of the malaise in which France finds itself." Bon also received emails, letters, messages and texts after her book was published. "I was even stopped in the street," she says.

Just when the Right embraces being French the bastards go and Anglofy....

Posted by at March 1, 2021 9:31 AM