On April 4, 1978, a conversation detailing the reasons for their pro-abolition positions to lower the age of sexual consent to 12 or 13 years of age was broadcast by radio France Culture in the program “Dialogues“. The participants, Michel Foucault, Jean Danet and Guy Hocquenghem, had all signed a 1977 petition, along with other intellectuals, demanding the legalization of pedophilia.
Simone de Beauvoir (future feminist icon), alongside most of the Marxist French intelligentsia who signed the petition, also sought the immediate release of three individuals who were due to serve long jail sentences for sexually exploiting several boys and girls all under the age of 14. The petition signed amongst others by de Beauvoir and Sartre was published in Le Monde and an excerpt says the following:
Such a long time in remand to investigate a simple `vice’ affair, where the children have not been victims of the slightest violence, but have to the contrary testified before the examining magistrates that they consented — although the law at present denies them their right to consent — such a long time in remand we do consider scandalous in itself. Today they risk to be sentenced to a long prison term either for having had sexual relations with minors, boys as well as girls, or for having encouraged and taken photographs of their sexual plays. We believe that there is an incongruity between the designation as a `crime’ which serves to legitimize such a severity, and the facts themselves; even more so between the antiquated law and the reality of every day life in a society which tends to know about the sexuality of children and adolescents[…]
So, in de Beauvoir’s opinion, 11-year-old children in late 1970s France tended to be sexual beings. Since puberty was not installing and is not installing even today at that age for the overwhelming majority of children, we consider apt to name de Beauvoir’s advocacy as nothing short than a plea for pedophilia, regardless of which definition of the word one chooses.
The 1977 petition triggered an entire discussion at the societal level in France about the laws concerning age of consent, a discussion in which the abolitionist camp (of which de Beauvoir and her lover were part of) united into Front de libération des Pédophiles (FLIP—The Pedophiles Liberation Front) and the intentions of the members of FLIP were explained quite clearly by themselves in the discussion broadcasted on the radio in April 1978 by Radio France Culture. FLIP was going to be remembered as a pioneer within the ranks of the French pedophiles movement, even though the organization itself didn’t last long because of its internal disagreements.1
Besides de Beauvoir and Sartre, there were other people involved in the advocacy for pedophilia in that period, including people who then ended up leading the destinies of France—and we refer here, for instance, to Bernard Kouchner and Jack Lang, respectively, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education(!) in early 2000s in the first term of Jacques Chirac.2
All these make de Beauvoir not just a pedophile apologist but an active supporter. However, what makes her an abuser is her activity through which she was recruiting pupils, abusing them, and then passing them to Jean-Paul Sartre, sometimes separately, sometimes in an integrated ménage à trois. The Telegraph writes in a review of Carole Seymour-Jones’s book, Simone de Beauvoir? Meet Jean-Paul Sartre, a book meant to analyze de Beauvoir’s relationship with Sartre, the following:3
For long periods, the couple became a “trio”, though the arrangement rarely worked out well for the third party: at least two of de Beauvoir’s former pupils found themselves becoming first her lover, then Sartre’s, only for the couple to close ranks against them once the fun wore off.[…]
For Seymour-Jones, de Beauvoir’s affairs with her students were not lesbian but paedophiliac in origin: she was “grooming” them for Sartre, a form of “child abuse”.
For de Beauvoir (as well as for Sartre), age didn’t matter as long as the partners were younger than her and Sartre.4 The possibility that others might get hurt or sexually exploited wasn’t even remotely on the eminent feminist’s radar, who thought that “grooming” girls in order for Sartre to take their virginity (Sartre’s words, not ours) was in and of itself an act of sexual empowerment for those girls.
The below, from a petition defending paedophiles to the debate between Michael Foucault and Guy Hocquenghem (well-known writer and gay activist) will perhaps help us recall what was happening in France at the same time.
We received the following communication:
On January 27, 28, and 29, Bernard Dejager, Jean-Claude Gallien, and Jean Burckardt will by tried before the cour d’assises des Yvelines for lascivious acts with a minor of less than 15 years of age. Arrested in autumn of 1973, it is for more than three years now that they remain in remand. Only Bernard Dejager has recently benefited from the presumption of innocence. Such a long time in remand to investigate a simple `vice’ affair, where the children have not been victims of the slightest violence, but have to the contrary testified before the examining magistrates that they consented — although the law at present denies them their right to consent — such a long time in remand we do consider scandalous in itself.
Today they risk to be sentenced to a long prison term either for having had sexual relations with minors, boys as well as girls, or for having encouraged and taken photographs of their sexual plays. We believe that there is an incongruity between the designation as a `crime’ which serves to legitimize such a severity, and the facts themselves; even more so between the antiquated law and the reality of every day life in a society which tends to know about the sexuality of children and adolescents (thirteen-year-olds are given the pill, for doing what?).
French law contradicts itself if it recognises a capacity for judgement in thirteen and fourteen year olds, so as to be able to try and sentence them, but denies them the same capability with respect to their emotional and sexual life. Three years for caresses and kisses are enough. We would not understand if on January the 29th, Dejager, Gallien, and Burckardt would not be freed.
This has been signed by:
Simone de Beauvoir,
docteur Michel Bon,psychosociologue Bertrand Boulin,
Gilles et Fanny Deleuze,
docteur Maurice Erne,
psychiatre Jean-Pierre Faye,
docteur Pierrette Garrou,
psychiatre Philippe Gavi,
docteur Pierre-Edmond Gay,
psychanalyste docteur Claire Gellman, psychologue,
docteur Robert Gellman,
psychiatre André Glucksmann,
docteur Bernard Kouchner,
Docteur Bernard Muldworf,
Claude et Olivier Revault d’Allonnes,
docteur Gérard Valls,
psychiatre Hélène Védrines,
“A similar letter, but much more prone to controversy , was published in the newspaper Libération in 1979, in support of Gerard R., accused of sexual crimes against children and then awaiting trial for eighteen months. The letter reports that Gerard R. lives with girls 6 to 12 years ”which flourished air shows to everyone, including their parents, they find happiness in him.”
The assertion was that a girl of 6 years could give informed consent to sex with an adult and she would be fulfilled was signed by 63 people , including Pascal Bruckner , Georges Moustaki and Christiane Rochefort .
This letter was then reproduced in the newspaper L’Express 7 March 2001 . Apart Christiane Rochefort, it was not reported that the signatories of the 1977 letter has also signed the 1979 one.”
It is essential that we recognise the complexity and the muddled thinking of the position of people on these subjects.
This was an important debate (1978, broadcast on France-Culture – radio).
It was published under the name of La Loi de la Pudeur.
MICHEL FOUCAULT: All three of us agreed to take part in this broadcast (it was agreed in principle several months ago) for the following reason. Things had evolved on such a wide front, in such an overwhelming and at first sight apparently irreversible way, that many of us began to hope that the legal regime imposed on the sexual practices of our contemporaries would at last be relaxed and broken up. This regime is not as old as all that, since the penal code of 1810 (1) said very little about sexuality, as if sexuality was not the business of the law; and it was only during the 19th century and above all in the 20th, at the time of Petain or of the Mirguet amendment (1960) (2), that legislation on sexuality increasingly became oppressive. But, over the last ten years or so, a movement in public opinion and sexual morals has been discernible in favor of reconsidering this legal regime. A Commission for the Reform of Penal Law was even set up, whose task it was to revise a number of fundamental articles in the penal code. And this commission has actually admitted, I must say with great seriousness, not only the possibility, but the need to change most of the articles in our present legislation concerning sexual behavior. This commission, which has now been sitting for several months, considered this reform of the sexual legislation last May and June. I believe that the proposals it expected to make were what may be called liberal.
However, it would seem that for several months now, a movement in the opposite direction has begun to emerge. It is a disturbing movement – firstly, because it is not only occuring in France. Take, for example, what is happening in the United States, with Anita Bryant’s campaign against homosexuals, which has almost gone so far as to call for murder. It’s a phenomenon observable in France. But in France we see it through a number of particular, specific facts, which we shall talk about later (Jean Danet and Guy Hocquenghem will certainly provide examples), but ones that seem to show that in both police and legal practice we are returning to tougher and stricter positions. And this movement, observable in police and legal practice, is unfortunately very often supported by press campaigns, or by a system of information carried out in the press. It is therefore in this situation, that of an overall movement tending to liberalism, followed by a phenomenon of reaction, of slowing down, perhaps even the beginning of a reverse process, that we are holding our discussion this evening.
GUY HOCQUENGHEM. ………These new arguments are essentially about childhood, that is to say, about the exploitation of popular sentiment and its spontaneous horror of anything that links sex with the pornography involving children is the ultimate American nightmare and no doubt the most terrible in a country fertile in scandals.” When someone says that child pornography is the most terrible of present scandals, one cannot but be struck by the disproportion between this – child pornography, which is not even prostitution – and everything that is happening in the world today- what the black population has to put up with in the United States, for instance. This whole campaign about pornography, about prostitution, about all those social phenomena – which are in any case controversial – only leads to one fundamental presupposition: ‘it’s worse when children are consenting and worse still if it is neither pornographic nor paid for’, etc. In other words, the entire criminalizing context serves only to bring out the kernel of the accusation: you want to make love with consenting children. It serves only to stress the traditional prohibition and to stress in a new way, with new arguments, the traditional prohibition against sexual relations without violence, without money, without any form of prostitution, that may take place between adults and minors.in an article in the Nouvel Observeateur begins with a few remarks to the effect that “
MICHEL FOUCAULT………what is emerging – and indeed why I believe it was important to speak about the problem of children – what is emerging is a new penal system, a new legislative system, whose function is not so much to punish offenses against these general laws concerning decency, as to protect populations and parts of populations regarded as particularly vulnerable. In other words, the legislator will not justify the measures that he is proposing by saying: the universal decency of mankind must be defended. What he will say is: there are people for whom others’ sexuality may become a permanent danger. In this catagory, of course, are children, who may find themselves at the mercy of an adult sexuality that is alien to them and may well be harmful to them. Hence there is a legislation that appeals to this notion of a vulnerable population, a “high-risk population,”as they say, and to a whole body of psychiatric and psychological knowledge imbibed from psychoanalysis – it doesn’t really matter whether the psychoanalysis is good or bad – and this will give the psychiatrists the right to intervene twice. Firstly, in general terms, to say: yes, of course, children do have a sexuality, we can’t go back to those old notions about children being pure and not knowing what sexuality is. But we psychologists or psychoanalysts or psychiatrists, or teachers, we know perfectly well that children’s sexuality is a specific sexuality, with its own forms, its own periods of maturation, its own highpoints, its specific drives, and its own latency periods, too. This sexuality of the child is a territory with its own geography that the adult must not enter. It is virgin territory, sexual territory, of course, but territory that must preserve its virginity. The adult will therefore intervene as guarantor of that specificity of child sexuality in order to protect it. And, on the other hand, in each particular case, he will say: this is an instance of an adult bringing his own sexuality into the child’s sexuality. It could be that the child, with his own sexuality, may have desired that adult, he may even have consented, he may even have made the first moves. We may even agree that it was he who seduced the adult; but we specialists with our psychological knowledge know perfectly well that even the seducing child runs a risk, in every case, of being damaged and traumatized by the fact that he or she has had sexual dealings with an adult. Consequently, the child must be ‘protected from his own desires’, even when his desires turn him towards an adult. The psychiatrist is the one who will be able to say: I can predict that a trauma of this importance will occured as a result of this or that type of sexual relation. It is therefore within the new legislative framework – basically intended to protect certain vulnerable sections of the population with the establishment of a new medical power – that a conception of sexuality and above all of the relations between child and adult sexuality will be based; and it is one that is extremely questionable.
MICHEL FOUCAULT: I’m certainly not going to sum up everything that has been said. I think Hocquenghem has shown very clearly what was developing in relation to the strata of the population that had to be “protected.” On the other hand, there is childhood, which by its very nature is in danger and must be protected against every possible danger, and therefore any possible act or attack. Then, on the other hand, there are dangerous individuals, who are generally adults of course, so that sexuality, in the new system that is being set up, will take on quite a different appearance from the one it used to have. In the past, laws prohibited a number of acts, indeed acts so numerous one was never quite sure what they were, but, nevertheless, it was acts that the law concerned itself with. Certain forms of behavior were condemned. Now what we are defining and, therefore, what will be found by the intervention of the law, the judge, and the doctor, are dangerous individuals. We’re going to have a society of dangers, with, on the one side, those who are in danger, and on the other, those who are dangerous. And sexuality will no longer be a kind of behavior hedged in by precise prohibitions, but a kind of roaming danger, a sort of omnipresent phantom, a phantom that will be played out between men and women, children and adults, and possibly between adults themselves, etc. Sexuality will become a threat in all social relations, in all relations between members of different age groups, in all relations between individuals. It is on this shadow, this phantom, this fear that the authorities would try to get a grip through an apparently generous and, at least general, legislation and through a series of particular interventions that would probably be made by the legal institutions, with the support of the medical institutions. And what we will have there is a new regime for the supervision of sexuality; in the second half of the 20th century it may well be decriminalized, but only to appear in the form of a danger, a universal danger, and this represents a considerable change. I would say that the danger lay there.
A summary of these ideas states,
” Ils défendent ainsi l’idée d’une autonomie de l’enfant et de ses désirs, s’opposant ainsi à la désignation de pédophilie de tout rapport affectif et érotique entre un mineur (notion juridique, et non biologique) et une personne majeure. En outre, ils soulignent la difficulté pour la loi (générale par nature) d’établir une limite d’âge (Foucault cite ainsi un juge, qui affirmait qu’« après tout, il y a des filles de dix-huit ans qui sont pratiquement obligées de faire l’amour avec leur père ou leur beau-père ; elles ont beau avoir dix-huit ans, c’est un système de contrainte qui est intolérable. “
They defend the idea of a child’s autonomy and its desires, and opposed the label of paedophile for all loving and sexual relations between and adult and a minor (a legal and not biological designation). ……
- Le Mouvement Pédophile en France – http://archive.wikiwix.com/cache/?url=http://bibliobleue.fpc.li/Revues/Gredin/N0/MvtFrance.htm
- http://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/feb/24/jonhenley – Jon Henley – Calls for legal child sex rebound on luminaries of May 68; The Guardian, published at February 24, 2001
- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/non_fictionreviews/3672534/Simone-de-Beauvoir-Meet-Jean-Paul-Sartre.html – Tim Martin – Simone de Beauvoir? Meet Jean-Paul Sartre; The Telegraph, published at April 12, 2008
- http://www.biographile.com/6-degrees-of-infatuation-an-ode-to-frisky-french-writers/28496/ – Kelsey Osgood – 6 Degrees of Infatuation: An Ode to Frisky French Writers; Biographile, published at February 11, 2014