In America, President Bill Clinton was impeached for having a form of sex with That Woman and then, naturally enough, in our puritanical culture, denying having done so. In France, the book Sexus Politicus declares
Far from being a flaw, to cast yourself in the role of seducer is without doubt an important quality in our political life.
A New York Times article about this new book says
The book’s central premise is that in France, a successful politician is also a seductive politician. Sex, the authors say, is a civic imperative.
Working from that premise, the authors (experienced and respected investigative reporters) explore the sex lives of numerous French politicians, past and present, researching the topic as they would any other—through interviews and, um, in-depth investigations. The resulting book is a best-seller in France. However, it hasn’t caused a furor in the press, and howling mobs aren’t rioting in Paris, demanding that politicians realign their moral compasses. The French population’s interest in the book arises from the normal human enjoyment of gossip and a peek under someone else’s covers.
How can there be such a vast difference between two western countries’ views on the sexual exploits of their politicians? According to ABC News, it relates to the fact that the French separate sex from other aspects of morality. Sex is simply part of who we are, they believe, and those urges cannot and should not be denied. Appeasing the sexual appetite relates in no way to someone’s worth as a person or ability to function as a politician or commitment to the greater social good. According to the New York Times article, a recent poll of French voters found that “Only 17 percent said they would not vote for those who had extramarital affairs.”
More from ABC News:
A perfect example of how the French handle their politicians’ extramarital activities can be seen in attitudes toward the leading Socialist Party candidates, and those running on the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) ticket for the governing party nominations in next year’s presidential election.
The Socialist candidate Segolene Royal is not married to the father of her four children. UMP’s Nicolas Sarkozy saw his marriage make headlines after Paris Match published a cover photo of Mme. Sarkozy and her supposed lover on vacation in New York.
And here, no one seemed to mind.
If the U.S. had been founded by more French people and fewer Puritans, would we be loosened from our self-imposed, straight-laced, monastic insistence on linking sexuality with job performance?
(Side note: Sexus Politicus appears on Amazon.fr. However, both the link from the French page to the U.S. site and a direct search for the book on Amazon.com lead to an unrelated book, Introduction to Logic. Or is it unrelated? Could it be some Amazon hacker’s subtle ironic message? I’m sure the conspiracy theorists would think so.)