The French intellectual elite fallen into disgrace

In France, the intellectual socialist party members are referred to as gauche caviar – meaning a privileged group of champagne socialists. However, one after another, they have, like a house of cards, started to fall from their pedestal.

What led to this more or less untouchable intellectual elite’s downfall, that’s what we’ll explore in this article.

The MeToo movement in France didn’t make much of a buzz compared to some other western countries. Famous actresses such as Catherine Deneuve even defended the right for men to ‘flirt’ with women as they wished.

Many contemporary intellectuals stem from the 1968 sexual liberation movement. It was a veritable revolution against their parents’ strict Catholic upbringing which led to the contraceptive pill, abortion rights and free sex.

It was the time of Brigitte Bardot, Serge Gainsbourg, Simone de Beauvoir among others. Sexuality, incest and provocation were on the agenda. There were no taboos and no rules for what was allowed and even encouraged within certain circles.

Writers such as Gabriel Matzneff wrote openly about his love for minors. He was interviewed on French television in the 1980s where he talked and laughed about it. Nobody objected. Frédéric Mitterand, former Minister of Culture, wrote books about his relations with young boys in Thailand and nobody flinched. Despite being known for his sexual affairs, Dominique Strauss-Khan was hoping to become President of France when he was arrested for rape in the USA. His wife, internationally famous journalist Anne Sinclair, stood by him during his trial. Serge Gainsbourg’s song ‘lemon incest’ that he sang together with his daughter was popular despite its theme. A provocative video, with both of them laying together half naked on a mattress, spread widely. Nobody complained.

Incest hasn’t been forbidden and sex with minors was allowed as long as it was ‘consensual’. How can a minor, not yet developed sexually or otherwise be consenting? Isn’t that rather child molestation? Or is the family best preserved by hushing down such problems?  

Something has shifted thanks to the younger generation raising their voices. The bubble finally broke with Camille Kouchner’s book ‘La familia grande’ published in the beginning of this year. In the book, she denounced the sexual abuse of her twin brother during his teens by their stepfather, the political scientist, Olivier Duhamel. Her book blew the lid off an enormous social problem in France.

There was a huge reaction with many others coming forward to say that they too had been sexually abused as children. A group called Face à l’inceste – facing incest – has been formed. It affirms that at least one in ten have been abused within the family structure in France. Mostly girls and often by an uncle. The hashtag Metooinceste was coined.

At last, a new law has been voted in the French Assembly on March16, 2021, stipulating that sexual relations, between an adult and a minor under the age of 15 years old, would be punishable by law and in the case of incest it was established at the age of 18.

France has sadly been at the forefront on sexual abuses including numerous scandals among catholic priests abusing young boys and then covering up their deeds. It was then thought of as happening only within the seclusion of a Church that isn’t transparent and tend to cover up their traces. Not among prominent intellectual families who have often criticized the same Catholic Church…

It’s a paradox in a society with supposedly high values and it shows the importance of transparency and openness.  It’s time for such arrogant and abusive behaviors to stop! Women and children rights must be respected. 

For all those who have suffered, at last their voices are being heard: vive la justice! Long live justice!

Anne Edelstam

About Anne

Swedish journalist, photographer, editor and writer. Based in Paris, France.

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