MAKING WAR, NOT LOVE:A FRENCH VIEW ON SEX IN AMERICA

A few years ago, we were on a family beach vacation in Florida. After a swim, my two-year-old daughter took off her bathing suit. Suddenly, the summer visitors began looking at us sideways. A few minutes later, a sheriff’s deputy equipped with an arsenal that could destroy an entire city, arrived and shouted at us that we had to get our daughter dressed again if we didn’t want to get fined. My daughter, who thought it was a game, started to run. We ran after her…and the sheriff ran after us. Finally, we caught her and laughed out loud, but the big man in uniform didn’t. In Uncle Sam territory, to be naked on the beach is forbidden, even for babies.

North America, obviously, has a problem with sex that comes from its Protestant legacy, which also has it giving the whole world lessons in morality. To describe America as a Puritan country is not enough because it is a double-faced Puritanism, which shifts with change in attitudes, uses the vocabulary of freedom and coexists with a thriving porn industry. More precisely, this is a prurient Puritanism.

What was the real point of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Clinton cases? They were a perfect vehicle to condemn eroticism in order to be able to talk more about sex. For weeks, even months, American people licked their lips over every intimate detail: about felatio, sperm, genital organs -- always with a false indignation. The fact that the alleged victim’s lawyer Kenneth Thompson talked about the “assaulted” vagina of his client Nafissatou Diallo with obscene jubilation is a telltale sign of this phenomenon.

Read the rest of this excellent critique at WORLD CRUNCH.

Comments

MAKING WAR, NOT LOVE:A FRENCH VIEW ON SEX IN AMERICA — 13 Comments

  1. “What was the real point of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Clinton cases?”

    Although I don’t question most of what he says in this piece, I do believe he has missed the point on the Strauss-Kahn case.

    The physical evidence overwhelmingly suggests she was assaulted…hence his treatment on the day of the attack.

    However, the “point” of his case isn’t our overly puritanical obsession with sex…it is our failed criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to cases of sexual assault. The more rich and powerful the defendent the more likely the victim will be painted a liar and a whore and tarred and feathered by a very expensive defense team. In this woman’s case, it was quickly revealed that she had lied about her experiences to gain asylum in this country, unfortunately a lie about sexual attack & rape. She evidently also lied about what she did immediately following the attack – because to be inconsisent after some creepy old French dude just tried to stick his dick in your mouth nullifies your chances for prosecution…what with fears about keeping one’s job and immigration status, she should have known better than to not be absolutely truthful up front. By this point the DA was already hemming and hawing…somewhere along the lines there I’m certain a lawyer much further down the feeding chain got ahold of her and steered her towards milking this for money in civil court – resulting in further incidents that further undermined the DA’s ability to prosecute.

    The real point in THIS case is the influence of power and money on how we prosecute (or don’t prosecute) crime in this country.

    It also speaks to the get rich quick by suing the pants off of someone mentality that clogs our courts.

    Does this mean that our bizarre obsession with sex as detailed in the article doesn’t exist? Not at all. I think it is appalling that parents have no trouble exposing their children to a pornography of violence but have panic attacks over the idea of them seeing adults having sex (artfully or not).

  2. power and money — exactly. Clinton and DSK did not have adult consenting sex with the women – but what else than this sort of article did I expect from a sexist world.

    wv ickstall — exactly —

  3. If I was writing the screenplay, I would have a secret government organisation using the maid to set up the sting so that Strauss-Kahn would be replaced as head of the IMF. But then I watch far to many American thrillers and now see conspiracy everywhere.

  4. I agree with renzmqt’s analysis — that this article misses the point about both the evidence and the issues of power, money, and influence in these cases. And this is not the first time I’ve encountered this kind of French perspective (“only WE know what sex, love, and marriage are all about,” equating, at times, cynicism, disdain of sentiment, and a veneer of stylish romanticism with wisdom and truth about human relations). And yet, les bons mots, notwithstanding, some it does make sense.

    Such as:

    “But while in the US this coexistence always seems to be on the brink of a war, Europe seems more protected from this scourge thanks to an old tradition of conversation and tolerance of human weaknesses. France’s goal is to compromise with the heart’s ambivalence,’de-civilize’ desire and respect people’s intimacy. In the US, sexuality is the way from which each citizen potentially becomes the property of others. The private sphere disappears, transparency leads to hypocrisy and everybody watches everyone else.”

    This is partly delusion, at least with regard to the “old tradition of conversation and tolerance of human weaknesses.” But I do wish that all peoples and cultures could do better at “conversation and tolerance of human weaknesses” and at honesty and clarity about sexual desire, so as to de-demonize it, respect “people’s intimacy,” and to appreciate its capacity for both joyful union and various kinds of trauma, such as betrayal, isolation, despair, exploitation, abuse or violence.

    And then there is the age-old problem – not just in the U.S. – of sexuality being “the way in which each citizen potentially becomes the property of others” -or perhaps, more accurately, of cultural, social, economic, and religious ties between sexual behaviors and relationships and control of property and wealth. I don’t know if there is any way to separate legitimate needs for financial support for child-raising and for care-giving and emotional commitment, loyalty, and mutual respect, from the property games people play, which the institution of marriage enshrines and just about everyone tries to exploit to their advantage. But the games people play in “modern” Western societies should not overshadow the stark reality of the way in which women are greatly disadvantaged and lacking any significant power or wealth or control over property in many parts of the world and even some segments of Western society.

  5. Does it make me “Puritanical” if I say we can’t ignore the POWER DIFFERENTIAL in this supposed “eroticism” between the (FWIW, married) white President of the World Bank, and the asylum-seeking African maid? Under the BEST case “consent” hypothesis, nevermind what Ms Diallo says happened? Who’s really defending a foreign policy of invasion here? Feh!

  6. I still think it’s really disgusting, that apparently French culture as a whole dictates that women have no right whatsoever to say no to the sexual act, ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. Male university profs over there troll their female students for sex, and what if they refuse? They fail the class? Or if an employer does it to an employee, and she says no, she loses her job?

    Screw that.

    I think I’ll start using words like “Freedom Fries” again. The French now officially disgust me.

    And who the fuck is he, to expect us Americans to conduct our sex lives according to French standards? We aren’t French! DUH! We’re Americans.

    And don’t even start on the “Well, the Americans are always bragging about how great they are,” because that’s exactly what this froggy is doing himself. “Look at how much more sexually enlightened we French are!” Oh barf. Barf, barf, barf. Barf. Vomit. Puke. Barf. Did I mention barf???

    grrrrrr…frickin’ mcp….

  7. And…I say that the only reason this frogman can even say these things is because he’s never been sexually victimized himself. He can bite me. I wish there was a way to really violently sexually assualt him so he knows just how scary and violating it actually IS.

    Glad he’s not standing in front of me. I’d likely throw him through a fecking window. Just reading this presses all my violence buttons and makes me want to physically beat and hurt men.

    Feminism is the radical notion that women are people too.

  8. Thanks Tracie — my boiling point has been reached by this guy too — I will help you or just drive over him in my SUV

  9. I never experienced more sexism than with UK types. I had to sign off from one group because they could not “get” that rape is rape.

  10. Most English people will go on about how wonderful their country is, its countryside and buildings etc. But they don’t go on about how wonderful the people are because we have faced up to our colonial past and realise that when we did think we were wonderful we were complete bastards. Quite honestly, we have been taught to believe that what Americans would regard as patriotism is in fact racism. Philosophically I am not in complete agreement with that but it is in me enough for me to cringe whenever I here one of those patriotic American country songs or listen to some redneck or politician going on about the land of the free. I watched a programme on Texan politics last night. It’s a different world and one you should not really crow so much about. You’re okay, but just like us, you are nothing special. As for the French they have always been like that.