The Pacte Civil de Solidarité and the History of Sexuality

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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  • 1 Oregon State University
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We might begin with a few comparative remarks about sex and politics in France and the US. Americans were treated in 1998 to a deliciously painful set of events that precipitated a full-scale constitutional crisis in the US and some rethinking of the relations of the public and private spheres. Despite what seemed to many French observers as a more or less unproblematic White House sex scandal, it was denied by American commentators left and right that Monicagate had anything at all to do with sex. It’s not about sex, said Clinton’s Republican accusers, it’s about lying under oath and the rule of law. It’s not about sex, said his Democrat defenders, it’s about his political enemies seizing any opportunity they can to undo two consecutive elections. Nor was the affair about sex for the principal actors: for Kenneth Starr, presidential sex was just a convenient way to set a legal trap for a slippery guy he couldn’t nail any other way; for Linda Tripp, it was the royal road to personal revenge; for Monica Lewinsky it was a chance to consort with a powerful man. It wasn’t even sex, as we have heard many times, for Bill Clinton himself, but something that never rose to the level of what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called “lying-down adult sex.” Even Hustler publisher and cinema free-speech hero Larry Flynt, whom no one would accuse of being dismissive of sexuality, treated sex in this whole matter as an opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of his political enemies.

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