Those French bastards. Will they never learn?

Maybe they should reflect upon why so few men boast about paying for sex

Share

There is a bunch of well-known "bastards" in France who are keen on having sex with prostituted women. Don't take my word for it: that's how they describe themselves in a declaration insisting on their right to buy sex. The "bastards" (salauds in French) are so cross about a proposed law which would impose fines on men who pay for sex that they've decided to out themselves in a monthly magazine. The "manifesto of 343 bastards" has been signed by writers, actors, and commentators who say they have used, or are likely to use, "the services of prostitutes" – and aren't ashamed of it.

The question of whether anyone (although it's mostly men) should be able to buy sex is shaping up to become one of the great battles of the 21st century. France's socialist government intends to follow the example of some Scandinavian countries, which have criminalised "punters".

If you believe in equality, it's hard to see why men should be allowed to pay to use women's bodies, especially against a background of alarming levels of domestic and sexual violence. Inequality is at the heart of all these abuses, which is why it's rare these days to hear men boast about using prostituted women. The comedian Russell Brand is an exception in Anglo-Saxon culture; in his autobiography, he recalled a holiday with his father in South-east Asia where he had sex with "loads" of prostituted women. "They didn't seem enslaved or exploited," the energetic sex tourist observed.

Until recently, many French people took the view that sex and prostitution were private matters. But the forthcoming trial of the politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who faces charges of aggravated pimping in connection with an alleged prostitution ring, has shone an unforgiving light on this aspect of French culture. France is a modern European country with a commitment to gender equality, so it was jarring to hear Strauss-Kahn's lawyer protest that his client was guilty of nothing more than "simple libertine activity".

Now it turns out that the lawyer, Richard Malka, is one of the men who have signed the manifesto. Its slogan – "Don't touch my whore!" – is so inflammatory that it has caused outrage in France. Seldom has a single sentence been so revealing, exposing an assumption of patriarchal ownership which has backfired on the signatories.

There is another reason for the outrage. In 1971, a group of well-known women led by the author Simone de Beauvoir announced publicly that they'd had illegal abortions. A satirical magazine described them as "343 bitches", but they are credited with changing the French law on abortion. Now the "bastards" are trying to appropriate this great feminist campaign for their own ends; a demand by women to control their own bodies has been turned, perversely, into a demand by men to control women's bodies. I don't like political name-calling but I can't say I blame anyone who takes these "salauds" at their own estimation.

Politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Retail Supervisor

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fragrance store are lookin...

Langley James : Desktop Support Analyst; 1st Line; Moorgate up to £23k

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Langley James : Desktop Support Analyst; 1st Line; ...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Sales Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This fragrance store are looking for enthusias...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting and rewarding role ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Old London Bridge; how to fight UKIP; and wolves

John Rentoul
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible