French kissing and telling 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 However, both the link from the French page to the U.S. site and a direct search for the book on 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.)

3 responses to “French kissing and telling

  1. If I could give you kudos for this, I would.

  2. Thanks — and thanks for stopping by!

  3. An interesting post which opens up a can of worms. I gather that what is making the news in France is that these tales, which used to be confined to Le Canard enchaîné, are now being published more widely. There seems little discussion or interest in the rights and wrongs of the escapades listed in the book. Perhaps this also has something to do with French cynicism/realism; they know politicians have no better morals than the average person and are hardly surprised that they use their power and the public purse to finance their peccadilloes. Also, the media have been brow-beaten into drawing a veil (if that’s the right expression) over the subject. It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that most Presidents seem to have had at least one mistress from an influential newspaper like Le Figaro. Now that French politicians seem to be espousing more “people politics” some of their bedroom secrets are bound to come out. With 8 months or so to go before the Presidential elections there could well be some règlements de compte. French politics has been a very macho world and if Ségolène Royal becomes President we could well see the ‘revenge of women’. That, plus the creeping Anglo-Saxonisation of French life might make politicians a little more accountable as well as causing public attitudes to shift. I’m just speculating- haven’t been to France for years. By the way, forget the romantic idea of all Frenchmen, at least as far as their politicians are concerned-Chirac’s nickname is « dix minutes douche comprise » (ten minutes including the shower).

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